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Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop (2018) – Review

"Cheap" is relative

78

Two years ago, Acer marked its entry into the enthusiast gaming PC hardware with the Predator sub-brand. Starting with a bang, the Predator 17 gaming laptop, it has now diversified to cover over-the-top PC hardware and esports-ready peripherals.

But make more mistake, the Predator badge carries a certain prestige, and premium. Acer has the Nitro series for gaming hardware at more affordable prices.

Which leads us the the Predator Helios 300, the entry-level “cheap” Predator gaming laptop. Initially launched last year and now with a specs refresh for 2018, is the Helios 300 still worth a buy?

Hardware

First, the review model we have is the PH317-52-75BK which has the respective specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB GDDR5
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD 5400 rpm

This is the highest variant of three available in Malaysia which sports a 17.3″ 144Hz 1080p IPS panel display. The mid-level variant (PH315-51-75WB) has the same specs but has a 15.6″ size screen whilst the lowest of the three (PH315-51-510T) swaps the Core i7 to an i5 of the same generation and has only 4GB RAM.

The Helios 300 is essentially the successor to the Predator 17. Both models share common design themes, with some iteration. The front lid now has these brushing marks that slightly converges, with some red plastic trims on the side. The base where you rest your hands feels solid and sturdy, with some angled slopes inviting you to lay your fingers on the keyboard.

The WASD keys are subtly highlighted as usual. The keys themselves feel good to tap on, the right balance of clicky and feedback, for my personal taste at least.

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It is one of the last Predator laptops to carry the traditional gamer red colour scheme. Again, a carry over from the early 17 models. Newer models, including its big brother the Helios 500, are now in black and cyan.

It is also a bit on the bulky side, weighing about 2.7kg. Not something you want to lug around frequently.

Over on the back, the big exhaust grills are still present, though only part of it is open for heating purposes. The bottom has easy access to RAM slot and more heating vents.

The Helios 300 sports enough I/O ports to its sides. 1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB Type-C, LAN and HDMI ports are available.

Overall, it’s a well-built machine. Sturdy, has style but a bit on the bulky side.

Software

The Helios 300 comes with some built-in software. One is the Predator app. It allows you to monitor the current CPU and GPU usage and temperature. The app also allows you to adjust the fan speeds or increase the GPU clock speed, one-touch overclocking as they call it.

The laptop comes with a subscription of Norton AntiVirus, extra storage from Dropbox and six months subscription to streaming software Xsplit. Though you will be kindly reminded from time to time to register for an Acer account to claim these.

By kindly, we mean a few popups a day, which can get a tad annoying if you don’t want to register.

Gaming Performance

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With the latest Intel Core i7 and an Nvidia GeForce 1060 GTX, on paper the Helios 300 is a powerhouse. There’s even enough power to run VR. Games from 2017 and earlier should be no problem for it to handle. For newer titles, you will have to turn down some settings down.

The newest game we were able to test is Forza Horizon 4. On medium settings it can reach a stable 60fps whilst at maximum settings, it hovers around the 30fps mark.

Our stress test case, the resource-demanding Just Cause 3, is also playable with settings cranked up to high despite the game opening with a warning of performance issues for having 8GB RAM only. Though loading up a 1-million population city in Cities Skylines did chug a bit due to the limits of memory available.

The Helios 300 boasts a 144Hz refresh rate screen, ideal for competitive gaming where each frame counts. Don’t expect to have all games running at this high of FPS rate, however. Less demanding games, or by turning down the settings, it is possible to reach 144 FPS. Esports-centric games like CS:GO and Overwatch certainly benefited from this, giving fast response time. The screen display itself is bright and vivid enough for more ordinary tasks.

However, it is a bit ironic that its name is the Helios (the Greek god of the Sun) as it is a bit on the warm side. It’s normal for gaming laptops to be a little warm, though we were slightly disappointed to found out that hotter part of the laptop rests on the WASD keys, where your hands will be on for most of the time, rather than on the less-used numpad areas.

It’s not a total Greek tragedy, thankfully. The heat is manageable, it hovers around 60 degrees Celcius most of the time. But it can rise above that and become noticeable if you push it to the limit, or playing over long periods. Also, the sound of the fans at maximum speed can is as rowdy as a jet engine (probably), or like an old PS4 on heavy load.

Other than that, the Helios 300 shines bright. Having Windows installed on an SSD makes operating it a breeze and there’s enough room to squeeze in some games in there for better load times. The 5400 rpm of the 1TB hard disk would have been a terrible choice on its own, but having that SSD makes it a non-issue. No noticeable bottlenecking from the hard disk during our testing.

 

Pricing and Value

And now the price. Of course the Predator brand is off the mark on this part of the review, because it’s not designed to be value-for-money. It’s a premium brand. This particular model we tried retails at RM5,799. The other, cheaper variants previously mentioned retails at RM5,499 and RM4,399 respectively.

But its relatively high price is not just for the clout of using premium hardware. The software bundle and the 144Hz screen may be worth it for some. Plus, the solid, sturdy build quality should also make parting ways with that much money feel worth it.

Other Predator models can be a bit extreme, with more cooling prowess, better innards and heftier price tags. The Helios 300 is tamed and restrained by comparison.

There’s definitely better bang-for-buck choices out there, but at just below RM6,000 and less, it’s certainly live up to the standards of the premium brand.

Verdict

The Predator Helios 300 can run any game we throw at it at a decent performance. The screen is bright and crisp, the build quality is sturdy befitting its price tag.

However, we are disappointed to find out that the cooling performance Acer has been touting does not live up well for this model.

Aside from that one flaw, the Helios 300 hits all the marks for a gaming laptop. There are other more bang-for-your-buck options. But if you want to be gaming at a slightly comfortable manner and in style, the Acer Predator Helios 300 does the job.

An entry-level Ferrari today is still as stylish and exciting as its bigger, more expensive brethren. So does an entry-level Predator.


Review unit provided by Acer Malaysia

8.6

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop (2018)

  • Hardware 95%
  • Software 80%
  • Gaming Performance 90%
  • Price And Value 80%

An entry-level Ferrari today is still as stylish and exciting as its bigger, more expensive brethren. So does an entry-level Predator.