The compact Acer Predator G1 desktop isn't the fastest or most powerful system in our roundup of gaming PCs with Nvidia's new GeForce 1080 graphics cards. It's also not the smallest, nor is it the least expensive or easiest to upgrade. But in testing and using it alongside many of its bigger and more powerful competitors, I found it had a better sense of -- for lack of a technical term -- fun. It's a gaming desktop that doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's a rare thing. Plus, it plays new 2D and VR games just fine, and is reasonably priced, making it easier to overlook any performance and design issues.
This is a newer, smaller version of the massive Predator G6 desktop we reviewed earlier in 2016. But that system was a floor-hogging monster that looked like a sci-fi movie prop, with its tank tread design and overblown online marketing copy which promised to "crush 4K gaming...and power-up for galactic domination." While the Predator G6 was a very capable VR-ready desktop, and decently priced one, it was also too big and goofy to fit into most homes or apartments, especially if you have to consider the spousal approval factor for new hardware.
The Predator G1 is similarly high-end, but boils the same armored-space-tank design into a more manageable form, about 14 inches tall and 5 inches wide. It's still somewhat silly-looking, but less in-your-face than the larger G6 version.
At this point, certain features feel like a wink and a nod to the excessive design. There are not one, but two separate pull-out headphone holders -- basically reinforced sticks that extend from the left and right sides of the system -- and the front panel breathes and surges with glowing lights, framing a vertical optical drive that slides open from the center of panel.
My generous interpretation was that this was a miniaturized tongue-in-cheek take on the stereotypical gaming PC look and feel. I showed the Predator G1 to my game-playing spouse (70-plus hours in Fallout 4), hoping she'd find it as kitschy and charming as I did. But alas, she said it was hideous and banned it from the living room media center.
How do I know there's a certain sly charm to the Predator G1? If you buy the special-edition bundle, which is what we have here, it comes with a custom rolling suitcase, designed specifically to fit the G1 and its accessories. It's an aluminum case with the same armored/ribbed design as the desktop itself, but with a pullout handle and wheels, like an ordinary suitcase you'd see at the airport. Inside are custom foam cutouts for the desktop, its external power supply, and its keyboard and mouse. It's hilarious, but also kind of awesome.
That bundle, which also includes a copy of the recent Ubisoft game The Division, is $2,299, and that also gets you an Intel Core i7-6700 CPU, 32GB of RAM, a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card and a 512GB SSD/2TB HDD storage combo. Acer says the suitcase alone is worth $265 (a stretch, but it's not too shabby), so that's a pretty good deal, and close to our VR-ready sweet spot of $2,000.
As is often the case, the available configurations in other regions differ. Lower-spec versions of the G1 are for sale in the UK starting at £1,499 and in Australia starting at AU$2,299. Neither includes the suitcase. Sorry.
|Price as reviewed||$2,299|
|PC CPU||3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700|
|PC memory||32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz|
|Graphics||8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080|
|Storage||512GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Optical drive||DVD writer|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
While you do get a reasonably compact desktop with an Intel Core i7/Nvidia 1080 combo, this design isn't as flexible as many of the other gaming desktops we've tested recently. There's certainly no room for a second video card, even though Falcon Northwest manages to squeeze twin GPUs into the similarly small FragBox, and if you remove the side panel, the cramped interior isn't conducive to tinkering.
There are only four USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel, which used to be plenty, but virtual-reality headsets are now taking up extra USB ports for many PC gamers. A single HDMI output makes it hard to connect an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive and a HDMI display like a television simultaneously, so you'll have to use one of the DisplayPort outputs for your display if you have a VR headset hooked up.
One other design quirk is worth keeping in mind, especially if space is tight or free electrical outlets are limited. This desktop doesn't connect directly from its power supply to the wall, as a most desktops do. Instead it uses not one, but two separate laptop-style power bricks, which are held together by a decorative plastic cage. It's a bit of a cheat on space, but at least Acer tries to dress it up.
This Core i7-6700 processor here (other G1 configurations have Core i5 processors) isn't overclockable, in contrast to the Core i7 models found in most of the other gaming desktops we've tested recently. That limits potential performance, at least in comparison to those high-end built-for-VR desktops, as does the single GPU (four of our Nvidia 1080 desktops have dual GPUs). In fact, the Predator G1 came in dead last in that very large roundup in some of our application and game tests, although usually not by a large margin. The Alienware Aurora R5 was its closest competitor, although that system had the Core i7-6700K variant, which is overclockable.
Despite the slower test scores, the Predator G1 still ran our BioShock Infinite test at 191 frames per second, powered an HTC Vive with no trouble, and was able to easily play the new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and very high detail settings. For the next couple of generations of high-end PC and VR games, it's more than fine.
The Acer Predator G1 probably isn't for the most discerning PC gaming enthusiasts. Its configuration choices are limited, the performance is on the low end of this $2,000-plus tier, and you can't upgrade it later by dropping in a second graphics card.
But if premium-level performance in a largely portable package is important, and you can appreciate the kitschy design, I liked that it's an off-the-shelf PC that's good enough for VR and more. Plus, the over-the-top design that I found so distracting in the larger G6 version feels more manageable when distilled down to this smaller size. Just don't expect to take the aluminum special-edition suitcase through an airport without getting a few stares.
|Cybertron CLX Ra||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 4TB HDD|
|Origin PC Millennium||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (oc) (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD|
|Origin PC Omni||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 500GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Alienware Aurora R5||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Digital Storm Velox||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.3GHz Intel Core i7-6900K; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (2) Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Digital Storm Aura||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Velocity Micro Raptor Z55||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD|
|Acer Predator G1 710||Micorsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Falcon Northwest FragBox||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 64GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (oc) (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 6TB HDD|