The Acer Predator Helios 300 has been one of the most popular mid-range gaming laptops in the last couple of months, mostly due to its excellent pricing, as it comes with a Core H Intel processor, Nvidia GTX 1060 6 GB graphics and an IPS screen for a little over $1000.
It’s not perfect, as you can see from our detailed review of the series, but many could and still can look past its quirks.
There’s an updated version of this notebook available in stores as of the spring of 2018. It gets the code name Helios 300 PG315-51 and is identical on the outside with the older version launched in 2017, but with one major update: the 2018 edition is built on Intel’s Coffee Lake hardware platform, which means it gets a six-core i7 processor instead of the quad-cores available before. This has an impact on performance, temperatures, battery life and so on, and aside from the hardware bump, the 2018 model also gets an upgraded screen and wireless module.
We’ve spent time with the Coffee Lake update of the Acer Predator Helios 300 and gathered all our impressions below, so keep on reading if you’re interested in what’s going to be one of the best-sold gaming laptops in 2018.
Update: In the meantime, Acer offers a completely revamped version of the Predator Helios 300, and you can read about the new models in our reviews of the 15-inch and the 17-inch models.
Specs as reviewed
|Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-51|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, 144 Hz, non-touch, matte|
|Processor||Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H CPU|
|Video||Intel HD 630 + Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||512 GB SSD (M.2 NVMe) + 2 TB 5400 HDD (2.5″)|
|Connectivity||Gigabit LAN, Qualcomm QCA6174 Wireless AC , Bluetooth 4.1|
|Ports||1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.1 gen 1, HDMI, mic/earphone, SD card reader, LAN, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||48 Wh, 180 Wh charger|
|Size||390 mm or 15.35” (w) x 270 mm or 10.62” (d) x 27 mm or 1.06” (h)|
|Weight||5.64 lbs (2.56 kg)|
|Extras||red backlit keyboard, webcam|
We’re not going to focus on this aspect, as on the outside the 2018 Helios is identical to the 2017 model, which we covered in depth over here.
In very few words though, the Predator Helios 300 is a fairly bulky 15-inch full-size laptop, with a nice plastic and metal construction, but also a fair amount of popping-red design accents, aggressive elements and big logos.
Design and build aside, the Helios 300 offers a proper selection of ports, but there’s still no Thunderbolt 3 on this updated model.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Helios 300 types well, albeit its short-stroke keyboard might not be for everyone, as the keys only travel 1.2 mm into the frame. They suit my typing style well though and they’re also quiet. Follow this link for more in-depth impressions of the keyboard.
As a side note, you should keep in mind that the tall and sharp front lip and pointy corners can be annoying when typing on a narrow desk that doesn’t allow for much arm support, when your wrists come directly in contact with them.
The clickpad is made out of plastic, but is spacious and gets Precision drivers, so tracks well and just performs without hiccups with daily use.
There’s a 15.6-inch matte display on the Helios 300, with an IPS panel.
Last year’s models came with a rather dim and color-mediocre LG Philips panel, but the 2018 update gets a much nicer AU Optronics panel, brighter and capable of covering a large color gamut, as you can see below.
Update: The Helios 300 is available with either a 60 Hz (HardwareID : B156HAN06.0) or a 144 Hz screen (HardwareID : B156HAN07.1). We had the former on this review unit.
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO60ED (B156HAN06.0);
- Coverage: 98% sRGB, 70% NTSC, 75% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 296 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 790:1;
- White point: 8700 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.40 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.74 uncalibrated, 1.36 calibrated.
The panel is rather poorly calibrated out of the box, with a cool White Balance and slightly skewed gamma, so you should use our calibrated color profile available over here to balance things outs.
As far as the 144 Hz option goes, we tested it on another version of the Helios 300 and here’s what we got:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO71ED (B156HAN07.1);
- Coverage: 97% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 76% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 285 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 790:1;
- White point: 8200 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.36 cd/m2.
The calibrated color profile for the 144 Hz screen is available over here.
