The Acer Predator 17 represents everything that’s right with the best gaming laptops in 2017, as well as the places where they’re still miles behind the rest of the curve at the same time. Read on in our Acer Predator 17 review to find out what we loved (and hated) about this gamer’s paradox in a box.
Price: $2,445.55 on Amazon
What We Liked
- Incredible performance across the board
- Handled every game and CPU-intensive program perfectly
- Innovative “FrostCore” cooling solution
What We Didn’t
- Display leaves a lot to be desired, no G-Sync
- Arm-crunchingly heavy at nearly 9 pounds
- Design doesn’t shake up any trends for gaming laptops
Acer Predator 17 Specs
|Processor||Intel 6th-Gen Skylake Intel Core i7-6700HQ|
|Storage Space||512GB PCI-e SSD/1TB HDD|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GTX 980M|
|Display Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Battery Life||4hrs 53min full-load/6hrs 11min idle|
To say the Predator 17 stands out from the crowd of other gaming laptops in its class would be generous. Its stealth-angled case and pulsing red LEDs let the rest of the world around you know this is a laptop that means business, and doesn’t shy away from advertising exactly what it came here to do.
The Predator 17 is very much a case of “function over form”, where many of the sexier design elements were probably pushed off to the side in order to preserve the laptop’s amazing power pedigree – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
All that said, there was one feature that absolutely blew my mind, and one that I haven’t seen in any other laptop to date: Acer’s FrostCore cooling technology. FrostCore works as a hot-swappable cartridge that contains extra fans and cooling units, which you can change out of the slot where your optical disc normally resides. This helps the laptop to stay cool during intense gaming sessions, and creates an additional set of vents that the laptop uses to blow off steam from the graphics card and CPU.
Although we didn’t have a laser thermometer to test the difference between how hot the laptop was without FrostCore vs. it plugged in, there was definitely a change that could be felt when we ran The Witcher III on ultra settings for more than 20 minutes at a time. The laptop still gets hot, but if you’re planning on keeping the laptop on a solid surface during marathon LAN parties, it’s obvious where the FrostCore could save your motherboard from spontaneously combusting into a ball of flames.
At stock, the Predator 17 comes with several Acer apps that can help you with everything from connecting to tech support, to changing the profile of your current activities.
One neat inclusion was Acer’s “DustDefender” program, which reverses the fan speed direction and cranks up the power so any dust that might be building up in the case will be shot out of the intake instead. We didn’t have our hands on the laptop long enough to build up a coat of dust for testing, but we’d imagine it works just as intended for full-time Predator owners.
Last was a small dashboard that controlled the settings in other apps like DustDefender, as well as a toggle to reduce the amount of blue light coming off the screen, as well as the option to toggle USB charging on or off.
Reading off the spec list for the Predator 17 is like running down the roster of every PC gaming enthusiast’s all-star team. With a sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core Skylake processor, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, an Nvidia GTX 980M graphics card, and 512GB of storage on a PCI-e SSD, the Predator 17 screamed through every test and game we could throw at it from start to finish.
The keyboard and trackpad were both solid, with a comfortable amount of space between each flat-key that made for just as comfortable of a writing experience as you would hope to get from your desktop. I make it a point to write every laptop review on the actual laptop itself, and had no trouble jumping from my desktop’s keyboard to the laptop, and back again. The keys were also satisfyingly responsive during gaming tests, which can make the difference between a headshot and getting shot in the head during the heat of battle.
Connectivity options on the Predator 17 were plentiful. Complete with 4 USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI 1.2, an SD-card slot, RJ45 ethernet, and a single port for the newest kid on the block: Thunderbolt 3.
The included speakers were surprisingly boomy for what you’d normally expect from a laptop sound system, thanks in part to Acer’s own “SoundPound” subwoofer unit, installed on the underside of the Predator’s case. While they’d never be able to replace a solid set of premium cans for daily use, they’re still plenty capable if you and a few friends are curling up around the laptop for a group movie or gaming session.
In our performance evaluation, we ran the Predator 17 through a gamut of Ultra resolution, high speed games, disk speed tools, and CPU load tests. But even with all that, only one game we threw its way seemed to even cause it to flinch (The Witcher III), let alone slow down to take a breath.
SSD Read/Write 2146MBs/1587MBs
HDD Read/Write 145.9MBs/140.6MBs
Geekbench 3 Scores (Single-core/Multi-core) 3,324/13,139
3DMark Fire Strike Score 8174
Heroes of the Storm (Ultra settings) 170 FPS
Tomb Raider (Ultra) 60 FPS
The Witcher III (Ultra) 55 FPS
Because of the serious hardware stuffed inside the Predator, one area it did suffer a bit was the battery. In our tests at disk load and during high-performance gaming, we were able to squeeze around 4 hours and 53 minutes out of the laptop before it finally died out.
During idle without any activity and the screen at 100% brightness, this figure was able to stretch itself out a bit more, to a total of 6 hours and 11 minutes. This isn’t much to write home about if you plan on going on long trips between plug-ins, but still falls right within the range of the life ratings you’d get out of any comparable gaming laptop with similar specs.
Oddly, while Acer was more than happy to splurge on equipping the Predator 17 with as many top-of-the-line components you could cram into a single laptop, somehow the people working in the display department didn’t get the same memo.
The Predator’s 1920 x 1080p IPS LED display is fine for what it is, but it also lacked the kind of vibrancy and depth we like to see on laptops that occupy this premium price tier. Games just looked okay, and streams on Netflix and Hulu weren’t that much better. Not only that, but Nvidia’s G-Sync is almost a gimme on any laptop at this price point, and the lack of it on the Predator was just about the nail in the coffin.
We tested several Blu-Ray movies using the Predator’s internal Blu-Ray player, and in every case you’d be much better off dropping a little extra coin to output the picture to an external screen than you would watching it on the laptop itself. The laptop does come with the option to upgrade to a 4K, UHD 3840 x 2160 version for around $150 more though, which we would fully recommend to anyone who can afford the added cost as the better choice overall.
The Acer Predator 17 gives you everything you could want out of a gaming laptop, and nothing you don’t. It’s a bit heavier than we prefer, the battery could last a smidge longer, and the screen is downright ugly when you consider how much care and precision was put into the other parts. But, other than those admittedly minor complaints, the Predator impresses on all fronts, and is sure to be a shining star among the crowd of gaming laptops that flood onto shelves this year.
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