Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review: A big gaming laptop with a smaller price

The Neo 18 gives you the real estate without charging a fortune

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review
(Image: © Future/Rami Tabari)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 is one of the few 18-inch gaming laptops in the affordable range, and it still outperforms and outshines many of its competitors.

Pros

  • +

    Fun design

  • +

    Big, bright display

  • +

    Comfortable keyboard

  • +

    Powerful performance and graphics

Cons

  • -

    Display isn’t as colorful as 16-inch model

  • -

    Mixed audio

  • -

    Short battery life

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If you’re looking for a gaming rig with the biggest display, you’ll need to head to the bank and get a quick loan. Or… maybe not? The Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 blasts through the doors with its 18-inch bod at a reasonably priced $1,499.

The Neo 18 offers strong performance from its Intel Core i7-14650HX processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 8GB GPU, all of which power that bright 18-inch, 1200p, 165Hz display. Top that off with its sick design and comfortable keyboard, and you will have a decent gaming laptop. It’s got its shortcomings, however, including mediocre speakers and short battery life. Not to mention that its 16-inch sibling cranks out a slightly better display. 

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 landed on our best gaming laptops page since it’s a true one-of-a-kind at the moment. But does it throw away its shot? Let’s see.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Specs

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Price$1,499
CPUIntel Core i7-14650HX
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 4060 8GB
RAM16GB
Storage1TB SSD
Display18-inch, 1920 x 1200, 165Hz
Battery3:14
Size15.91 x 12.29 x 1.07 inches
Weight7.4 pounds

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Price and configurations

For $1,499, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 comes with an Intel Core i7-14650HX processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 8GB GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an 18-inch, 1920 x 1200, 165Hz display. That’s the floor.

The ceiling goes up to $1,999, where you’ll find the Neo 18 with a Core i9-14900HX CPU, RTX 4070 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 1600p, 240Hz display. However, if you just want the RAM and display upgrade, it’ll cost $1,699, which is reasonable.

However, check out our best cheap gaming laptops page if you want something in the triple digits.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Design

Yes, the chassis is the typical black, but I love the design regardless. The Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 tucks away a few hidden features in its sandblasted lid. At the center is the blacked-out Predator logo. Six glossy LED strips accompany the arms, which are hidden under more black paint and revealed only in the light.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

I solved a whole puzzle to figure out the rest of the lid. Seriously. In the top left corner is a string of letters “SVORLH MVL,” and next to it are the symbols “A=Z / B=Y.” Don’t worry. I completed the cipher for you. It spells out “Helios Neo.” On the bottom right is another puzzle. It reads: “10 15 09 14 / 16 18 05 04 01 20 15 18 / 06 15 18 03 05” and beside it is the key (01=A / 02=B). Again, I got you. It spells out “Join Predator Force.” Was it worth all that effort? No. Was it fun? Heck yeah.

The hinge is also sick. There’s a clear plastic pane that reveals a few logos in a machine-part aesthetic, which is neat, but what really got me is the Morse code. It’s just above the NEO logo and so subtle I might’ve missed it. It reads “.--. .-. . -.. .- - --- .-.” and, naturally, that translates to “Predator.” Acer is making me put in the work on this one. I haven’t even opened the lid yet (please be normal).

Ah, yes, flat black deck, just what I hoped for. Well, kind of. I’m surprised there aren’t more interesting design choices on the interior, but the keyboard looks depressed in a valley with a long vent above it and a wide touchpad below. The bezels on the display are thin, but the chin is a bit thicker.

At 7.4 pounds and 15.9 x 12.3 x 1.1 inches, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 is quite the chunker but also an anomaly. Few 18-inch gaming laptops sport mid-tier specs, so the Asus ROG Strix G17 (6.2 pounds, 15.6 x 11.1 x 0.9 inches), Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (5.7 pounds, 14.1 x 11 x 1 inches), and Acer Nitro 17 (6.8 pounds, 14.1 x 11 x 1 inches) are quite lighter.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Ports

There are ports everywhere on the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

On the left there’s an RJ45 Ethernet port, a USB Type-A port, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack, while on the right there's room for a Kensington security lock slot and two USB Type-A ports.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

