Acer makes good computers for normal home and office life but its also well known for its gaming machines. Acer makes killer gaming laptops. Off the top of the head I can think of the Predator Triton 700, the 21X and the Predator 15. Those laptops once again are incredible but they are pricey and for the most part they don’t address the needs of the casual gamer, they’re over qualified. Those laptops are for the serious, hardcore, power gamer. The Predator Helios series of gaming laptops is the happy medium. Acer placed a focus on making a series of laptops that give you enough power to play pretty much any game on the market for an affordable price. While the Helios 300 may not have the hardware of the aforementioned gaming laptops. It’s no slouch. It’s a gaming laptop that gives you so much for so little. We got to review the limited edition white and gold Predator Helios 300 and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it’s one of the best gaming laptops you can buy hands down.
Look, Function & Accessories
Design on the Predator Helios 300 has a look reminiscent of its younger brother the Acer Nitro 5 which I reviewed a while back. My assumption is Acer figured that they found a design that worked well for cooling and hardware placement so there was no need to change it. It’s literally a lighter and slightly thinner version. It’s not a problem in general. It’s a good looking machine and it’s not too futuristic looking to where as it looks silly. It looks like a gaming laptop would. The limited edition white and gold colorway is quite nice. At first it made me nervous because of the all white because I wondered if keeping it clean would be a constant thing. Would it change color and begin to turn yellow as it ages? How well would it mask nicks and scratches? These were all reasons to maybe recommend the black variant but until you see this version of the Predator Helios 300 up close and personal you won’t understand just how clean looking it is. Besides, the black version of the Helios 300 really looks like the Nitro 5 and if you’re going to get the Helios 300. Get this version.
Most of the chassis of the Helios 300 is plastic but it’s solid and sturdy. Gold accents are present throughout the Helios 300 notably on the hinge cover, back cover accents (which light up), Predator logos and the WASD keys. The Predator Helios 300 is a bundle. The version I received came with a wired Predator mouse, Predator logo branded earbuds and an Acer Predator mousepad all accented in white and gold.
The keyboard is full size, well-spaced, tactile and pretty clicky. Typing on it is smooth and when I’m writing basically anything there’s enough real estate below the keys to where I can give my wrists a rest. The number pad is a plus too. I’m realizing more and more how much I hate the numbers on top. The touchpad is ok. It’s a little off center towards the left which is a bit odd but not anything to point out as a flaw. MacBooks have me a little spoiled when it comes to touchpads I’ll admit. I have found myself using the bundled Predator mouse since I got it with this laptop so I haven’t had too much interaction with the touchpad but for the times I did use it. It was fine. Touchpads are kind of a hit or miss thing. Either you’ll like it or you won’t.
Brightness on the Helios 300 isn’t great if you compare it to other machines that get bright. The Helios 300 taps out at 230 nits which isn’t great but only if you intend to use it anywhere else but indoors then you’ll have some trouble seeing what’s on your screen. Brightness is not a big deal. Of course, it’s always better to have a brighter screen as conventional wisdom might dictate but if you’re going to be using the Helios 300 indoors most of the time then the brightness as it is on this screen is just fine. What you see when you look at the screen in full brightness is sharp and crispy.
The Predator Helios 300 is a gaming laptop so you know that it’s going to come packed with hardware and the spec sheet is going to be long. Unfortunately, I’m not that big on specs so I won’t bore you with all the details of this machine but I will give you breakdown of the necessary components that are most important that make up this great machine. There are quite a few variants of this machine and for the review, Acer loaned us a really good machine. The variant we’re using comes loaded with an 8th gen Intel core i7-8750H CPU with a 2.2 GHz clock speed, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, NVIDIA 6GB GTX 1060 GPU, 802.11 AC Wi-Fi, 720p webcam, 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 144Hz screen and 256GB M.2 SSD also upgradable with additional SATA HD slot underneath.
Ports are definitely not an issue on the Predator Helios 300. You have all the necessary ports one would need to be productive and to game as well. 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI, SD card reader, Ethernet, headphone jack and a lock slot for security.
Plenty of power and ports for your games and additional peripherals and controllers.
Gaming on the Predator Helios 300
Gaming is what the Predator Helios 300 is for. It’s why you would buy it. I tested the Predator Helios 300 with some of the more premium and complex games available right now. I started from simple games that don’t require a great deal of resources to run like Civilization VI to the more advanced and resource intensive games like Forza Horizon 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I’ll be focusing on those games and what settings I used and the tweaks that got me the best-case use of the 1060 GPU. I also played both games cranked up on the highest settings. I won’t bore you with charts, graphs or benchmarks but I will tell you how the Predator Helios 300 held up with each game. My personal settings for my play style made for a solid gaming experience with every game I played. The Predator Helios 300 held its own on all settings I tried.
