Acer is a debutante in the competitive world of high-end gaming laptops with their recently launched Predator series. We already reviewed the 17-inch model a while ago and concluded it is a hit, this time we’ll turn our attention towards the smaller member of the line, the 15-inch Predator G9-591.
This computer sports a boxy design, a good screen and keyboard, and of course, beefy specs inside, with a quad-core Core i7 Skylake processor, a choice of either Nvidia GTX 970M or 980M graphics, up to 64 GB of RAM and multiple storage options, including two NVMe slots. All these with prices starting at around $1500.
We have one of the higher end versions of the laptop for this review, a GTX 980M configuration with 64 GB of RAM and hybrid storage. It’s a review sample, but it’s identical to the units available in stores, with one exception: the screen, and I’ll tell you all about it once we get to that section of the post.
So without further ado, let’s get started. Stick with me till the end if you’re interested in getting one of these Predator 15s, you’ll find out if it’s worth your hard earned buck or not.
The specs sheet
|Acer Predator 15 G9-591|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, matte, non-touch|
|Processor||Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ CPU, quad-core 2.6 GHz (3.5 Ghz TBoost)|
|Video||Integrated Intel HD 530 + Nvidia GTX 980M 4GB|
|Memory||64 GB DDR4 2133Mhz (4xDIMMs)|
|Storage||256 GB NVMe SSD + 1 TB 2.5″ HDD|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC Qualcomm Atheros , Gigabit LAN, Intel Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||4x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1(Thunderbolt 3), HDMI, DisplayPort, mic, earphone, SD card reader, LAN|
|Operating system||Windows 10|
|Size||391 mm or 15.39” (w) x 300 mm or 11.8” (d) x 39 mm or 1.53” (h)|
|Weight||3.6 kg or 7.93 lb|
|Extras||two-tone backlit keyboard with macro keys, 4.2 sound system, optical drive and replacement cooling unit included|
Design and exterior
The first thing you’ll notice when you’ll take this laptop out of the box is that it’s massive and really heavy for a 15-incher. It weighs around 8 lbs (3.6 kilos), which darn close to what many of the high-end 17-inch notebooks weigh these days.
That’s not all. The Predator 15 is also boxy and thick, as it measures nearly 4 cm (1.54”) in its thickest point and is wider than most other 15-inchers, mainly due to having that massive cooling in the back. In other words, this is not a computer that you’ll gladly lug around. The thickness also leads to a raised front inner lip, but we’ll talk about that in a second.
Once you get past the bulky construction, you’ll notice the aggressive branding on the hood, with the backlit logo, the shinny Predator name, plus the two red light bars along the laterals. These can be switched OFF from the software, but the logo’s backlight cannot.
So if you plan to get one of these for work, you should consider that it might not be accepted into some of the strict environments, and not just due to that logo, but also due to the red accents on the otherwise sober black design: the red speakers on the front, the red frame around the exhaust on the back and on the optional cooler on the right edge. I’m not saying these red elements look bad, no, they actually give the laptop a nice touch, but they kind of scream “Look here, look at my gaming laptop!”, and some of you might now want that.
Anyway, it might appear I’m not a fan of this Predator, but that’s not necessarily true. Yes, it’s bulky and somewhat obtrusive, but at the same time it’s also really well built. Acer went with an all plastic case and sharp edges, a design that borrows a lot from the Asus ROG series of a few years back.
The rubbery plastic that covers the outer-shell and the interior is smooth, grippy and feels nice to the touch, but it also shows smudges and finger-oil easily and I’m not that confident it would age well. It’s not Acer’s first soft-coated laptop and if you’ll do a Google search for “Acer V15 Nitro wear off” you’ll see that my concerns could be justified. Hopefully I’m wrong, but treat the laptop well just in case.
This Predator is also sturdy. There’s little flex in the keyboard and chassis, but there’s some when pressing on the lid, so you’ll want to be careful when carrying this in your backpack, otherwise it could translate in unwanted effects on the screen.