Hardware and performance
Acer offers the 2018 Helios 300 in a bunch of different configurations and we got the higher end version for our tests, with a Core i7-8750H processor, 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia GTX 1060 6 GB graphics and dual storage, with an M.2 NVMe SSD and a 2.5″ HDD.
The Coffee Lake CPU is the big novelty over the 2017 Helios, as it’s a six-core and massively outperforms the KabyLake quad-core in multi-core activities, as you’ll see below or in this dedicated article than compares the i7-8750H to its predecessors and other alternatives you could consider in the months to come.
Before we get to the actual performance section, I should mention that the RAM and storage are easily accessible on this laptop, in case you choose to get one of the lower end models and plan to upgrade it yourselves. However, while there are quick-access bays on the back for the RAM slots and the 2.5″ bay, you’ll have to remove the entire back-panel in order to get to the M.2 SSD. It’s a fairly simple task and you’ll find detailed guides on Youtube on how to do it.
As far as the performance goes, this laptop handles everyday activities flawlessly, while running cool and quiet, as its fans don’t spin with such light chores.
Performance remains consistent with demanding loads as well, as long as the laptop is plugged in. The CPU and GPU run close to their full potential at maximum TurboBoost speeds in most activities and tasks, and the benchmark results are very solid.
- 3DMark 11: P14014 (Physics – 10891, Graphics – 15378);
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver –29031, Fire Strike – 10411, Time Spy – 4055;
- 3DMark 13 – Graphics: Sky Driver – 40726, Fire Strike – 11911, Time Spy – 3904;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 4869;
- PCMark 108: 3765;
- PassMark: 5506 (CPU – 14459, 3D Graphics – 5948);
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 4176, Multi-core: 20868;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 5138, Multi-core: 20041;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 68.88 fps, CPU 11.51 pts, CPU Single Core 1.98 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 59.69 fps, CPU 1087 cb, CPU Single Core 175 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 205.69 fps, Pass 2 – 66.53 fps;
- x264 HD Benchmark 5.1 64-bit: Pass 1 – 70.07 fps, Pass 2 – 15.06 fps.
With Cinebench R15 in a loop we noticed a slight drop in scores to about 1000 points after several runs, as the CPU clocked down faster from its maximum Turbo Boost speeds as the internals built heat. But even in this case there’s room for improvement with undervolting.
Gaming performance was pretty solid as well, with no issues on the GPU side, however the CPU oftenly drops to its stock speeds with the more demanding titles, as you can see below.
We ran a few of our test games on this sample and compared the results with those of the Helios 300 tested last year, with the i7-7700HQ processor and GTX 1060 graphics. Normally, the CPU shouldn’t have a major impact on gaming performance, so the differences below are mostly due to our faulty sample at that point.
|with i7-8750H||with i7-7700HQ|
|Shadow of Mordor||90 fps||47 fps|
|Grid Autosport||114 fps||93 fps|
|Tomb Raider||100 fps||91 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||119 fps||93 fps|
|FarCry 4||71 fps||53 fps|
|Total War: Attila||37 fps||35 fps|
In conclusion, this 2018 version of the Helios 300 performed very well in our tests while plugged in, regardless if it ran daily chores, games or software that put the hardware to serious work.
We did notice some slight hiccups with the CPU dropping to stock frequencies in some situations, but these don’t have a major impact on actual day to day use and like I already mentioned earlier, can be tweaked with undervolting and even repasting the CPU .
On top of that, keep in mind that the CPU and GPU are crippled while the computer runs on battery, so if you’re looking to run demanding tasks away from the wall, the Helios 300 won’t do, at least based on our experience with this review sample.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
We ran into some serious cooling issues with the Helios 300 sample we tested last year, but this 2018 edition did a lot better.
The cooling uses two fans grouped together and a set of three heatpipes that run on top of the CPU/GPU. These are corroborated with proper intake cuts on the bottom and some serious exhausts on the back edge as well.
