Acer Aspire Predator

Acer's Aspire Predator ticks most of the boxes for an enthusiast's machine, but the interior is a let down.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
3 min read

Acer's Predator features a futuristic armour-style design, with glowing grilles and dual mandibles that enclose the optical drives, evoking its namesake. It makes us sci-fi fans more than a little bit excited, and signals Acer's intention to enter the gaming market.

The exterior styling of the case certainly fits the bill, and although the specs represent the last gen's top of the line, they should still generate enough grunt for most (check out the table below for available configurations) and theoretically help keep cost down.

The front door is reasonably well supported despite fears it would be flimsy, the dual levers on each side in particular adding to the solidity. The bottom exudes a blue glow, where up to four hot-swappable, 10,000rpm SATA hard drives are stored.

Ripping off the side, the CPU is liquid cooled, with the dual MSI 9800GTXs and Core 2 QX9650 powered by a 750W Delta power supply.

Acer's own 24-inch monitor is optional (which after a short play we suspect is VA based), while all units are bundled with the Logitech G5 and G11, and to make sure you can make the most of your RAM, Vista Home Premium 64-bit is rolled out by default.

The user should be able to upgrade the machine themselves without breaking warranty; however, the foreign parts, of course, will not be covered by that warranty.

The Predator's internals are a mess, with cables everywhere and a very cheap OEM look, complete with banal steel frame and green motherboard. There's no sign of innovation here, and aside from the hot-swap drive bay the interior of the case looks like something you could pull off the shelf for around AU$50. It's light years behind the likes of Dell, Alienware and Voodoo, and small touches like not being able to remove the RAM without taking out the graphics card first will haunt tweakers and upgraders.

The front door may not be flimsy, but the fact that it opens to the top of the case means you lose a potentially useful flat surface to place things on. There's also four USB ports, a headphone and a microphone jack situated on top of the case, and moving the door will wreak havoc with cords as a result. The door can be removed altogether, although this ruins the aesthetic.

One thing that is flimsy is the door to the hot-swap hard drives, and we fear for its longevity. Similarly, the drive caddies are built cheaply, making you wonder where the base price of AU$4,500 has gone.

A large amount of heat is output from the back, courtesy of the dual 9800GTXs and the water cooling unit expelling the heat from the CPU directly out. While this won't be a problem for most (and the heat is better out than in), it's worth noting in case you push your case against a wall. The water cooling is for the CPU only, with Acer choosing to use the standard heatsinks for the 9800GTXs, while the 780i-based motherboard also does Acer no favours in the heat department.

The 24-inch monitor with the "world's first 50,000:1 ACM contrast" looks nice enough, but once you turn off the pure marketing tool that is dynamic contrast ratio, it returns to a usual 1,000:1 base contrast. While the bright orange of the case is kind of cool, the monitor is also cased in the stuff, and distracts heavily from what's important — that is, what's happening on the screen itself.

Acer's first jump into the gaming market is big on impressions, but seems lukewarm on delivery. While the performance might be reasonable, the fit and finish is not up to what we'd expect of an enthusiast machine. We'll see if our suspicions are confirmed once it arrives for hands-on testing.

Processor Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450
Chipset Nvidia nForce 780i SLI
Memory Up to 8GB DDR2 800/1066MHz
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Hard drive Up to 4x 1TB
Optical drive BD, BD/HD DVD, DVD+-RW
Graphics Up to two GeForce 9800GTX 512MB
Audio Integrated 7.1, Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
I/O Device Logitech G11 keyboard, Logitech G5 mouse
Power Supply Delta 750W
Warranty 2 years on-site