Acer Predator Helios 300 (2021) review: Nvidia 3060 is let down by everything else

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Acer’s Predator Helios 300 is a laptop that will allow you to play all the latest games at their highest settings for a reasonable price. And if that’s all you want, it works well; however, that’s all it offers.

It has a fantastic performance that’s let down by a poor display. It generates a significant amount of fan noise, and it has a below-average battery.

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that you can use as a “normal” laptop as well as a gaming machine. The Helios 300, isn’t it. Its battery simply isn’t good enough. And for a portable laptop, that’s an issue. 

Pros

  • Comfortably runs the latest games at the highest settings
  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • Great price

Cons

  • Loud fan noise
  • Poor display
  • Poor battery
  • Internal speakers are weak

Price & Configurations

Our review device had a GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU with 6GB of dedicated RAM, 16GB of RAM, and an intel core-i7-10750H.

It also has a full HD 1920x1080p display with a maximum 144hz refresh rate and a 475GB SSD. It costs $3500.

You can customise the Helios 300, but currently, the only configuration option available in New Zealand contains an Intel Core i7-10750H processor with 16GB-RAM, a 256GB-SSD, a 1TB-HDD, and an Nvidia GTX 1660ti 6GB graphics card. 

This older configuration costs $3,250, making the upgraded 30-series an affordable gaming option. 

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Design

The Predator Helios 300 has a clean design that doesn’t scream out, “I’m a gaming laptop!” Its most “flashy,” elements are the Predator logo and two reflective strips with blue lining on the lid. The vents on the back look rugged and futuristic as well.

This is a solid and heavy laptop weighing 2.3kg. Made with aluminium framing, it has a sturdy build. And despite its weight, I found it comfortable to use on my lap, and it wasn’t a burden to carry around.

The laptop has 2x USB-A ports, an Ethernet port, and a headphone jack on its left side. On the right, it has an HDMI 2.1 port, 1x USB-A, 1x USB-C port, and a mini display port. Everything you need is here. However, Thunderbolt 4 compatibility would’ve been nice because the Helios 300 would’ve been able to support up to two 4K monitors, in case you wanted to use a better display with the laptop.

I had no issues with the keyboard. It’s spaced out well and has a Numpad on the right side which is great. Typing with it was as easy as it should be; however, the keyboard has a strange layout. Going against nearly every other keyboard in the world, the volume up and down buttons are now function keys located on the up and down arrows with the brightness keys on the left and right arrows. It’s odd and wasn’t something that needed changing.

The keys have LEDs underneath that you can easily customise, and the “gaming” keys (WASD) stand out from the rest as they have a darker blue outline. It’s a nice touch.

I had no issues with the touchpad. It worked as it should. It’s placed slightly right of the WASD keys, so I never accidentally touched it. And even if I did, it makes itself less responsive when in a game. You have to press hard to make it function. I didn’t have any problems with it.

Inside the Helios 300, there are three slots for hard drives. 2x SSD and 1x HDD, making it easy to expand your storage which is great.

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Display

The Helios 300’s display is where Acer has done most of its cost-cutting. While it isn’t a bad display, it doesn’t meet the high standards set by other laptops.

The display doesn’t get very bright. Its screen has an average brightness of 280 nits, and it looked very dim at max brightness. Playing games with the sun shining directly on the screen doesn’t work well.

This is a 1920×1080 display. If you’ve been using a 4K, or even a 2K, display the difference will be jarring, and it will take some getting used to. But it does have a buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate which is great for competitive gaming.

Audio

The internal speakers on the Helios 300 are bad. They don’t produce much bass at all, the audio is tinny, and it’s hard to hear sounds over the laptop’s fans.

This is another area where the Helios 300 struggles. It’s loud, really loud. Obviously, the fans have to work hard to keep a high-end graphics card like the RTX 3060 cool, but the noise the fans make is some of the loudest I’ve heard.

Turning on “Turbo,” mode, to increase performance, made the fans even louder. It sounded more like a room fan than a laptop.

If you’re going to play games with the Helios 300, you’ll need headphones, and you’ll probably want noise-cancelling ones at that.

Fortunately, the Helios 300 comes with DTS:X Ultra at no extra cost. This generates a 360 surround sound effect when wearing headphones, and it sounds great.

Performance

Performance is where the Helios 300 shines.

I put the Helios 300 to the test, and it never faltered. I didn’t play a single game where the FPS dropped lower than 60, and that wasn’t through lack of trying.

Poorly optimised games like PUBG ran well, averaging 80fps. More graphically demanding games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metro Exodus, and Control averaged around 70fps. These were all played at maximum settings, albeit at 1920×1080 resolution.

I was impressed by how well Control ran with ray tracing set to its highest. There wasn’t any dip in performance. The Helios 300 handled it well.

The Helios 300 doesn’t get very hot when put under stress. The GPU barely got over 70 degrees when playing graphically intensive games. This is probably because the fans are working hard, and you can definitely hear them working. But I would much rather a loud laptop than an overheating one.

The laptop does need to be plugged in to reach its maximum potential. This is common with gaming laptops because powerful graphics cards require more voltage going into them in order to achieve their maximum performance. Playing the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt without plugging in the laptop resulted in my frames dropping from a steady 60-70 to 20-30. It was almost unplayable. 

The laptop comes with Predatorsense, a program designed for easy overclocking of the GPU and customisation of the fans and the lighting. It’s simple to use and makes these processes, which for some can be complicated, very simple. I didn’t notice much change in performance when overclocking the GPU. It worked fine without it. However, it’s a handy program for those who want to push the Helios 300 to its limit. 

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Battery

Don’t expect to get much use out of the Helios 300 when unplugged because the battery is poor.

I could get around two and a half hours of battery while web browsing and playing games drained it even faster.

It’s obvious that the Helios 300 was designed to be used while plugged in. However, it severely limits the ability to use the Helios 300 as a standard laptop on the go. It’s disappointing.

Verdict

Acer’s Predator Helios 300 is a gaming laptop that’s affordable.

It can run the latest titles at the highest settings, so long as it’s plugged in, but it doesn’t offer much more than that.

The powerful RTX 3060 is let down by the poor display and poor battery. You’ll also want to think about buying headphones because it creates a lot of fan noise.

The poor battery impacts the ability to use the Helios 300 as a normal laptop. It works best when used like a desktop PC, plugged in at home. But for a $3500 laptop, you should expect to be able to do both, and with the Helios 300, you can’t.

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