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Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review: Gaming laptop goes all-in on speed

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 displayImage: IDG / Mark Knapp

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Lofty performanceDecent displayPlenty of ports

Cons

HeavyWhiny fansLow battery life

Our Verdict

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 goes all in on speed, blitzing past competitors with similar configurations while sticking to a more modest price point. It pairs all that with a good screen for gaming and enough ports to serve as a desktop replacement. Its weight and limited battery life don’t make it the best option for mobility, though.

Price When Reviewed

$1,699.99

Best Prices Today: Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024)

RetailerPriceAcer$1699.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Acer’s Predator laptops are known for their high-end configurations, but the Predator Helios Neo models find a few areas to hold back in order to combine high performance with stronger value. The 2024 Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 aims to do that with a middling design that doesn’t exude elegance or boast of a fancy bill of materials, but it still manages to pack in components ready for gaming. 

Looking for more options? Check out PCWorld’s roundup of the best gaming laptops.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Specs and features

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 comes at a base price of $1,449. At that tier, it offers a 1920×1200 display with a 165Hz refresh rate, an Intel Core i7-14650HX, 16GB of memory, an RTX 4060, and 1TB of storage. Curiously, for the same price, there’s also a config that upgrades the CPU to an Intel Core i9-14900HX processor, which should be an obvious pick to snag. 32GB of memory, 2TB of storage, an RTX 4070, and the 2560 x 1600 display tested here. The test configuration here (the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 PHN16-72-75NK / PHN16-72-73Q5), costs $1,699 and comes with an Intel Core i7-14700HX, 32GB of memory, an RTX 4070, and the boosted display with a 2560×1600, 240Hz panel that shines brighter and has a wider color gamut.

CPU: Intel Core i7-14700HXMemory: 32GB DDR5-5600Graphics/GPU: Nvidia RTX 4070 (140-watt TGP)Display: 16-inch WQXGA (2560×1600), 240Hz IPS, G-SyncStorage: 1TB PCIe Gen4 SSD. 1x empty M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4 slotWebcam: 1080pConnectivity: 2x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1xUSB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x Ethernet, 1x microSD card reader, 1x 3.5mm combo audio. 1x Kensington lock slotNetworking: WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Battery capacity: 90 watt-hoursDimensions: 14.08 x 11.02 x 1.28 inchesWeight: 5.8 pounds (8.4 pounds with charging brick)MSRP: $1,699 as-tested ($1,449 base)

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Design and build quality

IDG / Mark Knapp

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is a 5.8-pound beast of a machine, though it’s not as chunky as you might expect from a 16-inch gaming machine. It measures a little over an inch thick, though the meaty rubber feet it stands on add a surprising amount of extra thickness. Side-to-side, it’s also not unreasonable, with very little extraneous space on either edge of the screen or keyboard. Still, front-to-back, it’s larger with the jutting out rear that’s become common on powerful gaming laptops.

The size makes sense with all the hardware Acer is packing in here. High performance CPUs and high-wattage GPUs need more metal to sink their heat into, and that’s what’s stuffed inside here. The system also squeezes in a 90Wh battery to keep the system up and running away from the beefy 330-watt power brick — a 2.6-pound accessory that will single-handedly make you want to avoid lengthy, on-the-go use.

As the system is pretty much stuffed to the gills, it ends up feeling almost rock solid even though it’s almost all plastic. The keyboard deck flexes ever so slightly, but comes nowhere near worry. The top teck and sides feel like a smooth polycarbonate while the underside of the laptop feels like a rougher ABS. Only the display lid has gotten the metal treatment, helping the screen avoid much bending. 

The top of the laptop is also where Acer decided to put most of its fashion. There’s a metallic Predator logo embedded into the lid and a few markings emblazoned elsewhere on the lid. This “coding” on the lid varies from model to model, and may not be present on US models. The rear exhaust ports also have a clear plastic cover on the top that shows through to “Helios,” “Neo,” and “16” etched along its length.

Turning back to the underside of the laptop, the base is held on by several screws. These provide access to user-upgradeable RAM and storage slots. It’s a little unfortunate there’s no easy-access panel for these components, but they shouldn’t need regular swapping anyway.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Keyboard, trackpad

IDG / Mark Knapp

Acer’s keyboard is equal parts good and frustrating. For a laptop keyboard, the 2mm of travel is nice to see, and the membrane underneath each switch provides a nice, solid pop. I was quickly able to get up to speed, typing at 120 words-per-minute with decent accuracy. They have a bit of mush to some of the corners, making them not the most consistent, but they can get the job done.

