Acer's Predator series is a line of gaming laptops that focus on performance and is proud of of it's size, so large it'd make any ultrabook blush. The Predator helios 300 is a 15" monster that features a dedicated GPU in the form of an Nvidia GTX 1060 which means it's got the power to deliver mobile gaming in a way most don't. It's powerful enough to drive a great VR experience, editing high quality video or drive high-res displays.
It's a device that's focused on serving a niche with a big bold black and red body with a red backlit keyboard, it doesn't do subtle. I've spent a few weeks with it and it's time to give you the run down of what's great and what's not.
Bold, colourful, delightfully confident
When you sit in front of the Predator Helios 300, the scale of the machine before you is immediately apparent. It bucks the trend of many laptops these days, with a inch thick+ bezel around the screen. The laptop also has a large bezel around the full-size backlit keyboard, complete with number page and provides a generous trackpad, still with space for days surrounding it. This provides plenty of room to rest your palms as you type, but nobody would confuse this as being sleek and sexy, it's robust and capable.
The body isn't just a big black rectangle like so many laptops in 2018, no this has personality, with its angled, geometric corners and tapered edges.
On the back of the device, you can't miss the massive air vents, also accented in red, these are both a design attribute and also functionally important, dispersing the hot air generated by the internals. Acer calls this system AeroBlade 3D, an ultrathin (0.1mm) all-metal fan that's designed for superior airflow to keep the system cool and clean. While that may be the case, it certainly isn't quiet. This laptop is loud, even in moderate use. Get passed any more than a browser window or spreadsheet and the fan will start wiring like crazy. I suspect most users will have a pair of headphones on while gaming, so this likely isn't a big issue for most.
The lid houses a 15.6" 1080p IPS display, a low pixel count by today's standards, but the quality and refresh rate are again focused on delivering a great gaming experience, while avoiding the power draw of a 4K display.
On the sides of the device, you'll find all the necessary ports, including HDMI, USB-C, 2x USB-A, SD card reader, power and an interestingly designed ethernet port that folds down to accommodate the RJ-45 connector.
Acer understand the big bold, black and red isn't for everyone, so there's now a new special edition which comes in a striking white and gold combination.
How well does it clean?
Inside that beefy chassis, you'll find the Acer Predator Helios 300 houses an 8th generation, Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB RAM and of course that very capable Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 (basically the reason you buy this laptop). In terms of storage, there's a small 128GB drive included, with an easily accessible expansion bay in the base that'll hold another 1TB+ drive.
In terms of performance, PCMark10 gave it a score of 3,996, placing it in a decent position, relative to other machines, but falling a little short if you planned on connecting a 4K display and editing 4K video.
Room for improvement
The bold design won't be to everyone's liking, that's fine, but those who do love it, will really love it. The biggest issue I have with the Helios 300 is the decision to include Windows 10 Home edition, rather than Pro. For the price, this package should definitely included Pro as the features left out of Home are likely things enthusiasts like gamers will need.
Another pain point is that fan. While I often used headphones with it, I should be able open a laptop out in the world without the surrounding people thinking I'm about to launch a drone from the table next to them. The fan opening at the back is massive, so heat dissipation should be simple enough, but I guess that desktop-class dedicated graphics card has that downside.
The final issue I have is the screen. Most laptops I've dealt with over the past few years have been in the 12-14" range, so a 15.6" display is kind of massive, yet the resolution is one of the lowest at 1080p. You can have all the detail setting on ultra inside a game, but few things count more than raw pixel count when you're using the laptop as a productivity tool, like say video editing some of your captured gameplay. For the price tag, I'd definitely expect a higher quality display.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
Acer's gaming laptop lineup under the Predator branding features 2 models, the 300 (reviewed) and the more powerful 500. The Helios 500 now features up to a Core i9 CPU, Vega graphics and a GTX1070.
If you're really a hardcore mobile gamer with no limit on budget, then definitely look there, or better yet, head for the new Predator Triton 700, which features a GTX1080.. If you're happy with some casual gaming, then the Acer Predator Helios 300 starts at $2,499.00 and is available now from Acer.com.
All things considered the Acer Predator Helios 300 would sit a lot better with me if it wasn't as big, given I take laptops with me daily, whereas this feels more like a laptop designed to take to a LAN party once a month. If I'm investing in a laptop I want to use it for gaming, video editing, photo processing, web design, visual studio development and regular tasks like browsing the web, watching movies, checking email, all while outputting to a couple of monitors.
What I came to understand is that this laptop doesn't match my needs, but that doesn't mean it won't fit yours. My 17 year old self would have loved to have a device this capable in my bedroom to game away the weekend. If you're a student who needs portability and performance, look elsewhere as the price you pay for that GTX1060 isn't worth the compromises you have to make.
Where a product like the Helios 300 shines is in its portability as compared to traditional PC setups. The best example of this is a portable VR demonstration device. Often VR developers need to showcase in-development applications to their clients and rather than lug a full computer around, I'd much prefer to transport this and an Oculus Rift to showcase the latest builds. In that aspect the laptop shows great portability and has the performance necessary to drive a great VR experience.
While this market is a relatively small one, it does service a market need, much like gaming enthusiasts it's not everyone, but its a substantial market worth fighting for and with it's Predator series, Acer does a great job addressing just that.
- Bold design
- Only Windows 10 Home
- Fan noise
- Weight and size