Monday, 15 February 2016

Acer Predator 17

Acer Predator 17

The Acer Predator 17 is an old-school gaming laptop; it’s big, heavy, and mighty expensive. But it’s also kick-arse fast, able to whip through The Witcher 3’s highest settings without batting an eye-lid. In this era of ultraportable, wannabe, gaming laptops that struggle to run Solitaire, it’s refreshing to see Acer hark back to the old days. Yet it’s not the only bruiser of a gaming machine around – how does it compare to other 17in behemoths?

There’s no mistaking the Predator 17 for a laptop designed to run Excel, as its design simply screams game-ready. Bold red highlights and the red backlit keyboard combine with the glowing LED strips and logo on the exterior to let everybody know that this is a performance monster. The entire chassis is covered in that lovely rubbery paint that feels so nice to touch, which also hides the fact that it seems to be entirely plastic. The huge 17in display dominates the design, and is available up to 4K resolution. Our sample had the standard 1920 x 1080 display, yet looked incredibly crisp for such a large display – we had to double check we hadn’t been accidentally sent the 4K version. It’s a beautiful IPS panel, with rich colours and stunning contrast. The matte fi nish also makes it easy to view under harsh lights. Given the huge size, it’s no surprise that this thing is heavy, weighing in at just under 4kg, and that’s without the brick of a power supply.

A full-sized keyboard comes replete with a set of macro keys on the left side, along with a full numpad. The Prozone software makes setting up macros a breeze, which can also be shared via profiles. The touchpad is a little twitchy, but nobody buys a gaming laptop to use the touchpad. The large size allows for plenty of outputs, starting with four USB 3.0 and a single 3.1. There’s also HDMI and Displayport out, along with Killer’s Doubleshot Pro Ethernet/Wi-Fi combination. An SD Card reader sits next to the mic in and headphone out ports, which all sit next to the DVD optical drive.

Acer highlights the Soundpound 4.2 speaker system in the marketing materials for this laptop, which sounds great on paper. Four speakers and two miniature subs combine with Dolby Audio to deliver “deep sound immersion”. In reality, the performance of these speakers is rather disappointing; perhaps because they’re so loud, there’s quite a lot of distortion, as well as a rattling sound from something in the case.

Heading under the hood reveals highend hardware throughout. Intel’s i7-6700HQ is a quad-cored HyperThreaded beast that runs at 2.6GHz while idling, with a maximum Turbo speed of 3.5GHz. Acer has wisely paired this with a whopping 32GB of DDR4 memory running at 2133MHz. Two separate hard drives handle long-term storage; a 256GB Hitachi SSD with 237GB of usable space, along with a large 1TB mechanical hard drive. Graphics duties are handled by Nvidia’s excellent 4GB Geforce GTX 980M.

These specs all sound great, but it’s worth pointing out the Metabox Prime P870DM-G that we reviewed last month. It’s $200 more expensive, but has a 4GHz desktop i7-6700K CPU that can be overclocked even faster, along with a true desktop GPU, the GeForce GTX 980. The only area where the Acer wins is in screen quality, as its IPS panel is noticeably superior. Therefore we benchmarked the Predator 17 against the Prime, and as expected, the Acer came of second best.

In Grid Autosport, the Predator trailed by 41%, a gap that increased in the more demanding Shadow of Mordor test by 58%. Our final test is the GPUmelting Metro Last Light benchmark, which we only roll out for serious gaming hardware. In this test, the Predator once again lagged behind the Metabox, but this time by a much smaller margin, at 22%. Yet there is one huge benefit to the Predator though, in the lack of fan noise. We measured a maximum of 47dB under load, which is substantially better than the annoying 55dB of the Metabox.

The Predator 17 has oodles of processing power, with more than enough to handle any triple-A release, but it’s resoundingly beaten by the likes of the Metabox Prime. However, it’s also a slightly better built machine with a nicer display, which doesn’t sound like Bronwyn Bishop is landing in your back yard. Bennett Ring