Now, on to that interior, I mentioned the tall front lip earlier and that’s because it’s not just tall, but also rather sharp, so it will cut into your wrists when keeping your hands on the arrows and the WASD keys, which you’ll probably do most of the time. The lip is not as brutal as the sharp edge on the Asus G752s, but it’s bad enough that you’ll probably want to buy some sort of arm pillow to use alongside this computer.
Having a tall front-edge on the other hand allows Acer to place front-facing speaker grills here and push some of the sound directly at users, not bounce it from the table. That’s nice, but my wrists would have preferred a different approach.
On the interior you’ll spot another inconvenience: the multitude on bright LEDS that can’t be switched off, which include the power button, the macro keys in the top-left corner and the key for deactivating the trackpad. Oh, and the status LEDs towards the top-right corner, but these are dim and not that annoying. You might not notice these in everyday use, but when watching a movie in a dark room you’ll surely have a lot of not-that nice words for the nutbag who thought these are a good idea. I know I did!
But let’s move on to the hinges, which are actually spot on, smooth enough to allow users to easily lift the screen with one hand, yet sturdy enough to keep the screen in place as set up. Hopefully they’ll prove reliable as well. Oh, and BTW, the screen only leans back to about 145 degrees, which is enough for desk use, but might not suffice if you plan to use the laptop leaned on your legs, while laying on the sofa. Something to keep in mind.
Flipping the computer over will take you to the bottom, where you’ll find the large, yet not that grippy rubber feet, the red plate covering the two subwoofers, the speaker cuts towards the front, a quick-door that offers access to the storage drives and two of the memory sticks, plus the air-intake grills towards the back. Hot air is sucked from the bottom, so make sure not to obstruct these vents, then blown out through the two exhausts on the back.
These actually cover a significant amount of the rear-edge, while the speakers occupy part of the front side. As for the IO, all the ports are lined on the laterals. There’s the PSU on the left, two USB slots, separated mic and earphone jacks and the optical drive, while on the right you’ll find the LAN port, DisplayPort and HDMI video outs, two more USB ports and the USB 3.1 slot with support for Thunderbolt 3 speeds.
A few things to add there. The IO is solid and the DP will be appreciated by those who would connect a high-resolution external monitor to this laptop. But I’m not a fan of the headset jack’s placement, as it will cause the cable to get in my way, and I’m not that happy with the video outputs on the right edge either, which might interfere with my mouse when having an external monitor hooked in.
As for the optical drive, it can be replaced with an extra fan, the Predator FrostCore module included in the box, and I’ve done it on this test unit, but it’s not necessarily something I’d recommend. It does help keeping the laptop’s left-side of the palm-rest cool, but I could barely see its effect on anything else and actually makes the laptop noisier under load than it would be otherwise, as it ads an extra fan close to our ears.
Anyway, that should wrap-up this section. Bottom point, the Predator 15 is boxy and heavy for a 15-incher, plus too aggressive with the shiny logos and LEDs for my liking. But it’s well built and finished up, and the bulky body is actually justified by the hardware inside and how cool the laptop runs under high-load. More about that in a bit.
Keyboard and trackpad
For now, let’s turn our attention on the keyboard and trackpad.
This laptop types really well, but it took me some time to get used to how the keys feel. And that’s because their stroke is deeper than what I’m used to, at 2.4 mm. This is definitely not something I would usually complain, but I’ve got myself accustomed to the shallower keyboard on my XPS 13 so much that it’s hard to switch to a more regular keyboard.
Stroke aside, the keys are firm, proper sized, well spaced and actually feel very nice to touch, with a mildly-soft coating. I have nothing to complain about the layout and I like how the directional keys are spaced out from the others, something I wish we’d see implemented on more 15-inch laptops in the future. Oh, and you probably noticed that the WASD and the arrow keys have a red frame and look really nice when illuminated.
The keyboard is backlit, with the NumPad area being lit blue and the all the other keys lit red. There’s no option for multiple brightness levels, you only get the option to switch the backlighting On or Off. You can also switch certain areas off if you want to, from the Predator Sense app, where the keyboard is divided into 4 different zones that can be “controlled” individually. I chose to switch off the blue NumPad light, but otherwise I doubt you’ll find this app very useful, as there’s no way to mingle with the backlighting color or control keys individually, like on some of the other gaming laptops out there.
