At one point, sometime in the 90s, ‘PC Building’ was quite a thing.
Nobody had heard of a proper gaming laptop and the ones you would get were bulky and would cost the moon with less than half the power of a proper desktop gaming rig.
But all that has changed now and laptops are finally shedding weight and closing in the performance that proper desktops offer. Well, that’s until you realize how powerful desktops have gotten these days and the amount of ammunition you get for the same amount of money that you’d spend on a premium gaming laptop. And that’s exactly what the Orion does - put things into perspective.
Big wheel keep on turnin’
When you need to attach wheels to a desktop, you know you have quite something. Weighing in at an astonishingly back-breaking 20kgs, the Orion towers over any regular gaming assembly like our humble test machine built around the Corsair 570X mid-tower. It’s got two handles atop in case you want to brave it out and lift it.
The cabinet has a mix of hard plastic and metal and is as sturdy as can be. The sides have a metal panel each that can be taken off via a pull mechanism and unscrewing two screws. There’s hardly any twisting or bending when you do pick it up but the plastic bits do creak when subjected to pressure.
But that’s not at all an issue as overall the unit feels like a solid block of goodness. The addition of two wheels at the back of the unit makes it fairly easy to lug around almost like a luggage trolley bag. The addition of metal grilles on the front really add to the premium look of the Orion as well.
Great rig from the sky
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, an alien child asked his father if he could build a gaming PC for him. The father looked at his child, looked up to the sky and the rest is history. Thank you alien dad for designing this beautiful jaw-dropping beaut. The Orion is the only evidence we ever need about the existence of aliens.
The three grilles on the front along with those strips of RGB lighting that resonate the Predator logo look absolutely menacing and wicked to say the least. The slats on either side give it a sort of industrial look and the faux carbon fibre printing adds to that. The side panels that come off have a sort of grille that kind of restricts the view inside, not to mention the in-your-face Predator logo that does its part to block the view as well.
A little more thought and finesse would have been really appreciated, but I get it. The grille is there to lend that extra bit of stability and the Predator logo is there because alien dad is very proud of his achievement and likes to boast a little. You need to unscrew two screws that stay in place once done and then get the panel off.
The front has a handy headphone stand that you need to push for it to pop out. It’s quite cleverly integrated and can just be pushed away when not in use. The topmost grille unit pops out as well to expose a CD drive. Neanderthal, but hey, what’s the harm?
Yes it looks menacing from the outside, but take off that side panel and while it feels pretty premium it lacks that certain oomph factor you would usually associate with such a machine. I mean, there are lights, don’t get me wrong, but I would have liked some more pipes, some liquid going through them, you get the idea?
Another interesting thing is the addition of the shroud to the power supply. It definitely helps the aesthetic and gives a cleaner feel overall. However the shroud is made of plastic and is removable for easy cleaning. A glowing Predator logo on a slick metal unit would look oh so much better, just like on our reference Corsair 570X.
While on the subject of cleanliness, the cable management is handled really well here and you won’t face any problems maneuvering additional cables should you chose to add any. One thing I wish they had done was to paint those metal bits of the chassis inside especially that hard drive tray that takes up the top right corner. It kind of just sticks out like a sore thumb from an otherwise neat layout.
Before we get into the actual performance, here are a few figures. You get the latest Intel Core-i9 7900X CPU that boasts a cool 10 cores. Our review unit has 16GBs of DDR4 RAM, but has eight DIMM slots so you can expand it to 128 gigs of quad-channel madness, 2TBs of Intel Optane storage with bays for adding more.
That is quite a spec-sheet, and the benchmark scores are pretty much up there. PC Mark8 Home Conventional was dismissed with a score of 4370 and Accelerated returned 4796. In the Crystal Disk benchmark, we got read speeds of 1412MB/s and write speeds of 297.4MB/s. Now these numbers are seriously impressive, but does it really feel quick to use in your regular day-to-day tasks?
Hell yeah it does. So to put things in perspective, let’s say you’re working on a regular machine that has an Intel Core-i5 with 16GBs of RAM. Now, you open Google Chrome and it takes about two seconds. You minimize it and you open it again and this time it's faster because it already was open, right? The Orion opens Chrome faster than your regular rig does when it is minimized. It is THAT fast.
Softwares like Photoshop and Premiere Pro are sort of put in their place like this. Although there isn’t any Thunderbolt, the Orion, with a little added RAM could be a video editor’s dream machine to work with as well. But here’s the issue. The benchmark scored that the Orion charts up can be achieved by an Intel Core i7-8700K with some additional RAM. Now this turns out cheaper, but of course, the Orion achieves what the 8700K does, with just a measly 16GBs, which makes it quite a crazy multi tasker.
Game face on
The Nvidia GTX1080Ti is quite a performer and what makes the Orion a helluva gaming machine. Combined with the processor, which already is an overkill for gaming, it does its job extremely well. We tested a bunch of games including State of Decay 2 and the experience was smoother than a vintage single malt.
Okay, we might be exaggerating a bit, but while the 1080Ti delivers on the visual front in spades, the loading time is drastically lowered in between. It is a sort of seamless experience that doesn’t make you wait on excruciatingly long loading screens. You’re in the game within a few seconds. This is thanks to the Optane injection the Orion gets.
Gaming in 4K was quite smooth with average frame rates resting at the 80fps mark on high settings. But switch that to ultra and that number starts to drop. It goes down to an average of 65-70fps, which is not bad at all. You do get the option to include another card should you find the need to, but Acer says it is better done through their network of service.
I am going to try and make this as simple as possible. Optane is a better version of Intel’s SRT technology. No, it isn’t RAM and neither is it your conventional storage. In fact, it is a sort of highway between your computer’s RAM and actual storage and works like a cache so that your RAM, processor and storage can communicate and work faster. The software is charming too and remembers your most frequent processes so that it can make it available to you by storing it on the Optane module. Imagine a car from Fast & Furious. Adding Optane is like pushing the Nitrous Oxide or NOS button. Instant acceleration right?
Yup, according to Intel, Optane can improve a regular hard drive’s speed and load times get a boost to perform about 4.7 times faster even if your game is stored on a rusty old HDD. This in turn saves you the hassle of uninstalling games that have been installed on your faster storage drives like say an SSD. Win? Hell yea. But as of now it is only compatible with 7th-gen processors or higher and need Optane-enabled motherboards. But this might soon be the future.
Acer Predator Orion Verdict
The Acer Predator Orion is a beast many would desire, but to go ahead and buy it just for gaming would mean you are quite rich and the fact that the Orion 9000 is quite an overkill doesn’t bother you. But if you want to buy this for gaming and editing videos at the same time, now that’s the kind of crazy Acer’s looking for.
In terms of gaming, the Orion 9000 seems a bit over the top because a lesser processor, say the Core i7 8700K comes in much cheaper, the motherboard it sits on is cheaper and it garners scores similar to the new 7900X. It is only the multi-core score that gives the new processor an edge over the older generations, but unless you want to stream a video, play a game, process a 4K video, edit an image in Photoshop and have the computer prepare breakfast for eight for you, there’s no real benefit it offers to the gaming world.
So, although extremely desirable, the Orion 9000 remains a luxury buy for most.