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ACER Helios 300 Review: Bang For The Buck Gaming Notebook

Want a beastly gaming notebook but don’t have a lot of cash?

ACER’s been on the offensive as far as their Predator line of gaming notebooks and desktop goes. Despite fighting an uphill battle against more entrenched rivals, ACER’s been quite upbeat in their chances to carve out their own niche in the gaming market. Their primary weapon? Value for money gaming notebooks like the Helios 300, which is one of the more affordable options that people can buy right now – for the price of a GTX 1050 Ti equipped lappy, you’re getting a notebook with a fairly powerful GTX 1060 GPU inside.

ACER Predator Helios 300 specs:

  • Intel Core i5/Core i7 processor
  • 4GB/8GB of DDR4 RAM
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU (6GB of VRAM)
  • 15.6-inch full HD 60Hz IPS display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 1TB HDD storage
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, 3 USB ports, 1 USB Type-C Port

 

Design is standard gamer chic

The Helios 300 definitely looks like a gaming machine at first glance. The Predator logo is displayed prominently on the lid, flanked by two red stripes on the side. The aggressive vents on the rear of the chassis also have red accents as well.

Despite its attractive price tag, the Predator Helios 300 uses an aluminum and plastic body which gives it a more premium feel than all-plastic devices. The notebook is relatively well made, and there’s no creaks or cheap plastic that we could find anywhere. The Helios 300 uses a 15.6-inch matte full HD display which is more than enough for most people.

The keyboard is big enough to include a numpad at the end, and is backlit. The usual WSAD keys are colored red lest we forget the notebook’s gaming roots, and the touchpad is quite big and generous. And while the keyboard isn’t a fancy mechanical one, it’s still pretty satisfying to use despite having only 1.5mm of travel. We’re typing this particular review out on it today, and we’re just breezing along without any problems whatsoever.

There’s plenty of ports on either side of the chassis thanks to the notebook’s size, which include 3 USB ports, 1 USB Type-C port, Ethernet port, 3.5mm jack, HDMI port as well as an SD Card reader. Fans of optical media will notice that the notebook doesn’t have an ODD which is not a big loss, not in 2017 anyway.

There are certain things that ACER skimped out on in the Helios 300 to keep the price low. There’s a definite lack of LED lighting on the device, as neither of the two bars on the lid of the notebook are lit. The keyboard is backlit red, but that’s the extent of it – it doesn’t have programmable lighting and you can’t change the color either.

That may be a plus or minus depending on where you stand with the whole RGB thing. Personally we’re fine with it – we don’t want our gaming notebooks to become multicolor swatches of LEDs while we’re playing our games, and honestly it’s less of a distraction when watching movies in the dark.

As with most gaming notebooks, the Helios 300 is hella heavy – coming in at 2.56 kilos, it’s not a notebook you want to drag around with you when you’re out and about. It’s manageable, but barely – we probably developed a few extra muscles dragging that thing around Berlin and Beijing these past few weeks.

The display is pretty good for what it is. It’s an 60Hz IPS panel, so don’t expect ultra-fast response times with it but it’s probably around 5ms (we don’t have the exact number from ACER). It’s bright enough for outdoor use, and the display has generous viewing angles overall.

GTX 1060 is great, but this thing really needs an SSD

One of the things that really warmed us up to the Helios 300 is the use of an NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU. Most (if not all) notebooks in its price range usually carry the GTX 1050 Ti, a card that’s lower on the GPU totem pole. That’s paired with either an Intel Core i7 or Core i5 processor and 8GB/4GB of RAM depending on the configuration you go with, along with a 1TB HDD drive.

There’s a huge leap in performance in terms of benchmarks and actual gaming with a GTX 1050 Ti VS a GTX 1060, obviously and that increase in computing power usually means the difference between playing a game in medium settings in full HD to playing the settings in high or ultra.

You can check out benchmark tests below:

Still, the Helios 300 is not perfect. ACER had to scrimp on a few things to keep the price aggressive relative to its competitors. The amount of RAM that ships with the Core i5 version, for example, is just 4GB, which isn’t ideal since a lot of newer titles nowadays require at least 8GB to work. There’s also no SSD storage on the models that are sold here in the Philippines, which makes for painful load times especially when you’re raring to get into the game. Both issues can be resolved by putting in more RAM and storage, but that will drive the cost of the notebook up. Then again, RAM and storage issues are easily fixed via aftermarket parts – we’ve yet to see a notebook that allows you to upgrade its GPU.

Battery life is surprisingly ok for a gaming notebook

Gaming notebooks have notoriously short battery lives, and the Helios 300 is no exception to that. However, among the gaming notebooks we used in the past, it has relatively long legs on a single charge. With productivity apps alone and WiFi on, we averaged around 4 1/2 hours on a single charge give or take. Like most gaming notebooks you can probably game on the go but don’t expect your battery to hold out more than an hour.

Verdict: A fairly powerfuly gaming PC for not much money

While the asking price for both versions of the Helios 300 (Intel Core i5/4GB RAM Php 66.9K, Intel Core i7/8GB RAM Php76.9K) isn’t what you’d call affordable, it’s still way lower than the offerings of ACER’s rivals. And like we said earlier, the deficiencies that we pointed out (no SSD, low RAM) can be easily remedied by putting in new parts, which most gaming PC owners are itching to do anyway.

If you’re looking for a no-frills gaming notebook that won’t put a huge dent in your pocket, then you may want to consider ACER’s Predator Helios 300.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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