Acer Predator Helios 500 review: Super powerful, super pricey

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(Pocket-lint) - The Predator Helios 500 sees Acer 'pull a Crocodile Dundee': "You telephone that a gaming laptop? This is simply a gaming laptop". You'll cognize what we're connected astir if you're a instrumentality of 80s movies; if not then, well, sorry.

Acer ignores each the caller plan trends successful this country too. The Predator Helios 500 is not remotely thin, it weighs a tonne (not literally, thankfully), and determination are nary quirky secondary displays - which usually look a spot pointless anyway. 

The Predator Helios 500 is simply a laptop 100 per cent focused connected 1 thing: gaming. And arsenic such, it's benignant of superb astatine its craft. Its show is excellent, the keyboard is great, thermal power is top-notch and the surface is astir arsenic precocious arsenic laptop displays get, adjacent if you tin get acold higher refresh rates for little money.

However, terms volition beryllium the existent stumbling artifact for most. The Helios 500 successful this config costs conscionable astir 4 grand. Yah ha. That's truthful overmuch currency that we're conscionable going to person to mostly hide the outgo for astir of this reappraisal oregon we'd extremity up mentioning it each different sentence. 

Design

  • Dimensions: 400 x 319.2 x 35.30mm / Weight: 3.90 kg
  • Abyss Black colour scheme

The Predator Helios 500 is simply a gaming laptop made for, astatine most, transport betwixt rooms. It weighs astir 4kg and is 35mm thick. Moving it astir conscionable isn't fun. 

However, we ever request to retrieve this isn't a flexing workout connected Acer's part. The thicker and heavier a laptop tin be, the amended a cooling strategy it tin spend to use. 

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There is immoderate flexing going connected elsewhere, though. This twelvemonth we've seen a batch of gaming laptops commencement to chopped backmost connected RGB highlights and classical assertive 'gamer' plan motifs, but the Acer Helios 500 is afloat of specified things. 

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The lid has a salient light-up Predator logo, the vigor outlet connected the backmost looks similar thing ripped of a gaudy sports car, and determination are acold much lit parts than is truly necessary. The keyboard has an RGB backlight, which is simply a given, but there's besides a agleam portion connected the beforehand edge, a lit ringing astir the touchpad, and further LED strips connected the sides and back. 

It's similar a portable fairground ride. We're much funny successful the however gaming laptops consciousness to use, and however they execute but - recognition to Acer - these RGB elements bash look bully if you're into this benignant of thing. There's nary bleed, nary evident inconsistency successful the airy level, and their colours are vibrant. 

The Helios 500's Predator Sense app besides lets you customise their behaviour comprehensively. There are 5 antithetic sets of controls, 5 zones, letting you take a beauteous chaotic illustration for, say, the broadside and beforehand sections, and a sensible static 1 for the keyboard. It tin beryllium tasteless arsenic you like. 

The fundamentals of the Acer Helios 500's operation are familiar. Its lid is aluminium, the remainder is pugnacious plastic, which grants Acer much power implicit wherever the vigor from the internals ends up, due to the fact that integrative conducts vigor little rapidly than aluminium.

Screen

  • 17.3-inch Mini LED IPS panel
  • 770 nits max brightness
  • 3840 x 2160 resolution

This laptop's plan takes acquainted gaming laptop tropes and amps immoderate of them up a bit. The surface uses breathtaking caller tech, though: it's 1 of the archetypal Mini LED laptops we've tested.

You whitethorn cognize this tech from Apple's top-end iPad Pro tablets. These panels usage galore more, smaller backlight LEDs that are grouped into zones. Acer says determination are 512 of them successful the Helios 500. 

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Each portion has autarkic power implicit its backlight power, meaning the brightest portion of the representation doesn't person to find the achromatic level of the full display. It is simply a neat diagnostic that dramatically improves the precocious dynamic scope (HDR) imaginable of gaming laptops, which up until present has been beauteous overmuch nil. 

We tested the Acer Helios 500 with a fewer videos of agleam objects floating astir a achromatic surface and, dissimilar immoderate of the precise latest ultra-pricey Samsung TVs, the 'halo' effect is rather obvious. This is wherever the backlight portion is simply a bully spot larger than the agleam country the show needs to render, resulting successful a glow astir areas of precocious contrast. But it's not a immense contented for gaming and let's retrieve we're dealing with caller tech here. 

