Acer Predator Helios 300 (17-inch) review: Big screen gaming without the big price

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The Good The Nvidia 1060 graphics card is overclockable, and cooling is assisted by a patented superthin fan. For a 17-inch VR-ready gaming laptop, the price is very reasonable.

The Bad You can find the same GPU in 15-inch systems that cost less. The screen is only standard 1,920x1,080 resolution and doesn't really pop. The part-plastic body is a yawn.

The Bottom Line You can find similar components for less, but Acer packs a lot of unique features -- and a big screen -- into the midpriced Predator Helios 300.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 8

Acer's Helios 300 laptop, part of the Predator gaming line, has a lot of things going for it. It's got a cool name, first off. It's reasonably priced, although not the least-expensive laptop you can get with these parts. There's a patented cooling fan inside, called the AeroBlade, that Acer claims is the world's thinnest metal fan (the blades are just 0.1mm thick). And, perhaps owing to that slim, powerful fan, it includes software to overclock the default Nvidia GeForce 1060 graphics card.

Acer Predator Helios 300

The AeroBlade fan is hidden behind this vent. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

That's not to say this is going to become our go-to gaming laptop. Because it's meant to sit closer to the budget end of Acer's Predator line (which tops out at the $9,000 Predator 21X), this not the flashiest, most feature-packed gaming laptop we've ever seen. The body is half-metal and half-plastic and doesn't feel especially high-end; its look is aggressively plain, at least by gaming laptop standards.

The cool extras, like the software overclocking and the special AeroBlade fan are only in the 17-inch version of the Helios 300, which costs $1,400. That makes it one of the most budget-friendly 17-inch gaming laptops you can buy. 

Acer Predator Helios 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

There's a more plain-Jane 15-inch version, with the same CPU/GPU combo, available for $1,100. That's a bit more of a crowded field, with Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 and others hitting roughly the same specs for the price, or even a couple of hundred less.

Acer Predator Helios 300

Price as reviewed $1,399
Display size/resolution 17.3-inch 1,920x1,080 display
PC CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Screen machine

So many of the gaming laptops we've reviewed this year have been 15-inch models, thanks in part to more powerful, more efficient processors and graphics cards that make it much easier to squeeze premium performance into a midsize laptop body.

But sometimes you just want a really big screen. Outside of a very small handful of 18-inch laptops (and that one 21-inch model, also from Acer), the standard 16:9 17.3-inch display is as big as you're going to get.  

Acer Predator Helios 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

It's an IPS display, so it doesn't get washed out when you're not looking at it straight on (which can happen with some budget gaming laptops). The resolution is standard full-HD, 1,920x1,080, and while you might think a 17-inch screen needs more pixels, such as a 4K display, that's actually the perfect sweet spot for battery life and performance with this midlevel GPU.

The screen itself has a matte finish, which I always appreciate, even in a gaming laptop. That cuts down on glare and reflections, but doesn't get especially bright. The downward-firing speakers aren't especially hefty, either.

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