Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Two-minute review
Acer's Predator line of laptops is well-known at this point, offering everything from desktops like the Acer Orion 7000 to high-end laptops such as the Acer Helios 300. The latest gaming machine to grace my test bench is the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 - a more budget-conscious entry into the Predator line.
That's a welcome sight since many of the best gaming laptops are fearsomely expensive; sure, I love the new Razer Blade 14, but it starts above two thousand bucks, and the average person just can't afford to casually drop that amount of money on a gaming machine.
In today's fraught economic landscape, good-value hardware is king - and I reckon the Predator Helios Neo 16 checks that box. With this redesign of Acer's existing Helios laptop line, we've still got a high-quality machine with the latest internal components, but now at a new (and more accessible) price point.
Now, I'm not saying that the Helios Neo 16 is worthy of our best budget laptops list - it's still a gaming laptop and therefore not exactly cheap, as you'll see below. However, it offers plenty of bang for your buck thanks to 13th-gen Intel processors and RTX 4000 GPUs across a variety of different configurations.
It also doesn't feel cheap, thanks to its RGB keyboard, sturdy chassis, and large display. Although the more affordable versions pack an FHD display, my review unit is a slightly pricier model packing a QHD+ screen that looks fantastic. The hinge is also suitably durable, with minimal wobble if the laptop is moved or picked up.
Will this Helios spin-off earn a spot among the best laptops? How does it stack up against rival laptops in the same price range? Let's take a deeper look.
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Price & availability
How much does it cost? Starting at $1,199.99 / £1,399 / AU$1,998
When is it available? Available now
Where can you get it? Available in the US, the UK and Australia
The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 starts at $1,199.99 / £1,399 / AU$1,998, although I noted while verifying prices for different models that the base US configuration (which features an RTX 4050 GPU) actually isn't available in the UK and Australia; those starting prices are for RTX 4060 models.
The highest-end model, which uses an RTX 4070 and i7-13700HX, will run you £1,799 / AU$3,999 (about $2,230), though I couldn't find that configuration anywhere in the States. The highest-spec model there appears to be my review unit, which features an RTX 4060 and costs $1,549.99 / £1,399 (around AU$2,400).
While these prices aren't exactly budget, the definition of an 'affordable gaming laptop' has shifted somewhat over the last few years. With this goalpost-moving in mind, I feel pretty comfortable saying that the Helios Neo 16 is actually a great-value product, despite costing more than a budget gaming laptop did five or ten years ago.
Interestingly, the aforementioned entry-level RTX 4050 model is already on sale at Best Buy at the time of writing, going for just $999.99 - a pretty stellar deal in today's gaming laptop market, so consider snapping that one up!
Price score: 4.5 / 5
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Specs
As I noted above, configurations of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 vary wildly between regions. I've done my best to include the base, review, and high-end configurations here, but bear in mind that the top-spec model listed below isn't actually available in the US (not yet, anyway).
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Design
Plenty of physical ports
The first thing I noticed upon unboxing the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 was the printed design on the exterior of the lid. My understanding is that not every Neo model has this design, but it certainly adds to the aesthetic of the laptop and makes it a bit more eye-catching than the average gaming system.
Opening the Neo up, I'm immediately treated to an excellent display. I've long been a fan of the 16:10 aspect ratio now becoming more common in laptops since it gives you that extra little bit of vertical screen real estate that makes scrolling through web pages or documents a little easier. The 1600p resolution on my review unit is excellent, with strong color density and deep blacks.
Considering that this isn't an OLED screen, it's one of the best IPS displays I've seen on a laptop. The anti-glare coating works well in all but the most brightly lit environments, and the maximum brightness of 500 nits is excellent. The 165Hz refresh rate (also found in the cheaper 1200p version of this display) is a great inclusion for anyone who plays fast-paced competitive games.
Moving down to the laptop's bottom half, we've got a relatively normal membrane keyboard that is mostly comfortable to use. The WASD, PredatorSense, and arrow keys are partially translucent to give them extra highlighting when the RGB lighting is turned on.
I have very little to say here; the keys don't feel overly squishy, but it's also not the best keyboard on a laptop I've ever used. Middle-of-the-road is perfectly fine at this sort of price point though, so I can't complain.
I will complain about the touchpad, however! While the pad itself felt suitably responsive and offered a decent amount of tactile feedback when clicked, the positioning seems a little... off. It's set to the left-hand side (already a risky move since the standard gamer hand position sees your fingers sitting atop the WASD keys), but it's also not properly aligned with the spacebar.
I actually struggled to put my finger on what exactly was putting me off, but it just feels slightly wrong. The palm rejection worked fine for the most part, although there were one or two occasions when my left thumb would catch the touchpad and register unwanted input while I was gaming. The large size of the touchpad - otherwise a good feature - made this an issue, though I imagine many users wouldn't have the same problem. I ended up disabling the pad since I was using a mouse anyway.
