The Acer Predator Helios 300 series scored high in our reviews and in the worldwide best-selling charts for the last years, and for good reason, as this has been and still is one of the better-balanced performance/gaming/all-purpose laptop series on the market.
We’ve reviewed all the available Helios 300s over time, and this article gathers our thoughts on the most recent mid-2021 model, the 15-inch Predator Helios 300 PH315-54.
Acer haven’t changed much on the Helios 300 series for a few years now, and it’s starting to show its age and lack some of the practicality, design elements, or features that are now available with the alternatives offered by other brands. They did bump the hardware to 8Core 11th gen Intel processors and RTX 3000 graphics, resulting in faster memory, storage, and an IO update. So while on the outside, this might seem the same old device, the mid-2021 model does show a significant improvement in performance over the 2020 and the early-2021 generations.
Paired with Acer’s excellent pricing (follow this link for updated pricing info), this is still going to be a solid option for many of you. And by next year, Acer will hopefully offer us a revamped chassis, which they now offer in the 2021 Predator Triton models.
Specs sheet as reviewed – Acer Predator Helios 300
||Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-54 gaming laptop
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, 144 Hz, matte, LG Philips LP156WFG-SPF3 panel
||Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-11800H, eight-core
||Intel UHD and up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 8GB 80-100W (GeForce 466.63),
with Optimus, no MUX/GSync
||32 GB DDR4-3200 (2x 16 GB DIMMs, dual-channel, dual-rank)
||2x 2 TB PCie gen4 SSDs, 2x M.2 slots + 2.5″ bay
||WiFi 6 (Killer AX1650i) with Bluetooth 5.2, Killer 2600 Gigabit Ethernet LAN
||3x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.1, miniDP, LAN, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock
||58 Wh, 230 W power adapter
||363 mm or 14.27” (w) x 255 mm or 10” (d) x 22.9 mm or .9” (h)
||2.2 kg (4.85 lb), .75 kg (1.65 lbs) power brick, EU version
||RGB backlit keyboard – 4 zones, NumPad, 2x stereo speakers, HD webcam
Expect this to be available in a couple of different configurations, with 3060/3070 GPU options and several different panels.
Design and exterior
For the most part, the 2021 Helios 300 is built on the same chassis as the 2020 version that we tested last year, so I’ll refer you to that article for my take on how this looks and feels.
In just a few words, the Helios 300 is still a sturdily crafted laptop, with metal on the main deck and on the lid and an averagely sized format. It kind of starts to show its age though, in comparison to the more recent designs, which you can tell from the bezels, the annoyingly sharp front lip, the retro-looking blue status LEDs placed under the screen, and those plastic strips on the lid, flanking the ugly panel-lit Predator logo. Acer nicely cleaned up the lid on the 2021 Predator Triton 500, and we can only hope the Helios will get the same treatment next year.
They did change one design detail from the previous generation and replaced the massive Predator branding under the screen with a more subtle and smaller Predator logo.
The major update is in the IO, though, where the 2021 Predator Helios 300 now gets an HDMI 2.1 ports and Thunderbolt 4 support. However, it still can’t charge via TB4 and still lacks a card-reader or any biometrics. I do like that they kept the PSU on the back, hiding away the power plug.
Keyboard and trackpad
Inputs haven’t changed in the last two generations of the Helios 300, and they’re still OK, but once more not as competitive with what you’ll find with the competition as they were in 2019.
For me, this is a fine and very fast typer, yet not necessarily one of my favorites, with soft and very quick actuations, which take time to get used to. Still, even with this unforgiving feedback, I feel that this should be a fine keyboard for the average user. The softly coated keys feel very comfortable to the touch, the clicks are quiet, and Acer implemented 26-key rollover that you should find helpful in games.
The layout is full-size, with a main deck of 15 x 15 mm keys and a narrower NumPad section at the right. Up to you if this is your ideal type of format, it can be a differentiating factor between the options in this segment, with some models offering a centered keyboard without a NumPad.