As a result, the laptop runs cool and totally quiet with daily tasks, when the fans remain inactive most of the time. They do ramp-up with games and become fairly loud, averaging 49-50 dB at head level in most games, which means you’ll probably need headphones to cover them up.
As far as thermals go, the laptop’s top part, above the keyboard, reaches temperatures of very high 40s with demanding loads and gaming on the lap is not going to be comfortable. That’s not unacceptable for a computer with this kind of hardware, but at the same time there are alternatives that run cooler out there.
Note: The images below mention the i5-8300H CPU, but that’s a mistake. We’re going to update the images soon, in the meantime, just keep in mind that they’re for the i7-8750H/GTX 1060 version.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing FarCry 4 for 30 minutes
For Wireless and Bluetooth Acer went with the Qualcom QCA6174 module that’s available on most of their mid-tier notebooks, which performed well in our tests. There’s also a Gigabit Lan connection.
The 2017 Helios didn’t impress in terms of audio capabilities, and that hasn’t changed for the 2018 update, which uses the same set of rather average and not very loud speakers, placed on the underbelly. They only ramp up to about 76-77 dB at head level, and while the sound coming out of them is not entirely mediocre, is at the same time nothing to brag about.
One last thing to mention here is the webcam. It’s placed on top of the screen, flanked by two microphones and an state LED. It gets a wide angle lens, but the images taken are grainy and washed out even in properly lit rooms.
There’s still just a 48 Wh battery on the 2018 15-inch variant of the Helios 300, which is rather small for this day and age, especially since there are alternatives with larger batteries out there, as well as way lighter notebooks with similar hardware and similarly sized batteries.
Regardless, you’ll have to accept that the battery life is not this laptop’s main selling point, so here’s what to expect (screen was set at 40% brightness, around 120 nits):
- 11.8 W (~4 h of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.4 W (~5 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.4 W (~6 h 25 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.6 W (~5 h of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 17.5 W (~2 h 45 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 45.0 W (~1 h of use) – gaming, High Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a standard 180 Wh power brick and a full charge takes at least 2 hours.
Price and availability
The updated Helios 300 is available in most markets at the time of this update.
The US market mostly gets a top-tier configuration with the Core i7-8750H CPU, GTX 1060 graphics chip, 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD, for around $1200. You’ll probably have to add an extra HDD to store all your games, but that’s simple, as shown in this article.
C0re i5 models are available in some regions for less, and given the new Core i5-8300H Coffee Lake CPU is at least on par performance wise with the older i7-7700HQ models, you shouldn’t totally dis-consider those either, especially if you’re on a tighter budget and primarily plan to use the computer for playing games and not for the kind of tasks that would benefit from the extra cores and threads of the i7-8750H platform.
Follow this link for more details, updated configurations, prices and user reviews at the time you’re reading the article.
Performance aside, the 2018 Acer Predator Helios 300 is an incremental upgrade of last year’s version, with a nicer screen and faster wireless chip. All its other quirks and features remained unchanged, including the arguable design decisions, the rather bulky construction, the quiet and fast keyboard with low-travel keys, the average-sized battery or the rather poor speakers.
On the performance side though, the 2018 Helios 300 is a significant step-up from its predecessor. The i7-8750H variants offer a major boost in applications that can benefit from the 50% extra cores and threads, while the i5-8300H models offer similar performance to the i7-7700HQ models of 2017, but at a lower price. However, the hardware is not going to set this laptop apart from the competition, as all the OEMs are going to upgrade their SKUs in the near future.
So at the end of the day, if you’re looking for a well-rounded computer with capable graphics, no crippling flaws and a very good price, the Predator Helios 300 PH315-51 should be towards the top of your list and gets a solid 4.25/5 rating in our review, as well as out recommendation as an excellent Budget Mid-Range Gaming notebook.
You will find gaming notebooks with nicer features (bigger batteries, smaller builds, friendlier designs, punchier speakers) in its segment, but not for the same price, and that’s why we’re sure this Helios 300 is going to be a hit in 2018.
Get in touch in the comments section below if you have anything to add or any questions about it, we’re around and happy to reply.
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