A power jack, an HDMI port, and two Thunderbolt 4 ports are on the rear. There’s enough room for one or two more ports; I wish Acer added a Mini DisplayPort.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

Still need more ports? Check out our best USB Type-C hubs and best laptop docking stations pages.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Display

I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a gaming laptop with an 18-inch, 1080p display before, but let’s see how the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 rocks. With a 165Hz refresh rate, it’s already got something going for it. The panel is bright but takes a massive ding to its color, especially compared to its nearly identical 16-inch sibling.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

I ziplined into a warehouse with moonlight at my back in Far Cry 6 and painted my blade in a bold crimson as I picked off enemies one by one. Despite some enemies cowering in the shadow, the bright panel gave their position away. I blasted them, noting the detailed screws and accents on my gun as I did.

In the Borderlands trailer, Cate Blanchett’s red hair and undershirt contrasted nicely against her shiny dark blue vest and leather jacket. As Kevin Hart and the team’s personal Psycho made their way down a dim hallway, the panel captured the spiked belt of an enemy even as they were quickly pummeled. And despite sporting a large screen with a lower resolution, the edges of the gang’s car were sharp as hell. 

According to our colorimeter, the Neo 18 covered 77.8% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, a little short of the average mainstream gaming laptop (83.9%). That might’ve been forgivable if its sibling, the Neo 16, didn’t cover a whopping 92%. The Strix G17 landed near the Neo 18 with 76.8%, while the Nitro 17 climbed over the average with 84.3%.

At 377 nits, the Neo 18 pumped out a respectably bright display, outclassing all competitors, including the average (364 nits), Strix G17 (279 nits), and Nitro 17 (348 nits). It even surpassed the Neo 16 (370 nits) by the slightest margin.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Keyboard and touchpad

This isn’t a mechanical keyboard, but it’s still plenty comfortable. Thanks to the large deck, my fingers bounced off each of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18’s keys easily and comfortably.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

I cranked out 87 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is far faster than my 81-wpm average. Due to the size and spacing, anyone who typically uses a full-sized keyboard, especially discrete ones, won't have any problem adjusting to the Neo 18’s keyboard.

You can customize the four-zone RGB lighting in the PredatorSense app. It comes outfitted with presets like Wave and Breathing, but you can adjust them manually.

The 3.7 x 6.1-inch touchpad offers quite a bit of space and a smooth surface, but the occasional resistance and the clicks are unsatisfying at best.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Audio

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 18’s bottom-firing speakers have some potential. Still, unless you want to spend hours configuring a custom EQ, you’ll end up with quiet or bombastic sound.

In Far Cry 6, my suppressed rifle checked off fools with a distinct pop and a satisfyingly bassy impact. However, the balance between dialogue and background audio is a bit off. Switching between various settings, the overall audio either suppresses the music and ambient sounds or blows them up to the point of distortion.

I listened to my favorite new bop from Alan Wake 2, “Night Springs” by Keira. The opening ominous beats were a little muted, but the following vocals clapped back with a sharper tune. The rest of the synths came off well if lacking in the bass department. However, when I could hear the drums, they sounded like they were hitting a soft pillow.

The Neo 18 comes with the DTS:X audio app, which you can use to adjust the sound from Automatic, Music, Voice, Movies, Strategy, RPG, Shooter, and Custom. As stated above, flipping through the settings didn’t land on anything balanced.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Gaming and graphics

Toting an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics chip with 8GB of VRAM, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 became my partner in crime as I tore through hordes of enemies across Yara in Far Cry 6 at 78 frames per second on Ultra, 1200p settings.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

On the Borderlands 3 benchmark (Badass, 1080p), the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 hit 82 fps, matching the average mainstream gaming laptop. It also landed near the Strix G17 (87 fps), Neo 16 (84 fps), and Nitro 17 (84 fps), all of which are packing the same RTX 4060 GPU. At 1200p, the Neo 18 hit 79 fps.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 powered through the Cyberpunk 2077 benchmark (Ray Tracing: Ultra, 1080p) at 31 fps, just landing over the playability line, which is impressive despite not meeting the 37-fps category average. To no surprise, it’s comparable with the Strix G17 (33 fps), Neo 16 (32 fps) and Nitro 17 (30 fps). At 1200p, the Neo 18 scored 28 fps, falling below the 30-fps playability line.