I should also add a backlit RGB keyboard, with 4 different zones controllable through the dedicated tab in Predator Sense. As far as I remember, the illumination seems brighter and more uniform than on past-gen Helios 300s, and Acer also finally included a CapsLock physical LED. There’s still no ability to reactivate the keyboard’s lighting with a swipe over the clickpad, though, you’ll have to hit a key for it (or you can disable the Time Off in the settings).
Acer still puts a mid-sized plastic clickpad on this series for mouse, and not glass as on the Trion lineups. It’s a bit rougher and clunkier with taps, but still works alright with everyday use and gestures.
As for biometrics, there aren’t any on this 2021 Acer Predator Helios 300.
For the screen, Acer offers a couple of different panel choices for the 2021 Predator Helios 300 lineup, all 15.6-inches in size, matte and non-touch.
What we have here is the entry-level option, a FHD 144 Hz 3ms panel from LG Philips, fairly good for what it is, and 90+% sRGB color coverage, but limited contrast and blacks.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD061E (LP156WFG-SPF3);
- Coverage: 92.6% sRGB, 63.9% AdobeRGB, 66.9% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.29;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 395.18 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 27.28 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 978:1;
- White point: 7400 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.40 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
The calibration isn’t great out of the box, with messed upped White Point and Gamma, but once calibrated, the panel turned out to be fine and uniform. I did notice a fair bit of light bleeding on our sample, though, something to check for in your units.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the Acer Predator Helios 300 in the 2021 PH315-54 model, with an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, 32 GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, 2×1 TB of storage in RAID 0, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3070 dGPU and the Intel Iris Xe within the Intel platform, with Optimus.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit is an early-production model with the software available as of early June 2021 (BIOS v0.09, Predator Sense 3.00.3161, GeForce Game Ready 466.63 drivers). This is early software and should improve over time.
Spec-wise, the 2021 Helios 300 tops at an 8Core Intel Tiger Lake i7-11800H processor, the one we have on this sample, and that’s the major changed from the previous generation, which only shipped with the 6Core i7-10750H. The Tiger Lake platform also ensures PCIe gen4 storage (and we got 2x SSDs in RAID in this unit, plus a 2.5″ HDD) and DDR4-3200 MHz memory, and our configuration ships with 32 GB in dual-channel, high-performing dual-rank versions. 16 GB variants might only ship with single-rank RAM, though.
We have here the Nvidia RTX 3070 Laptop chip in a Max-Q 80-100W implementation for the GPU, going up to 80W with Dynamic Boost 2.0. Acer also offers several performance modes available in Predator Sense. Still, as far as I can tell, the settings are not finalized on our sample, as I couldn’t see any power/clock differences between the modes and only affected the fans’ rpms.
Quiet and Default are nonetheless meant for daily low-noise use, Extreme for demanding loads (with higher CPU power allocations and an overclocked GPU), and Turbo for maximum performance at the downgrade of much-increased noise.
Accessing the hardware is a simple task and requires removing the bottom panel, although you’ll have to pull a little firmer to detach the clamps at the back. Inside you’ll find the two M.2 SSD slots, the Wi-Fi module, and two RAM slots, as well as the 2.5 cage, the thermal module, battery, and the tiny speakers flanking it.
I also appreciate that Acer put thermal pads on top of the storage drives, and they’re attached to the D-panel, as shows in the picture below.
This aside, the Predator Helios 300 is a multi-purpose notebook. It can deal with demanding loads and everyday multitasking, browsing, and video content while running quietly and coolly. It’s never completely silent, but the fans spin slowly and are only audible in a quiet environment.
Performance tests and benchmarks
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test for 15+ times in a loop, with 1-2 seconds delay between each run.
