There’s no doubt you considered getting an Acer’s Predator Helios 300 if shopping for a good value mid-tier gaming laptop in the last years, something with excellent performance, latest generation hardware and a good price.
As of 2019, Acer has completely revamped the Helios 300 series, both the 15-inch model we’ve covered in a previous article, as well as the 17-inch variant we’ll talk about in here.
These are brand new devices with a new internal design and a smaller and sturdier outer chassis, latest generations hardware and high-refresh rate screens, an RGB keyboard and most of the other important traits gamers would expect from a $1500 (ish) notebook these days. They should also have aggressive prices on their side, and these combined should make these Predators some of the most popular options in their classes, much like the previous Helios 300s were in 2018 and 2017. Unlike those, the 2019 updates are just better product across the board.
Down below we’ve gathered our impressions on the 17-inch Predator Helios 300 in a best-value configuration with a Core i7 processor and Nvidia’s RTX 2060 graphics, with the strong points and the quirks, so make sure to go through our findings if you’re interested in getting this notebook, and get in touch in the comments section at the end if you have any questions or have anything to add to the article.
The specs sheet as reviewed
|Acer Predator Helios 300 PH317-53|
|Screen||17.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, 144 HZ, matte, Chi Mei CMN175C panel|
|Processor||Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H, six-core (i7-9750H on retail models)|
|Video||Intel HD 630 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 80W (GeForce 419.72)|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (2x 16 GB DIMMs)|
|Storage||2x 512 GB SSD in Raid0 (M.2 80 mm NVMe – WD SN720 SDAPNTW-512G) + 1 TB HHD (2.5″ bay – Toshiba MQ04ABF100)|
|Connectivity||Killer 1550i AC WiFi with Bluetooth 5.0, Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C gen 2 (?), HDMI 2.0, miniDP, LAN, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||58 Wh, 180 W power adapter|
|Size||404 mm or 15.90” (w) x 200 mm or 11.02” (d) x 24.7 mm or .97” (h)|
|Weight||2.94 kg (6.48 lb), .55 kg (1.21 lbs) power brick, EU version|
|Extras||RGB backlit keyboard – 4 zones, NumPad, 2x stereo speakers, HD webcam|
Our review unit is a pre-production sample offered by Acer for the purpose of this article, that’s why it comes with an 8th gen Core i7 processor. Retail models will be available with the 9th gen Core i7-9750H (which we’ve covered in this article), but given the fact that the 9750H is pretty much a higher clocked 8750H, you should only expect minimal differences between our sample and the retail models.
It’s also worth adding that Acer offers the Predator Helios 300 PH317-53 in a bunch of different configurations, with various amounts of RAM, types of storage and either GTX 1660 Ti, RTX 2060 or RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics. The best value is still probably in the RTX 2060 variant, the one we’re reviewing here, but unlike with the 15-inch variants, this chassis is perfectly capable of keeping the RTX 2070 chip at bay and squeeze the kind of performance and thermals you’re not going to get in the smaller chassis.
Design and exterior
This 17-inch Predator Helios 300 is pretty much an oversized version of the 15-inch model previously reviewed on the channel, so we’ll refer you to that post for our in-depth impressions on the build quality, design lines, practicality and IO.
In just a few words, though, you should know that this is a sturdily built computer, with finger-resistant black metal pieces on the palm-rest and the interior, a well-designed hinge and a decent set of ports on the sides, but without Thunderbolt or a card reader. It’s a bit larger and heavier than some of the other 17-inch notebooks in its class, though, and gets larger bezels than the 15-inch model, as well as a slightly thicker chassis.
That aside, its design is still somewhat brand-heavy, with a panel-lit Predator logo and branding elements that might not appeal to some of you, and that might also make this a hard-pass in stricter work/school places. Compared to the previous 17-inch Helios 300, this updated 2019 model is cleaner, smaller and overall a much nicer device, but as a fan of simple, clean designs, I feel there’s still room for improvement.
Keyboard and trackpad
The 17-inch Predator Helios 300 gets the exact keyboard as the 15-inch model, with the same layout, feedback, and 4-zone RGB illumination system, so we’ll refer you to the previous review for our in-depth impressions.
