How much power is too much in a gaming laptop? Trick question, there's no such thing as too much power. That's why the Acer Predator 17 X (starting at $2,699, reviewed at $2,999) is a great investment. Outfitted with an overclockable Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, the Predator can handle gaming, virtual reality and serious multitasking with ease. Not enough goodies for you? The system also features a 4K Nvidia G-Sync display, great audio and impressive heat management. However, at nearly 10 pounds, the laptop doesn't offer much in the way of portability, and its less-than-2 hours of battery life leaves much to be desired.
The Acer Predator 17 X isn't the most attractive gaming laptop I've ever seen, but something about its tank-like chassis speaks to me. A large part of my affinity comes from the entire thing being swathed in black matte soft-touch material. I'm also a big fan of the small-honeycomb pattern Acer tucked away beneath the hinge. It would be nice if the company would redesign the logo on the lid, which still looks suspiciously like a Decepticon logo. However, it looks mighty intimidating between the glowing red accent strips on the lid.
Opening the lid reveals a massive keyboard dock in a recessed, soft-touch panel. A chrome-lined triangle-shaped power button sits directly above, imploring you to press it and get the party started. To the left of the keyboard are six macro buttons in their individual cavities. A large touchpad resides in the palm rest alongside a button to disable/enable the input device.
The front lip of the laptop has three bright-red metal grills to add to its gamer cred. But for some reason, the shade of red looks more gaudy than edgy. The rear vents with their large cross hatches look much more authentic.
The Predator 17 is loaded with ports, featuring a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the right with a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 2.0, a DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet and a Kensington lock slot. Along the laptop's left are another two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader and jacks for a microphone, a pair of headphones and the DC adapter.
Weighing a hefty 9.8 pounds, the 16.7 x 12.7 x 1.8-inch Predator 17 X could be a great addition to your weight-lifting regimen. It's only a couple of ounces heavier than the 9.6-pound Alienware 17 R4 (16.7 x 13.1 x 1.2 inches), but both systems make the 7.9-pound Asus G701VI (16.9 x 12.2 x 1.3 inch) and the 7.8-pound Razer Blade (16.7 x 11 x 0.88 inches) seem downright manageable.
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Wowzer, that's a pretty display! The Predator 17 X's 17.3-inch, 3840 x 2160 screen offers lush hues with crisp detail. The neon pink in the actress' leggings in the 4K Tears of Steel trailer seemed to radiate off the screen, as did the electric-blue sleeves on her jacket. The detail was sharp enough that I could clearly see the folds and creases in articles of clothing as well as individual strands of hair.
But I only got the real eye-candy once I started playing Mass Effect: Andromeda. Once I landed on the alien planet's surface, I was treated to a cornucopia of color, including fluorescent blue fungus and golden plant life growing out of steel-gray earth. Upon closer examination, I could see the intricate ridges in the intergalactic plants.
The panel's eye-popping color is due to its ability to reproduce a whopping 181.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut. It easily tops the category average of 144 percent as well as the screens on competing systems like the Alienware 17 and the G701VI. The Blade Pro was just a little more vivid, at 185 percent.
The colors the Predator 17 X's panel produces are accurate, as it notched 0.2 on the Delta-E test (0 is ideal). That's better than the G701VI's score of 1.6, the Razer Blade's 2.3 and the Alienware 17's 0.5.
When we checked for brightness, the Predator 17 X averaged 318 nits, topping the 296-nit average. That's not too shabby, especially since it outshone both the Blade's 304 nits and the G701VI's 277 nits. It wasn't enough, however, to eclipse the Alienware 17's gleaming 340 nits.
The Predator 17 X's display has Nvidia's G-Sync technology, which allows the screen to sync directly with the graphics card for the smoothest performance possible. In my experience, most games ran well on the Acer regardless of whether G-Sync was enabled or not. However, the images looked a lot smoother with G-Sync enabled.
This Predator 17 X has some major knock, thanks to its four speakers and dual subwoofers, which are part of Acer's SoundPound 4.2 system. The bass on Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE" permeated my medium test space without drowning out Kendrick's laid-back flow. When I switched to Jamiroquai's "Corner Of The Earth," the warm guitar played with the lilting background vocals with enough space to let lead singer Jay Kay's vocal take center stage.
