Acer Predator Helios 300 2020 Review
Acer Predator Helios 300 review: Excellent gaming performance at the push of a button. With its overclockable graphics chip and 144Hz display, the Helios 300 is built for a great gaming experience -- all at a reasonable price.
Excellent gaming performance at the push of a button
Acer Predator Helios 300 2020 Overview
At the top left of the Acer Predator Helios 300's keyboard is a tiny button labeled Turbo. Not fully knowing what it did, I pressed it when I booted up for the first time. Almost instantly the system's dual fans came to life as each of their 59 blades helped blast a surprising volume of air through the rear vents with the sound of a jet engine spinning up. Turns out, I had just overclocked the laptop's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics chip to eke a little more power, and the fans were going full throttle to keep it cool.
An overclockable GPU is not something you typically find on a $1,100 gaming laptop, especially not one as thin as the Helios 300. But, if you're looking for a laptop that over-delivers for the money, Acer's usually a good place to start, and the Turbo button is only one of the reasons to consider this model (although there are a couple reasons to keep looking, too). The Helios 300 is available in multiple configurations, but my review system hit a price-to-performance sweet spot at $1,100. It's also available in the UK for £1,199 and Australia for AU$2,107.
The only spec issue I had was its single 256GB SSD, which is too small. That amount is fine for an ultraportable, but it isn't going to go very far with modern PC games running 50GB or more. There's an empty M.2 SSD slot and a 2. 5-inch drive bay, so you can easily add more, but you'll want to factor in that cost.
Two other things that might turn you off: The laptop's USB-C port isn't Thunderbolt 3, and the Wi-Fi is 802. 11ac, not the latest 802.11ax. Speed comes standardStorage complaint aside, the Helios 300's performance is impressive for its price. It can reach more than 60 frames per second on current titles with quality settings on high at the laptop's native 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution.
Games like Need for Speed Heat, Battlefield V and Far Cry 5 looked great and played without any slowdowns. With an older title like Titanfall 2 I was able to max out the graphics settings and still hit 144fps. And yes, playing Fortnite at the game's Epic graphics level wasn't a problem, either. The system's high performance doesn't result in great battery life, though.
On our streaming video test it made it only 4 hours, 37 minutes. That's typical for a gaming laptop, though, so don't be fooled by this model's thin chassis and five-pound weight. It's not ideal if you need to keep working away from an outlet for long periods. The laptop's full-HD display has a fast 144Hz refresh rate as well, which helped make action look smoother compared to competitors I've tested with 60Hz displays, which are more typical on gaming laptops under $1,000.
Color, contrast and brightness were decent on the display, too, but there was noticeable backlight bleeding at the top of the screen on my test laptop. It was most visible and distracting in dark scenes in games and video. A dedicated key to launch Acer's PredatorSense software helps you keep tabs on system performance. Located where the number pad's number-lock key would normally be, the button and software give you direct access to fan controls and power plans as well as system monitoring.
You can also open it up to adjust audio profiles for different game types, music or movies. The keyboard itself is comfortable for gaming and typing and the markings are actually easy to read with or without its blue backlight on -- something that can't be said about some of its competition. Other configurations offer four-zone RGB lighting, but I like the icy blue color Acer used here, as well as the see-through key caps on the WASD, arrow and PredatorSense keys. The precision touchpad is smooth, responsive and accurate, too, but not something you'll use in gaming.
As mentioned earlier, Acer's usually a good place to start if you're looking to get more for your laptop dollar, whether that's for productivity or for gaming. The Predator Helios 300 is a step up from the company's Nitro 5 line, and it shows in the extras like 144Hz display, overclockable GPU and sturdier feel (though the lid could stand to be stiffer). Even with its few shortcomings, this is still a value-packed gaming laptop, even if it does cross my magic $999 line in the sand.