In the universe of Chromebooks, a surprisingly new genre has emerged. The world’s first ChromeOS-powered game streaming laptops were developed by Google in collaboration with businesses like Acer, Asus, and Lenovo. Based on what we’ve seen so far, this market appears to be quite promising.
Recently, we had the opportunity to examine Acer’s top product, the well-designed, well-built $650 Acer Chromebook 516 GE. If you have the correct internet connection, it combines the ease of ChromeOS with unexpected hardware prowess that might whet cloud gamers’ appetites.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE
|Processor:||Intel Core i5-1240P|
|GPU:||Intel Iris Xe|
|Display:||16-inches – 2560 x 1600 Pixels|
|Hard Drive:||256GB, PCIe Gen3 SSD|
|Speakers:||Dual Stereo Speakers|
|Dimensions:||14.04 x 9.80 x 0.84 inches|
pros and cons
- Decent Performance
- Impressive Display
- Decent Price
- Nice Built Quality
- Without Touch Screen
- Bugs Related to Gaming
Acer Chromebook 516 GE Review
It is a pleasure to use, whether you’re playing games for hours on end, staring at spreadsheets, or watching media. The large 16-inch WQXGA 2560 x 1600 (16:10) display offers plenty of visual space for gaming and media consumption. Let’s not forget: The Acer Chromebook’s pricing and display size are difficult to match in the Chromebook market, even though Samsung and HP Chromebooks have clearer, albeit smaller QHD+ displays.
In spite of the fact that it doesn’t have Asus’s 144Hz refresh rate, you can’t really feel the difference. The Acer and Asus are both buttery smooth, so there’s really not much to choose between them if you’re cross-shopping between them. Of course, if you’re coming from 30 or 60Hz displays, 120 Hz will feel like a revelation (which it is). The matte IPS display pushes the white balance a little too warmly yet is sharp and vibrant where it matters. Since the display’s maximum brightness is just over 350 nits, watching outdoors or in direct sunlight may be preferable. The matte display, on the other hand, greatly minimizes glare, making it ideal for use near windows during the day.
However, once you’re accustomed to multitouch screen Chromebooks, it can be very difficult to switch. Certain commands and actions, like pinching to zoom or minimizing pop-up dialogue boxes right on the screen, are just more comfortable and effective this way. This small add-on would undoubtedly be useful for a gaming laptop like the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, for example, when you need to rapidly explore the Xbox Cloud menus or make short adjustments to the settings.
One issue I had was that the lower half of the screen would remain black while gradually flickering to match the upper half whenever I reduced the screen brightness to lowest (i.e. off), waited for 5 seconds more, and afterward pushed the brightness back up a notch.
Design & Built
The 14″ x 9.8″ x 0.8″ Acer Chromebook 516 GE sports an all-gray matte finish and is constructed of an aluminum chassis with very little, if any, flex. The display is encircled by thin bezels. One of the two clear indicators that this is a gaming laptop is a splash of burnt/oxidized blue on the smooth hinge action.
Including during those intense gaming sessions in bed while your knees are propped up, the slightly top-heavy lid maintains its position at pretty much any angle. If you lie more supinely, the lid can still swing back a full 180 degrees.
The two somewhat rubbery feet that span nearly the whole width of the device appeal to me in particular. They assist in heat dissipation by preventing the exhaust fans from being too near to your desk or your lap. They also act as strong finger grips to prevent this large laptop from sliding as you carry it around.
The Acer is undoubtedly on the larger end of the Chromebook size scale, but its 3.1 pounds (1.7 kg) weight is evenly distributed across the chassis. It’s remarkably portable for a Chromebook that is on the heavier end of the spectrum.
Each side has two force-canceling speakers that produce sound. The posh-sounding term gained popularity thanks to Apple’s iMac 2021. Having two woofers firing in opposite ways and in perfect timing to cancel out undesired vibrations is the fundamental concept underlying force-canceling loudspeakers there (as well as in this context). Even at the maximum level, the entire sound quality is acceptable, albeit a touch fuzzy, with sufficient detail, poise, and bass.
The fact that the sound produced by these top-firing drivers behaves like a bottom arrangement is an intriguing observation.
Keypad & Touchpad
Although this review unit’s keyboard isn’t mechanical, it has enough rebound, reaction time, and feedback to allow you to crank out essays or your next book in between intense gaming sessions. I used it to type the majority of this review. Although I would have liked a little less sponginess and perhaps more audible keypresses, overall it wasn’t too awful for a first attempt.
The brightness of the RGB backlighting, or rather, the lack thereof, was one area that disappointed me, especially for a device with gaming ambitions. You won’t have much trouble seeing it during the day, but it’s fine at night. Google has now included the option to change the illumination’s color to match the wallpaper (paying homage to Android’s Material You) or a few other color options in addition to the standard ChromeOS backlight brightness settings.
Customizable gaming keys are another enhancement I’d like to see, especially in light of the Acer Chromebook 516 GE’s large amount of wasted surface area. A broader function (customizable) row might be more appropriate for a gaming laptop, at the very least.
OceanGlass’ moisture-resistant trackpad has very little drag and is responsive enough. Speaking of resistance, it appears that the keys and all touch surfaces have undergone anti-microbial treatment to slow the spread of bacteria that might cause stains or odors.