For the screen, Acer went with a matte IPS FHD 144 Hz panel made by Chi Mei, the CMN175C also used in other high-tier gaming laptops like the MSI GS75 Stealth.
This is a good panel for daily use and an exceptionally good option for gaming, due to the short response times and high refresh rate, even if GSync is not supported here (you’re not really going to need it on a 144 Hz panel and RTX 2060 configuration anyway). It’s also slightly faster, brighter, and offers better blacks, contrast and color coverage than the AUO panel on the 15-inch Predator Helios 300 model, as well as the AOU 17-inch panel offered on similar mid-tier 17-inch gaming laptops, like the Lenovo Legion Y740, MSI GE75 Raider or the Asus ROG GL704 lineups.
There is one downside, and that’s the fact that PWM is used for brightness levels below 20%, but at a high frequency of 25 KHz, so not something that will bother even the most flicker sensitive among you.
Here’s what we got on this implementation, according to our Sypder4 sensor:
- Panel Hardware ID: Chi Mei CMN175C (N173HCE-G33);
- Coverage: 100% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 77% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 306 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 880:1;
- White point: 7300 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.35 cd/m2;
- PWM: 25KHz under 20% brightness;
- Response time: 3 ms advertised, ~10 ms BTW.
The panel is well-calibrated out the box, but you can address the skewed White Point and gray-level imbalances with this calibrated color profile.
I’ll also add that we haven’t noticed any obvious light-bleeding on our sample, and both the color and illumination uniformity came out pretty good. That still doesn’t mean this is the perfect choice for color accurate work, but it is perhaps a better option than most of the 17-inch alternatives with AUO panels.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a fairly high-specced configuration of the Acer Predator Helios 300 PH317-53, with the Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM in dual channel, the RTX 2060 80W graphics chip, two M.2 PCIe SSDs hooked up in Raid0 and an extra HDD for mass-storage.
Before we proceed to talk about its behavior and performance you should know that our review unit is a pre-production model with GeForce 419.72 drivers from Nvidia. We could not install the latest Nvidia drivers versions available at the time of the article (430.64), which had an impact on some of the gaming results, and we’ll get in-depth once we get to that section. This review unit performed well in our other tests, in line with what you should expect from the retail models.
The final configurations will, however, ship with the newer Intel Core i7-9750H processor, and you can read what to expect from it in this article, as we’ll most likely not going to get a 9750H review unit. The 8th and 9th gen i7s are similar in most ways, though, that’s why I’d expect the 9750H variants to perform very similarly to our review unit, with slight 3-5% performance gains in CPU loads, due to the fact that the thermal module would allow it to run at its potential higher Turbo clocks.
As far as the components go, the CPU and GPU are soldered onto the motherboard, but the RAM, storage and the WiFi module are accessible. To get to them you’ll have to remove the back panel, hold in place by a handful of Philips screws, which is a fairly simple task and gives unobstructed access to all those components, as well as the cooling solution, battery, and speakers.
The Predator Helios 300 is primarily marketed as a gaming and performance notebook, and we’ll get to that in a second. Some of you might also want to use it for browsing or movies, while on battery, which it’s perfectly capable of. It runs cool and fairly quiet with daily use, but the fans’ Auto profile does not allow them to completely turn off, so you’ll still hear them in quiet environments. On top of that, with Optimus on-board, this laptop can also run for 3-4 hours of daily use on a charge, and slightly longer when streaming video.
On to more demanding tasks, we’ll start by testing the CPU’s performance in 100% loads, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run, with the laptop on the Maximum Performance Power profile in Windows and out-of-the-box settings. Most implementations of the i7-8750H/i7-9750H CPUs return high-scores for the first Cinebench runs, and then settle a little lower as the CPU heats-up and can no longer maintain its maximum Turbo speeds for more than a few seconds.
