1. Technical Specifications
Acer has been one of the latest brands to enter the gaming laptop market. This market usually consists of big laptops (15 or 17 inches) with processors and graphic cards more powerful than what you would see on a normal laptop. Exactly like the new Predator Helios 300.
Normally that means high prices, most of these kinds of laptops are still expensive, but brands are now facing other laptops at around 1000$ and even prices below that. Acer has been in that group lately, the Helios series is a good example of this, but it also has more advance and competitive models, like the Predator Helios 300 that we are reviewing today.
The Predator Helios 300 de 17″ is the kind of laptop that we want to use to replace a desktop computer, it’s able to do the usual task of a computer with ease and, of course, play the best video games. To be able to do this it needs the best components available for this price point.
The setting that we reviewed is a perfectly balanced machine. The Core i7-7700HQ processor is a classic that we can usually find in computers from the medium to high spectrum, it works really well to build a computer around. The processor has 4 cores and it has a big memory and has a turbo mode that reaches a frequency of 3.8GHz.
It offers a very good software that allows us to harvest the most of the graphic card, including the one that comes with this model. A Geforce GTX 1060 with 6GB of memory that is perfect for 1920×1080 screens.
It supports up to 32GB of DDR4 memory, but the actual price point makes the 16GB that it comes with preferable. It only has 2 memory banks, which are really easy to access thanks to a latch in the base of the laptop.
The storage system mixes the best from the PCI Express units in M.2 format with a 2.5″ bay occupied by a mechanical unit. In the variant that we tested, had Windows 10 software, had a 512GB SATA drive with a pretty disappointing performance, keeping in mind that it also supports a PCI Express high-speed unit.
That it uses a M.2 SATA drive is one of the most disappointing parts of this model’s settings and one of the flaws that doesn’t let it be in the best laptops that we’ve seen.
Acer also introduces a 2.5″ 1TB unit in mechanical format. This unit is also very easy to change or upgrade or expand with another latch in the back of the laptop. To access the system unit, we’ll have to dismount the base of the device, not so hard due to screws that facilitate the access. Admits M.2 units with up to 80mm of length.
Connectivity also includes wireless connections to AC type networks, with speeds reaching the 700mbps, thanks to an Intel chipset 2×2 setting and a maximal theoretical speed of 867mbps, also it adds Bluetooth 4.1 compatibility. Ethernet Gigabit comes also from Intel.
The laptop has connectors on both sides, especially in the left side. Acer put 2 USB 2.0 type A weird because every one of them could have been 3.0, the feeding input and the headphone jack.
In the right side there’s a card reader, the Ethernet port, with a blocking latch, a USB 3.1 type C port, HDMI, USB 3.0 type A that develops speeds of up to 80MB/s. A good set of connectors, well distributed, but lacking the Displayport connector (the USB-C doesn’t have support for video) that supports 4k screens.
2. Geforce GTX 1060 for a laptop
Nvidia closed the gap between graphic cards for desktops and laptops. It started with the previous generation but now it also extends to medium-high-end chips. The GTX 1060 for laptops has the same specs as the desktop variants, same type of memory, same max memory capacity and same features. ¿How do they do it?
This is because of the working frequencies and the energy profiles of the chip. These chips develop almost the same frequencies but a little bit less than the desktop one, but have stricter energy profiles and reduce the frequency a little bit more. That’s when the differences come to light about 10-15% from one format to another.
This generation of Nvidia chips has improved the efficiency and FPS settings capabilities with these energetic profiles it allows us to use the laptop to play video games more freely than ever the only catch is the battery life that compromises the autonomy that the GTX 1060 can offer.
These graphics offer us other added benefits of next-generation connectivity with support for interfaces like HDMI 2.0 for 4k to 60Hz or the Displayport 1.4 that allows resolutions 8K 60Hz, 4k 120Hz or 4K 60Hz with HDR.
It also has the capabilities to run actual virtual reality machines. This requires moving higher resolutions with ease and these new chips add that potential in a standard way and in more adjusted price ranges. Although this model will be expensive for most, this graphic chip is intended to appear in cheaper models.
Acer used the Optimus system from Nvidia which will cause a weird behavior in the chips when they are active or not. This has given problems in the past in systems like Nvidia’s Gsync.
3. Screen and sound
This is a big but light laptop, it doesn’t reach 3Kg, has a screen of 17,3″ in diagonal and has a 1920x1080p resolution. Uses a IPS medium quality panel with a standard refresh speed of 60HZ. It has great vivid colors, an extensive palette and very good brightness. Its only problem is that it has symptoms of “clouding” in the corners. Still, it’s a good screen for work, videos and, of course, gaming.
The resolution chosen is the right one for the mounted graphic cards, we could not run games at much higher resolutions. It is certainly a good choice, although it is true that we can find better IPS panels in the market, they are also quite expensive.
