There’s no questioning the Acer Predator Helios 300’s gaming prowess especially with a gaming aesthetic, the latest Pascal GTX 1060 graphic card and a seventh-generation Intel Core i7 processor. It has the right components to deliver solid gaming performance alongside decent battery life for a relatively modest price.
PROS: Solid gaming performance. Modestly priced. Fairly good speakers.
CONS: Middling battery life, not surprising though.
Acer continues to expand its gaming lineup in the second half of 2017, with new releases. We’re now seeing a new Helios 300 range, which spans across both the 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch categories, all bearing a refreshed design and even better gaming performance. The Acer Predator Helios 300 $999.99 at Amazon is the latest gaming laptop that combines the power of Intel’s seventh generation processors and Pascal graphics to deliver solid performance for ever reducing amounts of money. Many will see it as an upgrade version of the Acer Aspire VX 15 which I reviewed a sometime last month (here), it’s absolutely so.
It is more wallet-friendly for the components, considering that it sports a newer Nvidia Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with Intel Core i7-7700HQ – both compelling updates to an already solid gaming rig. All these make the Helios 300 an overall solid performer with a slightly less bulky profile. In the market for a gaming laptop that costs fairly less, but will rival ‘if not outdo’ most gaming desktops? Yes…then the newest Helios 300 might just be what you’re looking for, simply have it at the top of your list.
Design and Build
This iteration of the Predator line has the same looks and is nearly identical with the previous one save for minor variations like a metal casing, but you have almost the same measurements, keyboard layout with four dedicated macro keys, screen resolution, and I/O ports. As with previous predator models, it gets the same sharp edges; red highlights across the chassis, grille vent and lid; overall it feels and looks fairly well made.
If there’s one area the Helios floors the VX15, it must be the display panel. Actually, the biggest–and most important, upgrade in this model. If you recall from the VX15, it had a usable, but not-so-good screen, now I see Acer picked a surprisingly better full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS screen. It eliminates the wobblish yellow tint we saw in the previous model, and benefits from wide viewing angles as well. Now you have a gorgeous screen with clean whites, wide angles, packed into an equally amazing system.
The new laptop is a smidge heavier at 5.95 pounds – still portable, when compared to the VX 15’s 5.51 pounds; but it still about the same size at 1.05-by-15.35-by 10.47 (HWD). This is for the 15-inch model, you also have the 17-inch models that measures slightly more, but not too much.
It doesn’t have the gaily lighting we usually see in gaming laptops. Instead, Acer opted for a laid-back matte black profile, and struck it with two red accents that come in way of fancy strikes on the cover sandwiching a predator logo. A red stripe covers the touchpad border and similarly colored rear fan exhausts. To give it a premium look, the central hinge is toned in silver which blends well with the matte black body and red accents.
The chiclet style keyboard has nice travel, and it comes with a dedicated numeric keypad, which is a bonus for a 15-incher. In fact, it is very spacious, backlit with a large palm rest area. The W, A, S, D have painted red accents, while the rest of the keys are black and white with backlighting. The keyboard is ideal for gaming with comfortable keys that provide long travel.
Acer doesn’t include any programmable keys, like most gaming laptops do, but they did implement a power button into the layout on the upper right. It isn’t possible to dim the keys individually. The touchpad has red accents as well, and is smooth to use with a good dual-cooling system.
Connectivity and Storage
Port selection is excellent. Here you get two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 ports (one with power-off charging), an HDMI port, Ethernet, and the new USB 3.1 Type-C. Others include, the AC adapter jack, a Kensington lock slot, and a headphone jack. That’s not quite as many ports as you get in rival gaming laptops, but the available I/O ports are still sufficient. For wireless connectivity, the Helios uses the fast, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Storage is quite sufficient for the most important games and files, if you need more you can always hook-up an external drive. Our review unit packs a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), which is far much better than rivals who offer 1TB mechanical hard drives. The Acer Predator 15 (G9-591-74KN) boasts of a 1TB, 7,200RPM hard disk drive (HDD) and a 512GB solid state drive (SSD), similar to the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 3K, which is more than enough space for most users. If you need more space, you can do so via an HDD upgrade kit which is a 2.5” bracket with SATA and power cable. It comes with Windows 10 pre-installed.
Notably absent is support for Nvidia G-Sync, which eliminates the stuttering and tearing in games by matching what’s being displayed to what’s actually being rendered by the GPU. While it’s not a must-have feature in gaming laptop, G-Sync improves your overall experience by eliminating common animation glitches that could distract you and prompt you to spend some time adjusting the display and game quality settings. To get G-Sync on the Helios 300, you’d have to hook the laptop up to a monitor with G-Sync support like the 27-inch ASUS PG278QR $649.99 at Amazon .
The major update for this Helios is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with 6GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM, as well as the 2.8GHz seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor. This combination does invariably result in a bump in performance, which is impressive. To that, add 16GB DDR4 system memory and you have in your hands a beast for a gaming laptop that will perform productivity duties like video conferencing with ease, even better than most midrange gaming laptops.
The Helios 300 excels in graphics applications, thanks to the Pascal-based GTX 1060 graphics card. Despite the lack of G-Sync technology, the graphics-sipping Far Cry 4 played smoothly at native resolution, looked vibrant, and was very responsive. Notably, GTX 1060 is a better match for most modern games being among the high-end Nvidia chips, thus will deliver better overall performance as compared to the entry-level Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050; both in the Pascal architecture.
Obviously, real ball starts to roll when you bring GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 into the picture, as they yield better frame rates per second (FPS) on even the most graphic-intensive modern titles. It does deliver solid numbers on most games played at 1080p, including: Hitman – 61FPS; GTA 5 – 60FPS; and, Rise of the Tomb Raider – 62FPS, although you expect more numbers as you reduce the settings. Even though the 1060 isn’t the top of the new graphics line, the entry of Pascal provides a clear boost in gaming muscle over previous generation’s graphic cards.
With a 4-cell Li-ion Battery (3220 mAh), the laptop lasted only 5 hours and 49 minutes on our rundown test – Acer bills it at 7 hours. Most midrange gaming laptops don’t even come close, but lately we’re seeing midrange gaming laptops hit the 8 hours mark; but its better than the GT72 Dominator Pro (3:25), Ghost Pro 3K (3:17), and the Razer Blade (4:52). Machines with better graphics performance, such as the Asus ROG (G752VT-DH72) and the Origin EON15-X, only last a little more than 2 hours given their processing power combined with large, hi-res screens sucking up power.
A Better, Improved, Affordable Predator
The Acer Predator Helios 300 does bring modest improvements over last year’s model on both design and performance. With a solid feature set, it does undercut much of the Pascal-bearing laptop competition. There are more powerful alternatives out there, some more powerful components such as GTX 1070 and 1080 graphic cards, better 4K displays, and sleeker designs, but the Helios 300 still remains insanely affordable. For instance, the HP Omen 17 gets an even better graphics card, doubles the storage, and a 17-inch 4K screen, though it weighs slightly more. Sadly, you’ll pay more (even double) than what you’d spend on a midrange gaming laptop. For demonstrating the performance and design that is required for a forward-looking gaming laptop, the Acer Predator Hellios represents value that is hard to beat. It is our newest Editors’ Choice for midrange gaming laptops.