Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming notebook review

CPU
Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-9750H @ 2.2Ghz
GPU
Integrated Intel HD 630 / Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
RAM
16GB DDR4
STORAGE
2 x 512 GB SSD
DISPLAY
15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) @ 144Hz
PORTS
3 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB-C, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini-DisplayPort, 1 x RJ45 ethernet, 1 x audio and mic combo jack
PRICE
From R25,000
SUPPLIER
Acer

Acer has been on fire over the last few years with its local offerings of gaming hardware, most notably, and the incredible Thronos gaming chair that has everybody in awe whenever it goes on display. For most people, a mammoth gaming rig like that is something only afforded with lottery spoils, should one be so lucky. For me, it’s evidence that the company is serious about gaming, or at least gamer enough to put something like that together for the consumer market – no matter how crazy niche the market is.

So it was with much excitement that I employed the services of the Acer Predator Helios 300 for a few weeks. If you’ve been following my gaming notebook reviews over the years, you’ll know that I put these things through their paces in my day-to-day role. For me. it’s not just about gaming – I also expect a notebook to handle any creative work I throw at it, with ease.

Aesthetically, I’m happy to see that most gaming notebook designs have moved away from overly engineered showpieces to functioning computers that can be used in any environment. The Helios 300 is just that, and while keeping a few aggressive-looking angles and playful RGB, I wasn’t embarrassed to whip out this beast when I visited a client’s office.

Opening the lid, you’re a greeted with a pleasantly sturdy hinge that will let you easily lift the screen with one hand. The 15.6-inch monitor that lights up is a pretty impressive piece of tech and features a 144Hz refresh rate with a 3ms response time. This means you get much better frame rates, thus delivering a smoother gaming experience.  The resolution is a respectable 1920 x 1080 pixels and will be more than sufficient for most gamers. Considering that powerful – and overclockable – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, I would’ve loved to see a higher resolution panel as an option on the product sheet but that feature is reserved for the high-end Triton range of notebooks. It should also be noted that the LCD panel features a matte finish, something that I’m fond of.

The keyboard features a full set of keys, including a numpad on the right-hand side. The W, A, S, D and arrow keys are highlighted with the signature Predator blue, and the entire thing lights up with its own zoned RGB backlighting. As a sucker for RGB, the Helios 300 offers a good balance with the layout of RGB on this device. In terms of the keys, the typing experience offered a good overall experience, with a firm press that feels solid on each strike. For gaming, this is a great keyboard too. I like the raised edge at the bottom of each one of the gaming keys, as it makes finding the right keys easy when you’re focussing on the screen and lifting a beer between shots. True story.

 

The touchpad is the only thing I didn’t like about the Helios 300. It feels flimsy when pressed, and imprecise. I don’t use the trackpad often and gamers using this notebook likely won’t either, but it’s something worth noting when trying out the demo unit before you buy.

When it comes to I/O, I have mixed feelings about the placement of the ports on any given notebook. Some manufactures opt for rear-air vents and side-I/O, while others go for a more balanced approach. Acer went all it on the side-I/O placement and to be honest, I can’t get used to it – I prefer the bigger cables to plug into the rear of the device. In this case, the power and network cable connect to the left-hand side along with two USB 3.0 ports and the audio jack, and on the right, a miniDisplay port and an HDMI port. For data, there’s a USB Type C and a single USB 3.0 port. Unfortunately, if you run a dual-screen setup with your notebook there will be a cable competing for desk space on the right-hand side of this notebook.

Where I cannot find fault on this notebook, is performance. The demo model of the Helios 300 I reviewed featured the Intel Core i7-8750H processor running at 2.2Ghz. Retail versions of this notebook will sport the Intel i7-9750H version. There’s 16GB of RAM and two 512GB SSD drives configured in RAID 0. For content creators this adds a little boost in speed for managing large files like 4K video. The star of the show is, of course, the Nvida Geforce RTX 2060 which is a great GPU for mid-range gamers but in this case, even pros will appreciate. Gaming performance is impressive and pushing Battlefield V’s real-time raytracing capabilities is fun.

For creative work such as video editing, the Helios 300 performed like a dream. It handled large files easily and Adobe After Effects seems to have no loading issues at all, even with some of the more complex effects I use. For editing video on the go, the built-in speakers offers a good experience and a fair volume. Gaming without headphones is also doable in a pinch.

BOTTOM LINE
Apart from the issues, this powerhouse is an awesome machine to carry around. In terms of value for money, the Acer Predator Helios 300 offers a good balance between features and price - and at just over R25,000, depending on configuration, this is a very compelling option.
PROS
Great performance
Dual 512GB SSDs
CONS
Power cable and HDMI port placement
Finicky trackpad
80
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