Gaming laptops are becoming even more popular these days, not to mention also being super-affordable. Graphics chips such as the GeForce GTX 1050 and 1060 offer decent gaming performance without breaking your wallet, and laptop manufacturers have been quick to utilize these chips in their gaming laptops. Acer showcased a slew of interesting products earlier this year, and also unveiled some new gaming gear that got people talking. One of those was the Helios 300 gaming laptop, which Acer loaned us this week for a quick review.
Build quality & design
Available in 15” and 17” designs, we got our hands on the 17” model, which has quite a big of heft and weight to it. While some manufacturers are vying to for thinner gaming laptops, the Helios 300 makes no apologies for its extra bulk. Red accents on the cover and rear make it stand out from other laptops, but it doesn’t distract too much.
The metal cover with a brushed finish is a very nice touch, but is unfortunately an absolute fingerprint magnet, especially the parts you have to grab in order to open the laptop. The rest of the laptop is encased in hard plastic which is slightly more forgiving when it comes to grubby hands. Connectivity-wise you’ve got three USB ports, a USB 3.1 port, full-sized HDMI, and card reader. The power port is on the right side of the laptop, but thankfully doesn’t interfere with your gameplay when you’ve attached an external mouse or other peripheral. Flip the Helios 300 over and you’ll see a number of air intake slots, as well as two removable covers that let you upgrade the RAM or HDD. The back of the laptop looks like another massive air vent, but only one side actually houses the fans that are part of Acer’s new improved cooling system – the other side is purely for design symmetry.
Opening up the Helios 300 you’re greeted with the 17.3” matte display, with a Predator logo nestled on the bottom bezel. You’ve got a decent sized trackpad with a thin red border, and a comfortable backlit keyboard and numpad. It’s nice that Acer has toned down the red accents inside the laptop, save for the trackpad and WASD keys. Overall the Helios 300 feels solidly built and quite sturdy, and certainly looks like it could withstand plenty of gaming hours.
Surprisingly, the Helios 300 is available in a wide variety of configurations – our review unit came packed with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ running at 2.80GHz, 17.3” FHS IPS LCD, GeForce GTX 1060, 16GB DDR4 RAM, a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD, as well as Windows 10 Home. As mentioned before, there are slight variations with the configurations, mainly with RAM, storage, and processor speed, but this particular model would be sure to deliver some good performance.
Benchmarks & Performance
Our initial round of standard benchmarks yielded pretty much expected scores based on this particular configuration. PCMark10 gave a score of 5119, which is more than adequate for most tasks such as photo editing, Office, email, etc. Moving on to gaming benchmarks, FireStrike standard test gave a score of 9889, while the Extreme test scored 5195 and Ultra came in with 2666. While the laptop won’t be able to handle games with very high levels of graphic detail and physics, most games on medium-high will run smoothly. Finally, the VR Orange Room test gave a score of 5788, which means that in theory you could run a VR kit off this laptop.
For real-world testing, we fired up Overwatch and found an average of 67fps with most settings on high. eDiablo III with max settings ran surprisingly well, despite sometimes dipping to 58fps. Rise of the Tomb Raider ran at 65fps at very high settings, and Paragon also ran at a decent 68fps at high settings. Finally for VR we loaded up Space Pirates Trainer on the HTC Vive, and that too ran fairly well – there were some rare framerate drops when there was a lot of motion, but the game was still quite playable.
The 17.3” screen is great for gaming or watching media on, but the only flaw it has is that it’s not very bright. The matte finish certainly makes it easier on the eyes when gaming for long periods of time, but overall it was a bit disappointing when certain games appeared a bit muddy due to the poor black levels. The Full HD resolution looks crisp even on this larger screen, but you’ll soon notice that colors don’t pop as they usually would, and it’s a sacrifice you’ll have to live with if you want to keep these laptop models affordable.
The Helios 300’s keyboard has a nice feel to it, and typing away on this review produced only a few errors until my hands got used to the key spacing. The trackpad is similarly responsive, though clicking requires a fraction more pressure than I’m used to on my MacBook Air. Regardless, you’re only going to use the trackpad for non-gaming purposes, so it’s hardly something to nitpick about.
Acer stocks the Helios 300 with a 3,220mAh battery that’s supposed to last 7 hours. In reality it’s more like 5 hours for basic use such as watching YouTube or doing a bit of work when on the go. Where battery life will naturally reduce is when you choose to game on the go – the laptop obviously switches over to the GeForce graphics chip, and you’ll be lucky to get just over an hour of gaming on a full charge. That’s not a lot, but frankly who would game on a laptop without plugging it in somewhere?
The other thing to note about the Helios 300 is the heat and noise levels. Despite Acer making some drastic improvements in their cooling technology, this laptop will heat up in certain areas if you block crucial air intake vents. It’s also more than happy to make a fair bit of noise when gaming gets intense, so keep that in mind if you’re going to be gaming with other people in the room.
The Helios 300 is a highly customizable laptop that delivers some pretty solid gaming performance. The screen and weight are two things that bring it down, and we wish that it would run a little bit quieter. But these faults aside, it’s a great attempt by Acer to create an affordable gaming laptop that can cater to any gamer’s needs.
Pricing from AED 4,999