Tech review: Acer Predator Helios 700 gaming laptop is cool but noisy

Overall, the Helios is an excellent gaming laptop with a cool and comfortable keyboard.
Overall, the Helios is an excellent gaming laptop with a cool and comfortable keyboard.PHOTO: ACER

To build a faster computer, you need a better cooling system.

This is just physics and precisely what Acer has done with its latest high-end gaming laptop, the Predator Helios 700.

At first glance, the 17-inch Helios 700 appears even beefier than the usual thickset gaming notebook. It is heavy, too, at almost 5kg.

Everything else about the Helios, though, seems typical, from the customisable, per-key RGB backlit keyboard to the angular plastic chassis. But it has a trick up its sleeve that can be best described as over the top.

Basically, you can pull the keyboard towards you to expose two air vents, each equipped with fans to draw in cool air.

This boosts the cooling system and the laptop will automatically run at even higher-than-usual clock speeds for better performance.

Sandwiched between the air vents is a glass panel that offers a glimpse of the copper heatpipes - illuminated by a customisable backlight - running through the laptop innards.

A word of caution - the cooling fans spin up to almost 5,000rpm at its maximum and become extremely noisy. The speakers, while loud, fail to drown out the fan noise, though a good pair of headphones helps.

As a bonus, the keyboard in this slide-out form is no longer directly above the warmer parts of the laptop, so the keys are always cool to the touch. Meanwhile the area below the keyboard, which includes the touchpad, dips naturally to form an angled wrist rest.

Other manufacturers, notably Asus with its Zephyrus gaming notebooks, have tried a similar design. But the Helios' sliding keyboard gives users the option to use it like a standard, albeit relatively thick notebook. With the Asus Zephyrus, the keyboard is extended to the bottom lip of the laptop and the touchpad shifted to the right.

  • FOR

    • Excellent gaming performance

    • Keyboard feels cool at all times

    • State of the art hardware

    AGAINST

    • Noisy during gaming

    • Bulky and thick chassis

    • Screen could be brighter and more vibrant

    SPECS

    PRICE: $5,298

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i9-9980HK (2.4GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6

    RAM: 32GB DDR4

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

    CONNECTIVITY: Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet port, audio jacks

    BATTERY: 71.9 watt-hour

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4.5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 1/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Bundled with the Helios in a separate pouch are special key caps with a tiny spring for the WASD keys used in games. Acer says these four MagForce keys offer a more precise, analogue-like behaviour. For instance, depressing the key more forcefully will increase the acceleration in a racing game.

You have to switch to the MagForce option in the pre-loaded PredatorSense app before these special keys work. The app also has preset profiles for first-person shooter and racing games that affect the amount of force required to trigger these keys.

I find these MagForce keys more bouncy and heavier than the other keys, but I prefer a more consistent experience for the entire keyboard, especially while typing. Those who mostly play racing or first-person shooter games may take the extra time and effort to fully acclimatise to these special keys, but I find the standard keys good enough for me.

Acer has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the Helios is one of the most powerful gaming laptops now. From its octa-core Intel Core i9 processor to the Wi-Fi-6 chipset to the responsive, 144Hz refresh-rate screen, almost every part is currently the best in class.

Unsurprisingly, the Helios scored very well in gaming benchmarks, especially when overclocked. It scored 10,242 in the Time Spy test in the 3DMark gaming benchmark, compared with 9,632 for the Asus ROG Zephyrus S, which has an identical Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics chip but a slower Intel Core i7 processor. The Helios was also faster in games such as Crysis 3, producing 139 frames per second (fps) compared with the Zephyrus (128fps).

The Helios' 17-inch display is not quite as vibrant nor as bright as I would have liked. It is obviously geared for gaming with support for Nvidia's G-Sync technology and high refresh rate, so this is a minor nitpick.

Overall, the Helios is an excellent gaming laptop with a cool and comfortable keyboard. And while its fans do become very loud at full tilt, they are relatively quiet for daily computing tasks such as Web browsing.