Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: One-minute review
If you work a lot on the go, there is nothing better than a thin and light laptop that promises an all-day battery life. Certainly, on paper at least, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 promises all that.
It weighs just 2.49 lbs (a tiny uptick of 0.01 lbs from the last model), is a little over a half-inch thick, and is less than 11 inches wide by just over 8 inches deep (slightly longer than the Laptop Go 2).
Microsoft promises it can get up to 15 hours of battery life with "typical device usage," which is two hours more than the last model.
It has a full-sized keyboard, a large enough 12.4-inch touch screen (that's Surface Pen-ready), a spacious trackpad, and looks and feels ready for the road.
The Surface Laptop Go line always seemed to strike the right balance between portability and price. Oddly, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is breaking that mold a bit by raising the price by $200 to $799 in the US (around £649 - we've yet to get UK pricing). That does seem a lot more to pay for a last-gen CPU and what should be table-stakes components.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: Price and availability
How much does it cost? $799 (around £649 / AU$
When is it available? Pre-order now. Ships October 3
Where can you get it? Available in the US. No word yet on global availability
Microsoft is slowly but surely shifting its Go line away from true affordability, raising the price of the Surface Laptop Go 3 ultraportable laptop by $200. Granted, the $599 Surface Laptop Go 2 features half the base memory and storage space (4GB and 128GB SSD, respectively). In addition, the Surface Laptop Go 3 does have a more powerful CPU, the 12th Gen Intel Core i5 running at 2.5Ghz, which is a significant leap from the 1.75Ghz 11th Gen CPU in the last model.
This is also the first Surface Laptop Go to feature a fingerprint reader in all models, rather than select (more expensive) models.
Does all that add up to $200 more value? Maybe. We'll know better after we review Microsoft's new ultraportable.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: Specs
As I noted above, the new Surface Laptop Go is mostly unchanged from the Laptop Go 2. Its dimensions and weight are of negligible difference. As is often the case, it's what's inside that matters.
For this model, Microsoft chose a newer, albeit not the newest, Intel CPU, a 12th Gen Intel Core i5-1235U (and its newer integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics) running at a peppy 2.5GHz. That's backed by double the RAM of the previous model (you could buy a Laptop Go 2 with 8GB, though) and is configurable up to 16GB. There's also a larger base storage drive, (256GB instead of 128GB). There's no option for a larger SSD, though.
The laptop has the same WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support as the last model. As for the camera, it remains 720p while most others in its class are upgrading to full 1080p cameras.
Overall, I think these new components are mostly good news and could finally make the Surface laptop Go 3 a reasonable choice for the home and office.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: Design
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I liked the Surface Laptop Go design when I first saw it a few years ago. I still like it today but also think it's aging and doesn't compare all that well to, say, the MacBook Air M2's latest ultra-clean design.
Still, the body feels solid and smooth and the keyboard is large enough to feel comfortable and offers enough travel to provide a satisfying typing experience. The trackpad is large enough to be useful.
Of course, all this could be said about the Surface Laptop Go 2. I'm not sure why Microsoft did almost nothing to refresh the design.
The 12.9-inch screen is not especially high-resolution but it does look great.
I was a little surprised to still see a USB-A port on the side next to the laptop's sole USB-C port. At this point, if you don't give me at least two USB-C ports, I'm not interested. On the plus side, there's also a 3.5mm headphone jack. Finally, you have Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect charge port.
It's available in Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, and Sandstone.
I like how you can still open and close it with one hand. Everything about this ultraportable feels well-thought-out and dependable. It's not inspiring but it'll work.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: Performance
A better Intel chip
Microsoft swapped out the 11th Gen Intel CPU for an Intel Core i5 running at 2.5GHz. That combined with 8GB of RAM should make the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 a much more performant system. At least, that's what I assume. We won't have benchmarks until we get our test unit.
It's also nice to see base storage move up to 256GB, though storage prices have fallen enough that Microsoft could (and maybe should) afford to stick in a half-terabyte drive.
