Instead, this machine arrives at a reasonable £1,300, which plants it firmly in the mid-range.
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Design
Acer has done a great job with this machine’s aesthetic. It’s made from black metal, and the firm has used a smart matte finish and subtle brushed patterns on the lid – a better look than the glossier designs that seem to dominate the mid-range at the moment.
The subtle matte metal is augmented with red slashes and a chrome-effect logo on the lid, and the’s more red around the air vents, keyboard and trackpad.
The Acer toes a fine line between smart design and gaming excess, which means it looks fantastic – and it also means it squares up to the Asus ROG Strix GL702VM. That’s another 17.3in machine with a similar design, although that laptop now costs around £1,100, so about £200 less than the Acer.
The Acer weighs just under 3kg and it’s 29mm thick, which is fine – but the Asus was a little lighter and thinner. That makes the Asus better for taking on the road, although we’d be careful with both machines: their screens and wrist-rests are too flexible, which is no surprise considering the middling budgets.
The Predator has the usual selection of ports and sockets, and two small panels on the base open to reveal the hard disk and memory slots – but, beyond that, the internals are locked away.
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Ergonomics
This machine has the usual scrabble-tile keyboard, which means a familiar set of characteristics.
The base is sturdy, the buttons are quiet, and they push down consistently, and with plenty of speed. That’s superb for typing, and their soft design and lack of travel help for those kinds of tasks too – it means you can spend hours on the keys without any strain or discomfort.
That’s great for productivity, but it’s not so good for games. They’re not firm enough, and they don’t push down far enough. It’s not ideal if you end up second-guessing whether or not a keypress has registered during a fast-paced gaming session.
The layout is a little odd, too. The cursor keys, shift buttons and Return key are all a bit too narrow, which is unnecessary on a 17.3in machine. That’s a minor issue, and this isn’t a bad keyboard – it’s just no better than any of its rivals.
The trackpad has poor buttons. They push down too far, and there’s a noticeable bump in the middle of the mechanism, which means the buttons don’t feel smooth. They’re a long way from the shallow, fast clicks of the best gaming mice, which is why we’d always use a USB rodent for gaming.
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Components
The mid-range price means a mainstream graphics core. The GTX 1050 Ti uses the Nvidia Pascal architecture with a modest 768 stream processors and a solid 1,493MHz core clock. It’s got 4GB of dedicated memory, too.
It’s a solid chip, but the cheaper Asus has a GTX 1060. That part is a step up in Nvidia’s range, which means it’s got 1,280 stream processors, 6GB of memory and a comparable clock speed – and all for about £200 less.
The Core i7-7700HQ is a familiar high-end beast thanks to its four 2.8GHz cores, and its presence in the Acer guarantees slick performance and no games bottlenecks. That’s good, but it’s also a little unnecessary in a machine with a relatively small budget – the Asus machine had a cheaper Core i5 chip, and that part is entirely adequate for a gaming laptop.
Elsewhere, there are no component surprises. There’s a 128GB Kingston SSD that’s a tad small, and a 1TB hard disk. The 16GB of dual-channel memory is fine. Connectivity includes the usual dual-band wireless and Gigabit Ethernet.
We’ve reviewed Acer’s NH-Q2MEK.004 model, but several other versions of this machine are available. Unusually, the NH.Q2CEK.003 has a 15.6in screen, and it also has a Core i5 processor for £1,100. The NH.Q29EK.002 costs £1,400 and has GTX 1060 graphics, and there’s another more expensive model wit ha GTX 1070.
The most affordable version of this machine is the NH.Q2MEK.005, which has the GTX 1050 Ti, a Core i5 processor and just 8GB of memory.
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Full Specification
CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
Screen size: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD
Hard disk: 128GB Kingston SSD, 1TB hard disk
Ports: 1 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 2, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x audio, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x SDXC
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 432 x 290 x 29mm
Extras: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Warranty: 1yr RTB
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Performance
They’re good figures, and the GTX 1050 Ti’s averages ranged from 41fps to 67fps. Rest assured: this laptop will play any 1080p game with a solid framerate.
