Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop, Intel Core i5-9300H, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 15.6" Full HD 120Hz Display, 3ms Response Time, 8GB DDR4, 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD, Backlit Keyboard, PH315-52-588F
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- 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H 4-Core Processor (Up to 4.1GHz) with Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM
- 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen LED-backlit IPS display (120Hz Refresh Rate, 3ms Overdrive Response Time, 300nit Brightness & 72% NTSC)
- 8GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory, 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD (2 x PCIe M.2 Slots | 1 Slot Open for Easy Upgrades) & 1 - Available Hard Drive Bay
- Backlit Keyboard | LAN: Killer Gaming Network E2500 | Wireless: Killer DoubleShot Pro Wireless-AX 1650 WiFi 6 802.11ac | 4th Gen All-Metal AeroBlade 3D Fan
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Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-588F Gaming Laptop comes with these high level specs: 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H 4-Core Processor 2.4GHz with Turbo Boost Technology up to 4.1GHz, 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-backlit IPS display, 120Hz Refresh Rate, 16:9 aspect ratio, 3ms Overdrive Response Time, 300nit Brightness, 72% NTSC, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM, 8GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory, 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD (2 x PCIe M.2 Slots 1 Slot Available), 1 - Available Hard Drive Bay, Waves MaxxAudio sound technology, featuring MaxxBass, MaxxVolume, MaxxDialog and hyper-realistic 3D Audio using Waves Nx, Acer True Harmony Technology, Two Built-in Stereo Speakers, Acer Purified.Voice technology with two built-in microphones, Killer Double Shot Pro Wireless-AX 1650 802.11ac WiFi 6 featuring 2x2 MU-MIMO technology (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz), Killer Ethernet E2500 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN, HD Webcam (1280 x 720) supporting Super High Dynamic Range (SHDR), 1 - USB 3.1 Type C Gen 2 port (up to 10 Gbps), 3 - USB 3.1 Gen 1 Ports (One with Power-off Charging), 1 - HDMI 2.0 Port with HDCP Support, 1 - Mini Display Port 1.4, Backlit Keyboard, Lithium Ion Battery, Up to 6-hours Battery Life, 5.07 lbs. 2.3 kg (system unit only) (NH.Q5MAA.004)
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This machine does a pretty good job living up to its advertised capabilities. This review is based on my impressions after a couple of days with the unit - I may update it later if anything relevant occurs long-term.
I don't have a lot of sophistocated instruments for measuring the actual brightness, color gamut etc... In general I stuck to sofware based tests and my somewhat subjective eyeballs.
The top (back of the screen) is metal, as is keyboard and palm-rest area, the screen bezel and bottom are plastic. This was a pretty good design decision as it keeps the bottom from turning into a hotplate in your lap. The hinge feels solid and moves very smoothly.
The screen is rated about 300 nits. Just based on comparisions with others with similar ratings this screen seems like it might actually be a little brighter than it's rated. It's perfectly visible outside in daylight as long as there isn't direct sunlight on the screen. The 144hz refresh rate is a really nice feature and allows for some rock-solid motion. The contrast and color gamut are very effective and pleasing to the eye. I don't have a tool for measuring the colors so this could just be clever engineering, but nothing here feels like a compromise. The screen does suffer from uneven backlight blooming so on a completely dark image, there are bright splotches around the margin, but this is pretty typical for an IPS LCD.
The GPU seems to be able to take just about everything I've thrown at it on the most insane settings and I haven't noticed any performance problems. The Witcher 3 and Darksiders Warmastered Edition look amazing in motion, with the latter running at a V-sync'd 144hz with no problems at all. It pulled a very respectable score of 14,000+ on the Final Fantasy XIV Stormbringer Benchmark with everything turned up to maximum and every optimization turned off. The laptop comes pre-configured with an overclock setting called "Turbo" mode which is activated by a button to the upper-left of the keyboard. You can, of course, create your own overclocking profiles.
In order to more efficiently use power, conserve battery, and cut down on fan noise, as with most contemporary gaming laptops, the Predator Helios 300 uses Intel Optimus. In a nutshell, Intel Optimus switches dynammically between the considerably less powerful and less power-hungry integrated Intel GPU and the GTX-1660ti. The system will attempt to guess which GPU should be used for a given process, but you can deliberately control this in a couple of different ways. From the Nvidia Control Panel, you can set the GPU to use for a given application so that whenever that program (i.e. your games) are launched it automatically does so under the Nvidia card. Alternatively you can tell the system to favor the Nvidia card for everything (not a great idea unless you want to listen to the fan all the time and watch your battery level drop before your eyes). And Lastly, there's a context menu item called "run with graphics processor" that lets you select which to use by right-clicking on an application before you launch it. So Optimus is pretty useful for balancing performance, but it somes with a couple of unfortunate tradeoffs. There is no "Display" option in the Nvidia control panel because Optimus dynamically manages those settings, and G-Sync and Fast Sync options are not possible though technically the GPU is capable of using them.