Playing Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 is one of the most popular games this year and a game that requires some graphics power. Overall the game is fast paced and required some tweaking to get the most out of the GPU without having it run under too heavy a load just because you’re playing it. Tweaking was necessary here to get the graphics just right so that I wasn’t playing a game that looks cartoony. The screen on the Predator Helios 300 is crisp enough to whereas I didn’t have to use some of the settings in the game for the environment and background and just focus more on the action and driving. Having an 144Hz screen made my gameplay so smooth. This was the biggest factor for playing Forza Horizon 4. Between getting the settings right and the refresh rate of the screen, on average, with these custom settings I was getting 74-77 fps. Occasionally I would creep into the 80 fps per second but rarely. On the presets, it varied but was similar to the custom settings I had. I played Forza Horizon 4 with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 in low – medium settings, mostly medium. I went back and forth with the settings occasionally and the differences between the two settings changed frame rates slightly and I found that with medium settings I did have more instances with frozen frames but with low settings it didn’t happen at all. It also matters whether you drive in or out of cockpit mode. You can reduce or add settings and both will influence the gameplay. The Predator Helios 300 played Horizon 4 with ease on low and medium but Ultra settings was a challenge. Not only was it incredibly taxing but it forced the fans to crank up loud and although you try to ignore it while you’re playing, you really can’t. Surprisingly, the Helios 300 never got overwhelmingly hot even despite being pushed on Ultra. The ventilation and cooling system within the system itself work well although playing on Ultra settings in Forza kinda cranked it up to jet engine level but that was to be expected.
Playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a complex game because unlike Forza Horizon 4 the environment IS the game. While the environment is lush and beautiful in Forza Horizon 4 you’ll be paying more attention to the other racers or your cockpit and the road more so than the environment around you. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is heavily reliant on shadowing, lighting, textures, simulated natural light, reflections and list goes on. I had to be a little more careful when I played with the custom settings as you can see in the picture. Playing it safe graphics wise was really a personal thing for me with this game because I like consistency in frame rates and fewer hiccups due to playing on higher settings. I did however crank it all the way up to the highest settings and played the game for majority of the time that way. The game didn’t look totally different from the lowest settings but certain environments within the game and character features you could see big differences. On the lowest settings I was getting 70-78 fps and on the highest settings I dipped below 60 frames and was getting 40-50 fps. The experience wasn’t even despite the fps drop-off.
Gaming is really good on the Helios 300 and of course what anyone else gets out of it will vary. My settings are just what worked for me. Generally, the Helios 300 performed well if I consider how it performed at the highest settings as well. This machine is really built to be pushed to its limits. It’s for the gamer who wants to make sure than when they start up their games they can play them with little issue.
You get a lot for your money
Affordable gaming doesn’t have to look and feel like it. You might say $1300 isn’t exactly affordable and to some degree it isn’t but the Apple’s newest MacBook Air is $1200 and you can’t game on that machine AT ALL. The MacBook Pro is $1300 to start and you can’t game on that much either. The Predator Helios 300 is a “budget” gaming laptop when you consider all that you get with it. A solid gaming machine, mouse, mousepad and headphones. Acer didn’t cut a whole bunch of corners either. They made sure that gaming on a quality laptop is not such an expensive endeavor. We as gamers know how easily gaming costs can hit the 2 and 3 thousand mark if you want a powerful gaming machine especially in a laptop. With so much emphasis nowadays being placed on gaming in 4K it’s hard not to believe that you have to have a super powerful gaming machine. The Predator Helios 300 lets you game. Truthfully, gaming on PC is best at 1080 and 1440p in my opinion. This laptop does 1080p very well. Of course, you can crank it up a notch and play with your graphics settings and push your limits but this machine isn’t really for that. It’s the casual gamer this machine appeals to. I played Forza Horizon 4, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield V, NBA 2K19 and GTA V easily and smoothly with the occasional hiccup but that’s PC gaming, it happens.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday unfortunately over this is still very easily a machine that you can afford to gift someone who is a gamer in your family and it’s also a laptop you personally can invest in if you’re a gamer. It’s one of the best gaming bundles not related to a gaming console there is. There’s so much to like with the Helios 300 and a few things to not like so much but the pros far outweigh the cons and I’d HIGHLY recommend this laptop to anyone looking for a gaming laptop. Acer absolutely nailed it and with Xmas holiday weeks away this is the time to pick up this laptop for your gaming needs. Head to Acer’s website and buy it direct from them or of course check your favorite retailer.
– Fantastic price for the bundle
– Limited Edition white colorway is so cool
– Added accessories add more value
– 144hz screen
– Most games play smoothly on medium settings
– Great screen
– Design too familiar to the Nitro 5
– No other GPU option
– Loud under load
– Ultra graphics settings may pose a problem