The Acer Predator Helios 700 is quite literally a battle station. When the Helios 700's comfortable HyperDrift keyboard drops into position, the supereffective cooling kicks on and the system overclocks its powerful 9th Gen Core i9 CPU and RTX 2080 GPU. But even for a whopping $3,999, the Helios 700 can't fully deliver, with its lackluster display and speakers. Regardless, this is still one of the strongest gaming laptops you can buy.
Price and configuration options
I tested the maxed-out version of the Predator Helios 700, which runs for $3,999 and comes outfitted with an Intel Core i9-9980HK processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.
The midrange model costs $2,499 and drops you to a Core i7-9750H CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Even if you want to save the most money, the base model will run you $2,199, and that'll drop you to an RTX 2070 GPU from the midrange model. If you're looking for something in a cheaper wheelhouse, take a look at our best gaming laptops under $1,000 and our gaming laptop buying guide.
Despite charging you the price of an old car, the Predator Helios 700 sports a plastic top cover. This laptop has two blue glossy curves on either side of the lid. At the center sits the Predator logo, with blue backlighting. The machine is thick and sturdy, but when I ran my fingers across the lid, it flexed.
The exterior is kind of boring, but the magic really happens on the inside. The interior features Acer's HyperDrift keyboard, which offers two modes: docked and undocked. When the keyboard is docked, it's in its normal position, which offers regular speeds. But you can undock the keyboard by sliding it toward you, revealing an RGB-lit glass panel with heat pipes underneath. This not only triggers overclocking, but also increases airflow as it exposes two intakes on either side of the pipes. This may be a little too gaudy for some, as our lab tester Jorge Jimenez stated, "It looks like a Transformer stuck midtransformation — my wife would divorce me if I brought that home."
When you slide the keyboard down, the section with the palm rests and touchpad bends at an angle, doubling as an ergonomic wrist rest. The bezels on the display are mighty thick as well.
At 10.5 pounds and 16.9 x 11.8 x 1.6 inches, the Predator Helios 700 is quite the chunker, even for a 17-inch laptop. Even the titans — the Alienware Area-51m (8.5 pounds, 16.1 x 15.9 x 1.1~1.7 inches), the MSI GT75 Titan (10 pounds, 16.9 x 12.4 x 1.2~2.3 inches) and the Origin PC Eon17-X (9.5 pounds, 16.4 x 11.6 x 1.6 inches) — can't touch it.
This monster has a wide variety of ports.
On the left, you'll find an RJ45 Ethernet port, two USB 3.1 ports, a microphone jack and a headphone jack, while the right features one Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB Type-C port and one USB 3.1 port.
The Predator Helios 700's 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is decently bright and features a smooth, 144-Hz refresh rate powered by Nvidia G-Sync technology. But the panel is comparatively dull for a gaming laptop. You may want to get a gaming monitor.
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I could see the details on the surrounding walls in a dark, underwater cavern. Each strand of hair on Lara Croft's head was sharp, but her blue shirt, brown hair and brown eyes weren't as vivid as they could have been. When I turned the settings down a notch, exploring and swimming underwater felt fluid (pun intended).
In the trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level, I could make out a lamp and the cracked window in the background of Danny DeVito's dimly lit basement. The Predator Helios 700's panel detailed DeVito's sharp beard and the strands of hair on his head. But while the lush greenery that surrounded Karen Gillan was decently colorful, it didn't pop.
According to our colorimeter, the Predator Helios 700 covered a mere 95% of the sRGB color gamut, which is far from the 143% average for premium gaming laptops. While the Area-51m (118%) and the Eon17-X (120%) came in below the average, they at least made it above 100%. Meanwhile, the GT75 Titan dominated, at 178%.
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At 287 nits, the Predator Helios 700 came close to the 296-nit category average. Acer's machine even beat the Area-51m (284 nits), GT75 Titan (271 nits) and Eon17-X (211 nits).
Keyboard and touchpad
With the Predator Helios 700, you have two ways to type: docked and undocked. In docked mode, you get a pleasantly clicky keyboard with RGB lighting, but when the machine is in undocked mode, you benefit from an ergonomic palm rest.
I hit only 64 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test while the system was docked, falling under my 70-wpm average. But when I undocked the keyboard, I managed a solid 72 wpm. The keys traveled at a deep 2.2 millimeters and required a solid 70 grams of force to actuate.
The Predator Helios 700 comes with five replacement keys, backed by springs instead of a membrane cap. They're specifically for WASD keys and are designed to make character movement feel fluid. I tested this with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and the movement did feel more natural. But when I typed with the replacement keys, it felt somewhat jarring. Profiles in PredatorSense enable the keys for gaming or typing, and you can adjust the actuation within those settings from 1.0mm to 2.8mm.
Just above the keyboard are three macro keys, and you can change three sets of profiles with the P button, so that's a total of nine macro keys. Technically, one of them is permanently assigned to switching the key profiles mentioned above, so that leaves you with eight assignable macros.
For RGB lighting, there are three zones: the keyboard, touchpad and heat pipe. The keyboard features per-key lighting and lighting effects like wave, breathing and raindrop. Meanwhile, the touchpad features static, blue lighting and the heat pipe as a static customizable RGB. You can configure all these settings through PredatorSense.
The 4.1 x 2.3-inch touchpad is soft, has a decent size and offers a satisfying pair of discrete clickers. Windows 10 gestures, like three-finger tabbing and two-finger scrolling, worked as intended. Despite that, you'll still probably want to pick up a gaming mouse.
The Predator Helios 700's forward-firing speakers are decently loud, but the audio is a little too sharp and lacks proper bass. When I listened to NF's "Let You Down," the opening vocals produced a somewhat whiny sound. The percussion and piano failed to pop, instead coming across as hollow — not to mention that they were overshadowed by the vocals.