These aside, Acer added a set of macro keys on the top-right side, which can be used to perform certain actions in programs or macros in games. You can record up to 3 separate profiles and switch through them with the most left key in the row, for a total of 15 different actions.
The trackpad performs really well too. It’s large enough and has a deep ridge around, so you will easily find it even in the dark. In fact, it’s probably too deep for its own good, as it will catch dirt in time.
Its surface is made of plastic, with a smooth feel, and it’s not as glidy as some of the glass surfaces available these days, but I for one found it really good, both when it came to regular swipes, and to gestures. Besides that, the trackpad handles taps the way I’d want to and performed accurately during my tests. The physical click buttons are really nice as well, offer the right resistance and are quiet to operate.
So overall, this trackpad is darn good. Too bad you’ll probably not use it very often, as you’ll have a mouse connected to this laptop most of the time. Acer actually put a key to switch it OFF in that case, one that remains constantly backlit and one that I wish they would have replaced with a keyboard combo. The action of switching the trackpad on and off does not require a dedicated key imo, especially not an obtrusive one.
This is where we’d normally talk in-depth about the screen, but as I mentioned in the beginning, our test model comes with a lower-end panel that’s not offered on final retail products.
In shops, you can find the Predator 15 with either a FHD IPS panel (300 nits brightness, 800:1 contrast, 56% Adobe RGB coverage – more details in this article), or a UHD IPS panel with wide-gamut color coverage, probably something similar to what Acer offers on the Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition that we reviewed in this post.
Both are good options, with the latter offering increased density and color accuracy. But this one is only available on high-end configurations that will sell for North of $2000, so it might not be the ideal choice for everyone.
One extra thing to add is that neither of the options support GSync, so the only way to get its benefits on this machine would be to connect a GSync capable external monitor. This is where the Predators lose serious points versus their competitors.
Hardware and performance
With those out of the way, let’s turn our attention onto the hardware and what this laptop can actually do in daily use.
Our test model comes with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 64 GB of RAM, 256 GB of NVMe SSD storage, a 1 TB HDD and Nvidia GTX 980M graphics. Notice that Acer went for the 4GB version of the Nvidia chip on this model, which is still a very capable solution, but not the best you can find on a gaming notebook these days (which is the GTX 980M 8 GB, if we exclude those few machines with GTX 980 desktop-grade graphics, like the Asus GX700).
The RAM and storage are upgradeable and accessible through the bay on the underbelly, hold in place by two standard Phillips screws. You’ll find the 2.5” storage bay here, the PCIe M.2 slots and two of the RAM slots. The other two are placed on the other side of the motherboard and would require you to take the entire laptop apart, which would void warranty.
Pay attention that this machine can take one 80 mm M.2 SSD and one 100 mm M.2 SSD on top. This is a rather peculiar configuration and it might prevent you from easily creating RAID configurations, in case that’s something you planned.
Now, on to the performance side, this laptop is obviously a beast and can handle anything you’ll throw at it. Daily activities don’t even make it sweat, while programming software, video/photo editing programs and other demanding apps do put the hardware to work, but you’ll hardly find anything that this computer can’t tackle.
I also ran a couple of benchmarks and you can find the results below:
- 3Dmark 11: P11104;
- 3Dmark 13: Cloud Gate – 22534, Sky Diver – 21852, Fire Strike – 8352;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3370;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 53.37 fps, CPU 7.47 pts, CPU Single Core 1.54 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 66.18 fps, CPU 676 pts, CPU Single Core 148 pts.
- GeekBench 3: Single Core – 3384 , Multi Core – 12680;
- x264 Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 157.24 fps, Pass 2 – 41.98 fps;
- x264 Benchmark 5.0.1 64-bit: Pass 1 – 70.70 fps, Pass 2 – 15.05 fps.
You can also check out the pictures in the gallery above for details on the frequencies and inner temperatures while performing various activities on this computer, including playing games. The extra-cooling fan was connected during this time, as well as for the duration of all the other benchmarks and tests in this post.