In my brief time with the laptop, I didn't notice any issues launching and running, for instance, Adobe Photoshop Express, but that experience is far from conclusive.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: Battery life
15-hour battery life
Microsoft is promising 15 hours of battery life with normal use. What that means is open to interpretation. It could be just video playback, it might also be truly mixed-use.
While we can applaud that the Surface Laptop Go 3 is rated for two hours more battery life than the last model, we won't know the reality of that number until we test the laptop.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 preview: early verdict
Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 3 is just as light and attractive as the last model but with a much-needed infusion of processor power, RAM, and storage. It even has a fingerprint reader with the base model.
For now, though, it's hard to understand why these incremental upgrades and effectively no other changes required a nearly $200 price hike. We'll reserve final judgment though for our full review.
Make no mistake: the MSI Prestige 13 Evo is a premium laptop. This almost feels like the blueprint for the best ultrabooks, a supremely lightweight but still powerful laptop with a whole host of features and a sleek, minimalist aesthetic.
Coming in either white or gunmetal gray colorways, the Prestige 13 Evo is equipped with almost everything you could want from an ultrabook; a wide variety of physical ports, a large, responsive trackpad, and a selection of useful security features.
Weighing in at just 0.99kg (2.18lbs), this laptop sits in the same weight class as the popular LG Gram, and it's even lighter than the eminently portable M2 MacBook Air. With a 13.3-inch display and a thickness of just 1.7cm, it's phenomenally easy to pick the Prestige 13 Evo up and take it wherever you go - in fact, the AC adapter is also very lightweight, but you won't need to bring that everywhere since this ultrabook also offers some impressive battery life.
My immediate comparison point for any compact ultrabook like this is the Dell XPS 13, which has long sat among the best laptops out there. MSI's laptop is actually a bit closer in price to the XPS 13 Plus, which I recently reviewed - and I think it just about edges out Dell's competitor thanks to slightly better average performance and a more practical physical design.
The 13th-gen Intel Core CPU at the heart of this laptop more than pulls its weight, giving you the option of some light gaming and creative work alongside the usual productivity tasks we test for on ultrabooks. I was impressed by the smooth, responsive user experience and generally strong performance in our benchmarking suite - more on that later.
While the stripped-down appearance might not appeal to everyone (the XPS 13 Plus certainly has this one beat purely in terms of aesthetics), it's function over form here; and I personally like the straightforward design choices made by MSI.
If I had to level some criticisms at the MSI Prestige 13 Evo, they'd probably focus on the pricing. At $1,499 (£1,399.99, about AU$2,350) with apparently only one configuration available (though the baseline specs vary a bit between regions), it's undeniably expensive, matching the XPS 13 Plus model I reviewed. At this price point, the Prestige's relatively run-of-the-mill FHD+ display pales a bit in comparison to the 3.5K OLED screen of the Plus - and I mean pales in a literal sense, since it simply can't match the OLED's brightness and rich color density.
Other than the somewhat lackluster display, though, I have very little to dislike here; MSI has knocked it out of the park with this one, and I almost wish I could keep the Prestige 13 Evo forever - my own daily laptop is starting to look a little tired...
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Price & availability
How much does it cost? $1,499.99 / £1,399.99 / about AU$2,350
When is it available? Available now
Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK, no official Australian release yet
MSI's pricing can be somewhat arcane at the best of times, but I've done my best to work this one out for you. There appears to be only one standard model of the MSI Prestige 13 Evo available in western territories, but it's not quite identical across every region.
It looks like my review unit is a UK-only model, but the only significant difference here is that it uses 16GB of DDR5 memory instead of the 32GB found by default in the US-spec version. I've only listed the review model's specs below, but bear in mind that you'll be getting some extra RAM if you buy this laptop in the States.
Since MSI doesn't maintain its own storefronts in the US and UK, you'll need to purchase the Prestige 13 Evo from a reseller like Amazon - for any British readers, you should absolutely check out this deal at Scan.co.uk, which puts the laptop down to just £779.99, a frankly ridiculous deal. Over in the US, the 32GB version is mildly discounted to $1,299.99 at Amazon at the time of writing.
