We found the perfect affordable gaming laptop for balancing work and play

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16
(Image credit: Laptop Mag / Claire Tabari)

Every gaming laptop tries to balance work and play, but we’ve found one that enables you to do both — without spending thousands of dollars. 

If you want a laptop with incredible processing power and fast SSD speeds to handle heavy workloads that also has a lighter but admirable focus on gaming, look no further: It's the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16. 

The model we reviewed is traditionally $1,499 but is currently available for $1,299 at Best Buy. It is built with an Intel Core i9-14900HX processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics card, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. If you want more bang for your buck in framerate, you can bump it up to an RTX 4070 (which we recommend as the best graphics card for most gamers) for $1,699

Performance this good at less than $1,500? 

We put the Predator Helios Neo 16’s Intel Core i9-14900HX processor to the test and were stunned by what it could do. On the Geekbench 6.3 overall performance test, it achieved a multi-core score of 16,730. To hit this high at a price point of $1,299 is exceedingly rare.

The only laptops we’ve reviewed that could outperform the Helios Neo 16 are the Razer Blade 16 (Early 2024) and Asus ROG Strix Scar 18, which managed a multi-core score of 17,461 and 17,300 respectively, with the same Intel Core i9-14900HX processor. However, these laptops are up to three times the price, with the former configured at $4,199 and the latter at $3,899. Another gaming laptop, like the MSI Titan 18 HX (16,501), also costs a small fortune at $5,399 and uses the same CPU, but it couldn’t even outperform the Helios.

Even if you take a similarly priced productivity laptop like the $1,499 MacBook Air 13-inch M3 (12,052) with its M3 chip or a gaming laptop like the $1,599 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (12,246) with its AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS, neither could get anywhere near the Helios in productivity performance.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16

(Image credit: Laptop Mag / Claire Tabari)

When performing the Handbrake test, which measures how fast a laptop can transcode a 4K video to 1080p, the Helios Neo 16 accomplished the task in 3 minutes and 10 seconds. The Blade 16 (2:48), Titan 18 (2:33), and Strix Scar 18 (2:48) all performed a good bit better, but considering the price disparity, they’re not so much faster that it’s a dealbreaker. Meanwhile, the MacBook Air (6:32) and Zephyrus G14 (4:21) couldn’t compete.

And beyond just what its processor is capable of, the Helios 16 delivers some seriously impressive SSD speeds. It duplicated 25GB of multimedia files in 12 seconds for a transfer rate of 2,121 megabytes per second. Anything above 2,000MBps is fantastic, and for Acer not to skimp out on packing this already affordable laptop with a powerful SSD is pretty impressive.

The Zephyrus 16 (1,289MBps) and Blade 18 (1,833MBps) were slower, while the Scar 18 (2,259MBps) was only a couple of steps behind it. The Titan 18 (2,664) is the only high-end gaming laptop that crushes it, while the MacBook Air (3,030) is a special case in that Apple often has high-speed SSD storage in its MacBook products.

While it might be less important for those needing to get work done, the Helios Neo 16 impressed us with its high nits of brightness and vivid panel, especially for an IPS display. It reproduced 92% of the DCI-P3 color gamut and had a peak brightness of 370 nits.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16

(Image credit: Laptop Mag / Claire Tabari)

It comes nowhere near competing with the Titan 18 (112% DCI-P3, 559 nits), but it’s more colorful than the Zephyrus G14 (85% DCI-P3, 387 nits), Blade 16 (78% DCI-P3, 378 nits), MacBook Air (77.8% DCI-P3, 476 nits), and Scar 18 (84% DCI-P3, 427 nits). It’s not as bright as any of these, but it’s within the ballpark of a couple.

However, the Helios stumbles for those who plan to work on the go. This heavy 16-inch gaming laptop lasted four hours and nine minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over wifi at 150 nits. That’s nowhere near enough to survive trips away from an outlet. Considering it weighs 5.7 pounds and measures 14.1 x 11 x 1 inches, you won’t easily fit this into your bag, and it’ll be a nuisance to lug around. We only recommend the Helios 16 for those who want an affordable laptop for work and play at home. 

Is this your next gaming laptop? 

"It’s hard to deny that this is a productivity powerhouse for gamers."

This means that the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 delivers comparable processing power for less than a third of the price of some of its competitors. Alongside its solid SSD speeds that can easily keep up with the competition, it’s hard to deny that this is a productivity powerhouse for gamers needing the best of both worlds.

While the Helios Neo 16’s RTX 4060 can’t compete with high-end graphics cards like an RTX 4090 (which is what the Blade 16, Scar 18, and Titan 18 all have in common), this is what makes it so affordable. It yields a perfect balance for those seeking to work and play without spending a fortune. The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 brings excellent performance and decent gaming specs in a laptop under $1,499.

Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.