Gaming

Powerful new Predator is fast, but rivals have run ahead

The Acer Predator 17X 17.3-inch laptop is relatively quiet for a high-end gaming laptop, even when running at full throttle.
The Acer Predator 17X 17.3-inch laptop is relatively quiet for a high-end gaming laptop, even when running at full throttle.PHOTO: ACER

The first time I turned on the Acer Predator 17X, it startled me with a loud sound effect similar to the THX audio trademark clip you hear in theatres.

Another surprise: this 17.3-inch laptop is relatively quiet for a high-end gaming laptop, even when running at full throttle.

This is unlike the fast, loud and powerful muscle car impressions that are usually put out by gaming laptops. However, the Predator, with its red LEDs, huge air intake vents, and a logo that looks vaguely like the Decepticon emblem from the Transformers franchise, is a perfect example of the genre.

It uses a new triple-fan cooling system that Acer says helps maximise the laptop's overclocking performance.And this cooling system works like a charm. In addition to being quieter than other gaming laptops, the Predator's keyboard and palm rest got only slightly warm despite the laptop running a game for over 30 minutes.

The keyboard has very good key travel and does not feel mushy like the ones on ultra-thin gaming laptops.

Left of the keyboard is a row of macro keys that can be assigned, using the Predator Sense app, various functions, from increasing the fan speed to a custom game macro. This app is also used to customise the keyboard backlight and overclock the laptop.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $4,798

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6820HK (2.7GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 8GB GDDR5

    RAM: 32GB

    SCREEN SIZE: 17.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB Type-C 3.1 with Thunderbolt 3, 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jacks

    BATTERY: 88 watt-hour

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 1/5

    VALUE: 2/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen has a matte finish, wide viewing angles and supports Nvidia's G-Sync technology.

The G-Sync feature works with the desktop-class GeForce GTX 980 graphics chip inside the laptop. Last year's Predator used the less capable mobile 980M chip.

Unfortunately, the timing of the Predator's launch could not be any worse. Nvidia announced its new GTX-10 Series graphics chips last month and these faster chips are already turning up in new and upcoming laptops from other PC makers, such as the recently tested Aftershock S-15.

In other words, the Predator had been outgunned in the performance race even before it went on sale.

Take the Aftershock S-15, which uses the mid-range GTX 1060 chip. It scored 61 frames per second (fps) in Crysis 3 at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and at Very High settings. This result is just short of the Predator's 68fps.

In Doom, the Predator managed around 73fps at Ultra setting and 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, similar to the Aftershock (72fps).

However, while the Predator costs $4,798, the Aftershock S-15 costs much less at $2,308.

The Predator has its merits, but a gaming laptop is ultimately judged on its performance.

Although it is fast compared to last year's model, it has been eclipsed by its rivals.

•Verdict: Despite its outstanding cooling system, the Predator is a tough sell because its rivals offer better performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Powerful new Predator is fast, but rivals have run ahead'. Print Edition | Subscribe