There doesn't appear to be any immediate availability in Australia, so my commiserations go out to our friends down under - your only option will be to import one.
Price score: 4 / 5
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Specs
As I noted above, our review unit appears to be UK-only; you can't buy the 32GB version here, and I couldn't find the 16GB model for sale anywhere in the US. I've listed the UK spec below, but other than the RAM, it's identical to the US model in every way.
The Intel Core i7-1360P processor has become a staple of many premium ultrabooks recently, and you get plenty of high-speed storage thanks to the 1TB M.2 SSD. Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 ensure you're getting the best in wireless connectivity too. Barring the middling display, this is a solid selection of specs.
Specs score: 4.5 / 5
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Design
Lots of ports and security features
Display really should be a bit better
As far as ultrabooks go, the MSI Prestige 13 Evo isn't particularly exciting - but that's not to say it's bad. The design is straightforward, with a robust screen hinge that gently angles the keyboard towards you when opened and a large touchpad at the bottom.
The exterior construction is plastic (to further serve the goal of reducing the overall weight) but thankfully it doesn't feel cheap, with sturdy rubber feet and minimal flex in the casing when you press firmly on the keyboards.
Speaking of the keyboard - it's a little cramped for my liking, with the bottom-right keys in particularly feeling a tad squished together, but I'm conscious that I have pretty large hands (I'm 6'3", if you were wondering) and most users probably won't have any trouble typing on the Prestige 13 Evo. My partner - who has regular-sized hands - tried it out, and reported no problems with the keyboard. The keys themselves have a good amount of travel and the touchpad feels firm and responsive.
I mentioned higher up that the display here is sub-par. For the avoidance of doubt, I don't mean it's a poor-quality display exactly, because the maximum brightness and color reproduction are more or less what I'd expect from an IPS panel at this resolution. The anti-glare coating works fine in well-lit environments and I definitely do like the 16:10 aspect ratio, which gives you more screen space for scrolling and the esoteric 1200p resolution.
My beef is more with the fact that if I spend this much on a laptop, I'd expect a slightly better display. Plenty of ultrabooks at this price point offer either higher-resolution screens or superior panel types like OLED or AMOLED; with its bog-standard 60Hz refresh rate and middling contrast, this one failed to impress me even if it was fine in practice for everyday work.
At least the screen bezels are pleasingly thin - with just enough room along the top for a 1080p webcam, something that I did lampoon the Dell XPS 13 Plus for lacking in that review. At this price point, 720p just doesn't cut it. The microphone array and dual speakers are also good, if not mind-blowing.
Mediocre screen aside, the Prestige 13 Evo excels in virtually every other area when it comes to design. MSI has pleasingly declined to worship at the altar of the MacBook and instead opted for a wide range of physical ports: no USB hub required here, as we've got two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, one conventional USB-A, HDMI video out, a microSD card reader (an increasingly rare inclusion on ultrabooks) and of course the humble 3.5mm audio jack.
The only thing missing here is an Ethernet port, but that shouldn't be necessary thanks to best-in-class WiFi 6E and the latest Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity. Wired internet is mostly reserved for gaming laptops these days, anyway.
Lastly, the Prestige 13 Evo rounds out its feature set with a selection of excellent privacy and security add-ons. We've got a fingerprint scanner built into the power button, an IR camera for facial recognition logins via Windows Hello, and dedicated buttons for shutting off your webcam and microphone - backed up by a physical shutter you can slide over the webcam itself for maximum digital privacy.
These features will best serve professional users who use their laptops to handle potentially sensitive data, but shouldn't be overlooked by less security-focused users; the speedy convenience of Windows Hello is always good.
Design score: 4.5 / 5
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Performance
Intel Core i7-1360P is strong
Slightly outperforms some rivals with similar specs
Light gaming definitely an option here
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Laptop benchmarks
Here's how the MSI Prestige 13 Evo performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of the MSI Prestige 13 Evo - even though I've seen the same Intel Core i7-1360P CPU powering other laptops I've reviewed.
