A Chromebook needs more than just an RGB keyboard to be a gaming laptop. It also needs a high refresh rate screen and a solid port selection. Now we are talking. I tested the $649.99 Acer Chromebook 516 GEone of a trio of newly announced gaming Chromebooks that my colleague Monica wrote about this week, and I have good news: It makes a compelling impression of a gaming laptop, as long as you have fast internet.
I tested a pre-production unit of the 516 GE, and it’s very different from your typical gaming laptop on the inside. There is no high-end processor or graphics card to run the latest games on. Instead, it’s kitted out as an ultrabook with the necessary connectivity — advanced Wi-Fi 6E connectivity and a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port — to make cloud game streaming services like Nvidia GeForce Now sing just as well as they would on a higher-end Windows PC. machine .
The real star of the hardware is the 16-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio. It supports QHD (2,560 x 1,600) resolution and is set to a refresh rate of 120 Hz by default (the Chrome OS settings don’t seem to allow you to change the refresh rate, by the way). It looks just as good as screens in Windows gaming laptops cost two to three times as much. I also want to give a shoutout to the keyboard. It’s not mechanical, but each key delivers a tactile bounce, and the WASD keys have helpful white borders around them.
These benefits make gaming on a Chromebook feel more normal. I played Half-life 2, Portal 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and more without thinking too much about the fact that I was gaming on a Chromebook, let alone streaming the games from a server farm somewhere. You can forget that the games don’t run natively. And this laptop’s screen specs help with that illusion.
Streaming games with this laptop’s native display specifications consumes approx 20GB per hour
you need one very good internet connection to maintain this illusion. To take full advantage of the 516 GE’s 120Hz, 1600p panel, you’ll need a download speed of at least 35 Mbps and pay $19.99 per month (or $99.99 for six months) for the highest level of GeForce Now. The $9.99 tier will cover you at 1080p at 60 frames per second.
Those requirements may not be outlandish for city or suburban dwellers, but will likely pose problems for anyone who doesn’t have access to super-fast terrestrial internet. While some LTE/5G home internet may meet the speed requirements, the latency probably won’t meet Nvidia’s recommendation of 40ms or less. And if you’re on a data cap, streaming games at this laptop’s native screen resolution and refresh rate consumes approx. 20GB per hour.
If you meet those internet requirements (which I do at home: 226 Mbps download, 23 Mbps upload), you’ll probably have a great gaming experience. Cyberpunk 2077, which ran over Wi-Fi at the laptop’s native resolution and refresh rate (with the max bitrate set to automatic), looked almost as sharp as it would on a real gaming rig. But on The edge‘s office Wi-Fi, I had to fall back to the “Balanced” quality mode – 1400 x 900 and 60 frames per second, with about 6 GB of data per hour. Your gaming experience depends entirely on your internet speed and network hardware, which are tricky variables that you can control from anywhere with this laptop.
The appeal of cloud gaming is that you can experience high-end gaming without having to pay for high-end gaming hardware. Google tried to enter cloud gaming with its soon-defunct Stadia cloud gaming service, but it couldn’t compete with Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, in part because those services let you play games you already have on other platforms instead of them. having to buy again.
And as the heavy lifting means you can game on hardware you already own, companies are starting to sell devices optimized for cloud gaming. If you’ve been following any recent tech news, that’s the idea behind Logitech’s G Cloud Gaming Handheld, except with a handheld handheld Android tablet.
A Chromebook for cloud gaming makes a lot more sense than Stadia (or any Android tablet, spoiler warning) ever did, because even when you’re not gaming, a laptop is very handy to have. And the 516 GE has respectable specs for the price of $649.99. This model has Intel’s Core i5-1240P processor, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB NVMe SSD.
We’ll dig deeper into performance with gaming Chromebooks like this one as soon as possible for a full review.