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Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) Review

Acer Predator Helios 300
Acer Predator Helios 300

Helios may be the God of the Sun in Greek mythology, but the Helios 300 from Acer is out to be the god of portable gaming. It throws the thin and light ethos out the door in favor of horsepower, connectivity, and effective cooling. Coming in at $2099, it packs a 12th Gen Intel processor, an Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti, and a blisteringly fast 1440p display. If you’re in the market for a powerful gaming laptop you can take on the go, and don’t mind its larger size, this is definitely one worth giving a closer look.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Overview

Model Helios 300
Product Acer Predator Helios 300
Region NA
Country/Region NA
Machine Type PH315-52-78VL
Processor Intel Core i7-9750H (6C / 12T, 2.6 / 4.5GHz, 12MB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6
Graphics Memory Dedicated
Memory 2x 8GB DIMM DDR4-2666
Storage 256 GB SSD M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe
Acer Predator Helios 300
Display 15.6″ FHD (1920×1080) IPS  Anti-glare, 144Hz
Touchscreen None
Keyboard LED Backlit
Pointing Device TouchPad
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
WLAN + Bluetooth IEEE 802.11ac
Network (RJ-45) Yes
Camera 720
Microphone Yes
Total Number of USB Ports 3
Finger Print No – Acer Predator Helios 300
Speakers 2 Speakers
HDMI Yes
Battery 3720 mAh 4-Cell Lithium
Power Adapter 180W
Operating System Windows 10 Home 64
Acer Predator Helios 300 Color Black
Base Warranty 1-Year, International
Weight (Approximate) 5.51 lb
Color Black
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Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) – Photos

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) – Design and Features

The Acer Predator Helios is a powerful gaming laptop at a competitive price. Though it’s large, Acer puts that size to good use with performance components, exceptional connectivity, and ample cooling. Here are the specs for the model we were sent.

  • Model: Acer Predator Helios 300
  • Display: 15.6-inch IPS (3ms), 300-nits
  • Resolution: 2560 x 1440, 240Hz
  • Processor: 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12700H
  • Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti 8GB
  • Memory: 16 GB LPDDR5, 4800 MHz (upgradeable to 32GB)
  • OS: Windows 11 Home
  • Storage: 1 TB NVMe SSD
  • Webcam: 1080p
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with PD, Thunderbolt 4 and USB charging, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 with Power Off Charging, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x HDMI 2.1 w/HDCP support, 1 x Mini Display 1.4, 1 x RJ45 Ethernet, 1 x headset combo port, 1 x Kensington Lock
  • Connectivity: Killer Ethernet E2600 10/100/1000, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 90 wHr
  • Dimensions: 14.15 x 10.88 x 0.98 (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 5.73-pounds
  • Price: $2099.99

Our review sample is the highest configuration currently available, but if you don’t need all of that power, two other options are available at a reduced price. Both models scale the resolution back to 1080p and use lower-powered Nvidia RTX 3060 GPUs. They also come with a smaller 512GB SSD. The key difference lies in the screen. The more affordable $1349.99 model uses a 15.6-inch 165Hz display. The second tier configuration bumps that size to 17 inches and 144Hz at $169.99.

Compared to last year’s model, Acer has scaled back and streamlined the design, removing the RGB light bars from the lid and shrinking the logo down to a small prismatic stamp. Instead of RGB, the lid now uses a mix of brushed aluminum across the majority of its surface and straight matte black on the upper third. It looks much more grown up and refined while still having that unmistakable bit of Predator edge.

It’s business in the front and party in the back. The keyboard is brighter than ever before and is one of the most vibrant I’ve seen on a gaming laptop. Its per-key RGB is driven by Mini LEDs that are brighter and more power-efficient than last year’s model. It’s also completely programmable with custom lighting schemes if you crave more personalization.

Despite being a 15.6-inch laptop, Acer has managed to squeeze an entire Numpad onto the deck. It’s great if you plan to use the laptop for work and doubles as a macro pad for gaming. Adding those extra keys shifts everything a bit to the left and demands that every button is a bit smaller, but it’s not hard to get used to. The keys are tactile and have good travel at 1.8mm. It took me less than an hour to adapt.

Expanding the keyboard also gives Helios room for dedicated buttons to launch its PredatorSense customization software and one-click overclock the GPU. A PredatorSense button is positioned just to the right of Backspace and puts power modes, fan options, and lighting presets at your fingertips. Above that are dedicated keys for Play/Pause, Next, and Previous Track. All the way on the left, above the function row, is a silver Turbo button that instantly overclocks the GPU and turns the fans on high.

The touchpad isn’t great. It’s oddly positioned, off-center from both the deck and the typing area, and feels an inch too narrow. My fingers glided easily over its glass surface, but the integrated buttons were finicky. Because of the positioning of the keyboard, my thumb was often just too high on the pad to easily press.

