Acer Predator Helios 300: Software And User Experience
In a bold move, the only operating system offered on the Predator Helios 300 is Linux -- just kidding. Hey, we're not hating on Linux; support for gaming is growing on Linux, and it's easier to jump in these days than ever before. But what you'll find here is what you'll find on practically every gaming laptop—Windows 10 Home 64-bit.
During the dark ages, you wouldn't see a desktop like this upon first boot. Instead, it would be littered with trialware, bloatware, junkware, underwear (maybe not)...you name it. These days a clean desktop is much more common, and that's what the Predator Helios 300 offers (for the most part). Acer also preloads a custom wallpaper on this laptop.
That doesn't mean Acer didn't slip in a few extra bits. Most of them are its own, though our test model also arrived with a trial for Symantec's Norton Security. We promptly uninstalled the trial, as some users might opt to do, though not because we have anything against Norton.
We ran into a slight issue out of the box and initially thought Norton might be the cause. The cursor would spin for a long, long time whenever we right-clicked on the desktop and instead of bringing up the expected context menu. After doing some digging online, we downloaded ShellExView and found the issue to be NVIDIA's CPL Context Menu Extension. Disabling the extension immediately solved the problem. We're not sure how widespread this issue is, but it was certainly annoying and not something we expected to deal with straight out of the box.
A blue screen error also reared its ugly head early on, before we finished updating all the drivers. It was the only time it happened during our extensive benchmarking and real-world usage, and may have been related to a buggy driver that ended up getting replaced—there were a bunch of GPU driver error messages in the Event Viewer before we installed new ones. We're not too concerned since it wasn't a lingering issue, but we ere certainly a little surprised to experience buggy behavior out of the box, albeit briefly.
The Predator Helios 300 comes with some of Acer's own utilities. One of them is the Acer Care Center, which is basically a front end for performing basic Windows housekeeping chores, like Disk Cleanup and Windows Update.
Users will also find something called Acer Collection. This is billed as a "smart store" aimed at providing "precise recommendations" based on what "installed apps, preferences, and system status." You can think of it as curated list of sorts for the Windows Store. We suspect most users will promptly uninstall this and never look back.
The most useful utility in Acer's stable is its PredatorSense software. This gives users an overview of the cooling scheme, and just as importantly for some, easy overclocking of the GPU. Selecting the Faster or Turbo option cranks up the clockspeed of the discrete GeForce GTX 1060 GPU for better performance, and in our testing, we saw some increased framerates as a result (we'll get to those in the benchmarks section).
In order to overclock, the AC adapter must be plugged in and there has to be at least 40 percent battery life remaining. To see what kind of clockspeed gains the Predator Helios 300 had in store, we loaded up Furmark to stress the GPU. Real-time monitoring of the GPU clock showed a bit of fluctuation. Here's what we saw:
- Normal: 1,442MHz to 1,468MHz
- Faster: 1,455MHz to 1,480MHz
- Turbo: 1,480MHz to 1,531MHz
On the topside, punching the Turbo button yielded a 63MHz increase on our setup. Temps play a role when stressing the GPU for a longer period of time, but the takeaway is that Acer allows for a small bump in clockspeed.
In our gaming benchmarks, we tested both the Normal and Turbo settings, the latter with the CoolBoost turned on. CoolBoost increases the maximum fan speed to help keep thermals in check.
All that said, let's move on to the benchmarks...