Acer unleashed a whole suite of new laptops at its annual global event in New York, but one stood out like a monster truck in a traffic jam.
If you’re looking for a sleek road warrior of a gaming laptop, the Predator Helios 700 is not it. But it’s one of the first mobile PCs to be armed with Intel’s 9th Gen Core i9 processor, and features an innovative slide-out keyboard that both helps with cooling and boosts performance.
Read on for our first impressions.
Design: slide and tested
Although it technically qualifies as a laptop, the 4.5kg Helios 700 is not something you’re going to want on your lap. This thing is positively tanklike and proud of it.
You’re better off thinking of it as a portable desktop, a reputation it absolutely earns when you start using the Helios 700’s clever new HyperDrift keyboard. The bottom half of the laptop is essentially a tray that slides forward and brings the keys closer to you. When activated, the trackpad portion of the base tilts, creating a palm rest that is designed to make prolonged sessions more comfortable. If we’re nitpicking, the plastic on which you plonk your sweaty hands feels a bit on the cheap side.
Sliding the keyboard in and out is a slick and effortless process, and while it’ll probably take some getting used to (and a fair bit of desk width), you can definitely feel the ergonomic benefits.
The HyperDrift tech is multi-purpose; pulling the keyboard forward also exposes the 4th Gen AeroBlade™ 3D Fans and uncovers two additional air intakes, which help with cooling and make overclocking the great beast with a jab of its Turbo button a safer option.
The keys themselves are anti-ghosting and decorated with all the flickering RGB lighting you’d expect. The WASD keys are MagForce, meaning they’re depth-sensitive and can be programmed to respond at the slightest touch. We didn’t get a chance to test them in action, but they definitely feel a bit odd when brushed after or before one of the standard keys. Still, gamers who demand absolute precision will no doubt enjoy tinkering with them.
You’d reasonably expect such a chunky laptop to be well-equipped in the ports department, and Acer hasn’t disappointed here, with a full arsenal of USB-C, USB 3.1, HDMI and Ethernet connections in tow.
Display: refresh yourself
A novel keyboard design would be worthless if the screen wasn’t up to scratch. Happily, the Helios 700’s 17in FHD display has a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time, as well as G-Sync support, which together should ensure buttery smooth team deathmatches.
It was hard to judge it properly based on the 30 seconds or so of Battlefield V we saw running in a far from ideally lit room, so we won’t until we have a review unit.
If there’s an obvious gap on the feature list, however, it’s a 4K option - although when you consider how expensive this thing is already, that might be for the best.
Performance: 9th Gen goodness
When it comes to specs, the Predator Helios 700 is every bit the flagship offering. You get an all new 9th Gen Intel Core i9 processor under the hood, and either an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 or 2070 GPU, the latter enabling ray tracing.
The laptop can also be configured with up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM and up to a 1TB SSD or 2TB hard drive.
As mentioned before, one-button overclocking is very much on the menu, and the extra ventilation afforded by the removable keyboard means you’ll be less terrified about the whole thing bursting into a ball of flames just as you’re about to pull the trigger on your match-winning headshot.
Acer Predator Helios 700 initial verdict
With very limited time actually playing games on the Predator Helios 700, it’s difficult to talk confidently about anything other than its swanky HyperDrift keyboard, and that’s easily what will mark it out from the rest of the gaming laptops we see this year. It works as well as you’d hope and seems genuinely useful. The MagForce keys are also an interesting addition.
It’s very large and very expensive, but if you’re looking for an easily transportable desktop alternative to play Apex Legends on, add the the Helios 700 to your wishlist.