This is madness!
Madness? This is the Predetaaaa! But in all seriousness, here’s the thing about really expensive bits of tech. They are super expensive, duh, but they are super exclusive too, unless you’re talking about hospital equipment. There are only 300 units of the Predator 21 X and we have the 226th unit. It’s probably the only one available in India, but we’re not entirely sure of the fact. So if you’ve secretly bought one somehow, invite us over for lunch. Yeah?
It is one of the most striking, unusual and imposing laptops I’ve seen in a while. It costs a staggering ₹6,99,999 and is not only a glimpse of what Acer and its Predator wing are capable of but it also has to hold its own against the GX800 liquid-cooled monstrosity from Asus. But that leaves us with one very important question - are these laptops all about performance? Let’s find out.
You are left astounded even before you lay eyes on the laptop. Such is the visual impact of the customised Pelican case that the Predator 21 X comes in. It looks like something military personnel use to transport their drones. There might as well just be a nuclear warhead in there. There are seven clamps that are tough as nails and even tougher to open. The case is watertight, crushproof and dustproof - trust me, I jumped on it (really hard).
Then there’s the polyurethane wheels with stainless steel bearings that make it really easy and smooth to roll around. But the best bit here is the Pelican Automatic Pressure Equalization Valve, which equalizes the pressure inside the case at different altitudes. You can even lock it with two proper padlocks if you want to! Now that’s some really good protection.
We were pretty impressed with the way the Asus GX800 looked. It exudes class and sophistication thanks to all the silver and black on there. But think about it like this. If someone is willing to spend ₹7 lakhs on a crazy gaming laptop, he/she is looking for CRAZY! Which the Acer Predator totally is. The black, the gray and the blue highlights just make it look - excuse our language - effing amazing! I mean, just look at it! No other laptop even comes close to looking as imposing and brilliant as this baby here.
The translucent panel that sits above the keyboard just adds to the drama of it all. You get to see that Aeroblade fan spinning away and you can change the colour too. The power button and the detailing on it adds to the charm as well. However, I wish Acer had made the entire top bit translucent. Now that would just kill it!
The four speaker grilles at either sides give a break from the all black design and the etched Dolby Audio logo gives you the hint that this little monster means serious business. And then there’s the switchable trackpad. The edges of which light up and you can customize the colour on there as well.
Hell, even the vents for the fans on the back and the sides look menacing. They have a warning sign that says “Hot Surface”. All this just adds to the “Crazy” factor that the Predator 21 X embodies oh-so-well. If you think we’re done, not yet. The Predator logo on the back of the curved display feels really premium to look and touch. Of course, it lights up and is customisable too. Then there’s the strips that run vertically along the edges of the panel that you can customise to your liking.
The hinges are a shade of metallic silver with a hint of black and the corresponding air vents just look beautiful. The attention to detail here is amazing. It’s almost like Acer hired a team of neurosurgeons to carve this baby out. It just looks brilliant and can make a grown man squeal - it’s the same feeling you get when you see a Lamborghini Terzo Millennio up close and personal.
Oh, that feeling you get when you game on a proper mechanical keyboard. What you get here is a full-fledged mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX brown switches. The keycaps are solidly built and feel proper premium, unlike the MechTag ones on the Asus GX800. There’s a sense of satisfaction you get when you type on this keyboard and it just feels natural.
This is the keyboard Asus should have placed on the GX800, not that the MechTag one was bad, but that one was designed to feel like one with Cherry MX brown switches. What was the point of it? We don’t know. But Acer is on point with this one because it also gives you highlighted WASD keycaps and throws in a highlighted spacebar as well. This just lifts the entire look of the Predator and with a properly calibrated blue lighting set up, the entire thing looks menacing.
Since we are on the subject of lighting, you should also know that the RGB lighting is not over done. The lighting is subtle and not the in-your-face kind that you’d get with, say, an MSI. You can customise it through the Predator Sense software which has a total of 11 modes and a full colour spectrum for each one at your disposal.
You get your standard five hotkeys that you can set to whatever function you want and they rest on the left side of the keyboard. They don’t share the same modes as the keyboard and remain static, but can be colour customised. Adding macros is done through the ‘Hotkeys’ tab in the Predator Sense software and is straightforward and extremely simple.
The only issue while gaming on this otherwise brilliant and fault-free keyboard is the height of the laptop itself. Luckily Acer supplies a chunky wrist rest with it that has a surface that’s made of Alcantara and does a great job of supporting your wrists which otherwise would start to hurt within about half an hour of gaming. It attaches to the base of the laptop magnetically and remains in place thanks to the rubberized bottom grip.
Ports of a Predator
It may be 2018, but the MicroSD card slot still features like a gall bladder - useless, but okay to have around. The rest of the ports are top-of-the-line, as you’d expect. There’s four USB 3.0 ports, one USB Type-C option, two display ports and an HDMI in for you to connect multiple displays to. Apart from that, there’s the audio inputs for the mic and your headphones. Unlike the GX 800, there’s no fancy Wi-Fi range extender or any of that shebang here. It’s a no-nonsense approach and it’s good that way.
A curved screen on a laptop is a first for us. It’s also ambitious and risky, but here the risk has paid off. What Acer has achieved, is a truly immersive gaming experience. The resolution is 2560x1080 and most of the modern day games support it and look good!
It also is obviously well calibrated, but you don’t get much freedom to tinker around with different display modes as with other laptops. But that’s completely fine since it anyway has a neutral tone and colours appear natural.
The display has a refresh rate of 120Hz and is G-Sync ready. We all know what that means now, don’t we? There’s virtually no screen tearing and anything you play on it, especially first person shooters, will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom. 4K addicts might complain about the lack of it, but that resolution is mighty difficult to obtain on a curved display.
