Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review

We reviewed a bunch of Acer laptops in recent months, but finding them to buy has been difficult. Now, here’s a brand-new, 13th-Gen gaming laptop from the company’s top-end, Predator line. So, what is the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16, how does it compare to its siblings and should (or even can) you buy one?

Specs

Screen16-inch, matte, 165Hz, 2,560 x 1,600, IPS display
Processor3.7-5.0GHz Intel Core i7-13700HX CPU
Memory16GB DDR5-4800 RAM
Graphics8GB Nvidia RTX 4060 GPU
Hard drive512GB PCIe NVMe
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.2
2 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x Gigabit Ethernet port
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 MicroSD card slot
1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x 3.5mm audio
SpeakersYes
Extra SecurityTPM
WebcamHD
Battery90Wh
Dimensions360 x 280 x 25mm
Weight2.58 KG
SKUN9.QLUWW.006
Full specs, here.

Features, Ergonomics and Design

Design

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is a matte, black, 16-inch gaming laptop. It’s got a (very) discreet glossy Predator logo on the lid which, very occasionally, catches the light and glimmers with a purple tinge. There are also ‘mystery,’ glossy, coded co-ordinates on the lid which show where loot is hiding in a ‘mystery’ game. We won’t spoil what that is all about, here.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review lid
The Helios Neo 16 has a SCAR-like cryptic l00t clue on the lid.

This is reminiscent of the ROG Strix SCAR 17 SE which did likewise with the help of a bundled, UV black-light. It looks good and may just fool enough coworkers to be able to fit into an office environment. Whatever you preference, it’s not the most brazen-looking gaming laptop.

Opening up the rather thick lid reveals the 16-inch screen with its thick bezel. Below it is a cool, silver Predator logo plus a fancy-looking, Scrabble-tile keyboard with zoned RGB backlighting. The WASD keys have slightly more translucency for extra emphasis as do the full-sized arrow keys and a Predator-key. The latter launches the Predator Sense app and it sits above the (slightly) reduced-width number pad.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review RGB
The zoned, RGB backlighting on the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16’s keyboard is cool and sophisticated.

It looks good, but the thick lid is a bit creaky (and feels rather hollow) and we feared it could break if bashed. Still, the hinge is very strong and enables the screen to recline back significantly, but not quite flat. Our only real gripe is that it’s a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

Ergonomics and features

The UHD, 2,560 x 1,600, IPS screen gets impressively bright and displays an impressive Windows Desktop. Colours are vibrant and contrast is decent although details can get lost in highlights (while being revealed in slightly washed-out shadows). Colour gradients exhibit smooth transitions for the most part although banding does affect some scenes. However, monochromatic blending turns into a blocky mess quickly.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review front
The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is a joy to interact with and it looks good in most environments.

The 165Hz refresh rate keeps fast-moving objects rendered silky smooth and this is reinforced by a fast pixel response time. There are faster screens on the market, but only competitive FPS players may grumble.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review backlight bleed
If backlight-bleed gives you anxiety, you might like to look elsewhere.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16’s speakers get very loud indeed. However, while there’s decent fidelity on show, there’s very little bass.

The HD webcam is acceptable but it can get grainy in low light. The array microphone makes a decent fist of noise cancellation.

The keyboard is well-weighted and very comfortable and accurate to type upon for long periods. The RGB lighting looks great and we like that the highlighted feature keys are more-subtle than we’ve seen on some rivals.

The trackpad is smooth, accurate and the buttons work well.

All in all, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is a joy to interact with.

Performance

Inside the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is a 3.7-5.0GHz Intel Core i7-13700HX CPU which has eight Performance cores, eight Efficiency cores and 24 threads. It’s flanked by 16GB of fast, DDR5-4800 memory plus a (rather stingy) 512GB hard drive. Update: We received a second review unit of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 and re-ran some anomalous tests. In most instances, poor scores improved. We note where the scores are different.

Acer Helios Neo 16 predator sense
The Predator Sense app is still intuitive and simple to use compared to rivals. You can easily adjust power, fans and lighting among other settings.

In the general-computing, PCMark 10 test it scored 6,617 which demonstrates that it will easily handle most, general computing tasks but it’s lower than we were expecting: we’ve seen better scores from laptops with 11th-Gen equivalent processors.

In the Cinebench CPU rendering tests, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 scored a respectable 3,458 in the R15 drag-race test but a mediocre 13,851 in the longer R23 test. It’s not slow per se, but a 13th-Gen processor of this ilk should be doing better.

We ran the latter test several times and found that it initially looked like scoring higher. However, as time went on performance dwindled. It appears there’s some thermal throttling at play – the first time we’ve seen that in a while. Update: It appears there was an issue with out initial review unit. Re-running the test saw a score of 19,073, which is much more in line with expectations.

3D Performance

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is the first laptop we’ve seen with Nvidia’s latest GeForce RTX 4060 GPU which has 8GB of GDDR6 RAM.

