Acer Predator Helios 300
Up to Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics
Great keyboard and touchpad
Fast 240Hz display
Still a bit chunky
Uses previous generation GPU
The Acer Predator Helios 300 is one of the most popular gaming laptops in recent years. It’s a constant bestseller on Amazon for two simple reasons. It is affordable and reliable.
Acer recently announced an update to the Helios 300 that extends some of its key specs, including the display, graphics, and processor. The result should be better gaming performance at the same affordable price.
The Acer Predator Helios 300 hasn’t changed its design this year. It’s still a somewhat bulky 15.6-inch gaming laptop that comes in a standard black with blue accents. It weighs 5.3 pounds and is 0.9 inches thick, which is quite a bit larger than options like the Asus Zephyrus G or Razer Blade. A good size comparison is the Alienware m15, which weighs 5.5 pounds and is 0.8 inches thick. The Dell G5 SE gaming laptop is also similar in size.
Although it’s a bit thick, its build quality is strong. The chassis or the lid have little flex. It feels sturdy and well built to hold or carry.
While gaming brands like Asus and Razer have transitioned to a more minimalist aesthetic, the Helios 300 maintains Predator’s old-school gaming design. The back has some aggressive silver vents and the lid has an angular design. It’s nothing obscene, but it’s clearly built to draw attention to itself.
Acer has shortened the bezels somewhat in recent years. While the top and bottom bezels are still thick, the side bezels are slim enough to give a more modern feel.
The new Acer Predator Helios 300 is updated from a refresh rate of 144 Hz to 240 Hz. The faster update rate is useful for fast online games whether you play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Overwatch. While 240 frames per second sound out of the league of laptop games, gamers who enjoy competitive games are often willing to lower the settings to get better performance. However, you can still opt for the 144 Hz screen, which is available in the basic model for $ 1,200.
The screen also has a response time of 3 ms, which enables fast and smooth input. However, the Helios 300 does not support G-Sync. As a result, image tears can occur, an ugly visual artifact that occurs when the frame rate of a game doesn’t match the refresh rate of a display.
The screen has a resolution of 1080p and uses IPS technology. It has a blue hue, although the screen handled the dark shadows of Battlefield V quite well. It’s not the brightest or most colorful screen in the world, but it doesn’t stand out as bad either. It’s good. Budget gaming laptops with high refresh rates sometimes push the visual quality aside.
The Predator Helios 300 has a solid mix of ports that gamers will love. On the left side there is an Ethernet socket, two USB-A connections and a headphone socket. The right side contains an additional USB-A port and a USB-C port.
The right side offers two options for the display output: an HDMI connection or a mini DisplayPort. There are many ports for your keyboard or mouse, additional if you want to dock your laptop on an external monitor. Mini-DisplayPort is a strange choice in 2020, though, and Thunderbolt 3 isn’t included.
The socket is on the back. I would prefer the display output to be at the back for a cleaner set up, but that’s not the case here.
Keyboard and touchpad
Unlike many affordable gaming laptops, the Predator Helios 300 has a great keyboard and touchpad. The touchpad in particular is surprisingly good. It has a quiet click mechanism and quick, responsive tracking. The beveled aluminum edge that surrounds the touchpad gives the look of the gaming laptop some flair.
The keyboard keeps things simple. It offers a standard layout with only one turbo button at the top. No macro keys need to be programmed, although Acer has a number pad to the right of the device. The RGB backlight is taken over by Acer’s PredatorSense software, which is offered in a four-zone setup.
In contrast to the latest ROG gaming laptops from Asus, the Predator Helios 300 has a 720p webcam above the screen. However, Windows Hello login in the form of a fingerprint reader or an IR camera is not supported.
Performance and configurations
The Helios 300 is not the most powerful gaming notebook you can buy. Nevertheless, an upgrade from 9th generation Intel chips to 10th generation chips is carried out. This is an Intel Core i7 H series – 45-watt CPUs with up to six cores and 16 threads.
My pre-production unit of the Helios 300 was also equipped with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q. Note that this is not the recently launched RTX 2070 super graphics, but the previous generation.
I wasn’t able to test the pre-production system in benchmarks yet, but I started a Battlefield V game and had a deliciously smooth gameplay. The RTX 2070 Max-Q has proven to be a solid mid-range laptop graphics chip in other systems that we have tested, and I doubt it will turn out differently here.
My configuration also came with 32 GB of RAM and a 2 TB SSD. The system includes an additional PCIe NVMe SSD slot in the RAID 0 configuration for future upgrades.
The basic configuration comes with an Nvidia RTX 2060, 16 GB RAM and a 512 GB SSD. The previous Helios 300 only started with a GTX 1660 Ti, so the new base model significantly improves game performance at the same price. This is important. My decorated test device had all the tricks, but the basic model is the one that most people will buy.
However, the Helios 300 has a dangerous competitor. The Dell G5 SE, which is equipped with all AMD components. It starts at just $ 862, though it includes a new Ryzen 4000 processor and Radeon 5600M graphics. It’s a value leader and doesn’t support RTX ray tracing, but game performance was solid. The Helios 300 will have a hard time surpassing it.
The Predator Helios 300 will be available in July from $ 1,200.