TVs person had FALD - oregon afloat array section dimming - for ages, but laptops person not. As such, if you're a black-level fiend, past you'll similar an OLED show implicit this.

Peak brightness is simply a superior payment of the Helios 500's mini LED panel. It's astir doubly astatine agleam arsenic the mean high-end gaming laptop, reaching 670 nits oregon 770 nits erstwhile you power connected Windows's HDR mode (as measured by us). This is truthful agleam the surface tin beryllium uncomfortable to look astatine successful a dimly lit room. 

Add that powerfulness to fantastic colour sum (almost 100 per cent of DCI P3) and the sharpness of a 4K solution sheet and you person 1 of the champion gaming laptop displays ever connected your hands. 

Now, it's not perfect. The Predator Helios 500's surface is based astir IPS LCD tech, truthful adjacent with Mini LED's backlight zones connected hand, the achromatic level is not ultra-deep. If you play successful a acheronian room, an OLED laptop volition look better. 

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It besides has a slower refresh complaint than a batch of gaming laptops, astatine 120Hz. Using the Acer Helios 500 side-by-side with the 165Hz HP Omen 16 for immoderate question testing, the HP intelligibly resolves accelerated question better. We don't really enactment this wholly down to the refresh rate, arsenic the velocity astatine which the pixels tin alteration their authorities is conscionable arsenic important. Acer claims 3ms, but this surface intelligibly doesn't person the fastest-reacting pixels successful town. 

There are immoderate areas that volition spot improvements arsenic the underlying tech matures. But for present this is inactive among the champion screens for laptop gaming you tin get.

Keyboard and touchpad

  • 3.1mm cardinal travel
  • Interchangeable WSAD cardinal caps
  • Plastic touchpad with separated rodent buttons

The Predator Helios 500 has a large keyboard. Like those of the champion extra-large laptops, it offers masses of question (for a laptop) to supply due feedback arsenic you type. Or astatine slightest pat connected the WSAD keys. 

It's quiet, the RGB lighting offers per-key power and looks great, and arsenic you tin spot there's a afloat Numpad. You besides get supplementary aluminium caps for the WSAD and arrow keys, for a antithetic look and feel.  

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Is it the champion laptop keyboard going? That gong whitethorn spell to Alienware's mechanical keyboard, utilized successful immoderate Alienware M17X models. But we're not going to gripe astir Acer's one. 

The Helios 500's touchpad is simply a small much basic, however, adjacent if determination is simply a rectangle of RGB lighting skirting astir its border. This is simply a comparatively tiny integrative pad, and it frankly seems a spot weird Acer did not usage a solid 1 successful a laptop this expensive. 

It inactive feels good, and the abstracted rodent buttons beneath the pad connection large semi-clicky feedback. But similar astir gaming laptop pads, it seems to beryllium designed nether the anticipation you'll usage a abstracted rodent astir of the time. 

Performance

  • Intel Core i9-11980HK processor, 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 16GB GPU
  • 2x 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSDs, RAID 0 array

Acer sent america the aforesaid spec you'll find successful immoderate fashionable UK retailers - for a chill £3999 (which is similar $5,400 equivalent astatine the clip of writing). It has an Intel Core i9-11980HK processor, 32GB RAM, and 2 1TB SSDs arranged successful a RAID 0 array, truthful that erstwhile you effort to trial their work speeds you get a downright ridiculous effect of 13GB per second. 

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The Nvidia RTX 3080 is the existent star, though. This is simply a top-end laptop graphics card, with 16GB RAM. Continuing the inclination of conscionable astir going overboard with the hardware, the Helios 500 really comes with 2 XL-size powerfulness adapters to get the champion show from it.

You request these to crook connected the Turbo mode, accessed utilizing a fastener supra the keyboard. This isn't the turbo of the CPU. Intel's chipsets dip successful and retired of their turbo capableness erstwhile needed. Instead it sucks other powerfulness from the RTX 3080 and sets the fans to afloat blast. 

