The gaming laptop market is heavily saturated, so new ideas are needed for manufacturers attempting to create something interesting, something that differs from the competition. That's what Acer has chosen to do with its new and unconventional cooling system. First, however, let's take a look at what you get for your hard-earned £2,999.
The Acer Predator Helios 700 is an impressive portable beast, boasting a 17.3'', 144Hz, 1080p IPS display, a 1TB NVMe hard drive consisting of two separate 512 drives in RAID 0, 16GB RAM, an i7-9750H CPU, and an RTX 2080 graphics card. If you would like a better processor, the laptop comes in an i9 variety as well as up to 2TB NVMe storage and 64GB RAM, but that'll cost you.
The network aspect is run through Killer E3000 2.5 GBPS Ethernet and WIFI 6. That said, we can't seem to remember a gaming laptop without Killer Ethernet and thus, can't really say if it's any better or worse than its competitor, but we have yet to have any issues with the setup now or in the past.
The machine weighs in at 4.9kg and is just over 4cm thick. It has two USB-C ports, one with Thunderbolt 3, a standard USB 3.1 port, an HDMI port, a LAN port, a display port as well as a microphone and a headphone jack. The chassis is made up of a dark plastic shell and has bright blue cooling fins by the vents. Beneath the cover you have access to the RAM and the hard drive, granting users the option to upgrade the system down the line.
There are two aspects that stand out from the rest of the build, or rather, three. First of all, we have the price. At the price point, we were not expecting an RTX 2080 but rather, an RTX 2070, and we also expected a 512GB hard drive rather than the 1TB we ended up receiving. We also didn't expect it to be so heavy. The cooling is quite unique as well as one can boost the cooling by sliding the keyboard down and thus exposing the two big fans hiding underneath. Doing this also extends the wrist support. The feature, of course, has an official name, 'HyperDrift'. The feature sounds odd, but when you pull the keyboard down, you hear a Star Trek-like sound, and while we don't want to admit it, we played around with this feature quite a bit. The machine also has RGB lighting, because of course it does.
Another welcome feature is the turbo button, which works splendidly. There's also an overclocked state available called 'Extreme' because, of course, a gamer needs extreme power. Speaking of power, however, the 72Wh battery drains fast, so users should be aware of the fact that having the laptop plugged in at all times is close to a necessity, especially when having the keyboard pulled out, which puts the computer into 'boosted' mode.
While it's easy to fault the build for its thick chassis and its unusually thick screen edge, there are extenuating circumstances that make it so. The keyboard itself is thick as it houses so-called MAGforce keys. Acer wants to create its own connectors and this is made a reality through the WASD keys. Each of these are linear keys where the pressure delivered determines the force of said pressure, much like the buttons on the back of a Dualshock controller. We've seen technology like this in other keyboards before, but we can't seem to recall seeing it in a laptop keyboard before. In addition, you can also change the low-profile keys' top plate for different variations, should you wish to do so. Acer also lets you know that you can replace the switches with standard ones, which we assume just means that you can switch off the variable part of the switch so that it becomes binary. Activated or not activated. The trackpad also works fine, but we realise that few will use a trackpad for gaming no matter its quality.
Beneath the keyboard, one can find extremely sensible Aeroblade fans. These make quite a bit of noise but are also extremely effective. The entirety of the Aeroblade hardware is hidden behind a Corning Gorilla glass plate. Cooling is provided through the use of five large heat pipes, and internal evaporation chambers. That, in turn, makes the thickness of the laptop all the more strange. Most manufacturers, Acer included, are capable of creating powerful laptops that are half as thick, screen included.
The software that controls it all, the brains of the machine, if you will, is called PredatorSense, and it even allows for easy overclocking and easy controlling of general settings. The software does a fine job and is very visually strong in its presentation. The screen works fine. It's not a phenomenal pictorial experience by any means, but we didn't feel like we were missing anything either. However, we will note that the colours are on the low-saturated side and that one may feel like it's not a 1ms screen (9ms, 7ms grayscale) and that is actually the weakest part of the design.
Acer states that the Helios 700 has a battery life of up to three hours, which we find to be a quite optimistic statement, and it takes over two hours to fully charge it. If you use it for gaming, we'd say that you can expect half an hour to an hour of game time when not plugged in - on a good day. If you turn the brightness down to the lowest setting, you'll hit the three hours. On the other hand, the power brick that comes with the laptop is very large and incredibly powerful and considering the lacking battery life, you'll want to use it when you can.
Of course, this wouldn't have been a review without some benchmarks, so here they are:
Time Spy: 10114
Time Spy Extreme: 4675
Fire Strike Ultra: 6317
Fire Strike Extreme: 11728
Fire Strike: 21313
Port Royal: 6481
Total War: Warhammer II
Assasins Creed Odyssey
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
The Division 2
Far Cry 5
We have to note that the Omen X 2S with similar specifications annihilates the Helios 700 in this test with up to 27,000. On the other hand, it makes a lot less noise but hits 90 degrees on the CPU.
The Helios 700 is also gnawing at the heels of MSI's Titan 76, which, we should mention, costs twice as much and is also plagued by some serious noise issues.
The amazing performance that comes with the 'boosted' mode elevates the noise levels significantly. Sure, its 54dB is a bit less noisy than the MSI Titan 76's 71dB, but 54dB is still way too loud for a modern gaming laptop. In contrast, the cooling was also decidedly intense, the GPU sat at 26 when idle and 56 when being maxed out. The CPU also ran at 30 when idle and 57 in maximum use. These are the lowest degrees we've ever measured, which is also why we're surprised by the noise factor considering 20 degrees higher would have been totally fine and would most likely keep the noise down. Just 10dB less noise would have been ideal.
In normal use, the computer is quite pleasant to use, reaching 36dB and the CPU idling at 28 degrees, maxing out at 70. The GPU idles at 34, hitting 81 at maximum use which is quite high, but not critically high.
The Helios 700 is thick, heavy, loud, powerful and equipped with strange but functional features, but it's also rather cheap for what you get for your money. It's too heavy for everyday portable use, but it can be easily transported if needed.
Price and performance-wise, it's a phenomenal piece of tech if you can look past the weight and shut the sound out with a pair of soundproof headphones when turbocharging, and the removable keyboard truly shows what mobile gaming can accomplish.
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