Best Gaming laptop Acer Predator Helios 500 Review
There’s been a stark increase in the number of laptops under $1,000 with high-end Nvidia graphics over the past couple of years. There are best gaming laptops that offer GTX 1050/1050 Ti-class performance for well below $1,000, and there are even premium rigs with desktop chips that can be had for less than $2,000.
But what if you don’t want to spend more than three grand on a laptop? What if you have ambitions of owning (or at least trying) VR headsets like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift? That means money is an object–at least it should be.
That leaves gamers stuck between two difficult options: buying a decent laptop with entry-level VR capabilities for less than three grand or buying a higher-end laptop for VR (plus desktops built to handle the hefty minimum specs required by Oculus and HTC).
Well, Acer has an interesting option in the Predator Helios 500. It’s priced under $2,000, but it’s not exactly entry-level–not even close. But hey, silicon is cheap these days…
The question is: how much performance does that silicon really buy? And can it deliver on Vive and Oculus’ high-performance VR experience demands? Let’s find out!
Here is what you need to know about the Predator Helios 500 before we begin: Specs at a glance: 15.6″ IPS 1080p display (144Hz) GTX 1070 MaxQ GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 (VR ready) 16GB DDR4 RAM 256GB M.2 SSD Full-size backlit keyboard w/ number pad Windows 10 Home 64-bit Intel Core i7 7700HQ CPU
Acer Predator Helios 500 Price: $1,999 on Amazon Bottom line: The Acer Predator Helios 500 has great specs for the money, but it’s heavy and bulky at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. This is a big laptop. The Good VR ready out of the box VR performance is very good Battery life lasts over 5 hours even while gaming The Bad Bulky design Expensive Speakers are thins living room-style speakers rather than traditional laptop ones
Design and features
We’ve seen the Predator Helios 500 before, and it’s a looker–not in that Mac-style sense, but more like a Supercar or exotic car. It’s not subtle. But then again, neither is the performance it puts out.
The body is made of plastic rather than metal, but you’d really have to look hard to tell the difference. Like many other gaming laptops at this price level (and higher), there is no denying that this laptop isn’t as compact as more traditional laptops designed for portability and ergonomics overpower. A powerful graphics card slotted into such a small chassis would probably result in very poor thermals…and we all know what follows and poor performance. This laptop is big, which is to be expected.
So, back to the design: there’s a lot going on here with angles and vents everywhere you look, done in black matte plastic. The lid showcases the Predator logo front and center while some slanted angles complete the jet-like look of this laptop.
The bottom is made of textured metal (technically not aluminum but Acer doesn’t give a specific material), making for good airflow under normal conditions. However, in our testing using an external thermometer we found that it gets pretty hot under load despite that metal surface–in fact, the touchpad reached temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit after gaming sessions! That’s uncomfortably warm; be wary if you plan on using this laptop on your knee or lap.
The keyboard is backlit in red, and the WASD keys are highlighted–which doesn’t make a lot of sense to us since we’re not playing games using those keys but whatever, it’s a minor thing that some might appreciate. The overall build quality feels solid enough for this price range; we didn’t notice any major flexing or creaking while typing during our test period either.
Hardware and performance
As we mentioned, the Predator Helios 500 is VR-ready right out of the box. It’s powered by Nvidia’s GTX 1070 graphics card with MaxQ tuning, which should give it enough headroom for current generation games in high settings (provided they aren’t super demanding). In fact, Acer claims this laptop is good “beyond 1080p” resolution, which means 1440p at 120 Hz or 4K at 60 Hz through either HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.3 (the latter over USB Type C). Whereas, most of the best gaming pc 2022 also comes with such specs.
That said: it handled everything we threw at it without issue–even some older titles like Bioshock Infinite on ultra settings at 1080p were silky smooth with framerates in the range of 150 to over 200 FPS. 4K gaming is still out of the question but that’s to be expected from such a powerful card but plugged into a 1080p display
The Intel i7-7700HQ paired with 16GB DDR4 RAM handled most daily tasks without any issue, including light multi-tasking through Chrome or Steam. When pushed–like when opening more than 15 tabs in Chrome or having several programs running simultaneously–there was some stuttering and sluggishness, however, it wasn’t as bad as we’ve seen on many other laptops.
We should note here that while this laptop comes with 16GB RAM standard in our model, you can configure it to have 32 GB instead–it just costs more300 extra). If you do opt for the 32 GB model, know that this laptop uses two 8GB sticks of DDR4 RAM.
Disappointingly, there is no option for a solid-state drive (SSD) in this configuration–only an HDD which clocks in at 1TB capacity. While we would have liked to see an SSD pairing with the faster i7 processor and GTX 1070 graphics card here, it’s understandable why Acer did what it did. The problem is that power users will likely be disappointed by the slow HDD speed; our test unit routinely returned transfer speeds around 110 MB/s when transferring large files from one location on the disk to another. That’s about 40% slower than even entry-level SSDs these days which can handle upwards of 550 MB/s.
Those unsatisfied with an HDD can upgrade to a 256 GB M.2 SSD, though that will set you back another $100 or so. There are no other storage options for the Predator Helios 500, which is unfortunate–we wish they had included at least one 2.5-inch drive bay instead of just the M.2 slot for another 8-10 dollars in savings and some extra flexibility in configuring this laptop with an SSD/HDD combo.