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Acer Predator Helios 300 review: A well-rounded gaming laptop at a great price

With the monstrous Predator 21 X and sleek Predator Triton 700, Acer staked a compelling claim on the high-end market, loading its notebooks with extravagant features and the most powerful portable gaming hardware available. The Acer Predator Helios 300 doesn’t concern itself with fanciful bells and whistles. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense gaming laptop that delivers a refreshing amount of bang for your buck, starting at $1,100 on Amazon with a Core i7-7700HQ processor and a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card.

The Acer Predator Helios 300 isn’t quite perfect. The display runs dimmer than its rivals, and the storage is cramped. But beyond those minor grumbles, this machine checks all the boxes you could ask for in an affordable gaming laptop. It’s even easy to repair!

Acer Predator Helios 300 specs, features, and price

Acer offers the Predator Helios 300 in several configurations spanning both 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch display sizes. We’re reviewing the entry-level 15-inch version. Here’s what’s inside:

  • CPU: Core i7-7700HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4/2400
  • Storage: 256GB M.2 SSD
  • Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Display: 15.6-inch 1920×1080 60Hz IPS
  • Ports: 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI, SD card reader, ethernet, headphone jack, lock slot
  • Weight: 5 pounds, 7.9 ounces, or 7 pounds with power brick
  • Dimensions: 15.4 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Price: $1,100

Around this price range, you’ll normally find gaming laptops equipped with a lesser-powered GeForce GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, or a middling Core i5 CPU. Not here: The Predator packs the same quad-core Core i7-7700HQ processor found in laptops that cost two or three times more, along with a full-fat 6GB GeForce GTX 1060—no dialed-back Max-Q version here. Despite the affordable price, Acer didn’t skimp on the memory, stocking the Helios 300 with 16GB of DDR4 RAM.

The only ho-hum hardware? Storage. This entry-level configuration includes an SSD with a scant 256GB capacity that’ll fill up fast in this era of plus-sized games. It’s nice and fast in practice, though. Acer offers another configuration that supplements the SSD with a 1TB mechanical hard drive, but at a steep $300 premium. Given how easy it is to crack open the Predator Helios 300—the empty hard drive bay is secured shut by a single Phillips screw—I’d recommend going the DIY route to add more storage to the laptop.

acer predator helios 300 3 Dan Masaoka/IDG

The laptop chassis includes plenty of plastic, as you’d expect in a gaming notebook in this price range, but Acer augments it with a sleek, brushed-metal lid and keyboard deck. Two angled red stripes flank the Predator logo on the lid, ensuring everyone in the coffee shop knows you’re using an Acer. It’s a fingerprint magnet, though. With 5 pounds, 7.9 ounces of heft and a 1.1-inch thickness, the Helios 300 is fairly compact for a gaming rig. You’ll feel it in your backpack but won’t break your spine lugging it around.

acer predator helios 300 2 Dan Masaoka/IDG

The inputs feel comfortable and responsive, too. The chiclet-style keys have plenty of travel and aren’t overly loud in use. Fetching red backlights augment the keyboard and look nice against the black keys. They can be turned on or off manually, but not dimmed or customized on a per-key basis. The clickpad-style touchpad handles very smoothly and accurately. I’d have preferred dedicated left- and right-click buttons, but hey, I’m a purist. The Helios 300’s keyboard and touchpad excel overall.

I wish I could say the same for the 1920×1080 IPS display. It’s nice and sharp with wide viewing angles, but far too dim. In fact, at 230 nits maximum, it doesn’t even hit the minimum brightness level we use for our battery run-down tests, which run at a standardized 250 to 260 nits to simulate comfortable indoor viewing. Some colors lack pop and feel washed-out as a result, especially vibrant hues. Don’t get me wrong: The Predator Helios 300’s display is serviceable overall. It’s just lackluster compared to rival screens.

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