I played Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and when I tossed one of the baddies off of a cliff, the ensuing thud sounded shallow. When Jonah came to help me up, his voice didn't have enough bass. The surrounding environment, with birds chirping and frogs croaking, was more annoying than immersive, due to its high pitch. You'll need a pair of headphones or set of external speakers if you want to get immersed in games using this machine.
The Helios 700 has the Waves MaxxAudio software, which gives you presets like Gaming General, Gaming FPS, Movies and Music. This software also gives you access to a full EQ and some dials for bass, details and width. I had to throw the bass to Max and the other two settings to roughly halfway to balance the sound for Music, but I still couldn't get the audio just right. For gaming, I set all the levels to roughly 50%, but I ultimately failed to achieve a full sound.
Gaming, graphics and VR
Underneath this beast's glass panel, shrouded in heat pipes, is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU packed with 8GB of VRAM. The Predator Helios 700 tore through Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Highest, 1080p) at 91 frames per second as I hopped from tree to tree and jumped in front of a group of enemies.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Predator Helios 700 hit 91 fps while undocked (85 fps docked), toppling the premium gaming laptop average (67 fps). Acer's machine sped past the GT75 Titan (76 fps) and the Eon17-X (81 fps) with their RTX 2080 chips, but fell just one frame behind the Area-51m (92 fps).
The Predator Helios 700 came out on top on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), averaging 149 fps (undocked) and 140 fps (docked), crushing the 109-fps category average. The Area-51m (143 fps), GT75 Titan (140 fps) and Eon17-X (125 fps) trailed behind the Helios 700.
On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Predator Helios 700 hit a measly 62 fps (docked and undocked), falling behind the 77-fps category average. It couldn't keep up with the Area-51m (105), GT75 Titan (90 fps) or Eon17-X (97 fps).
This monster is more than VR-ready, scoring a perfect 11 on a SteamVR Performance Test, matching the Area-51m, GT75 Titan and Eon17-X.
On the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, the Predator Helios 700 nailed 31,587 undocked (30,908 docked), soaring above the 24,160 average for premium gaming laptops. The Helios 700 crushed the GT75 Titan and its Core i9-8950HK (24,569), as well as the Eon17-X with its Core i9-9900K (27,347). While the Helios 700 didn't beat the Area-51m, the Acer machine inched close to that laptop and its Core i9-9900K's score of 32,591.
While undocked, the Predator Helios 700 transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 6 minutes and 16 seconds, flying past the category average (9:24). Once again, the Acer beat the GT75 Titan (8:00) and the Origin PC Eon17-X (6:53), while coming close to the Area-51m's power-hungry throne, with that machine finishing in 6 minutes. The Predator Helios 700 did it in 6:57 while docked.
Acer's 1TB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in 10 seconds, translating to a rate of 509 megabytes per second, which is slower than the average for premium gaming laptops (781 MBps). The Helios 700's drive also failed to pass the Area-51m's 1TB SSD (1,272 MBps), the GT75 Titan's 512GB SSD (848 MBps) and the Eon17-X's 500GB SSD (565 MBps).
Don't even bother using this machine unplugged. When I continuously surfed the web over Wi-Fi with the screen set at 150 nits of brightness, the Predator Helios 700's battery lasted a mere 1 hour and 43 minutes, which is nearly half of the premium gaming laptop average (3:11). The Area-51m (2:36), GT75 Titan (2:20) and Eon17-X (1:50) all outlasted the Helios 700. A portable charger probably won't power this machine, so if longevity on a charge is your concern, consider looking at laptops with longer battery life.
While the Predator Helios 700's 1080p webcam produced decently colorful shots, the overall image was dark. The blue and white on my shirt looked relatively accurate, but because the image was so dim, dark spots appeared all over my shirt.
The ceiling lights completely washed out their surroundings. I could see the detail in my gelled-up curls, but the image was still grainy when I zoomed in. You'll want to pick up an external webcam.
We tested the Predator Helios 700 docked and undocked, but surprisingly, both methods kept the system relatively cool. However, in one downside to the good heat dispersal, the fans are incredibly loud.
After I played Shadow of the Tomb Raider for 15 minutes in docked mode, the underside hit 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly above our 95-degree comfort threshold. Meanwhile, the center of the keyboard and touchpad measured 89 and 81 degrees, respectively. The hottest the machine got was 110 degrees, on the left underside near the hinge.
When the Helios 700 was undocked, the overclocking kicked on, and thus the fans blared. The underside reached 105 degrees, the keyboard got to 83 degrees and the touchpad hit 81 degrees. You may still want a lap desk, though, if only because this thing is huge.
Software and warranty
The most important app to pay attention to on the Helios 700 is PredatorSense. It monitors the temperature for the CPU, GPU and overall system. You can manage CPU and GPU overclocking through the app as well. It also controls the lighting, hot keys and fans.
Acer additionally throws in the Acer Product Registration app and the Acer Collection S app (both apps curated by Acer). The company also includes PowerDirector, PhotoDirector and Norton Security Scan in its flurry of apps. There's some Windows 10 bloatware as well, such as Bubble Witch 3 Saga, Candy Crush Friends and Microsoft Solitaire Collection.
The Acer Predator Helios 700 is a straight-up beast when it comes to performance. To top it off, this machine has a great cooling system and boasts a comfortable keyboard, all wrapped in an innovative design. Despite all that, the display and audio don't live up to gaming laptop standards.
As an alternative, you can pick up the MSI GT75 Titan for $4,199, and you'll get a supercolorful 4K display, a mechanical keyboard and excellent audio.
But overall, the Predator Helios 700 is a solid premium gaming laptop if you're craving performance.