The Acer Chromebook 516 GE offers a lot of power and solid battery life for the price. The chassis is sturdy, while there’s also a sublime selection of ports, and a great display. However, its heavy marketing as a gaming system feels a little misleading considering it’s only suitable for streaming games via the cloud.
- Gorgeous looks
- Plenty of power under the hood
- Good battery life
- Expensive for a Chromebook
- 120Hz refresh rate cannot be used in some streaming services
- 16-inch 120Hz display:Features a 16-inch screen, complete with a 2560×1600 resolution and 120Hz refresh rate
- Snappy performance:Powered by an 12th Gen Intel Core i5 processor which offers excellent relative performance.
- Portable design:It weighs 1.7kg, which is on the heavier side for a laptop, but should be more than fine for those on the go.
A gaming Chromebook? Has the world gone mad?
Well, no, but with the advent of cloud gaming services in the modern age, the need for zanily powerful hardware to run the latest AAA games has become less important. Acer has recognised this need, and is leading the charge with a whole new brand of gaming laptops designed to offer both the convenience of ChromeOS with the freedom for users to play the latest titles on a number of cloud services such as Game Pass and GeForce Now.
Enter the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, a large-screen Chromebook that brings with it a fair bit of grunt for a laptop of its type, as well as a noticeably better display. While Chromebooks are more traditionally affordable fayre, the 516 GE bucks that trend with a retail price that’s pushing four figures. Whether that is justified to make it one of the best Chromebooks we’ve tested remains to be seen – let’s delve in deeper.
- Sleek, Macbook Pro-inspired design
- Excellent port selection
- Comfortable-feeling keyboard
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE doesn’t exactly give off the impression that it’s a gaming-type laptop. It instead provides more of a corporate, almost business laptop-like style, with a grey chassis, complete with two-tone brushed finish on the 516 GE’s top casing.
A weight of 1.7kg for a 16-inch laptop isn’t too bad, but generally puts the 516 GE on the heavier side in terms of laptops. With this in mind though, it’s still portable enough to chuck into a bag and carry around with you.
A 16-inch screen makes this one of the larger Chromebooks I’ve tested, and with it come some pretty slim bezels around the top and sides of the 516 GE. This just helps along this Chromebook’s modern aesthetics, and contrasts well with the more rugged looks usually associated with gaming laptops.
For a Chromebook, the port selection that the 516 GE provides is excellent. On the left hand side, there’s a USB-C port for charging, as well as a 2.5-gig Ethernet port, and a headphone jack. Meanwhile, on the right hand side, this Acer Chromebook provides a further USB-C, as well as a USB-A port, HDMI out, and a Kensington lock.
This is one of the best port selections I’ve experienced on a Chromebook, and provides all manner of connectivity for the price. A secondary USB-A would have been nice, although the fact there is a proper Ethernet port is the trade-off here.
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE’s keyboard is more of a compact option, with a 65%-style layout offering you the keys you need, without going overboard. It offers some decent travel and tactility, and doesn’t feel particularly mushy unlike some other, albeit cheaper, Chromebooks I’ve tested.
Acer also says the keyboard here is backlit, although I did have a hard time experiencing any of the RGB on offer – the lighting just seemed a bit too dim.
The trackpad here is of a good size, and offers plenty of space for your functions. The buttons present feel good too, with no real sponginess. My only issue is that as this is a Gorilla Glass trackpad, it can feel a little too smooth at times, leading finger movements to appear a little skittish.
- Marvellous colours
- Solid detail and screen size
- 120Hz refresh rate offers especially smooth motion
It’s usually on the display front where some Chromebooks can fall flat, but that isn’t the case with the 516 GE. With the option on offer here, Acer has brought the panel in line with where you’d expect it to be, given the price this laptop is offered at.
It brings with it a 2560×1600 resolution, offering solid detail levels and some excellent colours to my eye. Acer quotes the brightness of the 516 GE to sit at 350 nits, which meets our expected target for laptop displays, and sure enough, the panel here offered good brightness, helping colours to pop a little.
The big thing compared to more conventional Chromebooks is the addition of a 120Hz refresh rate. This makes on-screen motion a fair bit smoother compared to the more standard 60Hz felt on other non-gaming laptop displays. Of course, this is best experienced in games, although even in day to day working with the 516 GE, the boost in refresh rate was welcome for sharper output.
As an IPS panel too, its viewing angles were excellent, as proven by viewing the latest Grand Tour special, Eurocrash, on Amazon Prime Video, as well as when playing games such as Assetto Corsa Competitzione.
- A lot of power for a Chromebook
- Wonderfully nippy in any tasks
- Great storage and RAM configuration
The big thing with the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is how it handles games. This is a device designed to be used with cloud gaming services such as Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, and if you so wish, you can even get Steam on Chromebooks now.