Here, the processor seems to be operating at its maximum potential: I saw strong performance across the board in both synthetic benchmarks and practical tests, with the processor even managing to offer some entry-level gaming capabilities in Civilization VI and Valorant - both relatively undemanding titles in terms of hardware requirements, but still great games.
General use is speedy and lag-free; I could open a dozen tabs in Google Chrome with Steam and Spotify running in the background and didn't experience any slowdown whatsoever.
In synthetic benchmarks like GeekBench 6, the i7-1360P demonstrated excellent single-core performance and solid multi-core results, putting it head and shoulders above its 12th-generation Intel counterparts. The SSD is also relatively speedy at about 1.65GB/s - not the fastest laptop drive I've ever seen, but quick enough to make moving files around a breeze.
It's probably worth noting that the 32GB version available in the US might benefit from its larger memory in certain RAM-intensive workloads, so if you're aiming to do stuff like code compiling, that might be a good pick over ultrabooks with the standard 8GB or 16GB of memory.
Naturally, the lack of a dedicated graphics card means you won't be doing any high-end gaming or 4K video editing tasks on this laptop, but that's fine - it's a small sacrifice to make for the incredibly thin-and-light design.
Thermal performance is also excellent here; the Prestive 13 Evo has a large perforated section on the underside for venting excess heat, and the interior thermal solution clearly works well - it barely even got warm throughout our testing process.
Performance score:5 / 5
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Battery
Solid battery life, not quite best-in-class
More than 10 hours of regular use
Battery life is a make-or-break area for many ultrabooks, but thankfully the Prestige 13 Evo delivers. You can get more than 10 hours of everyday use on a single charge, and using features like Windows 11's built-in battery saver mode can let you stretch that time even further.
The battery does drain a little faster if you're doing anything more demanding - for example, playing videos at maximum brightness with the speakers turned up - but overall I was very pleased with the longevity of this ultrabook. It doesn't quite match up to Apple's MacBooks, but it's at least in the same ballpark as the M1 MacBook Air.
The bundled AC adapter is relatively compact too, connecting via USB-C. Strangely, the Prestige 13 Evo also has a proprietary power connector, which was compatible with a different MSI laptop charger I had lying around. With the EU aiming to make USB-C the standard for charging our devices, that sort of port will soon be a distant memory.
Battery score: 4 / 5
Should you buy the MSI Prestige 13 Evo?
Buy it if...
You want solid Windows performance Barring the powerful M-series silicon found in Apple's MacBook Air, this is some of the best performance you can get from a compact ultrabook - good job putting Intel's 1360P to work, MSI.
You don't want to use a USB hub If laptop makers could stop removing everything except USB-C ports from their devices, I'd be very grateful. The port selection on offer here is strong, with HDMI output for connecting a second display being particularly welcome.
Don't buy it if...
You want a great display While it's far from a complete disaster, at this price point I was really hoping to see a better screen than this. The maximum brightness is good but colors look a little bit washed out compared to other laptops I've seen in the same price range.
MSI Prestige 13 Evo: Also consider
If the MSI Prestige 13 Evo has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...
How I tested the MSI Prestige 13 Evo
Replaced my everyday laptop
Tested productivity work, web browsing, gaming
Used for a full day on battery power
As usual, I swapped out my normal HP Spectre x360 for the MSI Prestige 13 Evo as my everyday work laptop, doing all my typical tasks on it - word processing, video meetings, and web browsing - for several days. I only ever charged it overnight, and didn't run into any battery-related difficulties whatsoever.
I also used it casually, taking it out into the backyard on a nice evening to watch some Netflix with my partner and on a different occasion using it to play some Into The Breach, a game I will probably always be quietly addicted to.
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.
The single best thing about the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 is how easy it is to take around with you, no matter where you’re off to or what carrier bag you’ve got this laptop will become your most helpful travel companion. I was pleasantly surprised when I first received our review unit of the laptop and was able to slip it into my little tote bag, with room to spare for both the charger andmy current paperback of choice.