The keyboard is, for the most part, great. The keys are spaced reasonably, slightly convex, quiet and just have a nice feel. I'm used to pressing harder so my fingers have a tendency to bounce and I wind up typing double letters occasionally, but it's nothing I can't adjust to. (I tried using the Windows "Filter Keys" setting to help with this but it's more of an accessiblity option and is too restrictive) The width of the keyboard allows for the incorporation of a 10-key keypad on the right, however the keys are much narrower than the rest of the keyboard, and the 0 key has been shifted to the center column to accomodate the arrow keys, so it's a bit of compromise. It's only really annoying when trying to type in a large string of numbers such as when entering a license key.
The trackpad is generously large and very sensitive. There are no mouse buttons, but the bottom of the pad is clickable with the right and left corners representing the right and left mouse buttons.
The laptop comes with a pair of down-firing stereo speakers that are okay for what they are. They're tinny and can't really get loud enough to overpower the fan noise when playing games. Noise cancelling or noise isolating headphones are pretty much mandatory for gaming or anything that drives the GPU. That said, the virtual surround effect is surprisingly convincing.
They changed last-year's red backlight to blue, which I think is somewhat more pleasing to the eye, but it's kind of a deal breaker in the use-it-in-bed scenario because the blue light spectrum interferes with your ability to achieve REM sleep. It's a thing, look it up.
It runs on a 3720mAh battery which is about 25% more capacity than last year's model. Trying to give a "it lasts this many hours" number is kind of pointless in my opinion because it's affected by background processes, screen brightness, what you're doing with it, the age of the battery, etc. Let's be honest though, no one is buying this laptop for its battery life. Nvidia has several settings which seek to improve battery life while gaming, but they all involve framerate throttling. If you want to game while not connected to mains power, then you're probably playing games that would work just fine on a laptop with a fraction of the power of this thing.
The webcam maxes out at 720p30. That resolution also holds for still images so it seems like that's the geometry of the sensor itself. It works okay in relatively low light - with the brightness gain cranked all the way up, the glow of the screen is enough to allow it to capture a usable amount of detail in a dark room. In a normally lit room the image is a bit darker than what you would see with your eyes, and as with most webcams, colors are little washed out. And like most pinhole cameras, the brighter the lighting the clearer the picture and the more faithful the colors. This would be perfectly serviceable in a well-lit office, or outdoors. The stereo microphone picks up voices clean and clear.
The "Killer" WiFi chip in this machine is amazingly fast. My Internet service tops off at around 25MB/s, and this Wi-Fi card easily hit 23MB/s (that's bytes, not bits) when downloading games from GOG Galaxy. I was pleased to see that the laptop also maintains an RJ-45 for wired ethernet connnectivity - it uses a clever hinged port to maximize space while there's nothing plugged in.
Hardware Accessibility/Upgrade difficulty:
Unlike last year's model, there are no quick access ports - if you want to get at the Wi-Fi, M.2, Memory or SSD area, you have to remove the entire bottom of the shell. Fortunately everything important is within reach after you take out the 10 philips screws and pull the bottom cover off.
This is by far the best vented laptop I've ever seen. The heatsink fins and fans are clearly visible through the myriad slits on the bottom, sides and back. The fans are as noisy as any laptop I've ever used, but not worse, though when you hit that Turbo button to kick in the overclocking profile and those fans crank up, it sounds like a jet preparing to take off, so if you're doing any moderate to heavy gaming, noise isolating or noise cancelling headphones are not optional.
A 256GB PCIe M.2 drive is installed. It tops off around 1.5Gbps which is a pretty respectable speed and pretty performmant. It's not a lot of space though so it's fortunate that there's another M.2 slot to install another card later on. There's also a bay for a 2.5" drive, but the bracket and SATA connector kit comes with a warning that Acer no longer considers this a user serviceable operation and implies that your warranty may be voided by attempting to install it yourself.