As you might have guessed from the expanded keyboard, the Helios isn’t exactly thin and light. It’s 14 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and just shy of a full inch thick. It also tips the scales at 5.73 pounds and includes a giant power adapter that is two pounds all on its own. It comes with a big 90-WHr battery, but you’ll still need to pack some kind of charger for more than a few hours of active use. Thankfully, it supports USB charging, so a high-wattage GaN charger will do the trick with a much smaller footprint.

Part of that limited battery life is because the hardware doesn’t exactly sip power, but the bigger element is its high-performance screen. The Helios comes with an impressive 1440p (2K) IPS display. It’s bright and color-rich. Games and movies looked great on it. Colors are enjoyably saturated and there’s enough brightness to make images pop. The 240Hz refresh rate is perfect for competitive shooters, reducing input lag and motion blur in one fell swoop.

The speakers are also surprisingly decent. They’re not mind-blowing and still lack some bass, but they get loud and are crystal clear. They’re a good fit for binging Netflix, but don’t have the same positionality and presence to deliver a truly excellent gaming experience. They’re better than most laptop speakers but still won’t replace a dedicated gaming headset.

Another small upgrade coming with this generation is the improved webcam. It’s been bumped to 1080p and can look very good in proper lighting conditions. In the picture above, I have a floor lamp in one corner of the room and a window to my left. It’s a definite upgrade from the average 720p shooters still found on most gaming laptops today but still flounders in harsh lighting conditions. It’s easily blown out by windows behind you and becomes grainy quickly in low light.

Acer also deserves points for build quality and easy upgradability here. The lid and keyboard deck are both aluminum and feel sturdy. The bottom panel and bezels are plastic to limit the amount of heat going directly into the screen and your lap. The hinge feels sturdy and stays in position once you place it and doesn’t wobble much when typing.

The system comes with 16GB of DDR5 memory and 1TB of storage but is upgradeable if you’re comfortable removing the bottom panel. There are eleven screws to remove and you’ll need a spudger to pry it off, but once you’re inside, there are two M.2 SSDs slots (one empty), and easily accessible RAM under a metal shield.

While the Helios 300 may fall on the thicker side, it offers plenty of ports to connect your peripherals and accessories. For USB, it features one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port with Power Delivery, Thunderbolt 4, and USB charging support, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (one of which supports power-off charging), and one USB 3.2 Gen 1 port. There’s one HDMI 2.1 port (with HDCP support) and a Mini Display 1.4 jack for video out, an RJ45 jack for wired ethernet, a headset combo jack, and a slot to fit a Kensington Lock. For wireless connectivity, it supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2. Connectivity options are simply excellent and leave room for a full set of peripherals, external storage, and a separate display.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) – Performance

Inside the chassis is an assortment of tech that puts the Helios 300 in competition with full-size PCs, and that’s no small feat for a gaming laptop. Its suite of a 12th-Gen Core i7-12700H processor, Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti, 16GB of DDR5 memory, and 1TB NVMe SSD make for a powerful combination that’s up to the task in modern games.

Like all gaming laptops, performance is about more than just hardware. Thermals play an equally important role, and the Helios throws an extra consideration into the mix: its 1440p screen. Higher resolutions are harder to run but return on their investment with improved visuals. Before getting into my subjective impressions, here’s how the laptop performed in our round of benchmark tests.

As you can see, Helios offers a good bang for the buck. At 1440p, it offered 60 FPS or more in all of our tests. Dropping the resolution to 1080p improved things further, pushing it above the similarly-specced and much more expensive Lenovo Legion 5 Pro. Throughout my testing, the laptop’s new liquid metal thermal grease and 5th generation Aeroblade fans kept the temperatures in check, hovering between 65-67C for the CPU and 70C for the GPU in real games. Thermal throttling isn’t an issue at all.

Those results come with a big caveat: noise. Our tests were done on the highest performance preset (Turbo), which cinches the win in Metro Exodus and our synthetic tests but turns the laptop into a tiny jet engine. Lowering performance to Extreme mode helps, but leaves some frames on the table. This is especially important at 1440p where more games will hover around 60 FPS and need that extra boost to remain above water. Gaming laptops are a balancing act between performance, temperatures, and noise levels. The Helios balances them well in its Default mode, but once you start gaming, noise becomes an issue.

Also Read: New Razer Blade Stealth Laptop Is Insanely Thin And Powerful

There’s no way around how bulky the laptop is, however. At nearly six pounds by itself, it’s already heavy, but when you add in the additional two-pound power adapter, it’s enough to feel in your back at the end of the day. It supports USB charging, however, so buying a small GaN charger is an option to leave the power brick at home. That size nets you a full number pad on the keyboard, easy memory upgrades, lower temperatures, and higher consistent performance, however, so it really comes down to what you’re looking to achieve with your gaming laptop.