Acer undervolts the CPU by-default on this laptop at -125 mV, and as a result, it performs better than most standard implementations, settling for speeds of 3.5-3.6 GHz, a TDP of 45 W, temperatures of around 68-70 degrees Celsius, as well as scores of 1150+ points. Power Limit Throttling eventually kicks in as the limiting factor here, as there’s otherwise plenty of headroom to allow the CPU to run at higher clocks.
There are two ways to improve this behavior if you’re looking to squeeze further CPU performance. The basic method is just a button press away, activating the Turbo mode, which on this implementation does three things: raises the CPU’s TDP limit to 56W, while keeping the -125 mV undervolt, overclocks the GPU at +160 MHz Core/+320 MHz Memory and raises its TDP to 90 W (from 80W out-of-the-box), as well as sets the fan at maximum 5500+ rpms.
In this case, the CPU performs flawlessly in our Cinebench loop test, averaging constant 3.9 GHz clock speeds, a TDP of 55W, temperatures of 72-73 degrees Celsius and scores for 1240+ points. Details below.
The fans get very loud in this case, though, at 55+ dB at head-level, that’s why it’s possible to further improve the CPU performance while keeping them on Auto, which generates noise levels of around 46-48 dB at head-level. For that, we further undervolted the CPU at -150 mV and manually raised the TDP limit to 50 W in XTU, which resulted in pretty much the same flawless performance, with a slight increase in temperatures to 74-75 degrees Celsius. Details below.
We favor this approach over the noisier alternative, that’s why we’d further stuck with this method for most of our tests, as explained in the next paragraphs.
Before we get to that, though, I’ll also add that our sample performed alright on battery as well, but in this case, the CPU is limited to 25 W, which translates in clock speeds of 2.9-3.0 GHz, scores of 920+ points and temperatures of around 55 degrees Celsius, with the fans on Auto.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers. We ran some of them on the Standard profile first, with out-of-the-box settings (which imply a -125 mV undervolted CPU), the fans on Auto and Maximum Performance mode in Windows. Here’s what we got:
- 3DMark 11: 16960 (Graphics – 19836, Physics – 12084);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 13757 (Graphics – 15217, Physics – 15766);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 5912 (Graphics – 5856, CPU – 6251);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 3073;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 3556;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5065, Multi-core: 22226;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1226 cb, CPU Single Core 167 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2674 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 205.23 fps, Pass 2 – 76.12 fps.
We also ran a few more tests on what we’ll further call a Tweaked profile, with the CPU undervolted at -150 mV and Turbo Mode on (CPU’s TDP limit at 56W, fans on max, GPU on the Extreme setting in Predator Sense, which applies a +160 MHz Core, +320 MHz Memory GPU overclock, as well as raises its TDP to 90W, ). Here’s what we got in this case:
- 3DMark 11: 17850 (Graphics – 22134, Physics – 12184);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 15242 (Graphics – 17023, Physics – 16253);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 6616 (Graphics – 6618, CPU – 6608);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 3470;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4047;
- PCMark 10: 5444;
- PassMark: Rating: 6419, CPU mark: 14192, 3D Graphics Mark: 12921;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 4178 Multi-core: 22314;
- GeekBench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 4985, Multi-core: 22244;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1246 cb, CPU Single Core 171 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2914 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 206.28 fps, Pass 2 – 76.32 fps.
The Tweaked profile leads to minor CPU performance gains, since the GPU is already undervolted to begin with, but the GPU scores increase by about 5-15%, due to the raised TDP and frequency boost (960 MHz default >> 1120 MHz on Extreme, and the same +160 MHz OC applies to the Turbo Boost speeds). It’s also important to add that the Tweaked profile does lead to a fairly important decrease in CPU and GPU temperatures in demanding loads, as you can see in the following 3Dmark logs, as well as down below, in the gaming performance section.
Further CPU undervolting and GPU overclocking should be possible, but I wouldn’t expect significant gains over the Tweaked profile above, so we didn’t get the time to pursue any further tweaking on this sample.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some gaming results first. We ran a couple of games representative for DX11, DX12 and Vulkan architectures, both on the Standard and the Tweaked profiles. Here’s what we got:
|FHD Standard||FHD Tweaked|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)||76-94 fps||84-100 fps|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS Off)||54-62 fps||60-74 fps|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)||83 fps||93 fps|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)||146 fps||162 fps|
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)||76 fps||82 fps|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)||69 fps||78 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)||56-70 fps*||62-74 fps*|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities.