The documentation for the hardware was honestly a little disappointing. It gives you a tour of the ports and the keyboard, but doesn't include anything about how to install M.2 devices, upgrade memory or install a 2.5" drive - these aren't exactly rocket surgery, but it still feels like an oversite that Acer doesn't want to show you what goes where. The SATA adapter for the 2.5" drive requires connnection to a proprietary ribbon socket which they altogether fail to tell you how to locate on the motherboard.
I had to chuckle when I saw the "Turbo" button. I'm old enough to remember when that was a thing on the Intel 386 CPUs, and unironically it does pretty much the same sort of thing here.
The BIOS is about the most bare-bones affair I've seen recently, with no options for controlling and/or disabling the integrated GPU.
The system came with Norton Ultimate installed. Thankfully that's about the only piece of garbageware installed by Acer. Microsoft's default "Windows Defender" is far superior to Norton and unlike Norton it won't waste a ton of CPU cycles for no good reason. Windows Defender is already part of Windows 10 - just uninstall Norton and reboot to activate it. It's better protection and doesn't expire and beg for more money in a year.
I've attached an image of the installed applications to this review so you can see what it comes with.
- Looks and feels sleek and solid
- That 144hz screen is fantastic
- 300 nits is not MacBook bright, but it's usable in daylight
- Comes with fast PCIe M.2 Storage
- Wi-Fi is incredibly fast
- Powerful GPU
- Very effective cooling - I never saw it break 46C
- Blue backlighting is bad for bedtime use
- Fans get loud when the system is under a load
- No option to disable Optimus and enable GSync (so no GSync)
- Norton Ultimate - seriously?
(As I encounter new things that I think are relevant, I'll update the review here)
- The USB-C socket is not wired to the video card so it's not possible to output video. The laptop provides HDMI and a mini-DPort so it's not lacking in output options, but still.
Make sure your dedicated GPU is enabled and set as default. Optimus is frustrating. But that is Nvidia and Intel's fault. Not Acer's
Battery life comments. If you were expecting good battery life out of a laptop you should not be looking at Gaming laptops. There is alot of powerful hardware in this laptop and it gives up battery life for portability. Although I would have given up the 2.5 bay for a bigger battery. Give and take.
If you think it's overheating while gaming the components will run fairly hot by default. Even up to 97c . You should really set a fan profile before assuming it's overheating. If it's really was overheating it would shut off automatically. Otherwise it idles at about ,45-55c in a 22c (72f) room. Also set your per game profile. It should not throttle under 80c +- you don't need to use turbo mode. The fan at 40-75 percent works fine in most cases. And is not too loud under 4400 rpm
If you think the storage is too small. They placed this laptop in probably the biggest part of the market. You are getting a Hex core processor and a mid-high range GPU and a 144hrz pannel. Until recently you could not get a laptop with this type of hardware for under ,15-1600$. It has 2 m.2 slots and a 2.5 inch bay with provided install hardware. They saved you money so you can get a plethora of storage options on your own. This is by far one of the simplest laptops to upgrade with 1 pannel. They also sell upgraded ones so you can skip the upgrade
If you find that your unit is hitting 90c and above during game sessions and you feel comfortable using throttle stop. most of the temperature is because it turbos to 3.9ghz roughly. dropping the offset for each core will significantly drop your temps. You may lose 1 - 2 frames if you get too aggressive but you can dial it in to your liking. I can game a 70c with turbo at 3.1ghz
There will be a small percentage of you with faulty units. Maybe consider an RMA before you trash talk the machine.
After looking at many laptops from top brands, and reading reviews and articles from the PC world, I realized I wanted a monitor at or above 120HZ. This one is 144HZ amazing! My old laptop became no fun when the cpu was way passed it's prime, so I wanted no less than a I7 8th gen, this one is the 9th gen! When it came to the video I wanted a 1060 or faster. This has the 1660ti, yesterdays beast card. The last on my concerns were heating up while under load. I am still concerned with heating up under load, but at this point it seems to handle everything I have put at it so far. The Predator Key pulls up the CPU, GPU,and Laptop temps, which has not gone much higher than mid 70's. The 2 games my kids and I have played on it might not be the most demanding either at this point.
I like the way the key board feels also, and I use a wireless mouse. I can not say enough about the monitor, it is just great! I have only had the laptop for a week at this point and will update my review if something great or terrible comes to light. Best of Luck!
*6 week update*
I am very happy with this laptop. It is a daily used PC, and it is fantastic. I'm unable to find any negatives at this time, unless your looking at the 2060+ video cards that have come out this year. so far the 1660ti has been great. I will update again with anything new. At this time this was a great and enjoyable purchase.