Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) review

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We’ve given Acer’s Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop four stars and an Editors’ Choice Award in 2020 and 2021, but the third time isn’t magic. The Helios 300 is available in a wide range of 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch configurations starting at $1,199.99; This year’s review unit is the cheapest we’ve tried at $1,299.99, with a 15.6-inch 144Hz screen instead of the previous 240Hz refresh rate. It’s more or less the same as the excellent MSI Katana GF66, but has a smaller solid state drive and costs $100 more.


A family resemblance

Even more than the MSI, the Predator Helios 300 (model PH315-54-760S) reviewed here reminds us of the $1,100 Acer Nitro 5 we just reviewed. The Helios is priced slightly higher, mainly because it has a 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU versus a 4GB RTX 3050 Ti, and a multi-zone RGB keyboard versus a plain red backlight.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

But the two Acers share Intel’s eight-core 2.3GHz Core i7-11800H processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a 144Hz, 1920×1080 display. They even have the same ports in the same places, although the Predator adds a mini DisplayPort and its USB-C port supports Thunderbolt 4.

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At $1,199.99, the cheapest Helios 300 offers a six-core Core i7 CPU and the previous generation Nvidia RTX 2060. The top-of-the-line model costs $2,299.99 with a GeForce RTX 3080, 240Hz display, 32GB of storage, and a 1TB SSD.

Handsome in black aluminum with a stylized, illuminated Predator logo on the lid, the Acer is advertised at 5.5 pounds, but my scale put it at the same 4.8 pounds as the Nitro 5, given its size at 0.9 x 14.3 x 10 inches (HWD).

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) left connectors

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Fairly thick bezels surround the screen, which, like the keyboard, flexes slightly under pressure. Without a fingerprint reader or facial recognition webcam, you’ll have to enter passwords instead of signing in with Windows Hello. On the left side of the laptop are two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, Ethernet and audio jacks, and a security lock slot.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) right ports

(Photo: Molly Flores)

A third USB-A port joins the Thunderbolt 4, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI ports on the right; The power pack is plugged in on the back.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) trailing edge

(Photo: Molly Flores)


An RGB light show

A dedicated button launches the PredatorSense utility, which monitors system temperatures, provides multicolored animated patterns for the backlit keyboard, and lets you toggle settings like keyboard backlight timeout and a conflicting startup sound. You can also choose between Quiet, Standard, Extreme, and Turbo performance modes, with the last two CPU and GPU overclocking and Turbo boosting fan noise to a deafening roar. We used Extreme for our benchmark tests, although we tried some with Turbo and saw a 2% or 3% improvement in some tests (but no improvement in our playtests, which fans have already maxed out).

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) keyboard

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The keyboard has dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, as well as a numeric keypad, although they and other top-row keys like Escape and Delete are puny. It has a soft, flat typing feel that’s not overly responsive. A chrome-plated, buttonless touchpad glides and taps smoothly, though it’s hard to click except at the very bottom.

The webcam has the usual blurry 720p resolution and no privacy shutter; It captures fairly colorful and well-lit images with noticeable noise or noise. A speaker grille above the keyboard produces a relatively soft, somewhat hollow sound. There is no bass, but you can make out overlapping tracks. DTS:X Ultra software provides an equalizer and presets for music, movies, speech, and gaming genres like RPG and shooters.

Other preinstalled utilities range from PhotoDirector and PowerDirector to Dropbox, ExpressVPN, and Planet9 (Acer’s Gaming Community) promos. Our test unit has Windows 10 Home, although Acer now sells the system with Windows 11.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) front view

(Photo: Molly Flores)

While the Nitro 5’s 1080p screen is obviously a bargain purchase, the Predator’s is more impressive, with ample brightness and rich, well-saturated colors. Contrast is high and fine details are crisp; Viewing angles are wide. White backgrounds are white instead of greyish.


Performance test: A five-way Core i7-11800H gaming melee

For our benchmark charts, we compared the Predator to four other gaming laptops. We’ve already mentioned the Acer Nitro 5 and the MSI Katana GF66, and the HP Victus 16 is in the same price range. The XPG Xenia 15 KC has the same CPU as the others, but its GeForce RTX 3070, 1440p screen, and extra RAM and storage make it more expensive. You can see their basic specs in the table below.

productivity tests

UL’s PCMark 10 core benchmark simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-related tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and video conferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to evaluate a laptop’s storage load time and throughput.

Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads to assess a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we’ll use the open-source HandBrake 1.4 video transcoder to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our last productivity test is PugetBench for Photoshop by Puget Systems, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s famous image editor to evaluate the performance of a PC for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that performs a variety of common and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks, ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

Scores for the Helios 300 ranged from mid-range to front row, winning some of our CPU tests. All five laptops scored well above the 4,000-point threshold in PCMark 10, which indicates excellent productivity for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. While the Predator doesn’t quite excel as a content creation workstation, it does do well for the occasional multimedia task.

Graphics and gaming tests

We test Windows PC graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).

We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which emphasizes both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests rendered off-screen to accommodate different screen resolutions, practice graphics, and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation, respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.

Our next three tests involve real games – specifically the built-in 1080p benchmarks of a AAA title (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla), a fast-paced e-sports shooter (Rainbow Six Siege), and a sports racing sim (F1 2021). We run each benchmark twice, use different image quality presets for Valhalla and Rainbow, and try F1 with and without Nvidia’s DLSS anti-aliasing technology.

The Predator’s GeForce RTX 3070 is the most powerful GPU here. While the XPG Xenia was the leader in some benchmarks, it didn’t dazzle us when playing in the real world – the three RTX 3060 laptops performed very well, with the Predator winning the less demanding 3DMark Night Raid subtest and competing with the HP Victus prevailed in the other events. As expected, the more economical Nitro 5 brought up the rear.

Battery and display tests

We test laptop battery life by watching a locally saved 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie tears of steel) with a display brightness of 50% and an audio volume of 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before testing, with Wi-Fi and the keyboard backlight off (and using the Predator’s default mode instead of extreme power mode).

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and software to measure a laptop screen’s color saturation — what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display is capable of displaying — and its 50% and the peak brightness Nissen (candelas per square meter).

The Helios 300’s battery life is decent, if unremarkable, but it has one of the top two or three screens and delivers a good color range and the highest brightness of the group.


A perennial favorite does not dominate this time

This year’s edition of the Acer Predator Helios 300 offers solid gaming performance and value for money, but doesn’t quite deliver the sizzling we’ve come to expect from an editor’s choice gaming laptop.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) rear view

(Photo: Molly Flores)

As said, the MSI Katana GF66 doesn’t look as good with a larger $100 solid-state drive, but outside of the Micro Center (the source of our review unit), the price might be a bit higher, and the Acer has a better display . That makes it a toss; The competition between $1,100-$1,300 gaming laptops is so intense that you really want to be on the lookout for new listings or discounts every week.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022)

advantages

  • Solid 1080p gaming with GeForce RTX 3060 GPU

  • Bright, colorful 144Hz display

  • Good port selection

The final result

Acer’s Predator Helios 300 remains a good value among 15.6-inch gaming notebooks, but it doesn’t stand out in a highly competitive field.

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