It’s also possible to get a little boost from the Acer’s PredatorSense app, which overclocks the GPU in two 50MHz increments. The first mode is simply called Faster, and it add a single frame to the machine’s Shadow of Mordor result, and the second Turbo mode took the Acer’s original 59fps result to 62fps.
That’s good, but the Asus’ GTX 1060 was better. Its weakest minimum was 42fps in Crysis 3, and its average scored ranged from 56fps to 74fps. That might not make a world of difference when both laptops play current games smoothly, but it does mean that the GTX 1060 will have a longer lifespan.
One more test illustrates the gulf between the chips: the Acer’s GTX 1050 Ti scored 6,688 in 3D Mark Fire Strike, but the GTX 1060 inside the Asus ran the same test with a score of 8,456.
The tables were turned in application tests – no surprise considering the Core i7 chip inside the Predator. Its Geekbench single-core result of 4,503 was around 1,500 points better than the Asus’ Core i5 silicon, and the Predator scored more than 13,500 points in the multi-core test – whereas the Core i5 machine could only score 9,271 points.
That gulf is good for working and multi-tasking, but the Asus machine is hardly a slouch, and both will have no problems running games and general, daily tasks.
The SSD, meanwhile, delivered read and write speeds of 506MB/s and 210MB/s. The former figure is fine for a SATA drive, but the latter is a little slow. Still, we didn’t notice the Predator running slowly, and this drive is still better than any hard disk.
Thermal performance was never an issue with this machine. The graphics core never got beyond 68°C no matter which performance mode we used, the machine’s body only became a little warmer during stress-tests, and the processor peaked at 87°C in our toughest benchmarks. Noise levels were fine, too – quieter than most gaming notebooks.
Battery life was decent, too. Its five-hour lifespan in the PC Mark benchmark was about ninety minutes more than the Asus could manage. In games test it was more ordinary, with around an hour of longevity, but it’s not bad at all.
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Screen and Speakers
Acer’s machine has a 1080p screen, which is entirely normal for this class of system – it’s the same resolution as the Asus, and the pixels that can be seen up-close aren’t going to disrupt games or movies.
The Acer’s screen has a peak refresh rate of 60Hz, which is fine, but the Asus’ also has a 60Hz peak – and Nvidia G-Sync included. That means the Asus will synchronise its GPU output to the screen refresh rate at up to 60fps, and so it’s better for gaming than the Acer.
The Predator has solid quality levels, but it’s never spectacular. The brightness level of 397cd/m2 is huge, but the black level of 0.47cd/m2 is a bit too high. The Acer’s contrast ratio, consequently, comes out at 845:1. That’s a little poorer than the Asus, and it means that this screen will have a tad less depth, and its darker shades won’t be quite as inky.
This machine’s Delta E of 2.86 is a bit better than the Asus, and its colour temperate of 7,180K is a little ahead of the Asus machine too.
Viewing angles are good, which is what we expect from an IPS panel, and uniformity and sRGB coverage figures are all fine.
There aren’t any problems with this panel, which means it’s good for gaming and media, but it doesn’t excel in any one area. The Asus, meanwhile, has better contrast, a deeper black level and Nvidia G-Sync – so that’s what we prefer for gaming.
The speakers have loads of volume, but the flat and lifeless vocals dominate the range – which means that treble sounds are buried in the mix. There’s no subwoofer, either, so bass is weak. We’d use a headset instead.
Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop Review – Conclusion
The Acer is a well-made machine with good balance, especially considering the £1,300 price. The GTX 1050 Ti is a solid 1080p gaming chip, the Core i7 processor is fast, and the screen is solid.
It’s all wrapped up inside a good-looking design that doesn’t have any huge faults – it has ergonomic issues, sure, but they’re found across most gaming notebooks.
Despite those positives, the Acer is difficult to recommend because of the Asus GL702VM. That similar notebook has a GTX 1060 graphics chip and Nvidia G-Sync – and all for about £200 less. The Acer is a good gaming laptop, but the Asus is just a bit better.