(Written by Han Cilliers & Marco Cocomello).
Believe it or not, but the magnificent beast of a gaming machine, the Acer Predator 21X, is in South Africa. We went through the Joburg's premier gaming lifestyle venue, also known as the Nexus in Randburg, to get our filthy paws on one of the most intimidating devices we have ever seen.
And you are invited to join the experience. No, you are obligated to attend. You own it to yourself. The Nexus will sweep you off your feet from the moment you step inside. As I walked through the front entrance, I caught sight of Harley Quinn and The Joker in a compromising position. Rows and rows of games, comic books, and other fascinating stuff stretched out behind them in an endless vista of geeky happiness.
Welcome to the Nexus - The hub for all things gaming
Before I get into the details on the machine itself, it is important to know what the Nexus is, as we went there for the first time and loved the energy in the building.
The Nexus is a gaming hub if you want to put it lightly. It is a collaboration of Anime Worx (AWX), Outer Limits, and Geek XP. It is a two leveled building that has been divided into different rooms, with each of them housing something awesome in it. Downstairs we have the AWX store, with all the pretty, but pricey gaming goodies we all love, and when I say "all" I mean it. (It's the only time when I felt it was appropriate to shout at a grown man to "Put down the doll and no one gets hurt!). They have awesome figurines, games, collector's editions, and more. Upstairs there is a fully-fledged boardgame room, with Outer Limits on site so you can buy your cards, and board game goodies.
Then there are experience rooms like the PlayStation room, and now the Acer Experience room. Not to mention the restaurant that is open all day for you to sit down and have hamburgers, and the best roasted marshmallow milkshake I have ever had. Its an awesome place really, where a gamer and geek can go, spend some hard-earned cash, and play with some awesome tech. There is even a membership that gives you discount on purchases in store, and the ability to trade your old games in for store credit. Yes, you can clear out your cupboard and buy a whole new library of games while you are at it.
There was a stage where Han went around telling random people that she wants to blow her whole salary in that one room. Her cry for help was met with sympathetic nods of understanding. So, you have been warned, enter the AWX showroom and expect to have a reduced bank balance when you walk out. But you'll be happy, very happy.
The Nexus is open 7 days a week, from 9AM - 6PM everyday but Sundays where they close at 3PM. They are situated at The Nexus, 21 Harley St, Ferndale, Randburg, 2194. You can find them on Facebook for more information.
The Nexus menu includes something for the health-conscious gamer as well
About the Predator 21X
So why is the Acer Predator 21X such a big deal? Well, back at CES 2017, Acer unveiled this monster of a laptop. With two GTX 1080s built in the laptop is probably more powerful than your gaming PC. It is the next step in portable gaming laptops, and really has to be seen to believed. Below are some of the specs:
- 21-inch screen, 21:9 aspect ratio, 2,560x1,080-pixel resolution
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2000R curved screen
- Nvidia G-Sync
- Tobii Eye Tracking
- Two x Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs
- Seventh-gen Intel Core i7-7820HK (overclockable) CPU\
- Can store up to five storage drives at a time
- Two power supplies to run
- Five system fans
- Nine heat pipes to stay cool
- HDMI port and two DisplayPorts
- Four speakers and two subwoofers
- Mechanical keyboard uses Cherry MX switches
- Customizable RGB LED under every key
- SD card reader
- 8.8 kilograms
Although the device has some pretty intense specs, as well as a curved screen that will make you make fall in love with it at first sight, it is the eye-tracking feature that steals the show. While playing Rise of the Tomb Raider yesterday, I did not have to use the mouse to move the camera at all. Instead, the Tobii eye-tracking device, which is situated at the bottom of the screen, was used to track the direction of my eyes. It detected when I was looking left and right, and the camera followed the direction. It was a pretty neat feature, of which I have never experienced anything like it before.
Although the Tobii eye tracking feature is new on the market, Acer assures us that as the hardware becomes more and more popular, we could see if being implemented into more devices, and more developers will make use of it in their games. If you think it is something that you want, but don't want to fork out the hefty price for the 21X, Acer also has a dedicated monitor with the feature. The Predator Z271T is the 27-inch curved display to boast the eye tracking feature, while the XB25HQT is the 24-inch model.
A few words from Han about her experience with the Tobii.
I have extremely poor sight in my left eye, and I was very concerned about how the Tobii would be able to track both eyes as they don't function at the same level. At first, it did struggle, but the system picked up my calibration under one minute, where after it performed surprisingly well. We did a little test where you shoot bots only by moving your eyes towards the target - you know, kind of how you would normally shoot a thing - by first looking at it. When your eyes connect with the target it's automatically destroyed. It felt very strange and something you will have to experience to understand. I had laser beam eyes people!
Jokes aside, if, like me, you have any eyesight issues, then you can use the Tobii's customization option to set up the device to suit your specific needs. I didn't even use it, and the machine could already track my eyes. The other thing you have to know is that there are a limited amount of games that support the Tobbi, but more will follow soon.
The Tobbi can be used with a variety of genres, see the list below for my favourites from the current library:
- Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition
- Watch Dogs 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- The Division
- Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- Elite Dangerous
- See complete library
The Predator 21X has to be seen and played with to believe it exists. It is an exceptional device, that proves just how far portable laptop power has come over the years. Right from the moment I saw it, I loved it. A backlit keyboard that you can fully customize, as in every separate key on the keyboard can have a different colour. A beautiful curved display that just wraps around your vision perfectly. Not to mention the design of the device, with so many cool futuristic design elements to it like the GPU fan that is protected in clear plastic, and you can watch as it changes colour and spins to cool the laptop down. It also has an exchangeable track pad slot that flips around into a number pad, to turn the device into a full keyboard.
I agree with Marco, you have to run your fingers over the Predator 21X's smooth curves, see her light up as you open the front panel (this thing must be a she as I've been hearing the call of a siren since I left that room), and then the beast awakens.
The best way I can describe the Predator 21X is calling it the beauty and the beast of perfection. Yes, of course, we are going to test those first impressions, so keep an eye on GameZone for Marco's follow up experience with the 21X.
But, this is something we would love for you to experience in person. If you're in the vicinity, why don't you drop n at the Nexus. Great food, all things geek & gaming are right there - what's not to like? The Acer Experience Room has a lot more to offer than the 21X, there's a 15K gaming laptop with my name on, and not to mention those curved monitors!
In closing, think about this ... with the Predator 21X Acer took something that was a concept and turned it into a reality (like the concept cars companies showcase to let us know what they are capable of). If you have R200 000 to spend on a thing, let it be this thing. You don't order the 21X from a factory line; you can tweak the model to your fancy and Acer will build it. As Acer's Katie Milosevich told us, if someone wants to buy it - we don't judge.
If you are interested in getting some hands-on time with the device, you can head over to the Nexus in Randburg to give it a go. While you are at it, Acer has set up other devices in the Predator range that will surely leave you in love with the brand. I have my eyes on the Aspire VX15, an awesome 15-inch gaming laptop with a GTX 1050 in it. Its affordable too at R15,000. All this is on display in the experience room, including the Predator Z271T. You don't want to miss the chance to go and see the devices for yourself.
There's also a room with a massive Acer projector set up where Han
crashed raced with an Ashton Martin. You can check out a short clip on our Instagram page. At least her round two looked much better than round one.
We'll upload some more photos to MWEB GameZone's Facebook page.
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