Laptop Mag Verdict
This $500 cloud-gaming Chromebook boasts an RGB keyboard, a 120Hz display, and a quad-speaker setup, but these specs are futile for facilitating smooth remote-server streaming.
Smooth 120Hz display
Decent 1080p webcam
Great value for price
So-so battery life
No touchscreen is awkward for Play Store games
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CPU: Intel Core i5-1240P
GPU: Intel Iris Xe graphics
Display: 16-inch, 2560 x 1600, 16:10, 120Hz
Size: 14 x 9.8 x 0.84 inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE, touted as a laptop that delivers a “premier cloud gaming experience,” gave me a bit of a headache — at first.
Correct me if I’m wrong, dear reader, but isn’t the whole point of cloud gaming that you’re rolling out a service for those who can’t afford to purchase high-end PCs nor expensive gaming consoles? For example, you can subscribe to NVIDIA GeForce NOW and stream your favorite games on-demand — regardless of your hardware.
So why, pray tell, would a company roll out a “cloud-gaming ready” laptop when you can basically stream games on a potato? All you really need to worry about is whether your internet connection is fast enough to receive data from a remote server, right? Well, not quite!
After perusing Nvidia GeForce Now’s System Requirements page, I see where Acer’s going with this “cloud-gaming Chromebook” stuff. Yes, you can technically run games on any modern laptop, but if you want that premier cloud gaming experience that Acer’s boasting about, you’re going to need certain specs that can deliver cloud-gaming nirvana.
As it turns out, the Chromebook 516 GE meets all of the needs of a passionate Chromebook gamer, so maybe — just maybe — the Taiwan-based OEM is actually on to something here. Let’s take a look at how well the Chromebook 516 GE handled my foray into the cloud-gaming world.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE price and configuration options
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE has an MSRP of $649.99, but it's now on sale for $499 at Best Buy. It comes with an Intel Core i5-1240P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, a 16-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel, 16:10, 120Hz display, and of course, ChromeOS.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE design
Can someone please explain to me why the 16-inch Chromebook 516 GE is so darn chunky? It’s not even a gaming laptop — hell, I’ve seen real gaming laptops that are actually slimmer. (The 17-inch Razer Blade 17 is 0.8 inches thick while the Chromebook 516 GE is 0.83 inches thick.) It also doesn’t pass my “Can I hold this with one hand?” test either.
I am truly baffled. It’s not like it needs a massive heatsink to cool down the oh-so-powerful Intel Iris Xe graphics chip — yes, that was sarcasm. Bulkiness aside, I do like its clean, minimalist aesthetic. This is a laptop you can bring to school or work; no one will know that it’s an ever-so-enviable cloud gaming Chromebook. The chassis is wrapped in a Titanium Grey hue, which is slightly depressing to be honest, but once you open the lid (which has the Acer and Chromebook logo on each top corner), the happiness comes flooding back in.
As if being thicc boi wasn’t enough, the Chromebook 516 GE seeks to further emulate the “gaming laptop” aesthetic with its colorful and customizable RGB keyboard. It’s flanked by two upward-firing speakers — MacBook Pro style. (You’ll find two more speakers on the Chromebook’s underside.)
Sitting below the keyboard is a decent sized-touchpad with rounded edges.
On the bottom of the laptop, you’ll find two elongated rubber feet, keeping the Chromebook off surfaces so they don’t block the massive vents.
For this review, it was difficult to choose a competitor for this Acer laptop — we’ve never reviewed a cloud-gaming Chromebook before. Consequently, we decided to choose a Chromebook that is the most au courant with the Chromebook 516 GE specs-wise: The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook.
At 3.8 pounds and 14 x 9.8 x 0.84 inches, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is unsurprisingly heavier than the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook (11.6 x 8.7 x 0.65 inches, 2.8 pounds).
Acer Chromebook 516 GE ports
I'm relieved to see that the Acer Chromebook 516 GE has an Ethernet port. Wired connections are faster than wireless ones, so if a cloud gamer wishes to further reduce the probability of latency while gaming, they can have a more reliable, speedier connection.
On the left side you’ll find a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, an Ethernet port, and a headset jack. On the right side there’s another USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, a Kensington lock slot, an HDMI port, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE display
Coming from a 60Hz laptop, one thing I noticed right away with the Chromebook 516 GE is that there’s no denying that this is a 120Hz laptop — it’s highly responsive and navigation feels smoother. This Chrome OS laptop sports a 16-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio. This screen is spacious baby! The bezels could be slimmer, especially the top one, but I’ll let it slide because it houses a FHD webcam.
For a $500 laptop, the display isn’t half bad. I watched the Ahsoka trailer on YouTube and my eyes widened with delight. A stunning actress with ombre hair that transitioned from dark purple to orange caught my eye as I spotted the subtle peachy rosiness on her cheeks and smokey eye make-up. Her leather jacket seemed so tangible, I was convinced I could feel its wrinkly, cool, soft texture if I touched the screen. Rosario Dawson, playing Ahsoka Tano, took me aback with her striking orange skin that contrasted beautifully with her white facial markings.
couldn’t wait to see how this looked while playing a game on GeForce Now’s Ultimate Subscription ($20 a month), which lets me experience the power of an RTX 3080 GPU — without actually having a laptop packed with such graphical components. I fired up CyberPunk 2077, and well, I expected … more. Everything about the graphics from this cloud-based game is middling.
