The Acer Predator Helios 300 is Acer’s top-end gaming laptop but its pricing is more mid-range in the high performance laptop market. It begs the question, is it a gaming bargain or not as high-performing as it should be?
Key Specs of the Acer Predator Helios 300
15.6-inch, matte, 1920 x 1080, non-touchscreen, 144Hz, LCD; 2.6-5GHz Intel Core i7-10750H processor; 16GB RAM; 512GB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3060; 99Wh battery; 2.7KG. SKU: NHQAUSA0011080AC7D3400. Full specs here.
Design and Handling
Taken on its own, the black plastic chassis of the Acer Predator Helios 300 might appear a little sober for something so savagely named. It’s not frumpy but it is a whole lotta black plastic which includes a rather-thick bezel around the screen. However, we like it. Details like the blue, Predator logo and embossed lines on the lid, along with the cutaway corners add enough embellishment to feel special. Furthermore the silver strips at the base of the palm rest and around the trackpad are also nice, quality touches. The RGB keyboard might not have individually lit keys but it’s zonal lighting patterns all contrive to make this lump of plastic look unique and special in an understated way.
The matte, 144Hz, Full HD screen is sharp, clear and comfortable for day-to-day office work but that’s a secondary consideration. The 144Hz refresh rate allows for smooth gaming but it’s not quite as silky smooth as top-end rivals on the market. Still, only top-end, competitive FPS gamers might find it limiting.
The Acer Predator Helios 300 displays multimedia content well although colours aren’t as vibrant as we’ve seen on rivals. There can be some minor banding in colour gradients but hardly any blocky artefacts in areas of near-uniform colour. Contrast wasn’t the best, with details getting lost in shadows even when brightness was on full – this might bother gamers who don’t like enemies jumping out of shadows. The issue wasn’t as pronounced with bright areas although detail could still get lost in highlights too. While there was some light-bleeding and halo-effects noticeable surrounding bright objects on dark backgrounds, it wasn’t terrible and will only likely be distracting in dark rooms. It does a good job of reducing reflections, but glare can be an issue if there are bright lights behind you or to the side.
We found the keyboard particularly comfortable to type upon. The Scrabble-tile keys hit a perfect balance of firmness for extended typing comfort and gaming accuracy. There are full-sized arrow keys and a number pad which has slightly thinner keys. The WASD, arrow and special Acer ‘Sense’ app button have enhanced illumination by way of more transparent surroundings which we liked. The trackpad is smooth and accurate while its embedded buttons are simple to press and have a pleasing, muted click sound. There’s an HD webcam in the top of the lid with a multi microphone array for noise reduction. It’s not Windows Hello compatible but works well.
The two speakers were a little disappointing. They don’t get very loud and the top-end especially is a bit tinny. If the fans are roaring, it can be a bit difficult to hear anything clearly.
And here’s the thing, you cannot get away from the fan noise. While it’s possible to tweak and tune everything, when you leave everything set to auto, the fan noise can annoyingly ramp up and up and then back down and back up again. On the one hand this 4th Gen. Aeroblade technology is the most efficient on the market… under heavy load with extended use, the internal temperature can remain as low as 63oC when some competitors exceed 80oC. On the other hand, unless you use the Acer PredatorSense app to tell it not to, you’ll frequently experience fan noise over 50dB when under load and this can rise to 60-70dB. That’s like working next to the side of a busy road in terms of noise(!) If it doesn’t drive you mad, nearby friends, family, colleagues and travelers may hate you.
The Acer Predator Helios 300’s PredatorSense app is one of the better control panels on the market in terms of its simplicity and intuitiveness. It can be accessed via a dedicated button by the number pad. It allows for one click overclocking, lighting adjustments, speaker (and audio jack) adjustments plus the ability to turn off the silly “animal roaring” sound made at boot-up.
On the left is a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB-A ports and a 3.5mm audio jack – all closely spaced together. On the right are (closely spaced) miniDP, HDMI, USB-C and another USB-A. If you’re using them all and have any thick cable sockets, they are likely to interfere with each other. Inside is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Performance of the Acer Predator Helios 300
There are two, customisable SKUs of the Predator Helios 300. Ours is based around an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU but an RTX 3070 variant is available (from $3,199). Both base models sport a single slot of 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, a 10th Generation, hexa-core, 2.6-5GHz Intel Core i7-10750H processor and a 512GB NVMe drive. The latter could well feel limiting, especially as the Windows-formatted capacity is just 475GB. However, there’s room for another RAM stick, an extra SSD plus an additional 3.5-inch hard drive.
None of this is top-end in the world of high performance laptops, but we felt it could represent a judicious choice of hardware that offers good performance while keeping the price down. But let’s see what the results say…
In PCMark it managed 5096 which is slightly above a typical office laptop and someway behind current-generation high performance gaming laptops according to the benchmark makers. In 3DMark Time Spy it scored 7532 which is an average of 49fps. This, 3DMark tells us, is right in the middle of a current-gen gaming laptop and gaming PC – which is far more impressive. It also scored 9349 in Fire Strike Extreme (an average of 42fps) and 6474 in the Port Royal ray-tracing test which are also impressive. Ultimately, it’s an impressive gaming machine which will smoothly play any AAA gaming title on its Full HD screen.
For those interested in rendering it managed 1338 in Cinebench R15 and 6241 in Cinebench R23.
Ultimately, while there are faster overall gaming PCs out there, the Acer Predator Helios 300 has got what it needs where it matters – which is good to see at this price.
[Note: we’ll add more context to these scores as the site matures]
At 2.5KG it’s a smidge on the chonky side for a 15.6-inch laptop but it’s not not ultraportable for a gaming laptop. However, the battery isn’t the best – lasting only 5hrs 25mins in PCMArk 10’s Modern Office test, but then it’s a gaming laptop and we don’t expect much. The robust chassis should withstand being lugged around to various LAN parties although the lid flexes a little more than we’d like, so be careful not to bang that.
Should you buy the Acer Predator Helios 300?
At $2,499 it’s significantly cheaper than rivals and yet the gaming performance is right up there. If storage feels limiting it can be upgraded relatively easily which might be a hassle or a blessing depending on your own point of view. This all boils down to it being a great laptop that’s powerful in the right places, has the right features and is very comfortable to interact with. And yet our abiding memory of this laptop will be the noise it makes. Even with the fans turned down to minimum, when under load, it isn’t quiet and in a shared home, office, flight cabin it will certainly annoy other people if it doesn’t drive you mad first.
We might be first with this, check back or let us know if anyone else agrees or thinks differently!