Like I said, the profiles did not work as expected on our sample and did not change the CPU’s allocated power, which stabilized at 70W in all the tested profiles, with solid results, fairly quiet fans, and good temperatures. Power is the limitation on the Extreme and Turbo modes, and Thermals are the limit of Default.
Nonetheless, I’d expect the Extreme and Turbo profiles to run at 70W sustained on the retail Helios 300 versions, while the Default and Quiet profiles should get a power cap.
The performance drops on battery, with the CPU being limited to only 25W. All these details are available in the following charts and logs.
To put these findings in perspective, the 2021 Predator Helios 300 is significantly faster in this test than the previous 6Core model, and within 105 of the existing AMD Ryzen 7/9 and Intel i9 alternatives of this generation. It’s nice to finally see a competitive mobile mainstream CPU from Intel, as 8Cores were only available in the more expensive CPU options with the previous 10th-gen platform.
With that out of the way, we then went ahead and further verified our findings with the longer Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation over time, and this unit passed it fine, suggesting consistent performance as the heat builds up.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the stock Extreme profile in Predator Sense.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20534 (Graphics – 23917, Physics – 21614, Combined – 9616);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5499;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8876 (Graphics – 8952, CPU – 8473);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5903;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 17521;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 49.41 average fps;
- PassMark 10: Rating: 4695 (CPU mark: 24883, 3D Graphics Mark: 15713, Disk Mark: 45570);
- PCMark 10: 7149 (Essentials – 11022 , Productivity – 9099 , Digital Content Creation – 9885);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1453, Multi-core: 8320;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 2189 cb, CPU Single Core 229 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 5268 cb, CPU Single Core 578 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 13621 cb, CPU Single Core 1495 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 29.51 s.
These are some solid results. Compared to the very similarly configured Zephyrus M16 tested recently (with an i9-11900H and similar RTX 3070 chip), the CPU scores well in the CPU-only tests and averagely in the combined loads. The GPU scores are consistent as well, but about 5-10% beneath the M16, and that’s because it runs at slightly lower max power in this laptop, and it’s not overclocked by default on this software version as mentioned already.
To compensate for it, we went ahead and overclocked the GPU at +120 MHz and +60 Mhz Memory, which Acer normally sets for the Extreme profile, based on our experience with past Predator laptops. There’s no CPU undervolting option on this laptop, though.
Here’s what happens on this Extreme OC profile:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20746 (Graphics – 24475, Physics – 21351, Combined – 9495);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5635;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9020 (Graphics – 9161, CPU – 8300);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 6045;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 17673.
We’re looking at 2-3% gains in GPU scores but a slight decrease in CPU scores.
I must stress that you should take these numbers with a grain of salt, given our sample doesn’t seem to be running on finalized software, thus certain results might improve on the retail products. Nonetheless, even with this software, the Helios 300 is perfectly competitive in its class.
Finally, we also ran some Workstation related loads on this Intel + RTX 3070 configuration on the Extreme profile:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 3m 17s (Extreme);
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 40s (CUDA), 19s (Optix);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 9m 13s (Extreme);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 2m 30s (CUDA), 1m 5s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: -;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 194.12 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 135.91 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 173.91 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 22.02 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 227.05 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 60.62 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 1118.62 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 19.05 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 97.37 (Extreme).
And the newer SPECviewperf 2020 test:
- SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 91.71 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 59.05 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 87.00 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 22.17 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 259.85 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 28.04 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 18.98 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 174.01 (Extreme).
Again, solid results, within 5-10% of what we got on the more mature Zephyrus M16.
With these out of the way, let’s look at some games.
We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the Extreme and Extreme OC profiles, on the screen’s native FHD resolution, and at FHD/QHD on an external monitor via the miniDP port, which hooks straight into the Nvidia GPU and circumvents the lack of a MUX. Keep in mind that the HDMI 2.1 also hooks into the dGPU, which the Thunderbolt 4 port goes through the Intel iGPU on this laptop.