It offers good brightness, of almost 320cd/m2, with deep blacks of only 0.30cd/m2 and as such a 1023:1 contrast. It Reaches good levels of sRGB coverture, particularly 84%.
In RGB reproduction its far from being a great screen, but it’s above the normal IPS panel.
The gamma is a little bit turned up, will have to fix it in the games if we want to have the atmosphere and brightness that the designer had in mind for his game.
Sound is one of the weakest points of this device. The integrated speakers work, but get distorted when we reach 40% volume capacity and although it has the right audio connections, they lack any extra elements like noise canceling headphone amplifiers.
The DSP is good, a Realtek, but it doesn’t add much to the set. It’s the worst defect of an otherwise carefully designed machine.
4. Design and format and software
This is a big portable pc, its 17 inches screen obligate us to call it this way, with the dimensions of 432mm long, 290mm wide and 29mm thick, it is without a doubt a big laptop, even when within proper meassures that allowed it to be a portable of 17 inches pretty manageable. Its weight of 2.9 kilograms is added to its conditions, that are made possible by the good usage of light plastic materials, and more rigid and resistant zones made of aluminium like the case of its screen or the support area of the hands,where also is embedded the keyboard and the touchpad.
The secondary disc and memory, are easy to amplify with two little tricks in the buttom.
The predator Helios 300 wisely combines red black colors and has a nice heat escape area in the back which is composed of two air extractions turbines that are connected to a heatpipes system which comine the refrigeration for the CPU as they do for the GPU
So that it is a big portable, the hands support area is generous, and all the elements keep sizes as the ones we would have in a desktop computer.I specially like the angle of attack the support area has, so that it is more comfortable when you have to pass long mice in front of the keyboard.
The ergonomics of the connectors, as commented before, is also one of its elements better care. The screen also have a very good opening angle of almost 180 degrees, what allow us to position it the way we like.
The working temperatures will be seen later, but I can tell you that they are comfortable for the user, although the left area of the laptop, where we support the left hand, can reach high temperatures, above 40 degrees, which can become somewhat uncomfortable after a few hours of play.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is complete size, with numbers zone. It is well organized and, of course, it will be designed with distribution in Spanish as soon as it started to be sold in our country. The keys are big and generous and have the “WASD” zone differentiated red. The keys are big, they have “chiclet” format with almost 2mm separated from each other and a good movement of about 2mm with a very good recovery.It is not the best portable I have tried, but it is very far from being of the worst.
The touchpad, which is senseless to me in this kind of potable, is big and it is well marked in the chassis. It is centered in the letters zone of the keyboard, as it is supposed to be, and has the we buttons integrated in the body itself. I do think that there should be nothing, because this kind of portable demands,for itself, the usage of a good mouse. The good new is that we shall have a function key in the keyboard we shall be able to completly deactivate it with.
The keyboard has these multimedia elements, in some function keys, and also fast volume adjusting controls, bright, screen, etc. Beside, it has a way of feedback that, shamefully, we cannot adjust to different levels of bright.
Acer does not add anything else but a Windows 10 and a control panel named “Predator Sense”which will permit us some configuration of fans managements and also three speed profile of the GPU, in order to get a much better performance in gaming. It permits us to control the two fans that form the ventilation system of the Helios 300.
We have not found too much “bloatware”of series installed, therefore it will not be necessary to make a complete reinstatement to have the system perfectly optimized. We have not either found problems of drivers neither instablity in any of its main elements such as WiFi connectivity, Ethernet, graphics, etc.
5. Analysis of performance and autonomy
We have passed the usual tests, the ones we do to all the portables we have in our lab. We have also added a gameplay with the new StarWars 2 for you to have an idea of the capacity of this portable to operate very recent games, like this one.
Saturating the double fan system we find frequencies over 4500rpm in both fans, it is reflexed in a noise near to the 45dBA, in a distance of a meter. Luckily, the screen works like a shield and isolate us from a good part of that noise.
The temperature of functioning and the frequencies of the processor and GPU keep in good shape through the time, and at the same time, they are the proper ones for the installed components, We have not seen any problem of Throttling neither stability.
After several hours of gaming we can have pretty high temperature in the keyboard, with hot spaces for above 50 degrees. This temperature is not going to burn us, but it could result being pretty uncomfortable, specially during the hottest seasons of the year, which would make us sweat even more.
Using a SATA hard drive is a really bad choice for a gaming laptop. Of course, you could buy a cheaper variation with a smaller disk and exchange it.
Cinebench R15 SMP
3DMark FireStrike Extreme
3DMark FireStrike Time Spy DX12
Acer sells this model in two sizes, there are also 15.6” screen variants starting at 1299 Euros. This model, more advanced that the basic one, has a pretty high price, 1699 Euros this is because of the components used for this device. IT has a really high price, but has really potent graphics too, a big SSD hard drive a common setting in the medium-high gamma. The performance is good, even though the SATA hard drive hurts it. This doesn’t mean that the system isn’t fast, but it would be better with a PCI Express unit.