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Acer Predator Helios 300 (2019) Gaming Laptop – Review

A brutish upgrade, with one big Achilles' heel

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Acer has updated its entry-level Predator gaming laptop for 2019, now more in line with the rest of the line aesthetics-wise. Not only that, but it also sports better innards in keeping up with the year’s standards for gaming laptop specs.

In short, this is a beefy update to the Helios 300, but unfortunately, it has this one big Achilles heel that stops it from being an easy recommendation.

Hardware

At first glance, the Acer Predator Helios 300 may look bland and generic. But it’s filled to the brim with nice details up close. The big change here is the Helios 300 ditching the red accents in favour of light blue, making in line with the rest of the Predator lineup. While the two lines on the back make the blue accent obvious, there are many other nice trims of blue. The WASD, arrow keys and dedicated Predator button have blue keycaps, but it’s more of an accent since all the keys have black with white lettering on top.

But to top it all off, all the visible heat sinks from the vents are tinted blue, which is ridiculous but also looks pretty neat.

The laptop has a warning in between the two back vents saying “Hot Surface. Warning. Do Not Touch.” Not something you’d see often on a gaming laptop, but at least they know and are honest with that.

Similar to last year, it still retains a brutish look to it. Those vents at the back look like the designers took inspiration out of a Lamborghini car, using big, bodacious and angular curves to give them a brutish, aggressive look to it. On the bottom cover, there’s an aggressive design as well which you won’t ever notice, but looks pretty nice.

But the matte surfaces, while looks clean, will leave a lot of smudges very visible.

The side edges are nicely curved and nice to touch. There is not only a chrome trimming but also a blue accent surrounding the touchpad. The keyboard is a fully-fledged one with a numpad. And despite it being flat chiclet keys, are pretty nice to type on, just the right amount of clicky-ness.

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The Helios 300 doesn’t skimp on RGB lighting, featuring customisable lights in four zones of the keyboard.

All the I/O ports are on the side, but closer to you since both sides have working vents. It’s a bit cramped, but workable nonetheless.

Software

The software suite is as you’d expect from Acer- pretty good. The Predatorsense app remains solid, offering performance and thermal monitors, the ability to change fan speeds and RGB customisation. But this is one isn’t the one with phone app integration, which the more expensive Predators are getting.

You also get Killer Pro Wireless, which not only improves your Wi-Fi connection, but also allows for monitoring, prioritising your games for all network activity, and even the ability to set the laptop as a Wi-Fi extender, which is pretty cool. There’s Xsplit as always for you budding streamers and content creators too.

Gaming Performance

Here are the specs for the specific review model of the Predator Helios 300 – the PH315-52-76CQ

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 1080p IPS 144Hz refresh rate

As you can see, this is a pretty standard for a gaming laptop of this price point, bar one exception. As it is, gaming performance is on-point as you’d expect. The latest 9th-gen Intel Core i7 is as good as it gets, AI turns for Civilization VI are pretty quick. The RTX 2060 card is powerful as a normal GPU for non-ray-tracing games.

Last year’s AAA games like Monster Hunter: World and Forza Horizon 4 can be run on Ultra with stable enough framerates at the 60fps cap. Older games like Hitman 2016 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has no issues running at 60fps on Ultra. Any other modern games from this year should also be running silky-smooth based on previous laptops of similar specs we reviewed before.

And on games that do (like Quake II RTX), it runs well.

The IPS 1080p display is nicely bright with good viewing angles. And the 144Hz refresh rate should serve well for esports games that needed that fast response time advantage.

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The big Achilles’ heel here, as you might have seen, is the storage space. Good on Acer for keeping up with the times as we move toward an SSD-first future. Which means game loads and more importantly, performance of Windows 10 itself, should not be an issue.

But now we are facing a storage shortage- 256GB is not enough! A lot of the time in the review has to be spent on downloading, installing and uninstalling games for benchmarking because 256GB is so meager of a space to work with. And we are using it as a dedicated gaming machine, if you’re looking for normal, daily use as well as gaming, you’re screwed.

However, Acer has always allowed storage and RAM upgrades. And this is the same for Helios 300, there’s even a SATA cable included if you wish to plug in a hard disk. But coming with this amount of storage as stock is sinful- surely you can add a few hundreds of ringgit on the price to include a normal hard disk, yes?

As much as Acer is touting its 3D Aeroblade fans, this laptop can still get pretty hot. But it’s not because the fans are terrible- put this on the lap on full load and it’s breezy cool on the bottom vents. But you will feel noticeable heat on the keyboard surface- thankfully it’s more concentrated on the right side rather than on the WASD keys. It can go up to 90 degrees Celcius, with a lot of the heat concentrated on the right side vent.

You can beat the hotness somewhat by cranking the fan speeds to the max. There’s also a one-button overclock, the Turbo mode. But apparently, not many games play nice when you put the Helios 300 into overdrive- many games we tested including Hitman (2016), Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and Forza Horizon 4 ran unstable and crash.

Value

At RM6,199, the Predator Helios 300 is still a pretty good deal. Though there are cheaper laptops with an RTX 2060, this one is fully featured with your usual Acer software bundles, sturdy build quality and RGB lights.

That said, the lack of storage space is making the price edging closer to the more affordable-looking RM6,000 mark. I would still implore you to invest in a hard disk, which should at least another hundred ringgit on the price point, so you could actually use this laptop as a daily driver. Or have an external hard disk at the ready.

There is another variant of the Helios 300 in Malaysia with a Core i5 instead of an i7 and priced at RM5,399. Now, if you don’t mind having a weaker CPU (which means some reduced performance) that’s a better value in our opinion. It still lacks the HDD, but adding one still makes the price sounds so worth it.

Verdict

All in all, the new Acer Predator Helios 300 is a great step up from last year’s model. It may still be an entry-level Predator but it has all from what you’d expect a gaming laptop at this price point should have. Bar one major flaw.

The storage is upgradeable, yes, but having only a meager SSD as stock is a bit disappointing. And despite all the big promises, cooling is not as great as advertised.

Nevertheless, these quirks do have workaround and fixes, and if you can deal with that, this brutish laptop is a solid choice for your gaming needs.