That said, don’t expect this laptop to be powerful enough to play many games offline. It has no discrete GPU, and ChromeOS is only supported by a smattering of titles. If you want high-end gaming without the need for cloud streaming, check out our Best Gaming Laptops instead.
It’s a different story if you are happy to stick to cloud gaming though. The 516 GE felt responsive in my playthroughs of Assetto Corsa Competitzione from Nvidia GeForce Now when connected with my Steam library, as well as on Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Cloud Gaming. Those titles were more than playable, with a responsive experience, without any noticeable input lag or latency. However, that’s arguably to do more with the speed of my network connection than the 516 GE itself.
Delving into the specs, the 516 GE carries plenty of grunt for a Chromebook, packing in an Intel Core i5-1240P processor. This brings with it a total of 12 cores, split asymmetrically between four Performance and eight Efficiency cores, as well as a boost clock of 4.4GHz. For a Chromebook, this is quite a lot of power, which makes day-to-day working an absolute breeze, especially considering ChromeOS is a much lighter OS than Windows or macOS.
The nippy nature of the 516 GE’s processor is reflected within the laptop’s Geekbench 5 scores, especially in its multi-core results that puts it more against Windows-based ultrabooks such as the Dell XPS 13 Plus and the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED than other Chromebooks. Of course, it’s hard to ignore the fact this is quite an expensive Chromebook, and with Windows laptops offering better OS-based functions with similar performance, it brings into question the viability of the 516 GE a little.
8GB of RAM is enough for you to tackle more intensive tasks, even if ChromeOS itself is going to hold you back as some apps simply aren’t supported here. For the casual computing tasks that ChromeOS is more traditionally suited for, it proved to be more than enough to handle a multitude of Chrome tabs, as well as Spotify open playing music in the background.
A 256GB SSD is especially nice to see, and provides you with a decent amount of space (at least for a Chromebook) on which to put apps and important files. It is worth noting though that Google’s G Suite including Docs and Sheets means you of course may not need to install any real software as well as the fact that the games you’ll be playing on the 516 GE do not need to be installed locally in order to be played, giving you even more storage to play with.
It’s also great to see Acer using Wi-Fi 6E for wireless connectivity, ensuring you get the fastest possible internet speeds when paired with a compatible router.
- Lasted 10 hours 11 minutes in our battery test
- Capable of lasting for just over one working day
Considering the more power-hungry components packed inside the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, as well as a more powerful display and the addition of an RGB-keyboard, it makes sense to expect this laptop to eat through its battery.
However, I’m pleased to report that this wasn’t the case. The 516 GE lasted for a touch over 10 hours in a video loop test when I turned the keyboard backlighting down and dialled the screen brightness down to half.
There’s enough juice in the tank to allow the 516 GE to last for a working day and for a little bit longer once you get home before you need to reach for the charging cable. In my testing, I only had to reach for it once I’d finished working for the day to charge the laptop up overnight. That’s some solid endurance.
Should you buy it?
You want a powerful Chromebook: The idea of gaming on a Chromebook via cloud streaming is an interesting curiosity, and if you want to try it, the 516 GE is a solid choice.
You want the functionality of Windows, or a proper gaming laptop: The 516 GE is limited by the fact it won’t run games natively that well, as well as the inhibition afforded by a lighter OS.
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE offers some serious power for a laptop of its type, and provides grunt that’s more comparable to Windows ultrabooks than the majority of other Chromebooks. Combined with this, it offers a great display with good colours and smooth motion, as well as a sturdy frame and marvellous port selection.
It is, however, just a bit odd. This is a Chromebook that costs nearly four figures, and its best feature isn’t even something that’s to do with the laptop’s internal components itself. It can run the likes of Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, but so can plenty of other Chromebooks – the images presented may not be as sharp though on lower-cost ones.
The bottom line here is that if you want to try out the experience of cloud gaming on Chromebook, or just fancy one of the most powerful Chromebooks on the market, then the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is a fine choice. If you want to play games natively, check out our Best Gaming Laptops list. And for a cheaper laptop option, check out our Best Chromebook ranking.
How we test
Every laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life.
These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real-world checks, such as how well it runs popular apps.
We used as our main laptop for at least a week.
Tested the performance via both benchmark tests and real-world use.
We tested the battery with a benchmark test and real-world use.
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The Acer Chromebook 516 GE is good for cloud gaming, and offers a responsive experience. This is arguably more to do with the speed of the network connection, as opposed to the laptop itself, however. It is not powerful enough for offline native gaming.
With gaming on a Chromebook, you have two options. Either, you can install mobile games from the Play Store, or you can stream them via services such as Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Playing the latest blockbuster games on Steam is not an option.