The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a gaming laptop for those who don't want to spend top price or need 4K visuals, but still need rapid performance and smooth frame rates – it's a notch below the very top tier in terms of price and specs, which will be perfect for some.
As is the norm, there are several different component configurations to pick from: our review unit model came with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 20GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU for heavy-duty graphics work.
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Those are specs that should be able to take on some serious gaming and video editing, and that turned out to be the case, as we'll get on to below. With a 15.6-inch screen and relatively lightweight chassis, it's also more portable than many other gaming laptops.
You can play laptops that are significantly more powerful than our Helios 300 review unit – including some from the same Helios 300 line, besides anything else – but the one that we tested is a good starting point for those who want affordability as well as performance.
Acer Predator Helios 300 review: screen and design
The Predator Helios 300 laptop that we reviewed came with a 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel, 16:9 aspect ratio, IPS LCD display, offering 3ms response times and a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. Bigger screens are available in the Helios 300 line, but then of course you lose out in portability. We had absolutely no complaints as far as the display goes, with rich colours, no noticeable lag, and smooth animations – whether in games or in any other applications.
Design-wise, the laptop doesn't feature much in the way of curves: it's quite an angular, uncompromising look, but that doesn't mean it's unappealing. It's a bold look but that tends to be what gaming laptops go in for – when you weigh it up against the rest of the gaming laptop market, it's actually one of the more modest models available right now in terms of aesthetic flourishes.
The air vents are quite dramatically styled, but everything else is relatively subtle, and that includes the thin lighting strips and the Predator logo on the back lid. The bezels around the display are relatively chunky for a modern-day laptop, and we would have liked to see the Predator logo on the chin of the display made a little bit smaller, but these are all minor complaints that don't really affect the overall appeal of the laptop. In terms of ports, you get 3 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C, 1 x HDMI, 1 x mini DisplayPort and 1 x Ethernet, plus a headphone jack, so there's plenty of room for expansion.
The keyboard and lid backlighting, and the different ways you can configure it, are all really impressive – the cursor and WASD keys get an extra brightness boost so you can find them more easily, and the supplied customisation software gives you a wealth of combinations to play around with. We found the typing experience a little on the soft side, but again it's a minor point, and the trackpad is nice and responsive.
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Acer Predator Helios 300 review: performance and features
We didn't notice any stuttering or slowdowns in the games we played on the Acer Predator Helios 300, which coped well with everything we threw at it – even if the fans did often ramp up to compensate for the demanding performance. You'll notice they're there, if you try and do anything beyond just streaming videos or sending emails, but the whirring isn't massively off-putting (and no worse than other gaming laptops we've tested.
With GTA V running close to maximum graphics settings, the laptop consistently managed frame rates of between 80-90, and sometimes higher. In the widely used 3D Mark Time Spy test, the Predator Helios 300 logged a very decent score of 6,032, putting it slightly above the "gaming laptop" average (5,730) but some way short of the "gaming PC" average (9,216). While more expensive laptops will beat those figures, the performance of the Helios 300 certainly isn't disappointing.
One of the more notable features on this model is the single-button Turbo overclock mode, which lets you instantly push the CPU harder if you are prepared for extra fan noise to deal with the excess heat. It didn't seem to make too much of a difference during our testing, but if you're looking for something with this sort of basic tweaking capability, it's another nice extra to have.
Battery life, meanwhile, isn't top priority on a gaming laptop, but in our one-hour video streaming test (with the screen at maximum brightness and the volume low), the laptop went down from 100 percent to 68 percent – not a fantastic result but not surprising considering the raw power of the computer (and with some brightness tweaks you could stretch that out). Audio from the DTS: X Ultra stereo speakers, meanwhile, is decent without in any way setting new standards for laptop sound.
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Acer Predator Helios 300 review: price and verdict
The gaming laptop part of the market is more competitive than ever before, and to really find the best model for you, you need to spend a lot of time looking at specs and benchmarks. Even then, the right pick can quickly change as prices shift up and down. The good news is that there aren't many bad or even average laptops around at the moment – most models will give you exactly what they're advertising.
In the case of the Acer Predator Helios 300, that's very respectable performance at a very respectable price. While it's not going to make your jaw drop in terms of frame rates, it's going to play even top-tier games smoothly and reliably, and it'll do it all in a package that looks smart and cuts down on unnecessary bells and whistles. When you don't need the Nvidia GPU, there's an integrated Intel one to fall back on.
Of course performance is more important in a gaming laptop than its aesthetics, but you should buy a laptop that you're comfortable looking at: it's one of the better-looking models we've seen, and the simple but effective lighting customisations mean you can make it your own. With so many laptops so close in terms of specs and performance, the design of the Acer Predator Helios 300 might be what convinces you to get it.
Even the negative points of the Helios 300 aren't all that bad, and we enjoyed using it as our main gaming and work machine for a few days. It's thinner, more lightweight and more affordable than a lot of gaming laptops you'll come across at the moment, and if that's more important to you than cutting-edge performance, get it on your shortlist.
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