Gaming is where the Predator 15 will shine though and the reason why you’d want to buy it in the first place. Since our test model came with a FHD display, I’ve chose to run all the test games with the highest possible level of details, and the results are listed in the following table.
|Shadow of Mordor||75 fps|
|FarCry 4||61 fps|
|Grid Autosport||84 fps|
|Tomb Raider||78 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||76 fps|
|NFS: Most Wanted||60 fps|
You might have noticed that the CPU reaches temperatures of 93-95 Celsius in games and HWInfo reports throttling. Indeed the CPU’s frequency will occasionally drop to 0.8 GHz for a split second, which does suggest throttling, but that doesn’t have a noticeable impact in games, and I’ve spent many hours playing FarCry 4 and Shadow of Mordor on this thing, which are both demanding. So I don’t think this is a deal-breaker.
If you’d like to know how the models with the UHD screen are going to handle the same titles in 4K resolutions, you should have a look at my review of the Predator 17, which is hardware-wise identical to the 15-inch model reviewed here, just slightly larger (thus with an impact on temperatures and as a result, a minor one on performance). Keep in mind that the Predator 17 was reviewed back in October, when it was not even released, so the immature drivers had an impact on the scores.
I’ve also took the Predator 15 through my standard stress-tests, to see what happens when pushed to its most upper limits.
For the first test I’ve only pushed the CPU with Prime95, and in this case the speeds quickly drop to 3.1 GHz, which is the maximum Quad-Core Turbo Boost frequency, and temperatures settle around the 90 degrees mark. That’s for the first 3-4 minutes of the test, afterwards the temperatures jump to 95-96 Celsius and the CPU’s frequency starts to vary between 2.9 and 3.0 GHz. Bottom point, no throttling, but the hardware reaches really high temperatures.
For the second test I’ve pushed both the CPU with Prime95 and the GPU with Furmark. The processor quickly drops to 2.6 GHz, which is its stock frequency, but starts to go below that after a short time, with ocassional dips to 0.8 GHz, while it reaches temperatures of 96-97 degrees Celsius. The graphics run smoothly during this time though, only reaching temperatures of around 65 Celsius 10 minutes in the test and not showing any performance losses. In conclusion, CPU throttling occurs in this case, but for very limited periods of time, so I don’t think you should worry about this aspect in games, especially since the graphics performed smoothly.
Check out the pics below for more details.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, Speakers and others
You know by now that this laptop’s CPU reaches high temperatures under load, at least on this test unit we had here. I am however pretty sure that the final retail versions won’t run as hot, since I’ve seen the Core i7-6700HQ processor run at much lower temperatures on computers that don’t even come close to this one in terms of cooling capabilities. Thus, I blame the review sample for the results.
On the other hand, the externals remain very cool, both in daily use and when playing games, as you can see in the images below.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in Edge for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
Notebookcheck’s review reports very high outer-case temperatures under load on their Predator 15, but my test unit barely got past the 40 degrees mark in certain spots on the back, both when playing games for hours and when running the CPU+GPU stress test for 30 minutes. I’ve double checked the numbers, so there’s no way they are skewed.
When it comes to noise though, the Predator 15 is not as impressive. There’s a mechanical HDD inside it and the fans are active in daily use as well, although barely audible in light activities, but with occasional ramp-ups. I’ve measured an average noise of 36 dB in daily use, with 33 dB measured for the ambient level (a completely silent room at night), but I’m using an iPhone app for these, so take the results with a grain of salt.
Under load, the noise raises to 48 dB, or about 46 dB if you don’t use the extra-cooler that goes in the optical bay. That’s loud and you’ll hear those fans in games, even with the volume pumped a bit higher, so my advice is to use headphones, especially since the speakers are not as good as promised.
The audio system includes 4 speakers grouped in two pairs, plus two subwoofers, all placed on the underbelly. They are loud, with a maximum volume of around 90 dB at ear level, capable of pushing punchy sound with a fair amount of base, but don’t sound as nice as those on the Predator 17. It’s hard to put this in words, but there’s a degree of muffledness that interferes with the audio coming out of them.
