The 17-inch Predator gaming laptop is one of several new black-and-red gaming-focused products aimed at getting gamers to utter the words “Acer” and “badass” in the same breath. Let’s see if that trick works.
Acer is not a brand I normally associate with gaming, which is strange considering I’ve been staring at an Acer monitor on and off for many years. The closest I normally came to connecting the name with the hobby was a couple of years back when I kept accidentally mixing them up with Asus.
Maybe its because I’ve been on such a boutique gaming PC kick that I’ve not paid much attention to gaming systems being released by one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world. Or maybe I’m just so shallow that I didn’t notice until the latest round of black and red Predator products caught my eye. Like this thing here:
This is what got me to sit up and take notice—Predator Z35, a 35-inch 21:9 ultrawide 2560 x 1080 curved monitor with Nvidia G-Sync and overclocking up to 200Hz. That’s a serious monitor. I didn’t even bother requesting to review it. Having it on my desk knowing I had a month or two tops before I had to return it would have been like adopting a terminally ill kitten. I could not handle the heartbreak.
Instead I decided to see what they were offering on a big-ass gaming laptop front. Something quite robust, as it turns out.
The Predator 17 (there’s also a Predator 15 inch available) is a massive beast of a gaming laptop, and it makes no apologies for it. If you’re in the market for something slim and dainty there are plenty of options out there. This is not one of them. It’s a big self-contained gaming machine packed with powerful portable components and the cooling bits to back them up.
While the black plastic housing the parts that make the Predator purr has its striking red moments, overall the design is quite understated, especially when compared to what many gaming-focused laptop crafters do to make their systems stand out. It’s bold, but not obnoxious. The lid features a lovely soft finish that’s pleasing to both human fingertips and feline foot pads.
It’s got the flat keys I love in a laptop, with excellent response for a non-mechanical keyboard. It’s got four separate illumination zones if you’re into that sort of thing. It supports programmable macros through the excellent PredatorSense control software, and even features a series of dedicated macro buttons along the side.
I don’t mind pack-in software when it’s this useful.
The Predator 17 has a track pad. It works. Get a mouse.
The 17.3 inch IPS LCD screen does a fine job of displaying sharp graphics at all angles. It’s a bit softer than I’d like—I’m a big glossy screen fan—but it’s still lovely. Some might be put off by a 1920 x 1080 screen when 4K is all the rage, but I’ve not gotten to that point yet. The one substantial downside to the panel is it doesn’t support Nvidia G-Sync. The system will support an external G-Sync monitor (it’s got both HDMI and DisplayPort outs), but the built-in panel doesn’t swing that way.
Yeah, I even brought this to the Smite World Championships to play Paladins in the press room.
As a full-sized gaming laptop, the Predator 17 has plenty of ports for plugging things in, including a Thunderbolt port, four USB 3.0 ports and—my personal favorite—an SD card reader. Long live the SD card reader!
This particular model also comes with a Blu-ray writer, which can be removed and replaced with something much more useful. More on that shortly.
Now that we’ve looked at the parts we touch and see, it’s time to delve deep into the Predator 17's organs to talk performance. Sounds like the perfect place for a list of system specs to me.
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Processor||Intel Quad-Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz/3.5GHz Turbo|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 SDRAM upgradeable to 64 GB|
|Memory Card Reader||Secure Digital (SD) card reader|
|Storage||1 TB 7200 RPM SATA/512 GB SSD|
|Optical Drive||Removable Blu-ray Writer|
|Display||17.3" 1920 x 1080 IPS Active Matrix TFT Color LCD|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M with 4 GB GDDR5|
|Audio||Predator Dolby SoundPound 4.2 — 4 speakers, 2 subwoofers|
|Wireless LAN||Killer Wireless AC 1535 802.11ac WiFi featuring 2x2 MU-MIMO technology (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz)|
|Wired Networking||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Webcam||1280 x 720|
|Ports||HDMI and DisplayPort Out (supports 4K output), 4 USB 3.0 (one with power off charging), 1 USB 2.0, 1 Thunderbolt port, RJ45 Network port|
|Touchpad||Precision Touchpad (supporting Windows Modern Touchpad gestures)|
|Keyboard||Mechanical keyboard with Predator ProZone programmable keys and lighting|
|Battery||8-cell 6000 mAh Lithium Ion (Li-ion) with a run time of 5.5 hours during normal use|
|Warranty||2 year Limited Warranty|
Note the price, because I know you will. There are models of the Predator 17 that are less expensive—they start at $1,599. There are also laptops you can buy at Walmart for $250. I could list prices all day long. Moving on.
Let’s see, Skylake mobile processor, nice. 1.5 GB of storage between SATA and SSD drives, excellent. 32 GB of DDR4? More memory than I probably need right now, with the option to double it. GeForce GTX 980M? The only better mobile GPU would be two of those.
All of those product model numbers add up to some of the best gaming performance you can get in a bigger dedicated gaming laptop. We’re talking over 60 frames per second on ultra settings for most modern PC games at 1920 x 1080. The Metro Last Light benchmark, one of the most brutal, reported back an average of over 30 frames per second with settings maxxed, which is pretty damn impressive for a gaming laptop.
At $2,600, it’s not really about how well the gaming laptop runs games—excellent performance should be a given. It’s about the overall experience of playing on the system.
How hot does the Predator 17 run? Warm, but not so much that you couldn’t keep it comfortably on your lap.
Is it noisy? The default fans keep the humming at a modest level under a full load. Swap in one of the Predator 17's coolest features and it can reach a dull roar. Remember that removable Blu-ray writer? Here’s what you can swap it for.
It’s called the Predator FrostCore, and its basically a modular cooling unit from Cooler Master. I love this idea. Does it make a huge difference? Not that I’ve noticed—the system runs a few degrees cooler with it installed, but the noise factor increase might cancel out the benefit for players not using headphones.
And this is one laptop where you really don’t want to be using headphones. With four dedicated speakers and two subwoofers pumping out Dolby sound, the Predator 17 is one of the best-sounding gaming laptops I’ve played with.
Acer calls the audio system SoundPound 4.2., but I am not calling it that because it’s silly. Instead, I call it pretty damn amazing. Just remember to turn it down before accidentally opening up an autoplay video in the press room of a major esports event, not that it’s happened to me more than once.
Sorry about the finger smudges all over the track pad, Acer. And the cat footprints on the lid.
The Acer Predator 17 is a pretty badass gaming laptop (there, I said it.) It’s got all the right internal bits to make games sing, with a good display, a great keyboard and excellent sound bring those games to your fingers, ears and eyes. One of its bigger ideas—modular add-on cooling—might not be as big as I thought it would be, but I like the way Acer’s engineers are thinking, and look forward to further advancements in the red and black gaming hardware department.