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Acer Predator 17 Review: Born to game, forged for battle

Vinu Varughese Oommen
Technology Reporter
Editors Rating

For decades, Acer has been one of the best PC and laptop brands in the market, when it comes to premium offerings at competitive prices. Their entry into the PC gaming industry has spawned the introduction of the “Predator” gaming laptops and desktops, that goes head on with the best PC gaming brands out there. Acer Middle East has graciously lent us the latest and beastly looking Acer Predator 17 gaming laptop, and here are our thoughts about the machine.

Design Philosophy

It’s no surprise that gaming laptops carry the most aggressive, wicked-looking designs to complement the power it holds. Acer says that the hard angles and aggressive accents of the laptop is inspired by intergalactic battlecruisers, and we completely agree to that. On the front side, you get to see the red colored, dual-speakers (backed by Dolby Audio) which sounded great during most of our gaming sessions. The only issue was that the maximum volume wasn’t loud enough, especially when it’s a gaming laptop. There is also a sub-woofer underneath the laptop.

The build of the Acer Predator 17 is very strong. There are no noticeable flexes in any part of the laptop. The skin of the laptop is soft which seamless goes from the outer lid, to the complete keyboard area, underneath, and also the port sides. Speaking of the keyboard, the keys can be configured with multi-colors through the Predator ProZone (16 million colors to choose from). The keys felt great to click, with enough travel space. The WASD and directional arrow keys hold a different key material, and highlighted boldly.

The power button on the top of the keyboard seems to be inspired by a START button of a sports car. There is also a glassed LED stripe placed in between the display and the keyboard, which shows indicators for HDD activity, battery status, and power connection. The mouse pad surface is very smooth, and the clicks felt great. These features are as expected from a true gaming laptop.

Acer has also added a couple of programmable keys on the left side of the keyboard. These keys can be configured using the Predator Sense app.

By default, the key 1 sets the laptop to use discrete GPU, key 2 to disable sticky keys, key 3 for maximum fan speed, and so on. The “P” key represents the different groups you can configure.

The IPS display is 17.3 inches in size, with a fantastic and sharp 2160p resolution (4K). The colors look brilliant, and viewing angles are good.

As I said before, the surface of the lid of the Acer Predator 17 is smooth and strong with no flex. The lid also bears the Acer Predator logo with red accents which looks cool in the dark.

The massive cooling vents of the Predator will never go unnoticed. While the laptop pushes all the hot air off from the back, Acer has implemented 0.1mm metal fans that actually reverses the airflow to stop the buildup of dust in the vents. It’s called the Predator Dust Defender. Dust buildup in fans is a major issue faced by both gaming and conventional computers. By default, the Dust Defender will only spin the fans in reverse only when you aren’t gaming on the Predator.

The cooling factor doesn’t end there. As it happens so, Acer has put in the idea of a laptop being semi-modular. In simple words, you can take out the optical drive of the laptop, and replace it with an extra cooling fan module. It’s called the Predator FrostCare, powered by Cooler Master, one of the leading brands for custom computer cases and advanced cooling solutions for processors. The optical drive and cooling module are very easy to eject and swap. We will talk about the cooling performance at a later point.

Ports on the left include two USB 3.0 ports, audio jacks, an SD card reader, the optical drive/Predator FrostCare, and power connection.

Looking from the right side, you get another pair of USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DisplayPort, a USB Type-C port, and an RJ-45 port with Killer Double Shot PRO which helps to prioritize the internet bandwidth for each application. The Predator 17 allows users to get access to the hard drive and RAM on the rear. There are more cooling vents too underneath. That’s more than enough to cover about the design, now to look what’s under the hood.

Chipset Specifications

Acer has implemented the Acer Predator 17 with the latest Skylake based Intel i7-6700HQ quad core processor, clocked at a default speed of 2.6GHz, and maxes out up to 3.5 GHz in Turbo mode. The processor also offers up to 8 working threads to complement the four physical CPU cores. The machine is installed with a massive 64GB DDR4 RAM that is more than enough for all gaming sessions, and even for some professional video work. The storage includes a fast 512GB SSD, with Windows 10 Home installed. The laptop also features a secondary 1TB HDD for storing all the games you want. The speed of the laptop is great, thanks to the combined performance of the RAM, the processor and SSD.

The main spotlight in the chipset is the NVIDIA GTX 980M GPU with 4GB GDDR5- a high-end mobile GPU that dates back to last year. While NVIDIA is on the verge of announcing the GTX 1080M, the GTX 980M is no slouch, at least for 1080p gaming. Unfortunately, the GTX 980M is not meant for playing games at 4K, which is what the display is configured by default. (Technically, the GTX 980M can play at 4K/60fps if you are willing to turn down all the settings of the game to the lowest possible. It even matters on which game you play). On the contrary, the fastest desktop GPUs out there in the market cannot play graphics-taxing games at 60fps for 4K resolution. So we had to tune down the resolution to 1080p, just to get the games running at good framerates without sacrificing on quality.

Performance Benchmarks

Let’s take a look at some of the benchmarks that we have performed.

3D Mark

Cinebench

GeekBench

Game Performance

Battery

While gaming laptops aren’t usually meant to have great battery life because of the power-hungry components, the Acer Predator 17 surprisingly had a better battery performance than other gaming laptops in terms of normal work. The laptop could last over two hours when browsing the internet, or watching videos on 80% brightness. However, gaming on battery is a different story. Not only does the battery get zapped fast in less than an hour, the CPU/GPU will not perform at its maximum.

Cooling

For a gaming laptop that holds impressive and powerful specifications, the Acer Predator 17 manages heat very well, thanks to the rear-facing cooling vents. One of my biggest complaints about any gaming laptop is that some portions of the keyboard get hot. This is because the CPU and GPU are right under the keyboard area. Surprisingly, I did not face any overheating issues on the keyboard area, or with the palm rest, which made my experience with the laptop way better. I only noticed heat on the upper side of the keyboard which isn’t much of a concern. That said, the Acer Predator FrostCare did not help much in reducing the heat produced. With FurMark, the maximum GPU temperature without FrostCare was 70 degrees, and 68 degrees with FrostCare. Not much of a difference, honestly.

Verdict

Overall, if you aren’t inclined to play at 4K resolution, then the Acer Predator 17 fits the bill well to play on 1080p with the GTX 980M GPU. Apart from gaming, the display in 4K mode delivers sharp images, the overall build quality of the device is excellent, and overall performance is good. The Predator is a good alternative for those who wants to prefer something else apart from the likes of Alienware, ASUS, or MSI.

Pros: Good build quality, great 4K screen, amazing gaming performance on 1080p, swappable cooling fan module

Cons: GTX 980M isn’t powerful enough for 4K gaming, Predator FrostCare doesn’t help much in cooling

Pricing

As per Acer, the Predator 17 configuration that we got costs about AED 9299 in Dubai, UAE. We think the price could have been a bit more affordable.