In terms of design, for what the Chromebook is offering in terms of simplicity and portability I think it looks like the perfect productive machine. No fancy aesthetics or unnecessary frilly, this is likely my favorite Chromebook design so far, and as a long-time Macbook girl that claim carries a lot of weight coming from me. The Acer Chromebook Spin 314 could be the best laptop for you if all you want is something to work on, maybe watch a few shows, and put away until the next day.
I worked with this laptop for several days and honestly, it was the most stress-free testing I’ve done in a while. Because it’s so thin and light, I could slip it into my bag and carry on with my life without my shoulders screaming, and with a good 10 hours of battery life sometimes it wouldn’t leave my bag for a day or two purely because there was no rush to plug it in and charge it. As usual, the simple ChromeOS interface is free of any unnecessary apps or clutter and you can boot it up, sign in, and get to work in like 10 minutes right out of the box.
If you’re looking for the best student Chromebook, you’ve come to the right review. The Acer Chromebook Spin 314 is everything you need and more to get you through the school year without splashing out a frightening amount of cash. The touch display makes reading digital textbooks or annotating notes a breeze, and the glass-like trackpad is a joy to use.
The Intel Pentium processor inside means you can work and watch at the same time without any impact on performance, making multitasking easier - of course, part of the credit here goes to Google for making ChromeOS such a resource-light operating system. Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 and I’m actually quite sad I can’t hold onto it forever.
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Price and availability
How much does it cost? $380 / £329 / around AU$661
When is it available? Available now
Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK, tricky to find in Australia
Chromebooks are often heralded for their affordability compared to other laptops, and the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 lives up to that and more. This is probably one of the best cheap laptops you can buy right now in terms of pure value for money.
Keep in mind that the cheaper price tag often indicates somewhat limited capabilities, so if you want to play games beyond mobile app games (via the Google Play Store), you’ll have to look elsewhere.
This sentiment extends to users looking for a device with some serious computing power, as once again, Chromebooks are for your everyday basic tasks - if you want to run resource-intensive software, you’ll need to find something else. For everything this device offers, the price is very reasonable.
Price: 5 / 5
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Specs
There are a few different models of the Acer Chromebook Spin 314, with our review unit effectively taking the entry-level position. There is actually a cheaper Spin 314 that uses a MediaTek Kompanio processor, but that model is older and uses a slightly different chassis.
As for other models, it's a bit confusing; the US Acer website list a far more expensive model ($679.99) but it's missing some specs, most notably any storage details - and I couldn't find it for sale anywhere, either. As such, I've included only the specs for our standard-model review unit below.
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Design
Solid, functional chassis
Sleek and Stylish
Comfortable typing experience
I absolutely love the design of this laptop. This may be my youth showing, but I think it looks so retro and cute. The silver plastic chassis and overall rounded design remind me of the laptops my dad used to use - and sometimes let me play Minesweeper on - and I think the choice to go 'back to basics' was a smart move on Acer's part.
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Of course, it wouldn’t be called a Spin if it didn’t spin - well, at least offer some kind of mobility. The full HD touchscreen offers impressively sharp colors without feeling too harsh, and the ability to turn your thin laptop into a slightly chunky tablet thanks to the 360-degree hinge is perfect if you want to snuggle up in bed to binge your favorite shows.
In terms of connectivity, you get a good selection of ports that include two USB-C ports, standard USB-A, and HDMI, so you can hook up quite a few peripherals and also connect it to a monitor if you want a dual-display setup.
Typing on this laptop is a dream once you get used to the Everything Button (ubiquitous on ChromeOS devices) replacing the caps lock, and as someone who notoriously hates most laptop touchpads, the Acer Chromebook Spin's is very tactile. Also, Acer uses ocean glass in the touchpad's construction, meaning the pad is made of recycled materials - a small but welcome addition that I appreciate.
Although its minimalist appearance might not be for everyone, I can’t really fault the design of the Acer Chromebook Spin 314; it’s probably my favorite Chromebook so far. That's saying a lot, because I’m not very sweet on Chromebooks myself as a committed Macbook girl.
