A clever display design raises this gaming laptop above the crowd, but oy, the keyboard.
Just like a Microsoft Surface Studio desktop, if you plan to buy the Acer Predator Triton 900, do it for the display; otherwise, it's just a pricey-but-fast 17-inch gaming laptop with a ton of competitors. But that multiangle 4K touchscreen may compensate for its handful of flaws, a list topped by a seriously annoying keyboard and an unusually short battery life. It does for me, even as I type this, cursing every time I hit PgUp instead of the too-small right shift key adjacent to it.
It's quite expensive at $3,800, though that's not out of line given the components. A roughly similar configuration of the Alienware Area-51m goes for about $3,900 but with a lower-resolution, higher refresh-rate screen. The leaner Razer Blade Pro's top configuration costs $3,200, but uses a lower-power Max-Q of the RTX 2080 rather than the Triton's a high-test overclockable version, and has less memory and storage as well.
But don't call this a laptop. Though lighter than the Alienware, it still weighs over 9 pounds -- not counting the 2.8 lb. (1.3kg) power brick which you'll have to schlep, too. Consider it more of a a minimonster gaming rig.
The Triton 900 has been referred to as a "convertible," a synonym for two-in-ones like the prototypical Lenovo Yoga series, with screens that rotate 360 degrees so that you can use them in four different positions. But the Triton 900's screen is far more sensible -- the display can rotate up to 90 degrees while the arms holding it can go from (more or less) flat to vertical -- is a lot more flexible and useful.
Unlike a two-in-one or convertible, it doesn't have a tent mode, but you can put it in any other similar position. Plus, it's a touchscreen, which you rarely see on gaming laptops. Because you can position the screen almost over the keyboard, the touchscreen can actually be positioned for maximum comfort. With an external keyboard, kiosk mode (when the keyboard is behind the screen rather than in front) is great, though the power connection and other cables sticking out the back may get annoying.
|Price as reviewed||$3,799|
|Display size/resolution||17.3-inch 3,840 x 2,160 touchscreen|
|PC CPU||Intel Core i7-9750H|
|PC Memory||32GB 2,666Hz DDR4|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 (overclockable)|
|Ports||2 x USB-C (1 x Thunderbolt 3), 2 x USB-A 3.1, 1 x HDMI 2.0, a USB 2.0, 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x Xbox wireless dongle connector|
|Networking||Killer DoubleShot Pro 2.5Gbps Ethernet and WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows Home (64-bit)|
Working where there's overhead lighting or sunlight through a window? Just tilt it a hair. Unlike a normal laptop screen, you can change the tilt while maintaining the angle, making it perfect for both intense, lean-forward keyboard and mouse gaming or more relaxing lean-back-with-a-controller fun. Flip it over with a second monitor connected and mirror for an audience.
You can pull it down into tablet mode like a Surface Studio's display, but if you want pen support or color accuracy, you'll have to move up to the company's "creator" variation, the Concept D 9. That is, when it's available. It was supposed to ship in June but has yet to appear.
The IPS panel in the Triton 900 does cover 100% Adobe RGB, but it's not factory calibrated and it doesn't get terribly bright, peaking at about 340 nits. Games look OK, but nothing special -- for instance, the high-contrast scenes of Sinking City and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice looked relatively flat and low contrast -- and our evaluation unit showed a little backlight bleed in the corner.
And for gaming, there's the 4K consideration. The system's powerful enough for top-quality 1080p gaming and probably decent 1440p depending upon the game, but the games it can run well in 4K don't usually benefit from the higher resolution, and you're held back by the fixed 60Hz refresh rate.
Because the cooling fans sit above the keyboard, the trackpad is on the right and doubles as a virtual numeric keypad. That's relatively easy to get used to, though I really wish it were backlit.
But because of the trackpad placement, the keyboard is squashed into 80% of the space of a normal keyboard, with concomitantly smaller keys and the weirdest layout I've seen in a while. It's not just horrible for touch typing, it's bad if you have any muscle memory whatsoever or if you use special characters in passwords.
There's a tiny, misplaced shift key on the right. That may not seem a big deal for gaming, but if you frequently need to type the "@" for email addresses, it is. Mute is up top, but the volume controls are down below on the arrow keys. The forward slash sits between the control and alt keys, so if you type a lot of dates or use Linux, that will make you nuts. The question mark is in the row below the shift key rather than next to it. No matter what finger positions you use for gaming, it's cramped. It could be worse -- thankfully, the backspace, enter and left shift keys are all big and the command center and macro keys are well separated. But if you're a programmer, gamer or touch typist, BYOK to retain your sanity.
It's too bad, because the keys themselves generally feel really nice. It's got mechanical switches, and you can feel the actuation point despite the small, laptop-level amount of key travel. And of course, they have per-key RGB. However, I still can't recommend it for any game that requires speed or precision.
The rest of the design is pretty standard, with a full complement of ports, and the build quality feels appropriately sturdy. The audio doesn't stand out as particularly good or bad, but it doesn't get very loud.
I do like Acer's PredatorSense command center, which is pretty middle-of-the-road. It offers a well-rounded but not overwhelming set of monitoring, lighting design, fan controls, macro recording and three programmable buttons for loading profiles. GPU overclocking options are limited to Normal, Fast and Extreme. However, you can't log the stats to a file and you can't set them to appear real-time in the system tray or float on screen to monitor what's going on while you're in-game.
Under the heading of laptops known for their sad battery lives, the Triton 900 stands out -- and not in a good way. It lasted just an hour and a half in our battery-rundown testing, which barely stresses a system of this caliber. To even run in GPU-overclocking "Extreme" mode, you not only have to be plugged in, you have to have at least 40% charge.
The flip side is that our performance tests weren't run in Extreme, so you can expect it to close the gaming-performance gap with the Origin PC EON 17X and Area-51m when you hit that Turbo button on the keyboard. Given that they both incorporate eight-core i9-9900K processors compared to the Triton's six-core i7-9750H, the Triton fares quite well. Of course, when you hit the Turbo button you can expect the roar of the fans as well. It normally runs so quietly that the jet-engine onrush is unusually jarring.
|Alienware Area-51m||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i9-9900K; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080; 1TB SSD + 1TB HDD 5,200 RPM|
|Acer Predator Triton 900||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080; 1TB SSD|
|Asus ROG Zephyrus GX701||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 24GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 1TB SSD|
|MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Origin PC EON 17X (2019)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.6GHz Intel Core i9-9900K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080; 500GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Razer Blade Pro 17||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|