Focused on mid-range performance, Acer’s Predator Helios 300 (2019) offers a hybrid between both gaming and productivity features. Its Intel Core-i7 9750H processor, 16GB of RAM and NVIDIA GTX 1660Ti graphics card makes for a formidable combination. But does it prove itself in the real world?
Mean but fragile design
Over the years, Acer has done a great job when it comes to laptop design. The Helios 300 is no different with its venting on the rear and a bulky body overall. It has blue accents, a light up logo and plenty of RGB, just like how a gaming laptop should be. To lug this around everyday would be a bit difficult. However, if you are to take it on your travels, make sure you pair it with a sleeve. The extra protection is important especially for the display of the device. The lid has a bit more flex to it than usual which is why we firmly recommend the protection. Otherwise, in terms of I/O, the laptop is fairly standard.
You find 3x Type-A USB ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI 2.0, a headphone jack, the power input and a Type-C USB port. Unfortunately, there is no Type-A USB 3.1 support nor is there an SD card reader. As far as accessibility is concerned, the Ethernet port is a bit more difficult to access than the usual and if you are plugging in a lot of devices, the power cable’s head is on the larger side, which tends to obstruct some of the nearby ports.
On the inside of the laptop, you find a 15.6-inch IPS LCD display. It has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and a refresh rate of 144Hz, which makes everything on screen extremely smooth. Viewing angles for the display are good and watching multimedia content on it is a joy. This is especially the case paired with the laptop’s stereo speakers but we would have liked the bezels on the display to be just a tad smaller.
When faced with direct light too, the display holds its own. You can use it just fine at full brightness in this situation. But most importantly, paired with its 3ms response time, it is ideal for all types of gaming sessions. I would have liked the panel to be a more saturated like what we are used to on smartphones these days but this does the job just fine.
Premium feeling keyboard
While not as satisfying as a mechanical keyboard, the Predator Helios 300 comes with a solid keyboard. Its base is robust and typing is a pleasure on it, with the keys having a good amount of travel. In the past months, I would have had a problem with the smaller ‘Enter’ key however having seen it on many laptops now, I have gotten used to it.
Alongside the solid feeling hardware, the keyboard also comes with RGB back lighting. This allows you to customise its look and suit it to your personal preference. Via Acer’s Predator Sense software, customisation is easy and intuitive. And in addition to configuring how the keyboard looks, the software allows for features such as overclocking, monitoring and controlling fan speeds.
The trackpad though, feels a bit less premium. Its touch response is great however the feedback it gives off when clicked is not the best. As I always say, I prefer to have trackpads with dedicated buttons because they are harder to get wrong. Unfortunately, with Acer’s implementation here, you would be better off using an external mouse, both during daily usage and when gaming.
As mentioned earlier, the laptop’s specifications epitomise that Acer wants to put performance first. Alongside this hardware, you also find a 256GB SSD and a 1TB HDD for storage. I am a fan of this hybrid combination because it keeps your operating system fairly smooth yet gives you enough space to store all of your data. Personally, I tested the laptop with a variety of popular games, through some benchmarks and with video editing software. Playing games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends and Gears of War 5 at their recommended settings, it was great to see the laptop perform well. For Fortnite and Apex Legends, the laptop maintained 90-100 fps which was great. And in Gears of War 5, this dipped to around 60-65 fps however this was still playable.
The additional ‘Turbo’ mode on the laptop allows you to take full advantage of its internals. But by turning it on, fan noise and temperatures for the Helios 300 rise, which is not ideal. As great as performance is though, this is still at 1080p resolution. If you intend to game at 4K resolution, this hardware may not be enough. Furthermore, the GTX 1660Ti with its 6GB of dedicated VRAM does not support ray tracing, which future gaming titles will look to incorporate. And support for this may be better optimised with an RTX graphics card instead.
Battery life as expected
Using the laptop without gaming or high-end applications open, you can get between 4-4.5 hours of backup at 50 per cent brightness. This is not necessarily bad but of course, we would always like more. When gaming though, this dropped to around the 1-hour mark, which is pretty standard for any gaming laptop. As such, it would be a pretty good call to carry the laptop’s charger around wherever you go. It is slightly bulky but it would help if you have to work or game on the go.
For what it offers, the Acer Predator Helios 300 (2019) is a great package. A similar version of the device with 24GB of RAM is available locally for an asking price of Dh6,299. And this is where Acer’s offering loses out. While the higher than usual price tag may be justified because of the higher refresh rate panel or Acer’s custom software, the general consumer may not opt for it. In fact, if you are looking for identical specifications, Lenovo’s Y540 gaming laptop offers the same for a significantly lower price tag. And with the 144Hz refresh rate and arguably a better RTX 2060 graphics card, HP’s new Omen is definitely more value for money.