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

Acer's Helios 300 packs in features including on overclockable GPU and a patented superthin cooling fan.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
4 min read

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 (17-inch)

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.
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.

Acer Predator Helios 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard gets gamer-friendly red highlights on the WASD keys, and basic red backlighting, but not the more advanced customizable lighting found on laptops from Razer and others.

Plug and play

Ports seem to be at a premium on many laptops these days, even big ones like this. You do get more than the average, including one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, one USB-C (which is USB 3.1), plus Ethernet, HDMI, audio and SD card ports. That may sound like a lot (especially to MacBook owners with a single USB-C port), but hook up an Oculus Rift, which requires all three USB ports, and there's no way to plug in a USB mouse or gamepad unless you use a USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Acer Predator Helios 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

But once you do get everything plugged in, the real issue is how well the Helios plays games. In a roundup of laptops with Nvidia 1050, 1060, 1070 and 1080 GPUs, it landed right in the middle of the pack, slightly better than I expected. In hands-on use, mainstream PC games played smoothly at full resolution and eight high or medium settings, such as the moody and detail-rich new cyberpunk thriller, Observer. VR via an Oculus Rift likewise worked well in games including Lone Echo and Superhot VR.

The GPU overclocking, done via Acer's own software interface, is a great way to squeeze a little extra performance out of the very common GeForce 1060 GPU, but in practical terms, it only added a couple of extra frames per second to the games we tried an A/B it with. The same software app also includes fan controls, but leaving those on Auto mode is fine, too.

Acer Predator Helios 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life was surprisingly good for a big-screen gaming laptop at 5:12 on our streaming video battery drain test. But note that actual game-playing time away from an outlet will be much lower.

Stuck in the middle

While the 17-inch Helios 300 is a modestly priced laptop in the big picture, you can also get similar performance and features for significantly less. Laptops with Nvidia 1060 GPUs can be found for under $999, so if price is your main motivation, look elsewhere. There are also a few gaming laptops, like the HP Omen 17t, that offer a step up to the better Nvidia 1070 GPU for about $200 more.

Acer Predator Helios 300
Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, throwing a few hundred extra on the pile gets you a bigger display, decent Core i7 CPU, a hefty 512GB SSD plus 16GB of RAM, and a pretty efficient cooling system, thanks to that AeroBlade fan. This particular model delivers good gaming and battery life, but also feels a bit stuck in the middle -- not cheap enough to really be a budget gaming go-to, but not upscale enough to compete with premium systems. 

Multimedia multitasking test 3.0

Alienware 17 R4 147HP Omen (17-inch) 184Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 200Lenovo Legion Y720 204Acer Predator Helios 300 217
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-core)

Alienware 17 R4 15,912Lenovo Legion Y720 14,441Acer Predator Helios 300 14,256Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 13,708HP Omen (17-inch) 13,362
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Lenovo Legion Y720 358Acer Predator Helios 300 312HP Omen (17-inch) 270Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 262Alienware 17 R4 191
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Alienware 17 R4 5,024HP Omen (17-inch) 3,816Acer Predator Helios 300 2,804Lenovo Legion Y720 2,523Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 1,822
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Alienware 17 R4 95.9HP Omen (17-inch) 75.8Acer Predator Helios 300 59.6Lenovo Legion Y720 53.7Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 36.1
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Alienware 17 R4 207.65HP Omen (17-inch) 137.56Acer Predator Helios 300 134.04Lenovo Legion Y720 127.74Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 89.35
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Acer Predator Helios 300 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Legion Y720 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Alienware 17 R4 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
HP Omen (17-inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD

Acer Predator Helios 300 (17-inch)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 9Performance 7Battery 8