Monday , October 22 2018
Home / Laptops / Acer Predator Helios 500 Review & Rating

Acer Predator Helios 500 Review & Rating

From the moment you power on the imposing Acer Predator Helios 500 ($1,999.99 as tested), you know you’re in for a serious gaming laptop. Not only is this 17-inch machine tricked out with RGB lighting that extends from the keyboard down to the touchpad, but the speakers let out a swooping, screeching noise every time you power it on—letting you know it has arrived. The antithesis of svelte Max-Q gaming-laptop designs, the Helios 500 is big and weighty, allowing it to achieve its full performance potential using a combination of impressive thermals and full-power graphics silicon. It’s an able effort, but Editors’ Choice-winning machines from Alienware and Razer have a bit more polish.

Meet Acer’s Big Blue

It’s refreshing to see a gaming laptop that doesn’t follow the pack in its color scheme. None of the all-too-pervasive black-and-red here—the Helios 500 sports a black finish with blue accents. The directional-arrow and WASD keys are bordered with a blue paint job that sets them apart. The deck has a row of dedicated hotkeys that you can program to functions you choose, including auto-overclocking.

Then there is the key backlighting; you can change the lighting hues in the built-in PredatorSense software, but the entire keyboard and touchpad are backlit by default in a blue haze, including the six hotkeys and the power button. The keyboard, alas, does not offer per-key-programmable lighting, but instead four-zone RGB backlighting, customizable from a palette of 16.8 million colors. The feel of the keys does not disappoint, however. Though this is a membrane keyboard, each keypress is deep and satisfying, almost to the point where it feels like Acer used mechanical switches.

Aside from the color scheme, the rest of the Acer Predator Helios 500’s appearance is gamer-laptop standard. The outer shell is wholly plastic, a design decision that’s a little disappointing in any laptop in this price range, gaming or not. Other premium gaming laptops, such as the Razer Blade, have adopted all-metal bodies, while the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is outfitted with a plastic-like alloy outer shell. Plastic chassis are standard issue in systems less than half the cost of the Acer Predator Helios 500, such as the Lenovo Legion Y530.

Measuring 1.5 by 16.9 by 11.7 inches (HWD), the Predator Helios 500 is comparable in size to other 17-inch gaming laptops, such as the 1.18-by-16.7-by-13.1-inch Alienware 17 R5, and at 8.82 pounds, it’s almost a pound lighter than that Alienware. Its size and weight make it a formidable desktop-replacement gaming laptop, one you can lug to tournaments and the like. Do keep in mind, however, that you will also have to carry with you a weighty, 1.25-by-3.5-by-7-inch power brick.

What’s packed into that big chassis? For starters, a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel), 17-inch matte display, supporting two premium features: Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, and a 144Hz refresh rate. That means the Helios 500 can display your games, among other content, at up to 144 frames per second (fps), thanks to the high refresh rate, and without screen tearing, if you activate G-Sync. (“Tearing” is a common kind of distortion that occurs when a display tries to write a new frame to the screen when the previous one hasn’t been fully written yet; you get a screen with mismatched halves.) When enabled, G-Sync lets the screen refresh rate scale up and down with the frame rate that the graphics chip is putting out, much reducing the tearing threat.

Outside of the US, you can buy the Helios 500 with a 4K screen, but that is not an option for US buyers, who are limited to two configurations:

  • Core i7-8750H, GeForce GTX 1070, 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 256GB SSD ($1,999.99)
  • Core i9-8950HK, GeForce GTX 1070, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD, 512GB SSD ($2,499.99)

The model I reviewed is the first one. That Core i7 Intel chip is a six-core, 12-thread processor, which has a base clock of 2.2GHz and can perk all the way up to 4.1GHz when Turbo Boost kicks in. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics processor is backed by 8GB of video memory. Moreover, the Acer Predator Helios 500 has a 1TB hard drive paired with a 256GB PCI Express NVMe solid-state drive (SSD). Its 16GB of RAM is standard for a midrange or high-end gaming laptop in 2018.

Scoping Out the Sound and Connections

So much for the core components. A speaker grille appears to the right of the power button, above the keyboard. In my trials, the sound amplified to a volume loud enough to fill a decent-size living room with Michael Salvatori’s captivating Destiny 2 score. The quality of the audio was impressive—bassy enough to project the sound of a shotgun firing off with conviction in your first-person shooter of choice—and free of distortion when cranked all the way up. A 720p webcam is above the screen, in the center of the bezel. It works well enough for video conferencing, but it’s not a high-resolution cam.

The Helios 500’s port selection is profuse. On its right edge are two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, as well as separate headphone and microphone jacks, and a security-cable Kensington lock slot…

On the left, you’ll spot two USB Type-C 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 ports, an Ethernet jack, and a single USB 3.0 Type-A port…

Then, on the rear of the machine, are HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, along with the power jack…

Notably lacking is an SD-card slot, which would come in handy for media professionals using dSLR cameras and high-end camcorders. The wireless-connectivity loadout is standard stuff: 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. So is the warranty: Acer backs the Predator Helios 500 with a one-year plan.

High Performance, Low Battery Life

The PC Labs benchmark regimen illustrates that the Helios 500 is a brute in line with its components. Powerful as it is, it didn’t fare quite as well as some of its meatier competition mapped out below, some of which use peppier CPUs or GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chips. But it’s no slouch, and it held its expected ground.

The exception is in PCMark 8, where the Helios 500 topped the field. It scored 4,006 points, edging out the 2018 Razer Blade, which uses the same Intel Core i7-8750H processor. Because the two scores were well within the margin of error, though, the difference is not consequential. The Alienware 17 R5, on the other hand, scored 3,620 points in PCMark 8, a 10 percent difference, despite housing a higher-clocked Intel Core i9-8950HK processor. The main thing that suppressed the Alienware’s score on this test is almost certainly its 1440p screen, not the core components. Pushing more pixels has its cost in this test, and PCMark 8 tends to reflect that.