*As mentioned earlier, our sample runs on 3-months old Nvidia drivers, and that had an impact on Witcher 3 fps counts, which are much lower than on the similarly specced 15-inch Helios with more recent drivers, despite the fact that the components actually run at higher clocks.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Battlefield V and Witcher 3 on the Standard profile, with the fans on Auto, which keeps them running at about 3800-4500 rpm (70-80% of max capacity) and about 46-48 dB at head level on our review unit. Don’t forget that the CPU is undervolted at -125 mV by default on this standard profile. It’s interesting that the fans run faster than on the 15-inch review sample, which paired with the larger body of this 17-inch model allows the components to run at comfortable temperatures even in the most demanding titles, of up to 80 degrees C for the CPU and up to 70 degrees C for the GPU.
Then, these pictures show what happens on the Tweaked profile, with the -150 mV undervolted CPU, and Turbo Mode on.
And here’s what happens when unplugging the laptop: the GPU averages around 1.26 MHz (30 W TDP), but the CPU throttles down to 900 MHz, which bottlenecks the performance in some of the more demanding titles.
If you don’t want to dig through the logs, this is what we got in Witcher 3:
- Standard profile (default -125 mV CPU/ GPU settings, fans on Auto): CPU: ~3.74 GHz, 76 C; GPU: ~1.38 GHz, 68 C;
- Tweaked profile (-150 mV undervolted CPU, Turbo Mode with GPU +160 MHz Clock/ +320 MHz Memory, fans on Max): CPU: ~3.9 GHz, 73 C; GPU: ~1.56 GHz, 66 C.
Based on our findings, the fan profile does a better job on this laptop than on the 15-inch model we’ve previously tested. Gaming on Auto is possible this time around, at moderate temperatures and noise levels, and you can get 5-15% fps gains by switching to the Tweaked profile, which allows the CPU and GPU to run at their maximum potential and at lower temperatures. The fans are noisy on Max, though, to the point where you’ll most likely want to manually adjust them to about 4500-5000 rpm, which will ensure similar performance, slightly higher temperatures and noise levels in the 48-50 dB margins.
Acer could still implement a smarter Auto profile or at least allow better manual control over the fan’s speed, allowing users to create a fan-curve based on temperatures brackets. This way you could get a single profile that would keep then fans down, even completely off, with daily use, and then ramp up to just the right speeds with games, based on the CPU/GPU temperatures.
All in all, though, the thermal module does an excellent job at keeping the components at bay inside this 17-inch Predator Helios chassis, with headroom to spare for the higher-tier i7-9750H configuration with RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The 17-inch 2019 Predator Helios 300 shares its thermal design with the smaller 15-inch version, but with two crucial differences: it’s a larger and slightly thicker device and uses longer heatpipes on the CPU side, both allowing heat to spread-out easily and leading to the improved CPU/GPU temperatures, as well as improved outer-case thermals.
The fans still get very loud (55+ dB at head level) on the Max settings, with Cool Boost on, but the implementation is perfectly capable of keeping the components at bay and as long as you’re willing to play with the manual rpm settings in the Predator Sense app, you’re most likely never have to keep them on Max, but rather at easier to accept noise levels of up to 50 dB at head-level, and even lower in less-demanding games. In fact, the Auto profile will probably do just fine for most of you, even if you turn the GPU to Extreme.
Some heat is still transferred out to the metallic interior shell with the fans on Auto, but even the hotter parts don’t go above 45 degrees Celsius, and the areas around the WASD/Arrow keys only hit around 35 degrees, which is perfectly comfortable to touch even in warmer environments.