For gaming outside of our set tests, I was impressed at how well it performed. It was able to play just about anything I tried smoothly, and the 1440p screen really is excellent. While few games will hit 240Hz even at 1080p, the combination of low input delay, reduced motion blur, and smooth motion from Nvidia G-Sync made gaming feel exceptionally smooth and responsive.

If 1440p is too demanding, I found that 1080p still looked very good and resulted in major performance gains. Often, games that would hover around 75 FPS at 1440p would jump into the triple digits at 1080p. That’s not always necessary if games support DLSS, Nvidia’s intelligent upscaling technology. Since the RTX 3070, Ti supports DLSS, enabling it can provide a similar jump while staying at full 1440p resolution.

With that in mind, I was mostly very impressed throughout my review window. Even outside of gaming, the performance is snappy, even in demanding applications like Adobe Premiere Pro or streaming to Twitch while playing a game and monitoring chat. For normal web browsing and content consumption, it’s excellent. There is no lag to speak of, making this a solid and easy transition from a full-fledged gaming desktop.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) – Battery Life

The Acer Predator Helios 300 features a large 90 WHr battery. Running a rig with powerful hardware and lots of RGB will deplete even the largest battery, so if you plan to take it to work or school, you’ll need to turn down some settings. For our testing, we reduced screen brightness to 50%, disabled the RGB backlighting, locked the screen to 60Hz using integrated graphics, and put Windows into Battery Saver mode. These settings act as a reasonable stand-in for how you’d configure it for extended use throughout the day and give the laptop its best shot at extensive battery life.

What do you look for most in a gaming laptop?

With that configuration locked in, we ran the PCMark 10 Modern Office battery test. This test automates mixed-use activities ranging from video conference calls to online shopping, including periods of inactivity throughout the test. The Helios ran for a total of four hours and three minutes. This well exceeds the similarly specced Lenovo Ideapad L340 but still means you’ll need to plug in if you plan to use it for a whole workday.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) – Software

The Acer Predator Helios 300 comes with a range of software generally targeted at customizing the PC and creating content but falls into some traps with bloatware. The most important application is PredatorSense, where you can adjust the laptop’s current performance mode, customize the lighting, monitor system performance and temperatures, create performance presets for individual games, and access other installed apps.

PredatorSense is easy to navigate and use. Every section has its own tab with simple buttons and toggles to change settings. The performance mode tab even includes a helpful tooltip that explains the differences between the modes. Even as a veteran laptop gamer, I had trouble figuring out the difference between “extreme” and “turbo” modes at a glance, so having that broken down in more detail was helpful. (Turbo is overclocked, by the way). Oddly, the Quiet performance mode can only be used when plugged in, which is the opposite of what you would expect from what should be the most power-efficient preset.

The app also lets you adjust fan settings, but this is much less useful. The stock settings are dialed in well, and I found that any adjustment pretty much forced the fans into varying degrees of loudness. You might be able to lower temperatures a degree or two by tweaking these settings, but since there is plenty of headroom already, custom fan curves can safely be left to tinkerers and enthusiasts.

Also Read: MacBook Air 11 Inch Review – A Ultraportable Machine

Along with PredatorSense, Acer has equipped the laptop with a range of other useful applications. Killer Intelligence Center allows you to monitor and customize network functionality. There’s also DTS Sound Unbound and DTS X Ultra to configure and enhance the sound from the built-in speakers or headphones. The Helios also comes with versions of PowerDirector and PhotoDirector to help get your feet wet creating content. Acer Care Center displays important information, like your serial number, and allows you to download updates from right inside the app.

The Planet9 gaming client also comes ready to be installed on the PC. If you choose to download the full program, you’ll have access to a League of Legends assistant, an in-game translator, a chat interface with instant language translation, a battle tracker and screenshot tool, and a screenshot annotator, allowing you to mark up pictures and share strategies with friends.

Acer continues to riddle its PCs with bloatware, however, and this notebook is no exception. Acer Jumpstart seems to exist purely to advertise to you. That is, in my opinion, completely unacceptable on a $2100 laptop. ExpressVPN and Dropbox come preinstalled. It also comes with a one-year subscription to Norton Security Ultra, which is notoriously invasive. In just the two weeks I had the laptop for testing, it threw up an obnoxious amount of notifications and even started stripping “scripts” from PDFs sent by trusted sources. The Helios 300 is hardly the worst offender when it comes to bloatware, but you’ll need to spend some time cleaning these applications off if you don’t want them.

 

Verdict

The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a solid, if bulky, laptop. It offers great performance for the money. If you don’t mind its larger size, it’s definitely worth a closer look.
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