Here’s where the dilemma lies. Do we want a wide curved screen with a lower resolution or a regular screen with a 4K resolution. If you ask us, we would go for the wide curved screen. Yes, we would. Yes, we know games in 4K look absolutely gorgeous, but you’ve not played on a 21in laptop with a curved display.
The level of immersion that the Predator 21 X has to offer with this display is insane! It simply draws you into the game and soon enough, you forget about the resolution, you forget about performance, you forget about everything and just game. Now that, according to us, has much more value than a game just looking good while you play it.
Another thing we like about the Predator and its screen is the chunkiness. Yes, the base of the laptop is just the right amount of chunky and because of that, the display perfectly lines up with your eyes. This may sound crazy, but it’s true. Acer has managed to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. We bet even they didn’t know that. Jokes apart, this laptop makes us believe every 21in laptop should come with a curved display.
The core of the matter
Now here’s the deal with the Acer. It’s got the big daddy Core-i7 7820HK processor with 64 gigs of RAM. That’s more than enough power to run a space station. But does the Acer make the most out of it? No it doesn’t. You can overclock it but not as much as on the Asus GX800 and as a result, the Acer scores a little less on benchmark tests.
The difference though is negligible. While the GX800 scored a 4855 on the PCMark 8 Home conventional test, the Predator managed to attribute a very close 4361. We got the same results throughout the different tests that we put the Predator through. It just fell short by a tiny margin that was almost negligible.
So, if you only look at it through a purely performance oriented viewpoint, the GX800 is the superior one here, but again, only by a margin. In the real world, it is blazingly fast and shames any other laptop you put in front of it.
Many gaming laptops have come and gone through the Stuff test bench. Some have impressed, some have depressed, but no gaming laptop has drawn in the attention of the entire team like this one, and certainly not made them want to sit down and game on it. This one did and it was very difficult to review thanks to everyone wanting to - if not game - just be around it.
Even the Director of the company couldn’t help herself. Our Ed. who is not a gamer (uses Apple) wanted to have a few laps of Project Cars on the Predator. There’s something about this laptop that makes gaming fun. It makes you fall in love with gaming all over again - like a teenager playing his first Road Rash race - instant love. And that, I don’t think any other laptop can do.
As of the actual gaming performance - duh, it’s blistering good. Two Nvidia GTX 1080s and a display with a resolution that’s nowhere as demanding as 4K. Games like Shadow of War, Project Cars, Wolfenstein, Arma 3 and a host of others we tested had frame rates of over 100 and that’s enough to plaster a permanent smile on your face.
The Predator is a different machine, it almost makes us rethink our method of testing. It proves it’s not just about numbers and benchmarks, there’s more to a device than just that. It’s the way it makes you feel. Sure, it performs slightly lesser than the Asus GX800, but when it comes to gaining attention and making people want to game on it, this one wins hands down and it has the performance to back it up.
Blades of the Acer
With a total of five fans in the system, the Predator might as well serve as a hoverboard, at least it sounds like one when all of them are spinning at their prime. But all that noise translates to a brilliantly cool system. You get three Aeroblade fans and two regular ones.
Temperatures never go above 80 even when we had three to four games running at once. Of course, this limits its overclocking when compared with the GX800, but hey, there’s no separate module you have to carry around. And that is the kind of luxury and practicality we welcome with open arms.
Tobii or not Tobii
That is the question. The Tobii eye-tracking thing sounds pretty cool and is some impressive bit of tech. It was first used to detect where clueless shopper’s eyes pried in a shopping mall so as to better the position of the products to increase sales. Now, it’s trickled down to gaming and we’re not quite sure about the performance.
There’s a limited number of games that supports this bit and we happen to test it out on Arma 3. So, basically when it’s enabled you can look around freely at the surroundings, but when you actually are in a fight it becomes really tough to operate. The player just keeps looking down and the aiming goes haywire.
We even tried calibrating it almost four times, but still got the same result. There still is a lot of development left for Tobii to be properly implemented in games. Honestly, we kept the thing off after getting tired of failing with it.
We mentioned earlier that the etched Dolby Audio branding on the speaker grilles lend the Predator a premium feel, but the actual audio this laptop puts out just re-establishes that notion. It’s got four speakers with two subwoofers which make quite a ruckus, albeit a good one.
Explosions and gunshots are loud and have enough weight to make them believable. The racing engine of the Formula A cars in Project Cars was also delivered with enough grunt and detail. There’s some great audio separation too. You can clearly figure out whether enemy footsteps are to the left or the right.
It is clear that the speakers are tuned mainly for gaming as we didn’t quite enjoy listening to music on the Predator 21 X. The bass lacks the subtle detail you would otherwise find on the GX800 and even though there’s different modes available through the Dolby Audio software, it doesn’t help the case much. Anyway you’re better off with a set of proper gaming headphones.
Verdict: Hark the heart
The main question here is why would you spend 7 lacs on a laptop? The answer is obviously not that simple. There’s the performance factor obviously, but a custom built PC would be way cheaper and garner similar results, then there’s the curved display, but you can buy a curved monitor or a curved TV with that kind of money, but then there’s that novelty factor.
It’s that feeling you get when you set your eyes on it. It makes you notice, it makes you turn your head, you will gulp in awe at it and your heart will win the battle with the mind and you will want to spend that money on it. Now that’s something you can’t get with just a regular PC, and to be honest, not even with the Asus GX800. There’s something about this laptop that’s special and Acer’s managed to turn its imperfections to perfections beautifully and no, we weren’t paid to say that.