The fans are still both active with daily use on the Auto fan profile, at around 2000-2500 rpm and 38-40 dB at head level. Theoretically, you can switch them off in the Manual fan settings and still end up with alright temperatures, but while that worked on the 15-inch model, it didn’t on this 17-inch variant so we can’t tell you what to expect in terms of temperatures in that case. Nonetheless, I wish Acer would allow users to create a custom fan curve in the Predator Sense app, and hopefully, they’ll hear this and add it in a future software update.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix on EDGE for 30 minutes, fans on Auto (38-40 dB)
*Load Default – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Default Profile, fans on Auto (45-46 dB)
*Load Tweaked – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Tweaked profile, fans on Max + CoolBoost (55-56 dB)
For connectivity, there’s a Killer 1550i 2×2 Wireless AC implementation inside this laptop, with Bluetooth 5.0, as well as Gigabit Lan through a Killer E2500module. We’ve mostly used our sample on wireless, and it performed flawlessly both near the router and at 30+ feet away, with obstacles in between.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through cuts on the lateral sides of the underbelly, and they’re actually nicer than on the 15-inch model. We measured similar maximum volumes of about 78-80 dB at head-level, without any distortions, but the sound quality is somewhat richer, with improved lows noticeable from around 90 Hz. Peaking inside the laptop you’ll see that there are actually some larger speakers on this 17-inch model, which explains the gain in quality.
There’s also a 720p webcam on the Nitro 7, placed at the top of the screen and flanked by microphones. It’s grainy and rather washed out, but actually a bit better than what most other OEMs put on their mid-tier laptops these days.
There’s still only a 58 Wh battery inside the Helios 300 PH317-53, just like on the 15-inch model, which is very small for a 2019 full-size 17-inch notebook. Paired with the powerful hardware, the 144 Hz screen and Optimus, that can only translate in roughly 3 to 4 hours of daily use and a little bit longer for video streaming.
Here’s what we got on our sample, with the screen at 30%, which is roughly 120-nits of brightness:
- 15.5 W (~3 45 min h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.2 W (~4 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.3 W (~4 h 20 min of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 20 W (~3- h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 49 W (~1 h 10 min of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Max Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
I’ll also add that Acer bundles this laptop with a compact 180 W power-brick, adequately sized for the hardware inside. There’s no quick charging, so the battery fills up in about 2 hours. This laptop only charges via the proprietary barrel plug charger, and not through USB-C.
Price and availability
The 17-inch Acer Predator Helios 300 is not yet available in stores in most regions at the time of this article, but it is listed in Europe with a starting price of around 1600 EUR, which makes it a tad more expensive than the 15-inch variant.
We’ll update this section in the future, and in the meantime, you should follow this link for updated configurations and prices at the time you’re reading the article.
Just like with the 15-inch model, Acer did an excellent job with this redesigned 17-inch Predator Helios 300, pretty much creating a new laptop from scratch, with a smaller form-factor, latest generation hardware and most of the modern features potential buyers expect in a gaming computer in 2019: RGB keyboard, plenty of ports, a good-quality 144 Hz 3 ms matte screen and a thermal module that can squeeze the advertised performance out of the hardware inside.
However, the 17-inch variant actually performs better and runs cooler than the smaller variant, as expected, given its increased size. It also gets a slightly brighter screen and more oomphy speakers, but that aside, the two models are otherwise very similar.
Potential buyers would still have to accept the arguable design decisions with fairly aggressive Predator branding elements, the lack of Thunderbolt 3 or a card reader, and the rather small 58 Wh battery, as Acer did not opt to include a bigger one inside this 17-inch model.
At the end of the day, the pricing is also going to be a decisive factor in your decisions when opting for one of these Predators or any of the competitive alternatives on the market, each with their own share of strong points and quirks. Among those, the Asus ROG Scar II and Scar III lines, the MSI GE75 Raider and the Lenovo Legion Y740 should be at the top of your lists. In the past, Acer’s Predators had the pricing on their side, and if that’s still the case, I expect this 2019 update of the Predator Helios 300 17 to become one of the most popular options in its segment.
With that in mind we’ll wrap up our review of the Acer Predator Helios 300 PH317-53, but the comments section below awaits your feedback, impressions, and comments, so don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’re around to reply and help out if we can.