As good as the Predator 17 X sounds playing some of my favorite tracks, I really liked the sound quality as I played through Andromeda. As I navigated my way through a decimated planet, the occasional lightning strike was nice and forceful against the swelling background strings. An ensuing gunfight was punctuated with staccato gunshots.
I found the Predator 17 X's audio was rather balanced, but if it's not to your liking, you can tweak the sound profile with the pre-loaded Dolby Audio software.
Keyboard and Touchpad
It's not a mechanical, but I'm still a fan of the Predator 17 X's island-style keyboard. The colorfully backlit keys offer a springy clickiness that felt and sounded good. I'm not necessarily a fan of the red-ringed WASD keys, but I'm just persnickety like that. The springy goodness is a result of the 2.1 millimeter key travel paired with the 64 grams of actuation force, both of which are above our minimum accepted measurements. I easily achieved 70 words per minute on the 10FastFingers Typing test, topping my usual 65 wpm pace.
I'm always a fan of a gaming laptop with a numpad, and Acer definitely delivers. The laptop also features a row of programmable macro keys on the left, with a switch that lets you choose between four separate profiles, which essentially turns five keys into 20. The company even had the wherewithal to add a dedicated button for disabling the touchpad for when you plug in a mouse -- you know, for those serious gaming sessions.
Measuring 4.1 x 2.4 inches, the touchpad provided plenty of room for my fingers to pinch-zoom or two-finger scroll. Throughout my tests, I found the touchpad was always accurate and responsive. The final touch is the pair of discrete mouse buttons that offered clicky feedback with every press.
Gaming, VR and Graphics
Need to save an entire universe, or just cause mayhem? The Predator 17 X's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM can do all of that and then some. Because it is the most powerful mobile graphics card available, you can expect high, smooth frame rates on the most taxing games. The system is also VR-ready, which means you can connect an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive to the laptop and start exploring the virtual expanse.
I played through a couple of levels of Robo Recall on the Rift, and the Predator 17X kept pace with the frantic action. Even as I started teleporting around the space, blasting killer robots into colorful shrapnel, I never noticed any stuttering or slowdown. When we ran the SteamVR Performance test, the notebook hit the maximum score of 11, matching the Blade Pro, Alienware 17 and Asus G701VI, which also have GTX 1080 GPUs. It also beat the 9.2 desktop-replacement average.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (1080p on Very High, G-Sync disabled), the Predator 17 X achieved 66 fps, which is a step above the Pro, the Alienware 17 and the 52 fps average. However, the G701VI outperformed the competition with an impressive 71 fps.
During the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, the Predator delivered 83 fps, sailing past the 74 fps average. The Alienware 17 was right on i
ts tail, but neither were a match for the G701VI, which notched 90 fps. The Blade Pro brought up the rear with a respectable 65 fps.
The Predator 17 X achieved 60 fps on the Hitman benchmark, which is above our 30 fps playability scale, but well below the 83 fps average. The Alienware 17 and Blade Pro got 87 and 103 fps in comparison.
On the Metro: Last Light test, the Predator 17 X obtained 79 fps, defeating the 59 fps average and the Blade Pro's 75 fps. The Alienware 17 delivered 80 fps, while the G701VI produced 105 fps.
The Predator 17 X's GTX 1080 GPU (and CPU) is already powerful, but thanks to Acer's Predator Sense software, you can squeeze out even more power via overclocking. The software has three settings -- Normal, Faster and Turbo -- that will automatically adjust clock speed at the touch of a button.
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The Predator 17 X is just as powerful when it comes to spreadsheets, presentations and multitasking as it is when you're in the midst of an epic orc battle. The system's overclockable 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK processor with 32GB of RAM ran a full system scan while streaming an episode of Rick & Morty with 20 open tabs in Google Chrome with no noticeable latency.