The overall casing is plastic, not the machined aluminum you'll find on more expensive gaming laptops, but it doesn't feel flimsy. In fact, the Neo's chassis feels quite robust, and the 1080p webcam embedded in the slim display bezel is another bonus - a lesser manufacturer might've opted for a cheaper 720p camera here instead, considering the overall price.
Around the edges of the Helios Neo 16, we've got a veritable smorgasbord of physical ports - something I love to see in this era of MacBook-inspired port minimalism. We've got 3 USB-As, 2 USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, HDMI for video output, RJ-45 for wired internet, a headphone jack, and even a microSD port.
This level of port support should be considered aspirational among gaming laptop makers. Please don't starve me of my ports; I still use physical flash drives!
Design score: 4 / 5
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Performance
Decent gaming performance
4060 can run anything at 1080p, most games at QHD+
Fans are loud but the system runs cool
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Benchmarks
Here's how the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
3DMark Night Raid: 65,825; Fire Strike: 24,487; Time Spy: 11,146
GeekBench 6: 2,490 (single-core); 14,658 (multi-core)
Total War: Warhammer III: 1080p Ultra: 83.6 1080p Low: 223.8
Dirt 5: 1080p Ultra: 97.2 1080p Low: 164.6
Cyberpunk: 1080p Ultra RT: 61.1 1080p Low: 152.0
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 1hr 41m
TechRadar Movie Battery Life: 2hr 55m
Considering the price tag, my RTX 4060-equipped review model of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 performed admirably. I've seen slightly better figures from other 4060-wielding laptops, but the difference is pretty marginal.
If you drop the resolution to 1080p (the standard we use for benchmarking games), there's basically nothing you can't play with a clean framerate. Even Cyberpunk 2077's Ultra preset with ray-tracing turned on just about managed to clear the 60fps barrier, and performance in synthetic tests was also strong.
Dial things up to native resolution, and you might find yourself having to drop your graphical settings a tad to maintain a high framerate, though this won't be the case for every game. I was able to play Dirt 5 at 1600p Ultra without my fps dropping below 60, and plenty of games can now take advantage of Nvidia's DLSS upscaling tech to boost framerates when you're playing above 1080p.
CPU performance was also pretty strong - again, not the very best I've seen, but great when factoring in the price point here. I didn't experience any slowdown while opening numerous Chrome tabs or running two games at once. While the Neo comes with a perfectly acceptable 16GB of RAM in most configurations, it can be upgraded to 32GB if you're planning to run any memory-intensive software.
My only real gripe with the Helios Neo 16 during my testing process was the fan noise. Boy, those suckers are LOUD, even when using the balanced power preset. Knock things up to Turbo mode and it sounds like a jet engine firing in your living room.
That being said, the Neo did run pretty darn cool throughout my whole testing process, so those fans are clearly doing the job. The fans are custom-engineered all-metal 'AeroBlades' connected to five heat pipes and liquid metal thermal grease, which evidently works as advertised - props to Acer's laptop cooling team.
Performance score: 4 / 5
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Battery life
Unimpressive battery life
Large, heavy AC adapter
Sure, gaming laptops are hardly known for their all-day battery longevity, but it's always nice to find one that outlasts the competition.
The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is sadly not that laptop, clocking in at less than two hours in the PCMark 10 mixed-use battery life test and only faring a bit better in our looped video playback test. In practical gaming tests I got similar results, with just over 90 minutes of playing Deathloop using the balanced power preset before the laptop gave up the ghost.
The Neo does at least charge pretty quickly, but the included AC adapter is huge and heavy, which severely impacts the laptop's portability. Ultimately though, most buyers will (and should) primarily use this as a desktop-replacement system, so it's not a huge issue - or at least, it's an issue shared by 95% of gaming laptops, so I can't knock the Neo too much for it.
Battery score: 3 / 5
Should you buy the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16?
Buy it if...
You want good value for money
The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is competitively priced with a sensible starting price, meaning you get plenty of bang for your buck here - the higher-spec configurations aren't ridiculously expensive, either.
You want a multipurpose machine
The comfortable keyboard and 16:10 display make the Helios Neo 16 a perfectly good choice if you want a desktop-replacement laptop that will serve you for work just as well as play.
Don't buy it if...
You crave portability
The Neo isn't just a big laptop, it's also on the heavy side - and with its poor battery life, you'll also have to lug around the chunky AC adapter. This one's best left on your desk at home.
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Also consider
If the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...
How I tested the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16
Replaced my everyday system for one week
Used for general gaming for around two weeks
I played a wide variety of games on the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16, not just our regular suite of test titles. I spent a decent amount of time in the evenings replaying Deathloop and also dipped my toe back into Apex Legends and Valorant (the latter of which I still suck at).
To test the brightness and glare resistance of the display, I used it during the daytime and at night, even sitting out in my backyard in the middle of the day. I used it in place of my desktop PC to write most of this review as well as some of my regular everyday work, including video calls to test the webcam.
I also took the Neo with me to my friend's house, playing the rather excellent Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun for a brief period on the train. Trust me, you don't want to try using a 16-inch gaming laptop on British public transport. Just don't do it.
First reviewed September 2023