The colors are just OK. For example, a striking, neon-colored branch sitting inside a vase caught my eye with its reddish glow. The ray-tracing is pretty good, too, from the realistic glows emanating from a wealthy man’s golden, plasticky blazer to the well-illuminated tables and chairs inside Arasaka Corporation. But everything else in the game that doesn’t glow nor shine is lackluster. The graphics could stand to be sharper and more vivid, but perhaps I’m asking too much from a distant RTX 30-series server farm.
According to our colorimeter, the Chromebook 516 GE has a DCI-P3 color gamut of 75.8%, which unfortunately falls short of the average Chromebook (78.2%) and the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook (79.3%). With a Delta-E score of 0.31 (closer to 0 is better), its color accuracy isn’t so hot either. It is worse than the average Chromebook (0.24) and the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook (0.21).
With a 346-nit display, its luminance isn’t impressive. It’s dimmer than the average Chromebook (529 nits) and the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook (392 nits), but keep in mind that the Chromebook 516 GE is a sub-$700 laptop. Temper your expectations.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Acer Chromebook 516 GE||HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook|
|DCI-P3 color gamut||75.8%||79.2%|
|Brightness||346 nits||392 nits|
|Delta-E color accuracy||0.31||0.21|
Finally, while a touchscreen isn’t typically necessary, I’d argue it’s a must-have for Chromebooks if you want to play action and adventure games from the Google Play Store. Instead of swiping down or up on the screen to maneuver my character in Temple Run, I have to awkwardly use the trackpad. Not cool!
Acer Chromebook 516 GE keyboard and touchpad
Although the Chromebook 516 GE’s chassis gives off a solid, durable, premium vibe, the keyboard feels like its price range for sure. In other words, yes, the keys feel cheap AF. On the plus side, the 4-Zone RGB keyboard distracts me from its texture. By simply right clicking on the touchpad and selecting “Set wallpaper and style,” you can set the keyboard to seven different color presets. My favorite is purple — mauve has never looked so good.
The island-style keyboard has anti-ghosting technology, a need for many gamers, allowing you to use several key combinations simultaneously without the keyboard misinterpreting your inputs. Attempting to get one step closer to “gaming laptop” status, the W, A, S and D keys — often used for in-game navigation — is conspicuously surrounded with white framing. It’s also worth noting that there is no numpad on this keyboard.
My typing speed is usually 87 to 89 words per minute on 10FastFingers.com, but on the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, that figure fell to 74 words per minute. This is partly because I’m used to typing on an edge-to-edge keyboard on a 14-inch HP laptop, but I also blame the keys’ slight mushiness. I wish they were springier.
The 5.0 x 3.3-inch stone-colored touchpad, surrounded by a dark-gray frame, is giving “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” — it’s juuuust right. It’s not too slippery nor too resistant; it has the right amount of smoothness to help facilitate my cursor movements. Chromebook gestures, such as three-finger swiping and two-finger scrolling, worked like a charm.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE audio
This Chromebook has a quad-speaker setup: two up-firing speakers on the deck and another set on the bottom of the laptop. All four are tuned with advanced DTS audio. Acer claims that sound vibrations are eliminated, thanks to the force-canceling woofers firing in opposite directions, so I couldn’t wait to test the audio for myself.
I launched the Hot Hits USA playlist on Spotify, and I didn’t think Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” song could sound any worse, but lo and behold, the Chromebook 516 GE made it happen. The snappy tune lacked fullness — it sounded tinny, hollow and flat.
Funnily enough, the Chromebook 516 GE’s tinny sound worked in its favor while I played CyberPunk 2077. While running around through a corporate office, the echoey sound added to the industrial, empty feel of the dark-spirited environment. The hollow audio also worked well with the in-game public gathering room I walked through, which emanated echoes of numerous overlapping conversations.
Still, if I were you, I’d pair the Chromebook 516 GE with something from our best gaming headsets page.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE performance
Packed with a 12th Gen Intel Core i5-1240P CPU and 8GB of RAM, I decided to test its multi-tasking muscle by stressing Google Chrome with a tab-heavy web browsing session. I swamped it with 30 Google Chrome tabs, and I fired up an Nvidia GeForce NOW game, too. To my surprise, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE didn't break a sweat. That being said, if you get this Chromebook, you shouldn’t find yourself dealing with any frustrating slowdowns — even if you drown it in tabs.
We typically use Geekbench 5 to test the overall performance of our Chromebooks, but according to our lab tester, the Chromebook 516 GE’s rival, the Intel Core i5-1245U-packed Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, could not run Geekbench 5. However, it did run Geekbench 4.3; the HP outputted a multi-core score of 20,375. It could not compete with the Chromebook 516 GE’s 33,379 score nor the average Chrome OS System (26,877). This is such a shame considering that the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a $1,000 Chromebook!
