Not only are you getting a powerful CPU—an Intel Core i7-7700HQ, to be exact—you're getting a GTX 1060 GPU as well. That's a ton of power at an incredible price. In addition to the top-tier components, the build quality, with its brushed-metal finish, is excellent and gives off a truly premium vibe. If you're a gamer that likes to hook up to an external monitor, Acer did a bang-up job with the connectivity options too.
Some sacrifices had to be made for that price, though. In short, the matte IPS display doesn't offer the best viewing angles and the machine itself is too heavy to lug around if you need to take it to class frequently. Other than that? You're looking at one of the best values in the gaming laptop world.
The base model we tested (available at Amazon) came equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB RAM, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card (this is ridiculous), and a 256GB SSD. Even without the GPU, that would be a remarkable value. With it? We're in uncharted territory. If you're looking for even more storage, you can get a 1TB HDD (alongside a 128GB SSD) version for $1,399.99. Here are the rest of the specs, from Acer:
Display: 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) Display
CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Memory: 16GB RAM
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: Ethernet/USB 2.0/USB 3.0/USB-C/HDMI/Card Reader
Battery: 42 Wh Battery
Weight: 5.95 lbs
On the bottom of the machine, you'll also find two easy-access panels. This is where you can access the memory and drive bay, and swapping out or upgrading just takes a simple screwdriver. While the upgraded model is still a good value, I actually think you're better off doing the upgrades yourself. It's easy to do, and I've upgraded my home computer multiple times. It's more reliable, and it'll save you even more money in the long run.
The price is reasonable and it's easy to upgrade
The Helios, with its VR-ready graphics card and premium-looking design, has a starting price of just $1,049.99 at retail. It's not necessarily going to compete with a top-tier desktop, but the machine is capable of running VR games and e-sports titles like Overwatch easily. Add to that the machine's upgradeability, and you've got a fantastic all-around value.
It gives off a premium vibe
Despite being a budget machine, the Acer Helios feels fantastic. The chassis is a mix of hard plastic and aluminum, but it feels both strong and durable (mostly). The full-sized keyboard didn't bow much under pressure, but the lid had more flex than I liked. The plastic bumper on the top of the lid is the biggest culprit, like it could snap off at any moment.
Aesthetically, the Helios hits a lot of the same notes as most gaming laptops. I'm not typically a fan of the gaudy gamer look, and the Helios has a more subtle look than most. It doesn't scream gamer so much as it suggests it, though it's not exactly something you're going to want to crack open at a board meeting.
This machine comes equipped with a good amount of ports
I have to say, Acer did a fabulous job with the connectivity here. The laptop has four ports total—three USB-A, one USB-C—as well as an HDMI, Ethernet, a card reader, a Kensington lock, and a headphone/mic jack. The single USB-C port is a bit of a bummer, but otherwise it's a lot of options. The Helios doesn't have the best display, so you're probably going to want to plug into an external monitor, especially if you're playing an action-packed game.
It's much heavier than I expected
The Helios is the slimmest laptop in the Predator line, but it's much heavier than I expected. This thing weighs almost six pounds, which is significant when you compare it to newer slim gaming laptops like those from Razer's Blade line. Chances are you're getting a gaming laptop for power and not portability, but this isn't a great choice if you are going to have to lug it around all day long.
The display is dimmer than I like
The 15.6-inch 1080p display is sharp enough when looking at it head-on, but it's dimmer than I like and the viewing angles leave a lot to be desired. When I watched the new Tomb Raider trailer (all-hail Alicia Vikander), the jungle landscape wasn't as bright as I wanted it to be. I mean, she's Lara Croft. She deserves better. The narrow viewing angles are also really frustrating to deal with, too. The images appear almost blurry and faint even when just moving a few feet outside the optimal range.
If there's one redeeming thing about the display, it's the matte finish. While glossy finishes make a laptop look a little slicker (and are usually required if you've got a touchscreen), a matte display cuts down on reflections. It helps make up for the lack of brightness, as the display doesn't have to fight through as much to create a viewable image.
Yes, especially if you're working with a tight budget
If you're looking for a budget-friendly gaming machine that's reliable, you can't get much better than the Helios. Between the top-tier components and effective cooling system, this affordable laptop more than gets the job done. If you're a hardcore gamer, it's powerful enough to handle virtual-reality experiences and the occasional AAA title. And if you just need a multi-tasking workhorse, it can do that too.
But while the Acer tics off a lot of boxes, it's not without its flaws. The display is a bit lackluster due to its narrow viewing angles and dim colors, it's heavy, and the aesthetic won't be for everyone. But for gamers who will mostly use it with a desk anyway, all it takes is an external monitor to solve those issues.
And you should have plenty left over to buy one, because the Predator Helios 300 is significantly cheaper than the competition. Just consider the 14-inch 2017 Razer Blade. It's one of our favorite gaming laptops, but the base model—which also has a Full HD screen, 16GB of RAM, a GTX 1060, and the same i7 processor as the Helios—has an MSRP that is $800 higher. That's nuts.
The bottom line is that—flaws aside—the Acer Predator Helios 300 is a reliable, powerful, (relatively) affordable machine. Whether you're using it for gaming, photo/video editing, or just multitasking, the Acer is a great all-around performer that costs way less than you'd expect. Without question, this is one of the best gaming laptops for the money on the market.
Meet the tester
Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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