+ RTX 3070 Laptop 80+W
||FHD Extreme OC
||FHD Ex OC External
||QHD Ex OC external
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|109 fps (78 fps – 1% low)
||113 fps (81 fps – 1% low)
||115 fps (78 fps – 1% low)
||86 fps (67 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|52 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
||48 fps (37 fps – 1% low)
||38 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
(DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
|116 fps (82 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
|112 fps (82 fps – 1% low)
||110 fps (77 fps – 1% low)
||116 fps (91 fps – 1% low)
||87 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|55 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
||59 fps (35 fps – 1% low)
||55 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||46 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
(DX 11, Ultra Preset)
|175 fps (120 fps – 1% low)
||182 fps (108 fps – 1% low)
||188 fps (126 fps – 1% low)
||131 fps (98 fps – 1% low)
|Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
|87 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
||89 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
||91 fps (72 fps – 1% low)
||69 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
|96 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||96 fps (57 fps – 1% low)
||97 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||74 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
(Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
|156 fps (116 fps – 1% low)
||158 fps (118 fps – 1% low)
||168 fps (124 fps – 1% low)
||126 fps (98 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
Those above are rasterization-only tests, and here are some results for RTX titles.
+ RTX 3070 Laptop 80+W
|| FHD Extreme OC
||FHD Ex OC External
||QHD Ex OC External
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF)
|72 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||75 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||62 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||52 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS Quality)
|46 fps (37 fps – 1% low)
||50 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||52 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||35 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA, RTX Ultra)
|63 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
||64 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
||66 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||48 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
Solid results across the board, with no surprises, and especially very good 1% lows compared to some of the other similar laptops tested this year. Hooking up the external screen doesn’t make much of a difference on this laptop, with an up to 5% performance gain in these titles that we’ve tested.
Let’s also go through the performance logs that show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in a couple of on the various available profiles.
Like with the previous Predator Helios 300, this variant still does an excellent job of keeping the hardware within solid temperature limits, with the CPU averaging between 75-90 degrees and the GPU at 65-68 degrees. That’s at FHD resolution and on the Extreme profile, which translates in the fans spinning at around 46-48 dB at head level.
And here are the logs for Extreme OC with the +120 MHz Core GPU.
Pushing the Turbo button Turbo further pushes the fans to 51+ dB and helps shed a few degrees of the components. Not something I’d suggest, given the already excellent thermal on Extreme and the increase in noise.
Instead, what you could do is push up the read of the laptop to improve the airflow into the fans.
Acer also offers a Default and Quiet profile on the laptop. On Default, the fans drop to 44+ dB, and that’s going to cut off any GPU overclocking. The Quiet mode didn’t seem to work properly on this sample, so we’ll have to further update on that in the future.
And here are some logs with the laptop connected on an external monitor, both sitting on a desk and the lid closed and placed in a vertical stand—excellent temperatures and performance in this last mode.
All in all, the Predator Helios 300 remains an excellent gaming laptop, providing solid and consistent framerates in the tested titles, with good temperatures and average noise levels.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
Much like the rest of this laptop, the thermal design hasn’t changed from the 2020 Helios 300, and that’s OK since it was already very well balanced for this product. Acer still implements a cooling solution with two fans, four radiators, three heatpipes, and sufficient thermal plates spread on top of the components and secondary electronics.
As explained above, this implementation does an excellent job of keeping the components at bay, and here’s a recap of what to expect in terms of fan noise at head level.
- Extreme, fans on Turbo – 51-53 dB with games;
- Extreme, fans on Auto – 46-48 dB with games, 42-43 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Default, fans on Auto – 43-45 dB with games, 37-38 dB with Cinebench loop test, 25-35 dB with Daily use.
The CPU fan is always active with daily use, and I would have appreciated passive cooling with video streaming and the likes, but you’ll only hear it in a tranquil environment.
The laptop remains quiet with demanding CPU loads, but the fans ramp up on the Extreme and Turbo profile with games and combined CPU+GPU loads.
