The Acer Chromebook 516 GE feels like it was green-lit back when Google Stadia was the future of gaming. As someone who lacks a high-spec gaming PC (but has a PS5 and Xbox Series X) the idea of cloud gaming and having access to high-end PC games anywhere is an enticing third-way for gaming. Stadia may have gone but Nvidia GeForce Now, Game Pass, Amazon Luna+ and more platforms exist. To have access to cloud gaming on a Chromebook is, frankly, witchcraft, but it works.
My time spent with the Acer Chromebook 516 GE has been fun, and I've played way too many games in the last two weeks while sat in the sofa and in a forest (yes really). This Chromebook is powered by Intel’s 12th-Gen i5 processor and is one of the few Chromebooks that can run the in-development Steam for ChromeOS. Steam support is coming in full, ideally this year, so the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is a forward-looking ChromeOS laptop.
The real way you'll play AAA games on the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is via the Xbox Game Pass app / Xbox Cloud Gaming, Boosteroid and Nvidia GeForce Now. US gamers can also access Amazon Luna+. I'll go into more details on these services in the performance section of my review, but it does mean you can play AAA games on an integrated GPU (the impressive Intel Iris Xe graphics).
In my review below I'll take a look at the design and build of the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, before explaining my experience of using it and how it performs; I'll also go into a little detail about pricing and availability. If you need to know more of our reviews process, read our 'how we test laptops, PCs and workstations' explainer. If you're new to ChromeOS laptops, read our guide to the best Chromebooks.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE review: design and spec
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE can look a little underwhelming from first glance. This is a dark, 'iron' grey laptop that looks like many other Acer Chromebooks. But first glances can deceive. The Acer Chromebook 516 GE has a two-tone brushed metal finish and the Acer logo sits against a matt strap and is finished in a hologram metallic. It's rather swish if understated. At the side the display hinges are finished in metallic blue for a little hint at what's inside.
Display 16-inches (2560 x 1600), 16:10, 350 nits, 120Hz refresh rate
Processor 12th Gen Intel Core i5, 1.70 GHz / 4.4 GHz (12th Gen Intel Core i7 P-series also available)
Graphics Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM 8GB (16GB available)
Storage 256GB NVMe SSD
Battery 8-9 hours
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6E, 2x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x 3.5mm audio combo jack, HDMI 2.1, 2.5G Ethernet, Kensington lock
Camera 1080p FHD
Dimensions 14.04 x 9.8 x 0.84-inches
Audio 4 Force-cancelling speakers
Other RGB LED anti-ghosting keyboard
Opening the lid and the Acer Chromebook 516 GE reveals its gaming credentials. The display is a large 16-inch screen, which is an unusual size for a Chromebook, and its 16:10 ratio offers a large space for gaming, video streaming and opening dozens of web and task tabs.
The impressive IPS display offers 2560 x 1600 resolution and features a narrow-bezel design for full immersion. With100% sRGB and 350 nits brightness this is a vibrant display for gaming and everyday use. It's not a touchscreen, but then this isn't really needed (though the 516 GE's competitor, the ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX34 (opens in new tab), does offer an impressive 144Hz touchscreen display, but costs more.)
The other nod to AAA gaming is the RGB anti-ghosting keyboard that is LED backlit and its colour can be adjusted in the device's personalisation settings. While punchy, particularly the deep blue, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE isn't as garish as some Windows gaming laptops, and you'll happily use this for work as well as play. It's worth noting the WASD keys are grouped by a subtle white border against grey.
While you can stream games to any device (as I'll detail below) it's features such as the anti-ghosting keyboard and 120Hz display that ensure this is a preferred device for gaming. An anti-ghosting keyboard, for example, ensures each key press is read without error and in the order they're pressed, ensuring your accurate instructions are sent to the game being played.
To the sides of the keyboard are the speakers that are subtly inset and gridded (there are two further speakers beneath the laptop). The touchpad is a little smaller than a MacBook Pro but perfectly sized for gaming and web browsing. In all, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE has a superb keyboard that's nicely sized and features responsive and accurate keys.
The model reviewed here offers a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 chip with 8GB of memory, this is a 1.70 GHz processor but it can be turbo boosted to 4.4 GHz – making this a zippy Chromebook for gaming as well as general tasks and running digital art apps. Acer also offers a more costly model with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory, which feels like overkill for a Chromebook (but fun).
