This week, Google took the cover off a new Chromebook initiative that brings together the big three game streaming services (R.I.P. Stadia), ChromeOS, and some new hardware to deliver what they feel is the best overall way to experience game streaming. While streaming your favorite titles from GeForce NOW is certainly possible on nearly any Chromebook out there, Google wants to differentiate these devices by providing things like high-refresh screens, great speakers, RGB keyboards, and high-end internals to make sure your gaming experience is top-notch.
The first gaming-focused Chromebooks
The first of these new Chromebooks we’re getting our hands on is the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, and it brings together all the things you want in a gaming-focused Chromebook while simultaneously being a solid device for day-to-day tasks, too. Google has said these devices are optimized for cloud gaming and that they worked closely with GeForce NOW, XBOX Cloud Gaming, and Amazon Luna to make sure the hardware stack is primed for game streaming out of the box.
All of that needs testing, and that will take us a couple weeks. From just a little bit of time with this new Chromebook 516 GE from Acer, however, I feel like Google is on to something, here. The combo of a solid connection via ethernet or Wi-Fi 6E, a fantastic keyboard, great speakers, and a big, bright, 120hz QHD 16:10 screen makes for an extremely compelling game play experience. But it doesn’t just sound good on paper: it performs well, too.
Again, I haven’t had a ton of time to play, but in a handful of matches in both Fortnite and Apex Legends, the experience is so immersive that I forgot I was playing a game on a server miles and miles away. With GeForce NOW, these new Chromebooks get 120hz as an option, and they take full advantage. With ray tracing, high-end graphics and this 120hz frame rate, games look absolutely amazing and perform just as well. I won’t say there wasn’t a single hiccup, but they were so few and far between that I never had a single issue when actually involved in a high-intensity moment.
We’ll do a separate video on gaming performance after we get to spend more time with it, but I’m impressed so far with the game streaming aspect of these new Chromebooks. But what about this device as a normal, day-to-day Chromebook? After all, at the end of the day, this thing still needs to be a laptop that can do normal laptop sorts of things. There’s good news there, too, as this new Chromebook from Acer is pretty great at that stuff so far as well.
Acer Chrombook 516 GE Key Specs
- 12th-gen Intel Core i501240P
- Iris Xe GPU
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB NVMe SSD
- Wi-Fi 6E
- Bluetooth 5.2
- 16-inch 120Hz IPS non-touch display
- 2560×1600 at 350 nits and 100% SRGB
- Upward firing DTS speakers
- RGB backlit keyboard
- Oceanglass trackpad
- 1080p webcam
- 2x USB Type C (3.2)
- 1x USB Type A (3.2)
- HDMI 2.1 port
- Ethernet port
- Headphone/mic jack
- 3.75 pounds
A great Chromebook even without the gaming
It would be easy for companies to build Chromebooks that are good at streaming games but bad at everything else. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with the Acer 516 GE. Instead, I’m loving it so far. The 16-inch screen is vibrant, silky-smooth, and has great viewing angles. The upward-facing speakers are loud, full and provide wide stereo separation, and the RBG keyboard is a delight to type on and looks cool to boot. The trackpad is huge, smooth, and has a fantastic click mechanism and the aluminum lid and base make things feel solid and reassuring.
Even the 1080p webcam is solid, exposing shots very well for a Chromebook not really aimed at meetings and work-related stuff. On the inside, we have a crazy-fast 12th-gen Core i5-1240P with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of NVMe storage, and I likely don’t have to tell you how fast this thing feels. With ports for HDMI, Ethernet, USB-C and USB-A, the 516 GE is well-connected and ready for just about anything.
My only minor gripe is the lack of touch for the screen, and it will be fun to see how that affects day-to-day use as I make this my primary Chromebook for a bit. With all the upsides on offer, I doubt it will be that big of a deal, but time will tell on that front.
Overall, I’m loving the look, feel and power on offer from the Acer Chromebook 516 GE so far. Assuming the cloud gaming experience (and Steam gaming down the road) is solid, I feel confident that the actual working part of this device will deliver on all fronts. As long as the size and weight aren’t too bad in the bag, this is going to be a very interesting Chromebook to review. With a starting price of $649 and a general availability already in place at places like Best Buy, I think Acer has a real winner up its sleeve moving into Q4. But for now, it’s review time.