Acer isn’t synonymous with gaming laptops in the same way that industry heavyweights like Alienware and Razer are, but their release of the Triton 700 and Predator X 2 proved that they could hang with the big dogs on the high-end range of the market. With the Predator Helios 3, they show that they can swim in shallower waters as well. The Helios 3 isn’t going to make you rethink gaming. It’s not the latest evolution of a portable gaming rig, but it is an incredibly solid performer that more than justifies its relatively modest price tag and offers a very generous value that should keep everyone but the most competitive pros and tech junkies satisfied. Compared to contemporaries like the PowerSpec 1050 and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, it avails itself well.
By putting aside unnecessary accoutrements, Acer has managed to focus their attention squarely on packing as much quality hardware into this machine as possible. And recent upgrades to the Helios 300 have created a machine that packs high-end functionality into a mid-range machine.
A lot of that is due to the inclusion of a Intel’s eighth generation Core processor. While Intel’s processor upgrades have largely been modestly iterative, the eighth generation’s release signified a true game changer. The quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ is a rarity in machines of this price, and it has a significant advantage in terms of processing player input and in-game instructions. That means faster response on increasingly complex games and better performance in both single player and multiplayer games. It’s worth noting that the Predator doesn’t use a G-Sync display, an increasingly popular choice for graphical performance in games. But here that’s actually a distinct advantage. The lack of G-Sync support means that this laptop can fall back to the CPU when you aren’t gaming, allowing you to squeeze significantly more battery life and letting the Predator serve sensibly as a general personal computer when you aren’t gaming.
And while a powerful CPU is an absolute necessity when you’re looking to run a modern game reliably, that’s no great relief if your machine can’t run those crisp and modern graphics in high definition. The Predator Helios 300 utilizes a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, and it manages to deliver a smooth 144 Hz refresh rate. Running at 1080p resolution, it can keep up with the latest triple A games with little to no choppiness. The 15.6″ screen supports Full HD. Combined with the exceptional and lightweight fans, that reduces the need for distracting noise when running at the highest levels of graphical fidelity.
The quality of the fans is a good thing because it allows you to really hear the two built-in stereo speakers the way they were meant to. The speakers are compatible with Acer TrueHarmony and Dolby Audio Premium technology for crisp and clear sound performance.
Finally, this laptop doesn’t cut any corners where memory is concerned. The 16 GB of DDR4 and 256 GB SSD hard drive cut in-game loading times down to the quick and ensure that even memory sucking games boot up far quicker than you’d expect from a rig at this price. The Predator’s specs are built with virtual reality in mind. All you have to do is plug a headset in, and you’re ready to play.
“Predator” is more than just a moniker with this gaming machine. The significant amount of plastic in the frame is a necessity of its less expensive price tag, but the brushed metal keyboard and chassis lend it a menacing and sleek look that’s magnified by its bold black design and red highlights. Contributing to the overall design but also adding some practical is the red backlighting for the keyboard.
The excessive amount of cooling necessary for high-end gaming once meant that a tower was practically a necessity, and it’s still one of the biggest points of contention when evaluating gaming laptops. The Predator Helios 300 makes use of the AeroBlade 3D Fan – the thinnest metal fan blades in the world – to produce exceptional performance without necessitating a bulky or heavy frame.
The most powerful processor in the world won’t help you much if your internet connection can’t speed up. The Helios 300 ensures minimal latency when you’re playing online through the presence of 802.11ac Wi-Fi. That allows support for speeds up to a gigabit per second so you don’t have to worry about internet lag affecting your kill shot.
If you want to play the latest triple A games on the market, you can expect them to use a lot of juice, and the limited battery life on many gaming laptops often works against their ethos as play anywhere devices. The Predator Helios 300 can run 4K video playback for roughly seven hours, putting it comparable to the best gaming laptops in its class.
The Predator’s gaming control panel allows you to tweak your gaming experience in a number of important ways. This software platform puts all the important metrics like GPU and CPU temperatures and fan speeds right at your fingertips so you can overclock your machine and optimize your gameplay. It also includes practical in-game settings like the ability to establish hotkeys and assign macros. Support for multiple profiles allows you to switch between a variety of different games seamlessly.
So is Acer’s shiny new toy the most beastly portable gaming rig in the land? Not by a long shot – but you’d really have to open your wallet wide to get a gaming laptop that can significantly outperform it. And when compared to the competitors in its price range – see other gaming laptops under $1500, the downsides are pretty negligible. It brightness settings aren’t exactly at the top of the class, and the storage size isn’t terribly unimpressive – but when you take into account all the advantages this machine offers, you’re left with an exceptional mid-range gaming laptop that puts aside pretensions and passing fads in favor of some meaty performance.