One quirk of the trackpad was that anytime the Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta crashed, which happened one or two out of ten times, the trackpad acted quite oddly. When the sensitivity was off, finger swipes were frequently ignored, and tap motions ceased to function. It normally took between 45 and a minute before it went away, but it was really annoying.
One might readily write off this gadget as a “gaming rig” after taking a cursory look at the CPU and GPU specifications. But let’s not forget that the system just needs to execute high-end games from the Google Play Store or, at most, cloud-processed gaming apps. However, the 12-core 1.70GHz Intel Core i5-1240P processor is no wimp in this application.
For a Chromebook of this kind and price range, Geekbench 5 test results of 1438 single-core & 5395 multi-core are more than adequate, raising the 516 GE. In fact, the 12-core, 16-thread Intel i5 processor makes it one of the most potent Chromebooks available right now. Additionally, the 516 GE has 8GB of power LPDDR4x RAM (up to 16GB), which is comparable to the RAM found in most high-end Chromebooks. This RAM enables the 516 GE to operate smoothly with two to three Desks operating and each with roughly 15-20 open browser tabs.
Tests like 3DMark, which rank the Iris Xe graphics hardware poorly (6004 Wild Life score, 36 average frame rate), make this clear. Genshin Impact, for example, requires you to run it at medium settings at a frame rate of about 30-35. I do wonder how the stats would change if the 516 GE, which is offered in other areas, had an Intel i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM.
That said, network speed, not the mechanical limits of the Acer, can affect how well you play video games. Significant streaming clarity and delay problems might arise at internet rates lower than 250 Mbps. To fully benefit from what the technology has to offer, I’d advise 1 Gbps.
The fan generally runs quietly even when it is under load. However, I noticed that the cooling fan would periodically briefly reach its full speed while in low use (typing or light surfing) before turning off. It’s illogical, impolite, and just a little bit annoying.
Gaming & Graphics
It’s simple to use Xbox Cloud Beta and GeForce Now, for instance. You may search for and start games on these progressive web applications (PWA). Playing A Plague Tale: Requiem, Death Loop, Scorn, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was smooth (of course, depending on the network connectivity). Although most recent Chromebooks can cloud-stream games, it makes a significant difference to play on a device with an incredibly vibrant and fluid display without becoming hot. Wireless mice or controllers may experience control lag, however, streaming on any device can cause this. Latency significantly decreased when I returned to using my wired Xbox controller.
The Acer is optimized to run 1400+ Computer games in GeForce Now (RTX 3080 grade) at 1600p at 120 FPS (both Luna+ & Xbox Cloud tap out at 1080p 60 fps), if you want to make the most of the hardware and 120Hz display. After playing at such framerates and resolutions for a while, the others start to feel comparably plebian. A pleasant bonus is the RTX 3080 three-month trial that comes with the Chromebook.
For its nature, the port variety is quite good. A massive HDMI, an RJ-45 2.5G Gigabit Ethernet (2.5GbE) LAN, Bluetooth 5.2, and Wi-Fi 6E. Moreover, two pass-through USB-C, one USB-A, one 3.5mm audio port and a Kensington lock are all included. The machine’s left and right sides contain all of the I/Os.
It would have been wonderful to have a second USB-A port when the only one is occupied by a mouse dongle because of all the space on the corners of the Chromebook, which is a minor quibble.
If the battery life cannot keep up, binge-watching House of the Dragon on the go can be difficult. Thankfully, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE’s enormous 65 Wh battery was able to last an average of 12.3 hours (with the excellent screen set to 50% brightness and the volume at 50%). When gaming (with RGB lighting on, screen brightness set to 50%, and volume at 50%), that time decreases predictably to just over five hours.
The 516 GE was tested using a web browser macro and was able to visit looping web pages for just over eight hours (again, at 50% display brightness) before it died. For what it’s worth, Acer claims a maximum runtime of nine hours per charge, though it’s unclear what the testing criteria were. There are Chromebooks, of course, that have screens and processors that are less powerful and have much longer battery life.
With the 65W charger that is included, recharging a dead battery typically takes two hours and ten minutes. It should be noted that, in order to safeguard the battery, charging really peaks at around 58 W and then gradually drops as the battery charge rises.
Those who enjoy playing cloud games will be pleased to know that the Acer Chromebook 516 GE has more than enough raw power to meet their needs. The clean, precise display is complemented by power and endurance. If your internet connection is fast enough, playing games on the 516 GE will be a blast. For general Chromebook use, it performs admirably, however, a touchscreen or 2-in-1 variation would be welcome.
There are currently just three versions available for streaming video games: the Acer 516 GE, the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip (which costs $700), and the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook (which costs $550). The Lenovo is the most similar in terms of specifications to the Acer, but the Asus has a 2-in-1 design and an FHD display with a refresh rate of 144 hertz.
Furthermore, Google’s introduction of this category of Chromebooks is a pleasant surprise. Chromebooks optimized for gaming on services like Nvidia GeForce Currently (of which you get three months free with the 516 GE), Steam (now in beta), Amazon Luna+, and Xbox Cloud Gaming are welcome developments in the wake of the collapse of Google’s Stadia. The vast majority of these services support resolutions up to 1600p and 120 frames per second, making them compatible with the new models’ hardware. This is such an obvious next step, it’s puzzling that it wasn’t pushed for earlier.