Earlier this week, Google and hardware partners ASUS, Acer and Lenovo announced a somewhat surprising initiative to build Chromebooks specifically for cloud gaming. While many Chromebooks are a riff on the classic 13-inch laptop, the first round of these devices has large, high-resolution screens with high refresh rates, anti-ghosting keyboards, powerful processors, and a few software tweaks to better work with cloud gaming services like GeForce NOW.
All these laptops will be released at the end of October, but I had the chance to buy a pre-production version of Acer’s Chromebook 516 GE. For the past week I’ve been playing some games with it and running it through my daily work routine. I’ll have to test the final version before giving it a proper rating, but the Chromebook 516 GE has a lot going for it whether you’re playing games or not.
Acer will offer a few configurations of this laptop, but the one I tried is available for pre-order at Best Buy. It features a 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1240P processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a 16-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The 516 GE is bigger and heavier than many Chromebooks, but 3.75 pounds is reasonable for a 16-inch laptop.
As an all-purpose machine, there’s a lot to like about the 516 GE, assuming you’re OK with a computer that isn’t super portable. The screen is just great to work on – with an effective resolution of 1,600 x 1,000 by default, there’s plenty of vertical space, and I could easily have large windows (like a Google Doc and Slack) side by side without feeling cramped. The 350 nits brightness won’t blow you away, but it felt like enough for me, and the colors were nicely saturated without being over the top. And while the 120Hz refresh rate doesn’t change the basic experience of using a Chromebook, things like scrolling through YouTube or resizing windows felt smooth and fluid.
The keyboard and trackpad are also great. The keyboard is large and spacious and the keys have a lot of freedom of movement. It is equally suitable for a long writing session or playing games. And the computer’s large deck means the trackpad is also one of the larger ones I’ve used on a Chromebook; it’s smooth and responsive. As a nod to its gaming heritage, the keyboard has an RGB LED backlight and an outline around the WASD keys, but these are about the only details that make this computer feel like a ‘gaming laptop’.
However, the real question with this laptop is whether it really offers a better cloud gaming experience than other options (including other Chromebooks). I’m not ready to pass judgment on that yet, but both NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming worked flawlessly here. I just plugged in my Xbox controller and got to work. On GeForce Now, which I linked to my Steam account, I spent some time playing Portal and Shadow of the Tomb Raiderwhile trying out favorites like Forza Horizon 5 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge through my Game Pass subscription.
There is no doubt that this display enhances the experience, both simply because of its sheer size and resolution. I haven’t tried any games that played at 120Hz, but everything I played looked excellent – assuming my connection remained solid. The 516 GE has a WiFi 6E chip inside, but since I don’t have a 6E router yet, that didn’t do me any good. And even if I was in the same room as my router, with a strong signal, the quality of my game streams varied considerably. Overall, GeForce Now feels much more reliable than Xbox Cloud Gaming. When playing Xbox games, the image stuttered quite often in a significant, game-disrupting way. GeForce Now, on the other hand, would occasionally experience a burst of falling frames, but the images rarely started tearing and distorting as they did on Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Neither was nearly as good as playing a locally installed game, and the overall experience isn’t all that different from what I’ve experienced with cloud gaming on my MacBook Pro or other laptops. Acer can make a great laptop, but there’s only so much they can do about questionable streaming quality. And my internet connection isn’t exactly slow – I got about 170 Mbps down in a speed test I did after I finished playing.
for $650, Acer’s Chromebook 516 GE seems like a solid value – the combination of powerful hardware, a great screen and keyboard, and solid build quality make it an attractive device. Chromebooks with an i5 processor usually cost at least as much, if not more, and the 516 GE has quite a few features that make it unique. Whether this helps Google’s initiative convince people that Chromebooks are worth gaming on is another story altogether, but at the very least, Acer’s latest will probably be worth checking out once it’s available.
All products recommended by cafe-madrid have been selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at time of publication.