In the difficult 3DMark ray-tracing tests, it scored 6,061 in Port Royal (which is an average of 28.1fps) and 2,691 in Speed Way (average 27fps). This is between 12 and 25 per cent behind the 4070-sporting Lenovo Legion 5i Pro.

In the AAA-game-like tests, 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike Extreme, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 scored 11,307 (average 66.7fps) and 12,163 (average 56.2fps) respectively. That’s between 12 and 16 per cent behind the Legion. Nonetheless, the Neo will be able to play most top games although you might have to drop the settings and/or resolution in some of the tougher titles on the market.

In the 3DMark Night Raid test it scored 53,792 (average 564fps). This might be one-third behind the Legion, but it underscores the fact that the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 will have no problems with competitive and casual games. Update: When re-running the test, it scored 67,599 (average 616.6fps). That’s now one-third ahead of the legion. We suspect that updated drivers are playing a part here. Either way, this particular test can go a bit screwy at very-high framerates.

In our challenging CS:GO test, which stresses the entire system, the Neo averaged 304fps which dropped to 54fps in the slowest one per cent of frames (1% Low test). This will please competitive players as they shouldn’t experience any significant stuttering when playing.

We’re going to need to test some more 4060-sporting laptops before we know whether thermal throttling is significant when gaming, but these are all good scores that are in line with an evolution of 3060-equipped gaming laptops. Update: Whatever the issues were in the early review unit we were sent, we’re now confident they’ve been fixed.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the, despite internal temperature shenanigans, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 only ever gets slightly warm at the base. Furthermore, the fans stick to a constant, low whir when under a low load. They get louder under load and you can force them to a very loud maximum. But they don’t ramp up and down annoyingly like Acer’s gaming laptops of yore.

Connectivity

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review right
On the right of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 are two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports. These can be particularly useful for those with RGB gamer headphones that use an extra USB port for powering the lights.
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review left
On the left is a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot.
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review rear
At the rear are two Thunderbolt 4 ports and an HDMI 2.1 port.

Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2. All in all, it’s a good, modern complement.

Portability

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 weighs a not-inconsiderable 2.58KG which is in-line with other 16-inch gaming laptops. The power brick and cables add an extra 1.22KG which is a little more than we like to see.

Meanwhile, the 90Wh battery ran our PCMark 10 Modern Office test for 7 hours and 1 minute. That’s a little low for a 13th-Gen laptop, but it’s far from unusable. You’ll need to wind-back all performance and lighting settings and make full use of the power efficiency settings to get close to that.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review underside
There’s quite a large power brick with the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16. However, the laptop’s base doesn’t get too hot.

Build quality is generally good. However, as we mentioned above, we have a few concerns about the lid which feels a little creaky and weak – especially when a twisting force is applied to it.

Price and availability (Updated)

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 has an RRP of $2,999 which is the price we judge it on at the time of review. However, it’s currently on sale for $1,000 off as part of Acer’s Acer Day promotion (so is the beefier, RTX 4070 version).

Alternatives to the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16

Acer Predator Triton 500 SE – For around $500 more you can pick up the Neo’s conservative, older sibling with better ergonomics and features but lower performance.

Acer Predator Helios 300 – The Neo’s other older, more expensive sibling is also more powerful and better featured. It also looks more like a gaming laptop.

Lenovo Legion 5i Pro – Lenovo’s second-best gaming laptop might be much more expensive, but you get a lot more in every department.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 – Asus’ latest rival also costs more but packs in a massive amount more power and all manner of design flourishes.

MSI Pulse 17 – MSI’s budget gaming laptop offers more power, more bulk and a larger screen, but not for a huge amount more money.

Acer Nitro 5 – Acer’s popular budget gaming laptop can often be found in sales with lesser, last-gen specs. Even newer models are much cheaper than the Neo, though.

Conclusion

At $2,999 the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is a reasonable buy for a 16-inch budget gaming laptop. However, it’s not particularly cheap and the performance is noticeably lower compared to some recent rivals. Fortunately, now it’s widely available in the market, the price has started dropping.

It is a little under-powered in some areas due to, what appear to be, thermal-throttling issues and this knocks it’s score in a competitive market. However, at a time where it’s hard to find your dream spec of gaming laptop, it wouldn’t disappoint most casual, budget gaming laptop buyers.

Update: It’s currently on sale for just $1,999 while a Nvidia 4070 version is available for $2,999 – both prices represent $1,000 off retail! That bumps it up the rankings in our monthly, Best Gaming Laptop group test and wins it a Great Value Award.

September Update: Its stability rating has normalised and its performance scores have both received bumps. These see it fly up the charts in both our Best Laptop and Best Gaming Laptop group tests, to be just outside the Top 10.

Pros

Looks good
Decent 3D performance
Good screen

Cons

Creaky lid
Fingerprint magnet

Not very portable

Results

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 Scores
  • 2D Performance
  • 3D Performance
  • Features, Ergonomics & Design
  • Stability
  • Portability
  • Value
4

Summary

After an iffy start, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is now one of the best-value gaming laptops you can buy.

3 Comments

  1. Anvindr
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