Acer's had a strong year in gaming, because it made bold design choices and offered good options at every price. Its massive Predator 21 X wowed everyone who saw the machine's curved screen, and the company won applause for combining graphics power and affordability in the Predator Helios 300. And while Acer's higher-end laptops offered solid software, the brand's more-affordable machines were laden with bloatware.
The company could earn a lot more points in the future by making its touchpads more comfortable and covering both directions (not just one) of shipping for repairs.
We reviewed six Acer gaming notebooks in our review period, and their average score was 3.6. The brand earned one Editors' Choice award, for the 15-inch Acer Predator Helios 300. That laptop comes GTX 1060 graphics for a budget price, as well as a two-year warranty and easy upgradability.
Also of note was the 4-star Acer Predator 21X — a massive, $9,000 machine with eye tracking, powerful graphics, a mechanical keyboard and a curved display — as well as the 17-inch Helios, which was easily upgradable but suffered from an uncomfortable touchpad.
While the Predator Triton 700 was innovative and looked good, it brought subpar battery life and had an awkward touchpad above the keyboard.
Did you ever think you would see a laptop with a 21-inch curved display and a mechanical keyboard? How about one with a maintenance panel adorned with killer artwork and a peekaboo panel so you can check out the system interior? You get all that and more with the Acer Predator 21 X, whose black, gray and blue color scheme was a welcome shock to the system.
The Predator Triton 700 brought the same shock and awe in a ridiculous slim chassis, although turning that top-mounted clear panel into a touchpad was a hot misstep. No, seriously, the panel got so hot during regular usage, it would burn your finger.
The rest of Acer's gaming laptops are your typical systems, decked out in black with red accents with pronounced angles. However, while notebooks like the 15-inch Predator Helios 300 and Nitro 5 offer aluminum lids for a premium look, others like the 17-inch Predator Helios 300 are made entirely of plastic. Still, Acer is one of the only companies to offer a convertible gaming system with the Nitro 5 Spin, even if it can only handle rudimentary settings.
Despite a few black sheep, the members of Acer's family of displays are mostly very bright and vivid, averaging 114 percent of the sRGB color gamut and 295 nits of brightness. The Acer Predator 21 X ($8,999) will put a hole in your bank account, but you will get a stunning, curved display covering 172 percent of the sRGB gamut and 332 nits of brightness. More reasonably priced is the 17-inch Helios ($1,357), which has the brightest display we’ve seen during our review period, presenting a vibrant 373 nits.
Acer gets props for delivering one thing none of its competitors could: a $9,000 behemoth that sports a 21-inch curved screen, dual graphics cards, built-in eye tracking and a mechanical keyboard. Sure, the Acer Predator 21 X isn't the most practical gaming laptop on the market, but hats off to Acer for pushing the boundaries of just how much tech you can cram into a "portable" system.
Acer also made strides with its more standard (but still very premium) Predator Triton 700, with its impossibly slim design, uniquely cornered edges, Aeroblade3D fans for better cooling, and booming TrueHarmony speakers. And on the more affordable end, Acer delivered the convertible Nitro 5 Spin and the upgradable Predator Helios 300, bringing impressive innovation to all price ranges.
PredatorSense is the centerpiece of the Acer gaming experience. It's available on many of Acer's gaming laptops, including the Predator Helios 300. There, you'll monitor and control clock speed, keep tabs on CPU and GPU temperature, and enable graphics-card overclocking with a single click.
If your laptop supports it, and the Acer Predator 21 X does, PredatorSense is also where you'll customize your keyboard's backlighting. Incredibly granular controls allow you to program each of the keys to flash one of the available 16.7 million colors, and there are 11 available visual effects, each with adjustable speeds.
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On top of everything else, Acer's $8,999 laptop gets you Tobii eye-tracking and Nvidia G-Sync technology for keeping your screen in harmony with your gameplay.DustDefender will run your laptop's fans in reverse to prevent dust buildup.
The $1,999 Predator Triton 700 includes Killer Diagnostics for checking network speed and Killer Control Center, an app for adjusting network bandwidth that lets you prioritize applications to get the most of your speed. Acer also throws in a free six-month license of XSplit Gamecaster, a gameplay-streaming and -recording utility.
Acer isn't as generous with software on its lower-end machines, as the Nitro 5 Spin is outfitted with only Nvidia GeForce Experience (which is also available as a free download) and ShadowPlay (a free streaming service). The Nitro 5 includes only GeForce Experience.
Configurations and Warranty (3/5)
Acer covers every niche of portable gaming — and we literally mean every niche, because few brands simultaneously offer something as svelte as the Predator Triton 700 and as ridiculous as the dual 1080 GPU-toting $8,999 Predator 21X. There’s also the streamlined Nitro 5, the more mature-looking Aspire V Nitro and the very reasonably-priced, GTX 1060-equipped Helios 300. We still wish Acer had an answer for gamers who want something smaller than 13 inches, though.
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If you need to send your Acer machine in for service, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for inbound shipping — unless you spring for accidental damage protection. That’s pretty frustrating, especially considering Acer sells some pretty pricey systems. The factory warranty lasts one year, and you can open your laptop up and swap out RAM and storage without fear of voiding it.