On the synthetic Geekbench 4 test, which measures overall performance, the Predator 17 X achieved 14,795, topping the 13,136 category average. Powered by their own Core i7-7820HK CPUs, the Alienware 17 and the G701V1 scored 14,154 and 17,404, respectively, while the Blade Pro and its 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU missed the mark at 11,702.
The dual 256GB SSDs (with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive) should come in handy when launching your games. The system duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in a zippy 4 seconds, which translates into a crazy-fast 1,272.3 megabytes per second. That is a hair behind the G701VI's (dual 512GB PCIe m.2 SSDs) 1,272.4 MBps, but more than enough to scorch the 514 MBps average.
The Predator 17 X stumbled on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, matching 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 41 seconds. That beats the Blade Pro's time of 4:06, but not the G701VI's 2:59 or the Alienware 17's 1:47.
It goes without saying that, with desktop replacements like this, you need to make sure a power outlet is always in reach. The Predator 17 X died after only 1 hour and 58 minutes of running our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), which is well below the 4:21 desktop-replacement average.
The Blade Pro and Alienware 17 did slightly better at 2:45 and 2:46, respectively. The G701VI lasted for 3:27.
Having overclockable components can really raise a laptop's temperature, which could damage the system over time. To combat this issue, Acer outfitted the Predator 17 X with a triple-fan cooling system, a front-air intake and a vapor chamber to keep everything relatively cool.
I tested the system by playing 15 minutes of Mass Effect: Andromeda, during which time the fans roared to life. It would have been annoying if the Predator's powerful speakers didn't drown out the noise. Five minutes into the test, I measured the laptop's undercarriage, which measured a hot 116 degrees Fahrenheit. But by the end of the test, the temperature had dropped to 96 degrees, slightly higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the laptop was right on the edge at 95 degrees while the touchpad hit 84 degrees.
The 720p takes grainy but color-accurate images and videos. My jet-black roots in the test shots revealed that I am overdue for a touch-up on my purple dye job. The camera also captured all the different blues in my shirt. However, the overhead lighting looked blown out, while the rest of the photo was plagued by fuzziness.
Software and Warranty
For a gaming laptop, the Predator 17 X has quite a bit of preinstalled software. Fortunately, most of it is centered on keeping the system in tip-top shape. For instance, Acer Care Center displays system diagnostics, and there's a helpful Recovery Management service. DustDefender briefly reverses system airflow every couple of hours to keep dust from building up. There's also Quick Access, which, you guessed it, lets you swiftly interact with several settings, including Bluelight Shield, CoolBoost and Power-off USB charging.
Regarding gaming, you have Predator Sense, which allows you to control the fan and clock for your CPU and GPU as well as toggle between several screen presets. Acer also threw in a free six-month trial of XSplit Gamecaster, a live-streaming service. The laptop features Nvidia GeForce Experience, which offers a full suite of gamer-centric apps, such as Battery Boost and Game Optimization.
Alas, there are a several instances of bloatware here, such as Sling, Facebook, Twitter, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Asphalt 8 and The Secret Society: Hidden Mystery.
I explored a new galaxy with the $2,999 configuration of the Acer Predator 17 X. It comes equipped with an overclockable 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK processor with 32GB of RAM, dual 256GB SSDs with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 3840 x 2160 Nvidia G-Sync display. The base $2,499 model offers the same memory with only one 256GB SSD and a lower-res, 1920 x 1080 G-Sync panel.
The Acer Predator 17 X isn't the prettiest laptop on the block, but, man, is it powerful. For $2,999, you get a monster of a gaming rig with an overclockable CPU and GPU, a gorgeous 4K Nvidia G-Sync display with great audio and blisteringly fast transfer speeds to sweeten the pot. However, its massive size and short battery life are an albatross around the neck of an otherwise great laptop.
For $2,599, you can get the Alienware 17, which has a more stylish, albeit ostentatious, design with a lower-res QHD (2560 x 1400) Nvidia G-Sync display, and an overclockable CPU and GPU with comparable performance. You also get integrated Tobii eye-tracking hardware and software, so you can control certain games and Windows 10 functions at a glance. But if you're looking for a kickass system with overpowered specs that can keep cool under pressure, the Acer Predator 17 X is a great choice.