Our Rating: 8.8/10
Acer Predator Helios 300 Review:
Pros & Cons
This laptop can handle any game on medium or higher settings with no problems and will handle esports titles easily
The 144Hz 1080P display is a remarkable feature to include on a laptop at this price point
With an Intel Core i7-8750H and 16GB of RAM, this laptop can run CPU intensive programs well, too
The cooling isn’t ideal—but, you probably shouldn’t expect much better cooling in this price range
Why I Chose the Acer Predator Helios 300
I’ve never owned a capable gaming laptop because I’ve mainly stuck to playing games on my desktop gaming PC. And, in the past, I’ve typically advocated for building your own computer as opposed to getting a pre-built gaming computer or buying a gaming laptop.
However, there’s no denying the that for some users, the mobility of a laptop is a necessity. And, while I’ve mainly played games on my desktop in the past, I’ve recently had the desire to have a more mobile option for gaming. Not to mention, I’ve recently added a height adjustable desk to my office and with a capable laptop I can now split sitting and working at my desktop, to standing and working from my laptop.
So, I set out to find a gaming laptop that would match my needs. And, those needs were, mainly, that the laptop needed to be able to run any game on a 1080P monitor on at least medium settings. So, I was looking at both GTX 1070 laptops and GTX 1060 laptops. I also really wanted a laptop with a larger 17.3″ screen. And, because of that, I originally considered getting the ASUS ROG Strix Scar II or the Acer Helios 500.
However, as I’m mainly playing Rocket League at the moment, I thought the GTX 1070 that came in the Scar II and the Helios 500 would be a little overkill. So, I decided to save a bunch of money and grab the Acer Predator Helios 300 for about ~$600 less. It does have a smaller screen (15.6-inches), but I figured that the GTX 1060 would be enough to meet my gaming needs and so I was willing to sacrifice the screen size to save a bunch of money.
In any case, I’ve been using the laptop now for about a month now and I’m ready to give my review on how it has performed so far. So, if you’re interested in what the Helios 300 brings to the table, keep reading!
Acer Predator Tech Specs
|Processor||Intel Core i7-8750H|
|Graphics||GTX 1060 6GB|
|Memory||16GB 2666MHz DDR4|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Storage||256GB NVME SSD|
|Connections||USB-C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, SD Card Reader|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Dimensions||10.5″ x 15.4″ x 1.0″|
Unboxing the Helios 300
Well, I’ll tell you what… unboxing a gaming laptop goes by a whole lote quicker than unboxing a bunch of individual components for a new PC build. In fact, it’s a bit underwhelming.
That’s not really Acer’s fault, I imagine there’s just not a lot to unboxing any laptop. You get a laptop and a charger. And, that’s all you really need.
Still, though, Acer’s packaging is nice looking. The laptop comes in a black carboard box with the Acer Predator log on it and a handle as well and inside of that box is another smaller black box (with another Acer Predator logo on it) that contains the laptop.
Opening up the smaller box and getting an initial look at the new laptop was definitely the best part (obviously).
There’s some plastic covering on the laptop as well to keep the exterior looking as good as possible during shipping.
Overall, the unboxing experience wasn’t anything extraordinary… but, we didn’t buy the laptop to unbox it. We bought it to play games on it.
The Helios 300’s Design & Keyboard
One of the coolest aspects of the Acer Predator Helios 300 is the design of its chassis. It has a very sleek-looking and somewhat “aggressive” design—almost like a… Predator! It sports a black casing (metal top and plastic bottom) that has red and chrome accents. The Predator logo on the back is also in chrome.
The laptop also has a sturdy build quality to it. It weigh in at a little over 5.5 pounds, which, while not the lightest laptop out there, it definitely isn’t one of the heaviest either. Heavier gaming laptops are usually a sign of advanced cooling, whereas lighter laptops are usually more compact and don’t deal with heat quite as well. So, the laptop neither being overly heavy or overly light could shed some light on its cooling performance (we’ll get to that in a second.)
But at just under 6 lbs.,you really shouldn’t have any problem taking this laptop on the go.
The keyboard is pretty decent. It has red LED backlighting (which can’t be changed) and the WASD keys are outlined in a red trim so that they stand out. It comes with a standard keyboard with a numberpad on the right-hand side. Like most laptops, it has a condensed Space Bar key and the right shift and left control keys are condensed as well.
Honestly, I haven’t used the keyboard too much as I do all my typing on my desktop and, of the games I have mainly played on the laptop, I’ve stuck to games where I can kick back in bed and use a controller to play (Rocket League, The Witcher 3, etc.). But, for the games I have tested where a keyboard and mouse is the only option (PUBG, League of Legends, etc.) the keyboard has worked just fine.
I don’t really have much to say about the track pad. I suppose you could say it’s about as good of a track pad as you’ll find. However, I use a mouse whenever possible—and, when I do have to use the track pad, I get frustrated fairly easily. That’s not something that I can contribute to this track pad specifically, but more to track pads in general—they’re just not my cup of tea.
Cooling Performance: It’s Not Ideal… But, It Doesn’t Seem to Have A Big Impact on Performance
I wanted to cover the cooling performance on the laptop before I get into how it performs in games, because it’s important to note that the Helios 300 doesn’t offer ideal cooling.
Now, to put that in perspective, I’m guessing that there probably aren’t any other options in this same price range (~$1,000-$1,200) that offer significantly better cooling. And, if there are, my guess is that they won’t offer the same specs/performance potential that the Helios 300 does.
But, despite the fact that this laptop runs hot, it doesn’t have a huge impact on performance.
There are instances where after a couple of hours of gaming on the Helios 300 that it starts to stutter a bit. And, when I first started using the laptop, this happened a lot more frequently.