Acer Predator Helios 500 Performance Test 1

Related Story See How We Test Laptops

In the Cinebench R15 CPU test, the Alienware 17 R5 outpaced the Helios 500; its Core i9 processor (also a six-core, 12-thread chip) is clocked at 2.9GHz, as opposed to the Acer model’s lower-base-clocked 2.2GHz Core i7. In this competitive set, the Origin EON17-X performed best in the Photoshop CS6 test, a result of its hardy desktop CPU, faster storage, and to a lesser extent, higher-end graphics. The EON17-X is an outlier of a laptop, however, as it wields a desktop-class Intel Core i7-7700K processor, two NVMe M.2 SSDs, and a GTX 1080.

In the graphics test suite, the Helios 500 scored generally lower than the Alienware 17 R5, which makes sense considering the Alienware wields an overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 chip, compared with the Helios 500’s GTX 1070 tested at stock speeds…

Acer Predator Helios 500 Performance Test 2

In Fire Strike Extreme, for example, the Helios 500 garnered 7,750 points, compared with the 9,229 points achieved by the Alienware 17 R5. This test, however, levels the resolution between the tested systems. Factor in the native screen resolution, and you see some different dynamics. For example, the Helios 500 came out ahead of the Alienware 17 R5 in both the Heaven and Valley Ultra quality tests at the laptops’ native screen resolutions (1080p for the Helios, 1440p for the Alienware). In the tests at 1,366 by 768, the Alienware 17 R5 was the clear winner between the two.

I was surprised, however, to see the GTX 1070-equipped Helios 500 achieve higher numbers than the GTX 1080 of the original Asus ROG Zephyrus. While the Helios 500 leverages a full-fat GTX 1070, that version of the Zephyrus was host to a slimmed-down Max-Q version of the GTX 1080. That should put it just 10 to 15 percent behind the typical GTX 1080, but the Helios 500 essentially tied with the Asus ROG Zephyrus in 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme. That’s a testament to having a full-size chassis in which to let the GPU spread its wings. (Of course, the EON17-X stomped those Fire Strike Extreme results, scoring a whopping 9,197.)

Real-World Gaming Tests

To no one’s surprise, the gaming tests showed the Acer Predator Helios 500’s true potential. I tested with the games Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, using the Normal/Ultra and Medium/Very High graphics presets, respectively, at 1080p.

Acer’s laptop garnered an average of 97 frames per second (fps) in the Far Cry 5 benchmark at Normal graphics settings. At Ultra, the Helios 500 slowed down only a tad, to 88fps. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, at Medium settings, the Helios 500 earned an average frame rate of 111fps, as opposed to 91fps at the Very High graphics setting. This would be academic on a 60Hz screen, where the highest frame rate it can display is 60fps. But, since this is a 144Hz screen, the goal (for those opting for this machine specifically for that feature) is to target the highest frame rate possible.

While you can’t overclock the Intel Core i7-8750H CPU (only the Core i9 version of this machine has an unlocked CPU), the Helios 500’s built-in PredatorSense software does make it easy to overclock the GPU. It has three overclocking modes: Normal, Faster, and Turbo. Normal is ticked by default, but with everything cranked up to Turbo, the Helios 500 saw improvements to 91fps in Far Cry 5 at Ultra (a boost of 3fps) and to 107fps in Rise of the Tomb Raider at Very High (a big jump, up from 91fps).

While all of these results are playable frame rates, none of them quite bumps up against the 144Hz refresh rate of the Helios 500’s display. That said, less-demanding non-AAA games should see frame rates well above 144fps even without much tweaking of settings.

Battery Testing: Large and Out of Charge

The Acer Predator Helios 500 is a desktop-replacement laptop down to its battery life, which was rather disappointing in our battery-rundown test. It clocked in at 2 hours and 7 minutes (2:07), a steep drop from the Alienware 17 R5’s still-ho-hum 3:56. Imagine trying to work from a bar or coffee shop on this behemoth only to discover an absence of power outlets. A battery life of less than three hours is hard to swallow for any laptop, much less one that the manufacturer touts for its “long battery life,” according to the Acer Predator Helios 500 product page.

Verdict: Solid, But Not the Top Choice

The Predator Helios 500, in straying from the trend of lighter and leaner in favor of high performance and GPU overclockability, is a colossal 17-inch gaming laptop with a lot going for it. Although the chassis is an economical plastic material that would look and feel so much nicer were it metal alloy (or at least a metal veneer on the outside), the color scheme is a welcome departure.

For on-the-go gamers who care about both graphics and battery life, though, it’s tough to recommend the Helios 500 over the Alienware 17 R5 under most circumstances (unless, of course, you prefer the aesthetics of one over the other). Dell’s same-screen-size competing laptop costs less for similar specs (at this writing, $1,799.99 compared with the $1,999.99 Helios 500). The main difference is that this lower-cost configuration of the Alienware 17 R5 has a 60Hz screen, rather than the 144Hz display of the Acer Predator Helios 500 (although you can add a QHD 120Hz panel to the Alienware 17 R5 for a $250 premium, bringing the laptops close to parity for similar prices).

If the highest possible refresh rates are what you’re after, the Predator Helios 500 is a compelling option, but know that you can land the Alienware 17 R5, configured for similar performance and better battery life, for around the same cost.


Source link

About admin

Check Also

Microsoft Cracks Top 5 PC Vendor List in US Thanks to Surface | News & Opinion

For the first time, Microsoft is one of the top five PC vendors in the …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.