Acer Predator Helios 300: Design And Build Quality
While some of the parts are new on the inside, externally the refreshed Predator Helios 300 looks the same as before. That's not a bad thing, though. Some of Acer's Predator products lean heavily on the gaudy side, which can be a turn off to some gamers. But the Helios line tones things down a touch while maintaining an aggressive posture.
The look Acer is going for is actually a "classic but tasteful gaming" laptop; we'd call it tastefully edgy. Po-tae-to, po-tah-to. Call it what you will, for the most part, we dig the design. Select models—this one included—feature a metal top cover for a more premium look. There are faint visible brush strokes that, at glance, makes the Predator Helios 300 appear to be more expensive than it is.
This isn't a $2,000 laptop though, at least not as configured. The metal topside doesn't have the same premium feel as an ultrabook that's been carved from a block of aluminum, and part of that is because, well, it's not carved from aluminum. There are bits of plastic throughout, including almost the entire bottom half of the chassis.
Acer undoubtedly was able to keep costs down by going with a mix of mostly plastic and some metal. And to Acer's credit, it does a good job of dressing up the construction. The silver Predator logo and branding offer a nice contrast against the brushed black lid, and there are various accents that draw attention, like the strip of silver along the plastic lip and slightly downward sloping flaps.
The Predator Helios 300 is available in two display sizes: 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch, both of the In-Plane Switching (IPS) variety. Our model is the 15.6-inch version. Acer dropped any pretense of offering an edge-to-edge screen and instead surrounded the display with a chunky plastic bezel. We saw the same thing with Dell's G7 15, only the Predator Helios 300 looks more like a gaming laptop with its angled corners and Predator branding beneath the display.
IPS panels are known for offering superior image quality and color reproduction than TN screens, and that's certainly the case here. We didn't notice any disturbing visual anomalies, though it doesn't get super bright. As a result, images are not as vibrant as they could otherwise be. It also lacks amenities like HDR support and G-Sync or FreeSync, but we do not necessarily expect to find any of those things in this price range.
What the display does offer are excellent viewing angles. Even when viewed from the side, the colors don't wash out and the images don't disappear, they just lose a small amount of brightness. For playing games and watching movies, the Predator Helios 300's displays is absolutely serviceable. And the 144Hz refresh rate and quick response time makes for smooth animation and minimal lag or tearing while gaming.
The bottom deck is also adorned with a metal topside, just like the lid. It has the same brushed look and cool metallic feel. What's really neat though is the silver accented, beveled border. This runs around both the bottom section and surrounds the large touchpad. These simple aesthetic touches combined with angled corners give the Predator Helios 300 a more chiseled look compared to standard laptops.
Most people looking at this laptop probably aren't considering it for a daily workhorse. Nevertheless, that's not a reason to overlook the keyboard and settle for a crummy plank, nor do you have to on this laptop. We found typing on the Predator Helios 300 to be mostly comfortable, with appropriate spacing between keys to avoid feeling cramped, even with a dedicated number pad taking up some room. They do feel slightly mushy once you press past the actuation point, but that's more of a minor nitpick than a legitimate complaint.
Perhaps as another cost saving measure, Acer trades RGB lighting—a growing trend in gaming gear—for a single color red LED backlight. There are no controls to adjust the luminosity, you can only turn the backlight on or off. Acer also separates the all-important WASD keys with a red border and red font (any guesses what Acer's favorite color is?).
Acer outfitted the Predator Helios 300 with a mix of ports and inputs, both old and new. On the left, there is a Kensington lock slot, a gigabit LAN port with a pull-down flap to accommodate a thinner profile, a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB 3.0 port. There's also an SD memory card reader.
On the right side, users will find a DC-in jack for the power plug, an old-school USB 2.0 port, and a 3.5mm combination headphone/microphone jack.
This is not the most robust selection we have ever seen. As a gaming laptop, we'd prefer a pair of 3.5mm audio jacks instead of a combo port, and none of the USB connectors take advantage of the faster USB 3.1 Gen 2 speed capabilities. Still, there are enough ports to plug in an external keyboard and mouse, or a VR headset.