Overall the Acer Chromebook 516 GE feels like a quality laptop with a lovely neat finish and some subtle design notes. It is a gaming laptop that doesn't over-promote the gaming part and equally delivers the laptop side of the equation.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE review: performance
First thing to know is the Acer Chromebook 516 GE isn't a native gaming laptop, as in, you can't (as yet) download games from Steam play them on the device. Instead this Chromebook is built for cloud gaming; you stream games from provider platforms such as Game Pass and Boosteroid. When you first boot up the Acer Chromebook 516 GE you're offered a series of very good offers to get discounts on the best cloud gaming services, notably Xbox Game Pass, Nvidia GeForce Now, Boosteroid and Amazon Luna+.
The 'GE' part of this Chromebook means it offers the tools to make streamed games run impeccably – including the anti-ghosting keyboard, 120Hz display and, importantly, Wi-Fi 6E support. The Acer Chromebook 516 GE also comes with a 2.5G Ethernet jack for connecting directly to your router (a preferred method if you want seamless cloud gaming).
Kraken benchmark: 475
JetStream 2: 220
Movie battery test: 8 hours 5 minutes
My Wi-Fi speed is a solid 70 megabits per second but I would recommend at least 150-200Mbps for cloud gaming, and there are some cheap packages around at the moment. If you're broadband speed is below 60-70Mbps you will find glitching and frame rate drops; and if you're in a busy household this can affect performance too.
If you're in the US you have a wealth of clients to stream games from, but in the UK you're restricted to Nvidia GeForce Now, Boosteroid and Xbox Game Pass / Xbox Cloud Gaming.
I begin with testing the Acer Chromebook 516 GE using Xbox Game Pass, using the new Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) browser-based platform. As a subscriber to Game Pass I get access to hundreds of games. I test this laptop on some games that require solid frame rates and visual fidelity. First, Forza Horizon 5 is near seamless – the framerate rarely drops though there is a little choppiness. New release Hi-Fi Rush is better; this game relies on attacking enemies on the beat and its rhythmic gameplay never falters when streaming. The beautifully animated visuals pop on the WQXGA display.
Overall, Nvidia GeForce Now is an improvement. This client essentially connects you to a gaming rig hosted on a remote server and enables you to stream your games purchased on Steam or the Epic Game Store. As a new Chromebook owner you can get three months of free access to the highest tier – a GeForce RTX 3080, 4K resolution at 120fps. It's impressive and turns this Chromebook into a god-tier gaming laptop.
I find the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is an excellent way to play AAA games and of the platforms on offer Game Pass / Xbox Cloud Gaming represents the best value for money as its a store and client in one service. But if you already have games purchased on Steam, then Nvidia GeForce Now offers more power and a larger range of games (at an extra cost).
Everything is dependent on your broadband speed and stability; luckily mine is fast enough to handle cloud gaming. If your broadband is weaker, the 2.5G Ethernet port is a better option and currently the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is the only Chromebook to offer this connectivity.
Overall this Chromebook has a wealth of connection options, including dual USB-C ports, 3.5mm audio and a full-size HDMI 2.1 port. These are ideal for a gamepad, headphones and connecting a second screen.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE review: price
The model reviewed here is the 12th Gen Intel Core i5 build with 8GB and a 256GB NVMe SSD, this has a retail price of $649 / £849. While US readers will find it easy enough to but from the likes of Best Buy, UK readers will need to hunt around a little. It's worth noting this model has been reduced to $449 recently in the US, so there are deals to be had.
The newer 12th Gen Intel Core i7 model, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE (CBG516-1H) is priced $849 / £999. At this price you're verging on getting a decent Windows gaming laptop, like the Acer Nitro 5, which can also support cloud gaming clients. Read our guide to the best laptops for gaming if you're looking to compare this Chromebook to a Windows device.
At the price, the Intel Core i5 model offers good value and is one of the few Chromebooks powerful enough to handle digital art and design software; it comes with a three month free trial of Canva Pro, for example.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE review: verdict
The Acer Chromebook 516 GE offers a great deal of value if you opt for the cheaper Intel Core i5 model, particularly if you're a console gamer who wants to experience high end PC gaming.
As it relies on fast broadband connection for cloud gaming you may want to test your internet speed before buying this gaming Chromebook, I'd suggest anything less than 60Mbps is likely too slow (though LAN connection is a solution). To test this, I took the Acer Chromebook 516 GE into a local forest and used a remote Wi-Fi connection, and it suffered a lot – so gaming on a train or hotel will be an issue.
When not gaming the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is also a speedy and powerful Chromebook. It has a 12th Gen Intel processor for speed and with 8GB of RAM and a zippy SSD you'll find it's capable of most tasks (but again, it's reliant on using Google Play Store apps or cloud services and high end software such as Blender will need more RAM).
If you're looking for a way to play AAA PC games on a budget, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE and a Game Pass subscription is a good option and offers a future-facing approach to gaming.