Review of the Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE: Excellent, but a little strange

Review of the Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE: Excellent, but a little strange

Google is revitalizing the ChromeOS platform with a new generation of Chromebooks that rely heavily on Google’s AI, following a few years of minor Chromebook improvements. With its robust processor and ideal 120Hz display for cloud gaming, the Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE is a clear contender for the title of leader in this space. The only issue is that it is not any better than its predecessor.

Specs and features

The older Acer Chromebook 516 GE and the new Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE are remarkably similar. It is an update to Intel’s Core 5 120U, however, with two fewer cores than the previous model’s Intel Core i5-1240P, it might be considered a downgrade. Nevertheless, the Turbo Boost clock speed is increased from 4.4 GHz to 5 GHz by the Core 5 120U.

  • Intel Core 5 120U CPU
  • Memory: 8GB LPDDR4x; Intel graphics and GPU Consolidated
  • 16-inch, 2,560 x 1,600, 120Hz LED display with 350 nits
  • 256GB of storage
  • 1080p webcam
  • Connectivity: 1x USB-A, 1x HDMI, 1x Ethernet, and 1x 3.5mm combo audio; 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 with DisplayPort and Power Delivery
  • Networking: Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6E
  • Biometrics: Not used
  • 65 watt-hour battery capacity; dimensions: 14.0 x 9.8 x.84 inches
  • 3.81 pounds in weight
  • MSRP: $699.99; during sales, usually $649.99

Other than that, the specs are comparable to the earlier 516 GE, although more powerful for a Chromebook. With the largest locally loaded apps weighing only a few hundred megabytes, 256GB of local storage feels generous, and 8GB of memory should be more than enough for Chrome. The laptop has an advantage over other gaming laptops if you intend to play games on a cloud gaming service that allows for high refresh rates, such as Nvidia’s GeForce Now, because of its superb 120Hz display.

According to Acer, upgraded variants will come with up to a 2TB storage capacity, 16GB of RAM, and an Intel Core 7 processor. But prices have not been revealed yet, and at the time of this review, these models were not on the internet.

Design and build quality

Even though the Acer Chromebook 516 GE runs Chrome OS, it is far from a lightweight device. With a big 16-inch display and a thick profile that reaches up to 0.84 inches, it has an outdated vibe. Still, at 3.81 pounds, it is not too heavy.

All of this defines the laptop’s character, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a direct replacement for full-sized Windows laptops, not an ultra-portable device that you can slip into a tiny purse for short trips.

This design has advantages. The display lid of the 516 GE has a classy two-tone appearance, even though it will not draw attention to your neighborhood coffee shop. The device looks and feels sturdy. Even when handled hard, there is remarkably minimal bend in the lower chassis and display lid of this robust laptop.

Display and Audio

A 16-inch IPS display with a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz and a resolution of 2560 x 1600 is included on all Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE models. Although 1600p resolution does not seem like much on paper, in person it looks sharp and is better than other laptops at competitive prices. The matte surface of the 16-inch display, which optimizes the usability of its stated brightness of up to 350 nits, is another feature I enjoy.

Benefits of the 120Hz refresh rate include responsiveness, fluidity, and clarity of motion. When using a cloud service like Nvidia GeForce Now, which offers frame rates of up to 120 frames per second, this is most obvious when playing games. However, I have also learned to value the responsiveness that a 120Hz display can offer for routine daily activities like navigating a webpage.

The quality of the image varies. Accurate and realistic colors are produced by the IPS display screen, and they frequently look enticing, especially when viewing colorful content like the most recent Pixar film or Overwatch 2.

But contrast is poor, particularly in light of the new and ever less expensive OLED screens found on some slightly more expensive laptops. The absence of contrast is particularly apparent in darker-colored video games and films, such as Diablo 4.

At lower volumes, the upward-firing speakers on either side of the keyboard do not sound too bad, but they are not very good. At high volumes, a vocalist’s highs might start to sound harsh and metallic, while the thumping bass of an action movie or dance track loses intensity. While working, you can use it to listen to music, but when playing games or viewing Netflix, you will need headphones or external speakers.

Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE

Performance

Acer replaces the Intel Core i5-1240P seen in the previous 516 GE with the Core 5 120U in the Chromebook Plus 516 GE. Although it looks good at first, that could be considered a downgrade.

With four performance cores and eight efficiency cores, Intel’s Core i5-1240P is a 12-core CPU; in contrast, the Core 5 120U is a 10-core processor with just two performance cores and eight efficient cores. Because of this, the new CPU occasionally performs worse than the old one.

Although our set of Chromebook benchmarks produced good results, they were frequently lower than those of the previous 516GE. The speedometer, Basemark Web 3.0, and CrXPRT 2 tests were where the new Chromebook Plus 516 GE lagged. It did, however, prevail in Jetstream 2’s Kraken.

The reduced core count of the Intel Core 5 120U is disheartening, but in practical terms, I do not think it is a major issue. It is difficult to envision situations in which having more cores is advantageous because most online apps do not put much strain on the local hardware.

Considering all of the AI features that Chromebook Plus laptops have, it could appear problematic that the Intel Core 5 120U does not have a neural processing unit (NPU). I did not, however, observe any problems with performance. The cloud handles a large number of AI features, and those that do not do not seem to utilize enough local hardware resources to negatively impact performance.

Battery life

The 65-watt-hour battery that comes with every Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE is the same capacity as the previous model. Although it is small for a 16-inch laptop, ChromeOS makes the most of the power.

A full charge of the CrXPRT 2 battery benchmark took 13 hours and 12 minutes to deplete. The benchmark runs a series of synthetic tests that mimic online browsing and web apps. That is around one hour longer than the previous 516 GE, but it is three hours longer than the 10 hours that Acer’s specs sheet claimed.

Battery life on most Chromebooks is comparable, hence the 516 GE’s performance is not noteworthy. Even so, it is more than plenty for an entire workday spent away from a power outlet or an international flight.

Though it seemed to fall short of the benchmark, the 516 GE’s real-world battery life usually kept me on schedule for at least 10 hours. While online browsing does not consume the battery as quickly as cloud gaming does, the laptop may still run for six or seven hours before needing to be charged.

Conclusion

Customers looking for a ChromeOS laptop with a large screen, plenty of storage, and outstanding speed may consider the Acer Chromebook Plus 516 GE. Though the $650 price tag is a little pricey for a Chromebook, ChromeOS aficionados will undoubtedly find the 516 GE to be very well worth the money. The 120Hz display provides good motion fluidity, making it an excellent platform for cloud gaming as well.

The new 516 GE, however, is in an awkward position due to the revised Core 5 120U processor. Due to its two fewer cores than the Core i5-1240P in the discontinued model, it performed somewhat worse overall. Although the new model seems more like a marketing gimmick than a helpful improvement, I still suggest the 516 GE.

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