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Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition hands-on review

A gaming laptop with a revitalized blast from the past

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition review
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Early Verdict

The Acer Predator Helios SpatialLabs Edition gaming laptop packs powerful specs that delivers a top-notch gaming experience with a non-gimmicky take on 3D.

Pros

  • +

    Powerful gaming and overall performance

  • +

    Bright, vibrant display

  • +

    Smooth 3D experience

Cons

  • -

    Heavy and chunky

  • -

    Mushy keyboard

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition specs

Price: $3,399
CPU: Intel Core i7-12700H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 2TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 4K
Battery: N/A
Size: 14.1 x 10.9 x 1.1 inches
Weight: 5.7 pounds

There’s nothing new under the sun and what’s old will be new again. But still, I was taken by surprise by the Acer Predator Helios SpatialLabs Edition gaming laptop. Priced at $3,399, this gaming rig is just as packed as you’d expect with a 12th Gen Core i9 processor and an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU. However, Acer is attempting to bring 3D gaming back to the forefront with its 3D solution that allows you to play AAA titles sans glasses. 

Acer gave me a chance to try out a pre-production version of the laptop to see how it works. And I’m happy to report that the gameplay is definitely better than the 3D gaming laptops of yore. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few caveats. But if the consumer version of the laptop is anything like my test unit, I expect to see the Helios 300 snagging a spot on the best gaming laptops list. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition pricing and configurations

As of this writing, there is only one configuration of the Helios 300. It costs $3,399 and has a 3.8-GHz Intel Core i9-12900H processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, an Intel Iris Xe Graphics GPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU with 16GB of VRAM. The display is a 15.6-inch, IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel that achieves 3840 x 2160 in 2D mode. And thanks to the LED-backlit TFT LCD 3D Stereoscopic module from SpatialLabs, the panel switches to 1920 x 2160 in 3D mode.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

For this piece, Acer sent me a pre-production model of the system that has a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, an Intel Iris Xe Graphics GPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU with 8GB of VRAM and the same 3D module and display as the consumer edition.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition design

Aggressively understated. A bit of an oxymoron, yes, but accurate nonetheless. The Acer Predator Helios 300 is the latest gaming laptop to tone it down on the gamer-centric design. Instead of flashy peek-a-boo panels with a pop of color via the turquoise accents, you’re greeted by a black aluminum lid with a silver chrome Predator emblem at the top and a SpatialLabs logo stamped along the bottom left. The lid is a fingerprint magnet, so you’ll want to keep a microfiber cloth handy.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

If you’re looking for a bit of flash, open the Helios 300 and you’ll get treated to a mini light show courtesy of the full-sized, island-style keyboard resting in the onyx black aluminum keyboard deck and wrist rest. The glowing attraction is nestled in a large depression that separates the chrome-lined touchpad from the top-mounted vents and Turbo button. Need more light? Check out the embedded light bar in the front lip of the laptop. The bezel and bottom of the laptop are made of black plastic.

Weighing 5.7 pounds and measuring 14.1 x 10.9 x 1.1-inches, the Helios 300 is heavier and thicker than the Alienware m15 R4 (5.3 pounds, 14.2 x 10.9 x 0.7~0.8 inches), Lenovo Legion 7i (5.5 pounds / 14.2 x 10.2 x 0.8~0.9 inches) and Asus ROG Zephryus G15 (4.3 pounds, 14 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches).

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition ports

The Acer Predator Helios 300 has more than enough ports to create a formidable battlestation with the appropriate peripherals. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the right, you’ll find a pair of USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports with another on the left along with an Ethernet jack, a headset jack and a Kensington lock slot. A Thunderbolt 4 port, HDMI 2.1, a Mini DisplayPort and the power input.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition display

Acer outfitted the Helios 300 with a 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 screen that looks stunning in action whether you’re gaming or watching a video. A small spate of bumps on actor Kiki Palmer’s forehead were easy to see despite her grime-caked visage in the beginning of the Alice trailer. The sun sparkled in her jet black afro while accentuating her warm brown skin. The reddish undertones of her skin helped play up the ruby red blouse with its mustard yellow, black and white accents. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When I played CyberPunk 2077, the screen was awash in beautiful pink neon that stood out from the blue-black sky and added much needed color to the stark gray skyscrapers. Details were sharp enough that I saw the tire treads on my vehicle. 