The layout of the keys is a nuisance though. Acer has wedged full-size arrow keys between the main keyboard and the number pad. This sees the Up Arrow cut into the space of the Right Shift key, and the Right Arrow cut into the 0 key’s space. If you regularly use either of these keys, be prepared to accidentally hit arrow keys and totally throw off whatever you’re doing on a regular basis. The relatively flat keycaps also make it a little easy to lose track of their center and end up on the wrong keys from time to time.

The keyboard is also one area where Acer trimmed cost, offering 4-zone RGB lighting instead of per-key. This isn’t a big downside, but more color control could have actually helped here as it would have provided an option to highlight the arrow keys to avoid accidentally hitting them as much.

Acer has provided a fairly sizable trackpad on the Predator Helios Neo, taking good advantage of the space available below the keyboard. There’s still room for it to have gone bigger — extra width might have helped avoid having to reach across their body for right-handed users, as it’s slightly left of the laptop’s centerline — but it’s still plenty for even four-finger gestures. Depressing the trackpad results in a satisfying, heavy click, though it’s harder to press the higher up you go. My fingers glide smoothly along the trackpad, and it registers my touches accurately while also providing effective palm rejection. Mouse movement with the trackpad leaves a little to be desired, lagging slightly behind faster movements, making certain things (like scribbling a signature) difficult.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Display, audio

IDG / Mark Knapp

You can get a fairly impressive display on the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16. The base model’s 1920×1200 panel may not be as capable, but the 2560×1600 panel has a lot to offer. Its fast 240Hz refresh rate is backed by quick enough pixel response time that motion blur and ghosting are kept minimal. There are faint trails behind fast moving objects, but not enough to majorly impact gameplay. The display is also quite bright, hitting between 470 and 490 nits at its peak depending on the on-screen content. That brightness combines with an anti-glare finish that makes it easy to see in most environments.

The display is joyously sharp with the pairing of resolution and panel size. And that sharpness is maintained by a decent contrast ratio. More importantly, the panel can reach 100 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 color space and deliver it accurately. There is some dependence on the output source though. I noted the integrated graphics hitting 100 percent of DCI-P3 but offering inaccurate colors out of the box while the Nvidia GPU fell to 99 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 but had exceptional color accuracy, with an average dE of just 0.66. This difference in capabilities could be problematic for any creators using their computer on the go, where it’s more likely to lean on integrated graphics for power savings.

The speakers on the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 aren’t so impressive. Using the included DTS:X Ultra software, they can get fairly loud, enough to be heard over the whining fans while gaming, but they have an unpleasant quality to them at max value, with lacking back and overemphasized mids and treble. The speakers also sound a bit boxed in, which creates a bit of reverberation that lowers the quality of the sound. With the DTS optimizations disabled, the speakers go from OK to especially thin, like the life has been sucked out of them.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Webcam, microphone, biometrics

Video quality is modest coming from the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16’s 1080p webcam. In bright conditions, it looks reasonably sharp and will certainly do for video conferencing. The microphones don’t back it up very well, capturing rather faint audio. On the plus side, the mics do a good job eliminating background noise.

Acer hasn’t included any biometrics for security on the device, so you’ll be relying on a pin or password. Facial recognition still isn’t commonplace, but it’s coming to more devices, and that goes for fingerprint scanners even moreso. That lack is a big of a letdown on this more premium system. 

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Connectivity

IDG / Mark Knapp

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 covers its bases for connectivity quite well. A pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports along the rear go along with an HDMI 2.1 port and a DC barrel connector. This is a reasonably smart arrangement that can see the laptop used in a desktop setup largely rely only on those rear ports for connectivity given how much the Thunderbolt 4 ports can handle. 

Acer packs in even more on the sides. There are three USB-A ports, two on the right (3.2 Gen 2) and one on the left (3.2 Gen 1). A microSD card slot also sits on the left side along with a 3.5mm audio jack and an RJ-45 Ethernet port. A Kensington lock slot is also built in. 

Wireless connectivity is also a strong point with Wi-Fi 6E providing plenty of bandwidth and stability. I saw no issues and plenty of speed downloading large game files for benchmarking. 

With Killer Wi-Fi and Killer Ethernet, the system provides a smart hand-off system (called Killer DoubleShot Pro) that can shift traffic between Wi-Fi and Ethernet, putting priority traffic on whichever is running better, and shifting lower-priority traffic to the other connection. Bluetooth connections to a pair of headphones provided quick and stable, even in a busy RF environment. 