On our JetStream 2.0 benchmark, which tests how quickly large web pages load, the Chromebook 516 GE achieved a breathtaking score of 256.18, eclipsing the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook’s measly 213.7 score. It beat the average Chromebook, too (237.91).
|Header Cell - Column 0||Acer Chromebook 516 GE||HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook|
I ran CyberPunk 2077 via Nvidia GeForce NOW on the Chromebook 516 GE, and during an hour-long session, I did run into some input lag for something as simple as spinning my character around. However, other than that short-lived moment, gameplay was smooth sailing. As mentioned at the outset, fast internet is crucial (I was using Verizon FiOS wireless internet, and according to an Internet speed test, my WiFi has a data rate of 295.7 MBps). Acer recommends a minimum network bandwidth of at least 35 Mbps for 1600p at 60 frames per second. If you want to climb up to 120 frames per second, Acer says that an Ethernet connection is essential.
“Google is working on a future ChromeOS update that is expected to further improve the GeForce Now streaming experience over Wi-Fi,” Acer said in a press release.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE battery life
|Header Cell - Column 0||Acer Chromebook 516 GE||HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook|
|Runtime||7 hours and 40 minutes||9 hours and 14 minutes|
The Chromebook 516 GE was on a winning streak on the performance front, but unfortunately, this is where the Acer laptop takes a backseat.
On the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits, the Chromebook 516 GE survived for only 7 hours and 40 minutes, which is worse than the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook (9:14) and the average Chromebook (9:23).
Acer Chromebook 516 GE webcam
The 1080p webcam on the 516 GE renders colors beautifully. It perfectly captured my electric-pink robe, my neatly brushed eyebrows, burgundy curtains, and the cheetah pattern of a nearby scarf.
However, I can tell that it doesn’t have a high-dynamic range feature. Even as I sat in a well-lit room, the camera failed to illuminate certain areas. It does, however, come with a temporal noise reduction perk, which certainly helped to reduce noise. For a $500 Chromebook, the webcam on this laptop is sufficiently sharp and clear. Still, we'd recommend an external webcam.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE heat
No, you don’t have to worry about the Chromebook 516 GE singeing a hole through your pants; it remained pretty cool on our heat test.
After streaming a 15-minute 1080p video, the underside hit 83 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 12 degrees below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard hit 91 degrees and the touchpad reached 89 degrees. The hottest temperature on the machine was 92 degrees, located on the bottom of the laptop between the two vents.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE software and warranty
Chrome OS has its pros and cons. On one hand, Chrome OS is ideal for anyone who is well integrated into the Google ecosystem. Upon startup, the Chromebook 516 GE asked me to input my Google credentials. And after setup, Google Chrome was waiting for me, all ready to go, with my bookmarks and Chrome extensions.
I also love Chrome OS features such as Nearby Share, which makes transferring data between my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Chromebook 516 GE seamless and fast. In just seconds, I beamed a 3-minute video to my Chromebook, and in seconds, it was already sitting on the bottom taskbar as an icon. My PC could never!
On the other hand, I absolutely deplore how some apps operate on Chromebook. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered that Spotify — as popular as it is — doesn’t have a dedicated Chromebook app. You can only choose between three modes: Phone, Tablet, and Resize. And quite frankly, all of them stink. All three have UIs that make it difficult to scroll through playlists and find the play/pause controls. Plus, I experienced tons of bugginess. At one point, I closed Spotify, and although I hit X and the app was no longer visible on the screen, I could still hear Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” screeching in the background. This is what nightmares are made of!
This isn’t just something that affects the Spotify platform. Chromebook has countless applications that run as if you’re mirroring a screen on your phone. You’re bound to run into snags as you attempt to run software that’s not purpose-built for Chrome OS.
I’m not really sure where I stand with this laptop. The Chromebook 516 GE is quite the Pinocchio, claiming in a squeaky, high-pitched voice, “I’m a real gaming laptop!” with its 4-zone RGB, anti-ghosting keyboard, fast 120Hz display, and quad-speaker setup.
Save for the zippy refresh rate, all the aforementioned specs feel somewhat gimmicky in that they’re not particularly useful for the target audience. I can’t imagine a gamer actually using that mushy keyboard — they’d likely opt for a gamepad instead. Plus, the DTS-tuned speakers are borderline awful. Funnily enough, the only thing that seems to matter on the Chromebook 516 GE is the Ethernet port. Even Acer said that an Ethernet connection is necessary to achieve the best streaming results (even my fast Wi-Fi connection experienced some lag).
But interestingly enough, after comparing the Chromebook 516 GE to the $1,000 HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, this Chrome OS system is a steal if you’re using it as a traditional Chromebook — it’s far more powerful and it’s $500 less. No, it won’t earn a spot on our best Chromebooks page, but it’s admittedly a great value for the price
Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!