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Acer Predator Helios 500 review: A jam-packed gaming laptop with a giant screen

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The Good This is one of the first laptops with Intel's new high-end Core i9 processor, which is paired with a powerful Nvidia 1070 graphics card. Plenty of ports, a big screen and decent lighting options make this a flexible game machine.

The Bad Other gaming laptops have more powerful GPUs, better screens, more lighting options and cooler designs, leaving the Helios 500 stuck in the middle of the pack.

The Bottom Line The Acer Helios 500 is a big-screen 17-inch laptop that has some excellent components and doesn't cost a fortune, but also offers few surprises.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 4

Anyone looking for a slim, upscale-looking gaming laptop that can do double duty as a portable work machine has been having a pretty good year. The 14-inch Razer Blade, the Asus Zephyrus and other high-design laptops have used new GPU and CPU technology to put more gaming power than ever into slim, light metal bodies with a minimum of over-the-top "gamer" aesthetics.

And then there's the Acer Predator Helios 500. It's pretty much the exact opposite of all of those things. This is a huge 17-inch gaming laptop, with a chromed, horned logo, all sorts of multicolored internal lighting and the kind of desktop footprint rarely seen these days. It's 8.3 pounds (3.8 kg), without the massive power brick, and nearly 2 inches thick at the rear.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Why all the extra mass? Because it takes a much different approach to laptop gaming than those slimmer models. The Helios 500 skips the small, less-powerful Max-Q versions of Nvidia graphics cards found in many new gaming laptops, instead including a full-size GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. It's also the first gaming laptop (but the third laptop overall) we've tested with Intel's new Core i9 processor, which is pitched as a step up from the traditional high-end Core i7. This configuration is $2,499 in the US, while slightly different configurations can be found in the UK for £2,499 or AU$2,848 in Australia. 

Gamers will also appreciate the 144Hz screen and Nvidia G-Sync compatibility, both of which will help you get smoother on-screen gaming. Other than that, however, the nontouch 1,920x1,080-pixel display is a snooze, with dull colors and a thick throwback bezel. 

Acer Predator Helios 500

Price as reviewed $2,499
Display size/resolution 17.3-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels
CPU 2.9GHz intel Core i9-8950HK
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
Storage 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Big-bodied

At least the massive body makes room for almost any port or connection a gamer could possibly need. There are three USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, an Ethernet jack and full-size HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. Massive rear vents, and smaller side vents, help keep the Core i9 and GTX 1070 cool, and unlike many other gaming laptops, I didn't find the Helios getting too hot while gaming.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The big keyboard and number pad are chunky enough for keyboard-based gaming, and both the arrow keys and all-important WASD keys are outlined in blue to make them easier to see. The backlit keyboard is zone-based, not per-key, so it's not as flexible as some other ones we've seen. The default color for the lighting is blue, which is a welcome change of pace from every other gaming brand's obsession with fire/laser/lava red.

It's been a running joke among some of my colleagues to champion the idea of backlit touchpads in laptops, which make the pad easier to find in the dark. Here the pad has a backlit outline, which puts it in a select club. (I also love the totally backlit pads on some Alienware laptops.)

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