Design: 5 / 5
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Performance
Great storage speed
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Benchmarks
Here's how the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023)performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Mozilla Kraken (fewer is better): 608.1ms Speedometer: 301 JetStream 2 (higher is better): 213.4 points TechRadar battery life test: 10h 15m
Of course, the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 runs on Google’s ChromeOS, the easiest system to navigate and learn if you’re just starting out on your laptop journey. It’s suitable for most everyday tasks like browsing the web, collaborating on documents, streaming a favorite show, or just watching YouTube. The laptop is generally geared towards lightweight web-based activities, though that's not to say it isn't a strong contender for our list of best student laptops or even the best Chromebooks.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 314 can pull a decent level of speed and computing prowess from its Intel Pentium Silver N6000 processor, and both within the benchmarks and general stress tests - plus frantic multitasking from me trying to do a million things at once - it breezed through everything I threw at it.
This laptop comes with 4 GB of DDR4 memory, which I'd say would be insufficient for a Windows laptop but is less of an issue here. There's also only 128GB of local eMMC storage, which again could be an issue were it not for ChromeOS's reliance on cloud storage via Google Drive. Naturally, these specs are modest overall, but that's not a huge problem for a Chromebook - especially one as competitively priced as this.
I worked on this laptop for a few days and while it was an adjustment to get used to the Everything Button, I’m genuinely sad I have to let go of this laptop. While I was using it I was thinking about my younger self, in school and university, and wondered at how much easier my life could have been if I had my hands on a laptop like this.
I wouldn’t have had to lug around a monstrously heavy machine, and it could've comfortably pulled double duty as an entertainment device in tablet mode. I can’t stress enough how much I recommend this laptop to students.
If you’re going to be doing an essay-heavy degree, you should be looking at the Acer Chromebook Spin 314. Thanks to Google's cloud ecosystem, you can just pick up where you left off with your coursework on any device.
Plus, it’s super refreshing to work on a device without all the clutter of regular desktops but still with basically everything you’d need to get through the day.
Performance: 4 / 5
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Battery life
10-hour battery life
All-day use out of a single full charge
The battery life of the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 lives up to the 10-hour estimate provided by Acer, clocking in at 10 hours and 15 minutes during our battery life benchmark.
In the time I spent reviewing it, I only had to charge it twice - which is pretty impressive, and my biggest pet peeve when reviewing laptops is needing to have them constantly plugged in. You can leave the house, work on it all day, then come home and get at least two hours of Netflix time before you have to plug it in again.
Battery life: 4 / 5
Should you buy the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023)?
Buy it if...
You’re a student on a budget Acer keeps it simple but sweet here: this is a plain laptop that is designed to get you through the day, and for the price you're getting a good, reliable product.
ChromeOS is your thing ChromeOS has gained popularity and is genuinely a very good operating system, particularly if you work across multiple devices and want to take advantage of the Google ecosystem.
You’re often on the move There are lighter machines and smaller machines, but for a 14” laptop this is tough (and cheap) enough to happily withstand the hustle and bustle of commuting.
Don't buy it if...
You need more computing power
Chromebooks are perfect for day-to-day or low-intensity work, but if you need a machine to run statistical programs or withstand some heavy-duty workloads, this isn't for you.
You need to use specific programs If you need to use rendering software, want to dive into animation, or play the latest games, you're not going to be doing that on this - or most other Chromebooks, for that matter. Perhaps a MacBook Air would be a better choice?
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Also consider
If our Acer Chromebook Spin 314 review has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...
How I tested the Acer Chromebook Spin 314
Several hours a day over the course of a week
Office work, general web use, Android games and apps, media playback
Techradar benchmark suite, real-world tests, using the laptop for work
I used the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 as my main device for a few days for work and as a personal computer over the weekend, testing it over a week in total. I did all my usual work with it - which mostly comprises word processing, online research, and video calls - and then used it in tablet mode to watch YouTube at home.
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:
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.