Since this is a pre-production model, I couldn’t benchmark the panel, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the panel holds up against other 4K displays in the category.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition 3D effects

I knew 3D gaming would come back, I just didn’t expect it to come back so soon. Nor did I expect it to look and play so smoothly. However, Acer’s bringing its SpatialLabs solution to its gaming laptops to great effect. First seen on the company’s ConceptD series creator notebooks, SpatialLabs is a combination of an eye-tracking stereo camera, a stereoscopic 3D display and real-time rendering technologies. That means two things. 1. You can game in 3D. 2. You don’t need the dorky-looking glasses to do so. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The magic happens once you launch TrueGame in the SpatialLabs app. From there, you’ll see a list of compatible games installed on the system. Click on the title you want to play and the pair of eye-tracking cameras start tracking your eyes’ position while the Unreal 3D engine renders the scene in stereo creating an image pair for each eye. Then the 3D lens uses the image pairs and the info from the cameras to project the images to each eye creating the 3D effect. 

In action, I immediately noticed the display switching from a clear 4K display to 1080p with tiny horizontal lines running the width of the screen. When the God of War launched, the Santa Monica Studios logo was a bit hard to read. However, once the game started, everything came into focus with notable depth. 

And just like that, a leaping fire draugr got much more menacing as it really seemed like it was jumping towards me. As I, or rather Kratos and Atreus battled the fiery nuisances, I was impressed with how the rocky outcrops seem to jut out from the rest of the scene like you’d expect from a 3D plane. The action was silky smooth with no slow down or jaggies which was great because a delayed frame in Hard Mode in GOW will send you to Valhalla. 

So is the 3D effect as pronounced as you’d get in an IMAX theater? No, but for a 15.6-inch laptop sans 3D glasses, it’s definitely noticeable. Something else that’s notable is the sweet spot. If I moved my head anywhere that wasn’t dead center, the double image effect that you encounter when the 3D images aren’t perfectly aligned happens. And whether I was playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider, God of War or Tunic, there was a halo effect that resembled water condensation around the center of the panel, which I imagine is some sort of particle remnant. I’m curious to see if this effect persists with the stronger specs of the consumer system. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

SpatialLabs currently supports over 50 games including hits like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Forza Horizon 5, No Man’s Sky, God of War, Borderlands 2 and Tunic. 

But Acer has grander plans for its SpatialLabs than just playing games. Utilities such as SpatialLabs Go lets you view 2D content such as photos, videos or messaging in 3D while ModelViewer allows you to import and convert existing 3D files from CAD or CGI 3D software and view them in full geometric 3D. Finally, there’s Player where you can view videos side-by-side in 3D. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition audio

The Predator Helios 300’s bottom-mounted speakers came through on the highs and mids. Depending on the song, the lows were hit or miss. When I listened to PJ Morton and JoJo’s “SAY SO,” the piano, electric wind instrument, bass and snaps came through loud and clear, blanketing me in a soothing, yet melancholy tune. The vocalists’ gorgeous voices reigned supreme pushing a lovely harmony. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

However, when I listened to Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar’s “family ties,” the speakers couldn’t contend with the deep bass, creating a boomy, distorted sound instead of a powerful thump. The horns, violin and high hats were relatively undisturbed. Still, the speakers made sure that the rappers’ distinct voices came through with no problem. 

I got a better response when I switched over to gaming. I was treated to bodacious yells, the meaty thunk of metal settling into flesh and hair-raising shrieks during God of War. When I launched an explosive crystal into the maw of an enraged dragon, the speakers delivered a weighty boom followed by an agonizing scream from the wurm. 

You can tweak the audio somewhat using the DTS:X Ultra app which gives you eight presets to choose from (Automatic, Music, Voice, Movies, Strategy, RPG, Shooter and Custom Audio). Music gave the most balanced performance, but I recommend loading up DTS Sound Unbound and launching the DTS Headphone: X utility to add an immersive soundscape to either your headphones or gaming headset

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition keyboard and touchpad

I’m on the fence about the Helios 300’s keyboard. On one hand, the keys on the island-style keyboard are large and nicely spaced. Plus, you get a full number pad. However, the right Shift key is a bit short for my taste and the keys feel somewhat mushy. But when I took the 10fastfingers typing test, I had no problem hitting 72 words per minute, which slightly surpasses my usual 70 wpm. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

And what would any good premium gaming laptop be without a customizable light show? Acer relies on its Pulsar Lighting utility in the Predator Sense app to bring the multicolored oohs and ahhs. You can either painstakingly assign each key a color or opt for one of the 12 effect presets. This is also where you can switch up the light bar’s settings. 

