Acer manages a couple of feats of real engineering genius in the new Predator Triton 700. This is a slim gaming laptop, and while similarly sized models usually top out at a mainstream Nvidia GeForce 1060 graphics card, the Triton has a gamer-friendly, top-of-the-line GeForce 1080. In the world of PC gaming, that's a pretty significant difference. The second bit of design magic is the low-profile mechanical keyboard, which looks and feels like something halfway between everyday island-style laptop keys and the deep, towering keys of standalone mechanical keyboards.
The Triton 700 costs $2,999, which includes that Nvidia 1080, an Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, along with a 1,920x1,080 non-touch 120Hz IPS display. In Australia, a similar model is AU$4,999, while in the UK, the only available model trades down to a Nvidia GeForce 1060 GPU for £1,999. This is a premium laptop at a premium price, but one that is more portable and much cooler-looking than most.
There's always an asterisk, however, and despite its many excellent qualities, I'd hard-pressed to unreservedly recommend a laptop that plays such mystifying games with one of its most important components, the touchpad.
|Price as reviewed||$2,999|
|Display size/resolution||15-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display|
|PC CPU||2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ|
|PC Memory||32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 with Max-Q Design|
|Storage||(2) 256GB SSD RAID 0|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
Everyone thinks they can crack the laptop touchpad code, but so far, no one's successfully done it. Since the Apple PowerBook 500 in 1994, a laptop's touchpad has (almost) always been front and center, below the keyboard and close to the user. Over the years a few PC makers have dared experiment with tucking it away above the keyboard or off to the side. We've already seen two versions of this earlier in 2017, in the Acer Predator 21 X and the MSI GT83VR. Let me be clear: This. Never. Works.
Laptop touchpads are where they are because that's generally the best place for them. To mess with that classic design is to invite confusion and run counter to years or decades of muscle memory. It's like a Dvorak keyboard. There may be some reason for using one (over a QWERTY layout) that makes sense on paper, but in the real world, the disadvantages outweigh any gains.
The glass touchpad here certainly looks cool, sitting above the keyboard and integrated into a transparent piece of Gorilla Glass that shows off some of the internal components (like an ultra-thin Aeroblade fan, which we also saw in the recent Acer Helios 300). But it's hard to reach comfortably, the glass surface has too much drag for comfortable use, and the actual borders of the pad itself don't match up with the glass panel it sits on. You pretty much have to eyeball it to accurately control the cursor. There are some very faint corners etched into the glass, but they're almost impossible to see, and there's nothing to tell you by feel where the touchpad actually ends.
But make no mistake, you'll definitely know when you're using the touchpad. Because it's made of glass and sits on top of some key internal components, it gets hot. Very hot. While running apps the heavily use the built-in Nvidia 1080 GPU, I regularly clocked the glass surface, where you're supposed to put your fingers, at 118 degrees Fahrenheit or more. At idle, the glass is the same 80 degrees or so as the rest of the interior. If you want to rationalize this, it's probably true that while cranking up the laptop in games, you'll probably be using a mouse or gamepad more than the touchpad, but that didn't help me while navigating the Steam game-launching app or driving through various Windows menus.
But the touchpad is practically the only thing I didn't like about this otherwise excellent gaming laptop. It manages to fit in a powerful 1080 GPU by using Nvidia's Max-Q platform, which tweaks graphics card hardware and implementation to fit into small spaces. We've also seen it in the Asus Zephyrus, which while very thin, needed a pop-up air vent to properly cool the system.
Despite being very slim for a gaming laptop, just 18.9mm thick, there are enough ports to hook up a virtual-reality headset, including HDMI and a full-size DisplayPort jack on the rear edge.
Application and gaming performance was excellent, and the mechanical keyboard was a pleasure to type on, without feeling too clunky, as can happen in other laptops that try to cram in hefty mechanical keyboards. Each key here also has its own individual backlight, so they can be programmed in a variety of amusing ways, much like Razer's laptop keyboards.
Like other laptops in Acer's Predator line, there's an app for software-based GPU overclocking. We tested a handful of games on both normal and turbo settings, but saw a small boost at best. Even without overclocking, performance in our benchmark games, as well as new games like Divinity: Original Sin 2, was smooth, and better than other similarly sized laptops that use Nvidia's 1070 and 1060 GPUs.
With battery life in a gaming laptop, you get what you get, and that's just how it's always been. Even in our not-too-challenging streaming video test, the Triton 700 ran for a hair under three hours. Some other gaming laptops can run for 40 minutes or an hour more, but the delta is narrow in the this category. I might have expected a bit more from a lower-resolution FHD (1,920x1,080) display, as it's those higher resolutions, especially 4K, that can really kill a battery.
I'm impressed by the march toward thinner, more stylish gaming laptops with very high-end graphics cards, and also by Acer's bold moves to be hardware leader in the gaming space, including this system, the massive Predator 21 X, and the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset.
And even at this very premium price, I liked almost everything about the Triton 700 except for it's oddly placed, pizza-oven-hot touchpad. Gamers may shrug at this, saying, "who uses a touchpad on a gaming laptop?" But, my concern with oddball features in gaming laptops has always been that something like a poorly positioned touchpad makes it much harder to use during your non-gaming hours for everyday computing. And that's something the Triton 700 will have to do, unless you're flush enough to buy one very expensive laptop just for gaming, and another for everything else.
|Acer Predator Triton 700||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core I7-7700HQ; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1080 with Max-Q Design; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0|
|Asus ROG Zephyrus||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core I7-7700HQ; 24GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Alienware 15 R3||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Razer Blade Pro||Microsoft Windows 10 Home; (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0|
|Acer Aspire VX 15||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; 256GB SSD|
|HP Omen 15||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|