On the Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmark (Medium, 1080p), the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 nailed 64 fps, once again matching the average mainstream gaming laptop. While the Strix G17 (55 fps) fell behind, the Neo 16 (65 fps) and Nitro 17 (64 fps) kept a similar pace. At 1200p, the Neo 18 got 60 fps — a nice clean number.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 dove into the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p) and averaged 96 fps, shortly dropping before the category average (101 fps). The Neo 16 (99 fps) and Nitro 17 (94 fps) landed close by, while the Strix G17 made it to the triple digits (104 fps).

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Performance

Packed with the latest Intel Core i7-14650HX processor and 16GB of RAM, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 tore through a couple dozen Google Chrome tabs, a handful of YouTube videos, and Spotify blaring in the background without breaking a sweat.

On the Geekbench 6.3 overall performance test, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 scored 16,052, nearly doubling the score of the average mainstream gaming laptop (9,816). Despite the Neo 16 sporting the beefier Core i9-14900HX, it didn’t score much higher, at 16,730. Meanwhile, the Strix G17’s AMD Ryzen 9 7845HX (13,793) and the Nitro 17’s Ryzen 7 8845HS (12,358) fell a decent ways behind.

Our HandBrake benchmark tells a slightly different story. The Neo 18 took 3 minutes and 38 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, which does speed past the category average (4:13). However, the Neo 16 (3:10) and Strix G17 (3:28) completed the task a bit faster. The Nitro 17 did it the slowest (4:18).

Acer’s 1TB SSD did the work, boasting a transfer rate of 2,184 megabytes per second. That outclasses competitors across the board, including the average (1,568 MBps), Strix G17 (1,249 MBps), Neo 16 (2,121 MBps), and Nitro 17 (1,845 MBps).

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Battery life

Battery life can be hit or miss in a gaming laptop, and the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 scored a big ol’ miss. 

On the Laptop Mag battery test, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 survived 3 hours and 14 minutes, which is nearly two hours shorter than the average mainstream gaming laptop (5:12). While it did outlast the Strix G17 (2:35), its sibling lasted slightly longer (4:09) and the Nitro 17 nearly survived a workday (7:23).

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Webcam

A 720p webcam ain’t gonna cut it, chief.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 review

(Image credit: Future/Rami Tabari)

The shot I took looked like a grainy mess—my hair looked like loofah. The background grew completely washed out by the poor contrast. However, it reproduced the whites and greens in my tropical shirt quite well. If you’re someone looking to stream, I highly recommend checking out our best webcams page.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Heat

Acer tried to make this baby as cool as possible, and it worked for the most part. 

After gaming for 15 minutes, the underside climbed to only 91 degrees Fahrenheit, landing below our 95-degree comfort threshold. Meanwhile, the center of the keyboard and touchpad reached 93 and 84 degrees, respectively. However, the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 does have a hot spot. You’ll want to steer clear from the rear-center underside, which clocked a spicy 139 degrees.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 18: Software and warranty

With the Predator Helios Neo 18, Acer offers PredatorSense: an app for monitoring performance, performing system diagnostics, adjusting fan speeds, RGB backlight customization, and individual settings for the GPU, battery, screen, and keyboard. Meanwhile, Acer JumpStart is the bloatware of ads that pop-up on-screen (I highly recommend uninstalling it).

The Predator Helios Neo 18 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Acer performed on our Tech Support Showdown ranking.

Bottom line

I love me a gorgeous display, and while the Acer Predator Helios Neo 18 doesn’t satisfy all of my needs, a whopping 18-inch screen offered at such an affordable price relative to its gaudy competitors is an impressive feat. Top that off with powerful performance and a comfortable keyboard; you’ve got the makings of a great gaming laptop.

However, if you like what you see and you’re willing to go down a couple of inches, I highly recommend the Helios Neo 16. It may be nearly identical, but that gap in display color can make all the difference when playing video games.

Despite that, the Predator Helios Neo 18 is a killer entry in Acer’s portfolio of big, bad motherlaptops.

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Rami Tabari
Editor

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.