My finger glided across the cool, smooth surface of the Predator Helios 300’s touchpad. Performing Windows 11 gestures such as pinch-zoom, two-finger scroll and three-finger flick was a breeze. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition graphics and gaming

My pre-production model of the Acer Predator Helios 300 has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU with 8GB of video memory. It’s also equipped with an Intel Iris Xe Graphics GPU for when you’re performing less demanding tasks like watching videos or working on a document. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Although we couldn’t run our full benchmarks on this system. I ran a couple to give you an idea of what the 3070 Ti can do. I ran the CyberPunk 2077 benchmark at 4K with everything, including ray tracing on ultra. The laptop averaged 30 frames per second, which increased to 42 fps on medium. But again, my configuration isn’t the one that’s going out to consumers so stay tuned for full benchmarks. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition performance

When the consumer edition of the Helios 300 launches, it will have a 3.8-GHz Intel Core i9-12900H processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. My pre-production model only has a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-12700H CPU and 16GB of RAM with a 2TB SSD. While I’m prohibited from running our normal benchmarks, I can say that the laptop maintained my 50 Google Chrome tabs which had a mix of Twitch, YouTube, Google Docs, TweetDeck, Google Sheets and news sites without breaking a sweat. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition battery life

Acer’s given the Predator Helios 300 an estimated battery life of six hours according to the MobileMark 2018 benchmark, 8.5 hours on video playback and nine hours for web browsing. However, this is for a differently specced system (Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, Nvidia RTX 3060 and a 1080, 165Hz display) and I’m curious to see how the Core i9 model with the RTX 3080 will stand up to the Laptop Mag battery test

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition heat

Gaming laptops are notorious for getting hot, particularly when gaming. Acer hopes to cool things off with its 5th gen AeroBlade 3D fan technology which features 89 ultra-thin fan blades coupled with a wind guiding structure. The company is also utilizing liquid metal thermal grease to help keep the CPU cool by creating more efficient heat transfer. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I’m eager for our labs to put this to the test when we get the consumer model in for review. What I can say right now is that the bottom vent blew relatively warm air on my bare legs as I played through Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 3D. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition webcam

You can expect some graininess, but if you needed to use the Helios 300’s 1080p webcam for video conferencing or livestreaming, it can get the job done. Despite the visual noise making my skin look like I used a mosaic effect, I was impressed with the color accuracy. The integrated shooter successfully captured the myriad of colors in my locs as well as my baby blue sweater. I also had no problems reading most of the text on the product boxes behind me in the shot. 

Still, for crystal clear results, I’d recommend checking out our best external webcams page. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition software

The Predator Helios 300 comes with a fair amount of preinstalled software, most of which is designed to enhance your gaming experience. First and foremost, you have PredatorSense, where you can adjust the lighting effects, monitor component temperature, adjust fan speed and create custom profiles for your games. There’s also Acer Care Center to check system diagnostics and initiate tuneups, updates and recovery. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Other gamer-focused software includes Killer Intelligence Center which allows you to prioritize network bandwidth and Nvidia GeForce Experience, which has its own suite of utilities designed to optimize gameplay. 

In case you want to do a bit of photo or video editing, the laptop also has CyberLink PhotoDirector 8 and PowerDirector 14. 

Unfortunately, you’ve got a small amount of bloatware including Disney+ and Parsec. But some apps are more helpful than others such as the Dropbox promotion that gives you 100GB of storage for free for a year and Norton Security Ultra. 

The Acer Predator Helios 300 ships with a one-year limited warranty. See how Acer fared on Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands, our annual features. 

Bottom line

If you told me that I’d be touching a 3D gaming laptop in 2022, I would have laughed in your face and I mean a mighty hard guffaw. But yet, almost 11 years since my last 3D system here comes Acer making me rethink what I thought was only a fad. The Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition laptop delivers powerful performance with a gorgeous display that seamlessly transitions from 4K to a glasses-free 1080p stereoscopic 3D experience. 3D gaming is smooth and definitely adds noticeable depth to compatible titles. 

Now the trick is, convincing gamers that this is worth investing in and unlike previous attempts at 3D gaming, this is more than just a flashy gimmick to the tune of $3,399. I think Acer is making a pretty good case as it has over 50 titles, the majority of them AAA, ready to play out the gate. It’s going to be on Acer to keep the stream of games coming to make this a worthwhile investment. But gamers looking for a non-VR method to achieve an immersive gaming experience, the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition is the way to go. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition Specs

Size14.1 x 10.9 x 1.1 inches
Display15.6-inch, 4K
CPUIntel Core i7-12700H
Price$3,399
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
BatteryN/A
Weight5.7 pounds
Storage2TB SSD
RAM16GB
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Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.