With the cool components and a well-thought air intake/output, there’s no surprise this laptop also runs fairly cool externally as well. Both on normal and on Extreme, we’re looking at max temperatures in the mid-40s on the keyboard deck, and closer to 50s at the top of the keyboard and on the bottom panel, over the heatpipes, but sub-30s on the arrows and WASD keys. Much like with the previous generations, this 2021 Predator Helios 300 remains one of the coolest running performance laptops in its class.
Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Normal Profile, fans at 32-35 dB
*Gaming – Normal – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Normal Profile, fans at 43-45 dB
*Gaming – Extreme– playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Extreme Profile, fans at 46-48 dB
There’s Gigabit Lan and Wireless 6 + Bluetooth through Realtek/Killer chips on this unit for connectivity. We’ve mostly used the laptop on wireless, and it performed well in all our tests, both near the router and at 30+ feet away with obstacles in between.
The speakers are fire through cuts on the underbelly, and they’re not much, and still my main nit with the Helios 300 series. We measured volumes of around 73-75 dB at head-level and experienced average to poor sound quality, with little at the lower end—all these on the Music profile in Predator Sense. I wish Acer would finally update the speakers on this lineup.
Finally, the camera is placed on top of the screen, flanked by microphones. It’s OK for occasional calls, but again, don’t expect much.
There’s still a 58Wh battery inside the Acer Predator Helios 300 series, which by this time is rather small for a notebook in its class. That allows Acer still to offer space for a 2.5″ storage drive inside but impacts the battery life compared to the alternatives out there, most of them with at least an 80Wh battery now.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 20 W (~2-3 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Power Saver Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 18 W (~3-4 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Power Saver Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16 W (~3-5 h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Power Saver Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 22 W (~2-3 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
These are shorter runtimes than on the 2020 Helios 300 tested in the past, especially with light use and video, so I’d take them with a grain of salt for now, as hopefully can be further optimized with future software updates. For what is worth, though, we’ve experienced similar poor runtimes on the 11thgen based Zephyrus M16 as wells, so we’ll see.
This top-tier Helios 300 configuration comes with a compact 230 W power-brick, and lower-tier configurations get a smaller and lighter 180W brick. The battery fills up in about 2 hours, and there’s no support for USB-C charging.
Price and availability- Acer Predator Helios 300 2021
The 2021 Predator Helios 300 is not yet available in stores, but I’d expect it to retail for about the same as the 2020 variant with the same Nvidia graphics. That’s roughly 1700 USD/1800 EUR for the 3070 variant tested here and around $1400/E1500 for the 3060 models.
We’ll update once we know more. In the meantime, follow this link for the latest updated prices and configurations available in your region.
Final thoughts- Acer Predator Helios 300 2021 review
While only a marginal upgrade of the popular 2020 model, the updated 2021 Acer Predator Helios 300 remains one of this generation’s best-value mid-range performance/gaming notebooks.
The solid build quality, gaming performance, and thermals remain some of its top-selling points, combined with the aggressive pricing that few other products match on the competitive markets in North America and Europe.
At the same time, though, some things have changed throughout this last year. For once, some of the competing designs offer larger batteries, improved inputs, and better speakers now, but even so, the Helios remains competitive among its Intel-based piers.
Unfortunately, though, there’s no AMD variant, and that might steer some of you away. AMD’s Ryzen 5000 is more powerful, more efficient, and more affordable than the Intel platform, thus what I’d recommend in a competent work/school laptop, especially now that uncompromised designs are available. Intel configurations only keep a slight advantage in gaming performance. The whole experience is enhanced by the properly cooled hardware implementation and the quiet fans on the balanced Normal profile, so gaming is where this Helios 300 remains a nearly unbeatable option when gaming you factor everything in. And what we recommend it for.
That pretty much wraps up our review of the 2021 Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-54, but I’d like to hear what you think about it, so get in touch in the comments section down below.
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