This takes you from delivering astir 120W to the graphics paper to astir 150W - though we did spot precise little peaks supra that. Apparently this laptop should beryllium capable to instrumentality the RTX 3080 to 165W, but we couldn't get it to bash truthful utilizing the modular modes, adjacent erstwhile playing a crippled truthful taxing the framework rates were down beneath 20fps.

That crippled is Control, which is inactive 1 of the astir punishing titles around. The Predator Helios 500 lets you play it astatine astir 55-60fps astatine 1080p with ray-tracing acceptable to high, and solution boosted to 4K utilizing Nvidia DLSS. That whitethorn not dependable excessively impressive, but you'll spot overmuch amended results successful the 70+fps scope if you disable ray-tracing. 

This is among the astir almighty gaming laptops around, duking it retired for a percent constituent present and determination with the champion from Alienware and Asus. It is simply a reminder of rather however overmuch the latest laptop graphics cards lag down the desktop kind, though - determination being a astir 40 per cent show quality present compared to the desktop-grade 3080. 

It besides makes america question wherefore the Helios 500 truly needs 660W of powerfulness proviso shoved up its rear. The Lenovo Legion 7 with an RTX 3080 tin scope akin Wattage gully from the GPU with a azygous adapter. Perhaps Acer plans connected releasing a plug-in cupful warmer that tin boil you a cupful of beverage portion you play. It offers plentifulness of headroom for overclocking, but the powerfulness ceiling inactive seems excessive. 

That's capable sass for now, though, due to the fact that the Acer Helios 500's cooling strategy beauteous overmuch justifies the laptop's bulk. There's nary perceptible thermal throttling erstwhile playing games due to the fact that Helios does a large occupation of evacuating vigor earlier it tin airs a problem. 

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When utilizing the Auto mode, which keeps instrumentality speeds precise quiescent adjacent nether strain, determination was conscionable a flimsy warmth to parts of the keyboard aft a bully 40 minutes of giving the RTX 3080 a workout. The ultra-performance Turbo mode is beauteous noisy, though, truthful is champion near for times erstwhile you're wearing a headset. 

Battery beingness and features

  • 4-cell artillery (Whr unspecified)
  • Thunderbolt 4
  • Wi-Fi 6

The Acer Helios 500 has a '4-cell' battery. Acer doesn't specify the Watt-hour standing connected its specs page, but it doesn't substance really. This laptop is made for performance, not longevity. 

According to our investigating the artillery volition past astir 45 minutes erstwhile playing games, adjacent though the show is capped erstwhile not plugged in. Or a dismal 116 minutes erstwhile playing backmost video.

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This seemed truthful dreadful we gave the Predator Helios 500 different spell with the surface a small dimmer, and the powerfulness redeeming mode turned on. It past lasted 145 minutes. Still bad, but it's nary surprise. 

The speakers are supra mean for a gaming laptop, but inactive not adjacent to the champion manner laptops. Maximum measurement is good, but determination conscionable isn't overmuch lower-frequency powerfulness here. 

All the Helios 500's connections are arrayed on the laptop's sides - nary connected the backmost this clip - but you get conscionable astir everything you're apt to need. There are a mates of Thunderbolt 4 USB-Cs, 3 USB-A ports, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, and headphone/mic 3.5mm inputs.

Verdict

The Acer Helios Predator 500 is simply a heavyweight laptop successful respective ways. It's large and heavy, has conscionable astir the champion specs you tin get successful a laptop, and costs an implicit fortune. 

It's overkill for astir people, and not due to the fact that we deliberation you should each beryllium blessed playing games astatine Full HD astatine 30 frames per second. A laptop similar the Lenovo Legion 7 tin get you akin show for astir fractional the price, which is benignant of mad.

The Helios 500 is astir apt the champion acceptable for those who volition effort overclocking their laptop's graphics processor, arsenic judging by the thermal show we spot present there's surely scope for that. It's a spot of a beast.

Also consider

Lenovo Legion 7

Not got the currency for the Helios 500? The Legion 7 is astir fractional the price, not arsenic powerful, but volition inactive present powerfully erstwhile it comes to gaming performance.

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Writing by Andrew Williams. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published connected 12 January 2022.

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