My unit didn’t include the Audio software that’s bundled with the retail units, so maybe that carries part of the blame. I can’t tell for sure.
There are 4 speakers and 2 subwoofers on this laptop, and yet the audio quality is not stellar on our test version
When it comes to connections, there’s Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi AC on this laptop. Acer went with a Killer Wireless 1535 adapter, an excellent performer both when close to my router (reaching speeds of 110 Mbps, which is pretty much the maximum my router is cable of) and at 30 feet with 2 walls in between (reaching speeds of 95 Mbps in this situation). Great job here!
There’s a 90 Wh battery on this laptop, which is actually one of the reasons it is as heavy as it is. That translates in great battery life in daily activities, when Optimus switches the dedicated Nvidia chip off, but also decent results when playing games on battery, especially if you take good use of the Nvidia PowerBoost facility, which limits fps to a certain threshold in order to squeeze out longer runtimes.
Here are the results I got in my tests (the screen’s brightness was set to 40%, which is around 120 nits for the panel on our review model):
- 8.5 W (~10 h 30 min of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 13 W (~7 h of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13 W (~7 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.5 W (~7 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 22.5 W (~4 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 46 W (~1 h 10 min of use) – gaming, Farcry 4 1080p High – 45 Fps limit.
Expect the final models with the IPS FHD panel to last a little bit less than this test unit, while the models with the UHD IPS screen to last 30-60 minutes less in each scenario.
The laptop comes with a 180 Wh power brick, and a full recharge is going to take 3-4 hours.
Price and availability
The base version of the Predator 15 starts at $1499, and you’ll probably find it even cheaper in some stores. It includes a Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB NVMe SSD, a 1 TB 7200 rpm HDD, Nvidia GTX 970M graphics and a FHD IPS matte screen. The same model sells for 1799 EUR in Germany.
The GTX 980M configurations have an MSRP or $1899 in the US with the same FHD display, but paired with a 256 GB SSD, and 2199 EUR in Germany.
I couldn’t find any configurations with the UHD screen listed in stores at the time of this post, but they will be available later on and expect to pay at least $200 extra just for that screen.
Of course, the prices and configurations will change over time, so you should check out this link for the latest Predator 15 models available at the time you’re reading this post, as well as their up-to-date prices and potential discounts.
The Predator 15 isn’t cheap, but is more affordable than pretty much all its competitors
Before we get to draw the line on this post, we should consider why people would actually buy a 15-inch laptop with Nvidia GTX 980M graphics instead of a 17-incher, which gets a larger display and usually runs faster and cooler, due to having extra room for the components and the cooling system. For me, the answer is portability: they want the performance, but in a package that’s easier to carry around.
And here’s where the Predator 15 comes short.
The competition includes devices like the Dell Alienware 15 R2 or the Gigabyte P35X v4, both smaller, slimmer and lighter. And yes, the Gigabyte throttles under load and it’s not the best built machine out there, as you can see from this post, but it’s 21 mm (0.9″) thick and weighs just 2.3 kilos (5.07 lbs). On the other hand, both these options are more expensive than the Predator 15, and some of you will rather sacrifice portability, and even performance to some extent, for the price.
If you don’t mind the large and heavy format, the Predator 15 can be the right pick for you
As for the GTX 970M versions of the Predator 15, Acer once again has the price on its side, but the Alienware 15 R2 is only $100 more expensive, while options like the MSI GS60 and the Gigabyte P35W v4 cost $200-$300 extra, but are much more portable.
So in the end, if you’re after the best bang for your buck and don’t mind getting a 15-inch notebook in a large and heavy package, the Acer Predator 15 G9-591 is the right one for you. If you’re willing to spend a bit more though, you should look at some of the more portable 15-inch alternatives, or if you’re after a 980M configuration, consider a 17-incher instead.
With that in mind, we’ll end this here. Let me know if you have any questions about the Acer Predator 15 and get in touch in the comments section if you have anything to add to this post .
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