Acer Gaming Laptops - 2017 Brand Rating and Report Card
Acer has a well-rounded lineup with a mix of budget notebooks like the Aspire VX 15 and purely aspirational machines like the Predator 21 X, as well as everything in between. While it's quick to adapt to new technology, it makes you pay for your own shipping on warranty claims, and it could really stand to give its lineup a fresh coat of paint.
Of the five laptops from Acer that we reviewed, three earned 4 stars and Editors’ Choice awards, while the other two received 3.5 stars. Standouts include the Predator 17 X, with stunning performance and graphics, and the Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition, with its professional stylings and comfortable keyboard.
Acer's gaming laptop design runs the gamut from subtle business casual to stereotypical edgy to jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Decked out in black with red accents (speaker, rear vents and select keys), the Predator 15 and 17 look every bit like what you'd expect from a gaming notebook. While the red-and-black palette is common in the industry, other companies -- MSI, for example -- have pulled the look off better.
The Aspire V17 Nitro Black's ridged ebony exterior and large silver hinge offer an unassuming yet sophisticated design that looks just as good in a boardroom as it does at a LAN party. However, its rather safe design won't cause heads to turn.
But if it’s opulent outlandishness you seek, look no further than the Predator 21 X with its massive gray-and-teal chassis that's adorned with a roaring white dragon and a a peek-a-boo window so you can watch the fan whirring away in a mesmerizing blue light.
While some of its other laptop lines offer mixed results in their displays, Acer's gaming laptops have screens that are bright, vivid and accurate. The Predator series stands out not only for its image quality but also for supporting Nvidia's G-Sync anti-tearing technology.
The Predator 21X's 21-inch curved panel (the first ever on a laptop) is the standout, with a 2560 x 1080 resolution, 172 percent sRGB color reproduction and 332 nits of brightness.
The more affordable Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition also has a solid panel, with great reproduction (118 percent sRGB) and decent brightness (264 nits). The one dim spot in Acer's lineup is the budget Aspire VX 15, with its 245-nit, 65 percent panel.
Most of Acer's gaming laptops rely on island-style keyboards mounted on scissor switches. While their keyboards aren't quite as good as those with mechanical keys, the Predator line typically has good travel ranging between 2.1 and 2.6 millimeters (1.5 to 2mm is typical) with at least 60 grams of required actuation force (60 grams is the minimum for gaming).
The Nitro Black falls a bit short of the mark at 1.6mm and 65g of force, which translates into a mushy experience. But the Predator 21 X and its mechanical keys with Cherry MX Brown switches is at the other side of spectrum, offering 4mm of travel (64g of force) for a bouncy, yet comfortable typing experience.
Outside of the lower-tier Nitro Black, all of the Predators' keyboards are equipped with customizable RGB backlighting so you can make your own personal light show.
Across the many Acer gaming models, from the Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition to the Predator gaming systems, the company's dedication to gaming has yielded some cutting-edge developments. Acer’s slim Predator Triton packs high-end gaming into a delightfully thin-and- light design, and touches like a backlit mechanical keyboard and transparent top-mounted Gorilla Glass touchpad will turn heads.
But the real prize of Acer’s gaming family is the beastly Predator 21 X. The 21-inch laptop is not only massive, but also features the first curved display on any laptop and has an integrated Tobii eye-tracker, a mechanical keyboard with Cherry switches and a reversible module that works as either a number pad or a touchpad. There are even innovations that happen under the hood, with a bespoke cooling system that uses metal fan blades to keep everything running without too much heat buildup.
You want to push your Acer notebook to the limit for the smoothest gameplay, right? Then you'll need Acer's PredatorSense tools, which are available on all the company's top-tier Predator notebooks, like the Predator 17 X. The bundled utilities let you control the fan and clock for your CPU and GPU, map macro keys and customize keyboard backlighting. However, it lacks the eye-catching effects other brands offer.
Acer's less-expensive gaming laptops, such as the Aspire VX 15 and the Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition, don't offer Predator Sense. Instead, they get generic Acer tools such as abFiles and abPhotos, which are used to store and share files. Both Acer Aspire and Predator notebooks (but not all models thereof) include its DustDefender tool to activate its airflow management. This will help you retain the value in your investment by keeping dust from building up internally.
Selection and Customization (4/5)
Acer was going to get 3 points for this category, since it doesn't offer a gaming notebook that's under 15 inches. But then the company unleashed the Predator 21X, the most bombastic, outlandish and unnecessarily powerful gaming laptop we've ever seen. It's the kind of system that challenges what the definition of what a gaming laptop really is, and for that, we had to bump Acer's score up to a 4.
MORE: Best Acer Laptops
The Predator 15 and the Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition help round out Acer's portfolio with powerful 15- and 17-inch systems. We like that Acer's Nitro line packs solid components without the shouty, look-at-me designs of typical gaming systems, but compared to companies like MSI and Origin, Acer doesn't offer nearly the same level of customizability.
Acer backs its gaming laptops with a one-year limited warranty that requires you to pay for the cost of shipping it to the company for service. However, if you purchase the optional accidental-damage protection, shipping costs are covered. Acer does not void your warranty for upgrading your laptop's RAM or storage.