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Performance

Given the hardware it has packed inside, it should be no surprise that the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 offers some impressive performance results. Between its core-packed processor and high-wattage RTX 4070, it has a lot of muscle to power through most workloads that might be thrown at it, and that pans out with high PCMark 10 results. The high score of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 also tells a story of the significance of ample memory, fast storage, and adequate cooling. The Razer Blade 16 (2024), which costs nearly twice as much at $3,299, should have been equipped to beat Acer here with its higher-tier Core i9 processor, but it actually lagged behind in all of PCMark 10’s subcategories. Its thinner design likely had a part to play, with heat throttling performance. 

Acer also has improved performance over last year’s model, though a portion of that can be attributed to the higher-tier GPU in this review unit. But the CPU has also offered notable improvements, easily outpacing the 2023 model’s Intel Core i7-13700HX in single- and multi-core results in Cinebench R15 and Cinebench R20. These focus exclusively on the CPU, so serve to highlight those differences. These results again highlight the importance of cooling, with the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 managing neck-in-neck performance against the Razer Blade 16 (2024)’s Intel Core i9-14900HX.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 repeats itself with fast encoding speed in Handbrake, converting a large 4K video file in just under 10 minutes. This not only sees it exceed the speeds of the Razer Blade 16 yet again but also shows the benefits 14th Gen over 13th Gen, as Acer lands a win against the Lenovo Legion Pro 7 Gen 8’s Intel Core i9-13900HX, which has more cores and came out ahead in Cinebench but couldn’t keep up in Handbrake where the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16’s higher clock speeds likely helped it prevail. 

Given the performance the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 already showed in the CPU department, it’s no surprise to see that it can continue to make the most of its internals when it comes to gaming. Naturally, it beat the RTX 4060 in its predecessor for our Time Spy benchmark, but it even outpaced the RTX 4070 GPUs in the three other competitors here. That also proved true in 3DMark’s Port Royal benchmark, where the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 led the pack with a score of 7,730. 

Those synthetic benchmark results carried over to real-world gaming scenarios. Running the benchmarks in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Metro Exodus, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 only once failed to offer the fastest frame rates, lagging just 1 FPS behind the Lenovo Legion Pro 7 Gen 8 — a truly exceptional laptop from 2023 that will likely continue to be compelling option through 2024.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 proves itself a worthy gaming machine with the chops it needs to push high frame rates or high graphical settings. Even pumping out ray-traced visuals, it excels, coming close to a smooth 60fps in Metro Exodus, which has some very demanding visual effects. It’s all the more remarkable that the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 achieves all these performance leads while also being cheaper than its competition here (excluding the 2023 Acer model).

Speed comes at the cost of heat and, in turn, noise on this machine. To get the most performance out of it, you’ll need to use Turbo mode, which kicks the fan into high gear at all times. They simply scream at this level, whether under load or not. The sound of the air moving out of the vents isn’t so bad, but there’s a shrill whine on top of that which is grating to listen to for long. 

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Battery life

For all its ups in performance, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 wasn’t destined to be a great device when it came to efficiency. Few gaming laptops are, and even with its 90Wh battery, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 only lasted a little over 4 hours in our test.

This lagged behind all of the competitors. Local video playback is also a fairly optimal scenario for longevity, as my real-world use for office work saw the system lasting closer to just 2.5 hours. It’s possible there’s room to eke out more battery life by making smart optimizations, such as lowering the display resolution and refresh rate, and ensuring the discrete GPU is completely disabled instead of leaving it up to Acer’s Predator Sense or Nvidia Optimus to make the right call. But those steps can be a little tedious and take away some of the perks of the machine. 

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024): Conclusion

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 isn’t a terribly glamorous machine, with a hefty design that’s only further weighed down by all the plastic in its construction. But what lurks underneath all that is some wonderfully viable hardware for gaming. Acer has nailed the functional aspects of the design, with an effective cooling system and ample power delivery to the components helping the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 beat similarly configured competitors at just about every turn. All of that speed is piped out of a display that’s more than good enough to game on, and with plenty of ports, it’s a system that’s ready to plop down into a desktop setup when you want a bigger screen.’

High performance always comes at a price, and the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is no budget laptop, but it’s a reasonable price for the hardware packed in. That speed can run through the battery in a hurry though, and can kick up a racket from the fans. But if you’re looking to get the most performance for your money, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 has a lot to offer.

Best Prices Today: Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (2024)

RetailerPriceAcer$1699.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Recent stories by Mark Knapp:

Lenovo Yoga 7i review: A long-lasting 2-in-1 with tradeoffsDell XPS 14 (2024) review: Style and substance come at too high a priceAcer Aspire Go 15 review: A $300 laptop that’s worth your money

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