Fortunately, I played around a bit with the fan control/GPU overclocking software that comes preinstalled on the Helios 300 and found that by using the Cool Boost feature (allows the fans to spin at higher speeds when the CPU and GPU are under higher loads) the stuttering is almost completely eliminated—even after hours of playing on the laptop. And, through the provided software, you can also force the two laptop fans to run at full speed at all times, which also helps prevent sudden FPS drops due to heat spikes.
The downside of using the Cool Boost feature or the max fan speed setting is that the fans get very loud. This is okay if you’re in your bedroom and you have headphones on to listen to the game you’re playing. But, if there’s anyone else around, it might be kind of annoying for them. However, the alternative is to shut off the Cool Boost feature or turn off the max fan speed setting, which means that the laptop won’t perform as well in games.
Ultimately, though, with the Cool Boost feature on alone, I’ve been able to play Rocket League for up to 5-6 hours straight with no problems. And, 5-6 hours is about the maximum amount of gaming I can do in one session. I’m sure the laptop could go longer than that, though.
The bottom line is that, while the Helios 300 doesn’t provide ideal cooling—especially with the more aggressive fan settings turned on—if you don’t mind noisy operation, you should be able to put in some serious gaming sessions on this laptop.
How the Predator Helios 300 Performs in Games
The standout feature of the Predator Helios 300 is the in-game performance it is able to deliver. There are benchmarks below that will give you a look at the exact framerate I got on this laptop in a variety of games.
But, for a quick rundown, this laptop is essentially able to run pretty much any game on higher settings at a very solid framerate. For more demanding titles (like the Witcher 3 and PUBG), the Helios 300 was able to deliver at or above 60 FPS on higher settings. And, then for esports titles (like Rocket League and League of Legends), the laptop delivered an average frame rate north of 150 FPS.
And, combined with the 144Hz display, games play incredibly smooth, regardless of the framerate you get.
I’m sure there are games out there that will be tougher to run on this laptop (you probably won’t be running Star Citizen on it), but the combination of the Intel Core i7-8750H and the GTX 1060 allow it to handle the vast majority of games on higher settings with at least 60 FPS.
I tested the laptop in the following games:
- Madden 19
- Rocket League
- League of Legends
- The Witcher 3
Here are the benchmark results:
In terms of dollar-for-dollar performance, this laptop performs on par with a ~$600 or $700 gaming PC build (at least, in terms of framerate-based benchmarks). But, that doesn’t take into consideration the cost of a 144Hz monitor. The cheapest 144Hz monitor you can get is about ~$200. So, when you add it all up, the Acer Predator Helios 300’s price-to-performance ratio isn’t that far off a similary-specced desktop and 144Hz monitor combination.
Of course, a desktop will offer significantly better cooling as well as the opportunity for upgrades in the future, and a desktop will allow you to utilize a much bigger display. But, while a desktop will offer the better price-to-performance overall, the Helios 300 is not a bad replacement option in terms of in-game performance for those users that value the mobility that a laptop brings to the table.
Storage & Battery Life
While the in-game performance that the Helios 300 is superb for the price you pay, there were obviously some trade-off costs in order to pack that much performance into a laptop that costs just a little over $1,000.
One of those tradeoffs was on the storage capacity that the Helios 300 comes with. You do get an NVME M.2 SSD, which helps the system boot up in a matter of seconds. However, it only has a capacity of 256GB and there is no secodary hard drive to fall back on.
Of course, adding more storage in the Helios 300 won’t be difficult. You’ll just need to purchase a new 2.5″ hard drive or SSD and install it in the laptop. That’s incredibly easy to do on this laptop, as you’ll just need to remove one screw on the back of the laptop and you’ll have access to a 2.5″ drive bay where you can add additional storage.
But, right out of the box, you don’t have a ton of storage on this system.
The other major downside of the Helios 300 is its battery. You really can’t game on the laptop purely off of battery power. With a fully charged battery you can expect ~4 hours of internet browsing and casual use. Watching movies or playing games on the battery cuts its single-charge lifespan down significantly.
I also had a problem where I could not get the laptop to go over 60 FPS in games while playing on battery power. The laptop seems to switch to using the integrated graphics on the i7-8750H when it is running on battery power. So, that pretty much eliminated any reason I had to try and run games on battery power.
Obviously, that’s not ideal—especially for users who want to be able to game without having to plug their laptop in. For me, though, due to the in-game performance the Helios 300 is able to deliver and the price it comes in at, being forced to always play games with the laptop plugged in is a negative I’m willing to cope with. I’ll just keep the laptop plugged in while I’m gaming.
Final Verdict: The Acer Predator Helios 300 Isn’t Perfect… But It Does Offer Incredible Performance for the Price
The Acer Predator Helios 300 isn’t without its flaws. It doesn’t come with a lot of storage capacity right out of the box and the battery isn’t great for even just casual use and you probably won’t want to play games on it unless it is plugged in and charging.
However, for the price it comes in at, for me, the pros far outweigh the negatives. And, the two main pros of the Helios 300 are the in-game performance it delivers and its 144Hz display. Not only can the Helios 300 deliver high framerates at higher settings in the majority of games, but the 144Hz panel will help your games feel incredibly smooth.
I’ve owned a few cheaper laptops in my day and none of them have been really suitable for serious gaming. So, it’s safe to say that the Acer Predator Helios 300 is the best ‘gaming’ laptop that I have ever owned. That may skew my bias a little bit, but I can’t see how you could expect any more out of an $1,100 laptop.
Ultimately, if you’re in the market for a new gaming laptop and you have a moderate budget, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is definitely worth considering. The laptop does come with some compromises, but if in-game performance is your main concern, I believe you will be happy with the Helios 300.