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Acer Predator Helios 500 Review - Core-i9 Gaming Beast

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Acer has struggled over the past few years to cement their presence in the gaming hardware scene. The Predator 15 and 17-inch range did well but the brand fell off the wagon a bit when they revealed the 21X, a R350k gaming laptop with two GTX 1080 Ti GPUs inside and a massive 21-inch curved screen. Who would buy that? Well, no one really but the device was more a prototype to see what was possible for Acer. Acer then made the Predator Triton but that still struggled to gain momentum due to its high price tag due to the GTX 1080 Max-Q chipset. 

Check out our video review of the Helios 500 below

Acer went back to the drawing board this year and created the Helios 300 and Helios 500. No gimmick gaming laptops that include raw power and great tech that every gamer could find a use for. I have already reviewed the Helios 300 but the Helios 500 is the older brother to the range and it not only makes for a fantastic high-end device, but its power will carry you through a few years of gaming. 

Acer Helios 500 Tech-Specs

  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1070 8GB VRAM
  • CPU: Intel Core-i9 8750HK 2.9GHz - overclocked at 4.1Ghz
  • RAM - 16GB
  • Storage: 128GB m.2 SSD + 2TB HDD 
  • Display: 17.3-inch 7ms, 1080p 144Hz G-Sync LED, IPS 300nits backlight
  • Keyboard: 4-zone full RGB backlit keyboard + 5 program keys
  • Trackpad: Glass with blue border and mechanical buttons
  • Speakers: Acer TrueHarmony dual speakers + Subwoofer
  • Cooling: 5 heatsinks + 2 AeroBlade fans
  • Ports: 3x USB 3.1, 2x Thunderbolt, Ethernet, DisplayPort, HDMI out
  • Upgrade slots: 1 extra m.2 SSD slot, 2 extra open RAM slots

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As you can see from the specs, the Helios 500 does not mess around with anything extra gamers would not need. Acer played the process of elimination game here and took out all the things that weighed the past models down while inflating the price tag. The main attraction on the device is obviously the Core-i9 processor and the GTX 1070. 

Design

The design of the Helios 500 follows the same stance as the internals. Acer has designed a pretty sexy device and while it is a bit bulky, it is smaller compared to some devices like the Asus G703 and the MSI GT75, which is a big deal given that they are 17-inch gaming laptops too. There is no aluminium on the casing at all this time with the device boasting a full plastic casing. On the top, you have the sleek Predator logo in blue, the new colour scheme for the Helios 500 range. 

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The back boasts two vents that are also blue which in a way wrap around to the sides of the device too. When it comes to ports the Helios 500 has enough of them to basically replace your desktop PC. 3xUSB 3.1 ports, a DisplayPort out, HDMI, and two USB Type-C ports mean it is ready for the future. 

When opening up the device you are welcomed to a full keyboard that feels great. The keys have a nice click to them while they are not mechanics, rather dome switches, I was able to type much faster and game better too compared to my Razer Deathstalker keyboard I use on my desktop. Don't know why but the key placements and the spacing was just more adaptable for my typing fingers. 

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When it comes to gaming, the keys are great too. There are four zones that you can configure in terms of RGB lighting, and while it would have been better to have individual key lighting, this is a step up over the Helios 300's red-only design. The WASD keys have a blue border that makes it easier to spot and the directional keys too. The best feature, however, is the trackpad. This glass pad looks great with a blue border that lights up around the edges but it is the smooth nature and the extra click buttons underneath that make it feel fantastic while using the device without a mouse. 

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In terms of dimensions, the Helios 500 weighs 3.7Kgs and is 1.5-inches thick. When coupled with the hefty power supply you are looking at 4.2Kgs which are quite heavy especially if you plan on travelling with the device. There is no doubt that Acer tried hard to keep the materials light to reduce the weight of the laptop and it still comes in lighter than the MSI GT75, the HP Omen X 17, and the ASUS G703. All of which weigh 4.4Kgs and above. 

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The last point I want to touch on is the sound. The Helios 500 has a great stereo speaker set but the main push here is the built-in subwoofer that gives sound the extra kick that most laptops and even tech devices lack. While it will never replace your PC speakers, it is a great feature that gives the laptop a little extra quality above everything it does. 

Performance

Overclocking CPU and GPU

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Before we get into the specifics, the main feature of Intel's new Core-i9 CPU is that it is easily overclockable. The Helios 500 comes with a built-in program called PredatorSense that allows you to do just that with one simple click. The CPU then hits higher clock speeds but just how high are they? Well, testing out the overclocking was one thing but it also had to do with thermal throttling. Acer's Helios 500 has a fantastic cooling system, probably one of the best I have seen and this allowed for the CPU to hit these higher speeds without it being throttled by the heat. 

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With Apple's recent controversy surrounding the new MacBook Pro thermal throttling, I was interested to see if the same CPU, which is also in Apple's MacBook Pro, would suffer from the same issue. Well, it did not. The Acer Helios 500 never throttled due to the higher temperatures, instead, it hit between 4700Mhz and 4900Mhz while making use of the built-in overclocking profiles. I also turned on Acer's Coolboost tech which allowed the system to stay cool. 

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During benchmarks, the CPU hit some high 4750Mhz speeds and the CPU stayed at a decent 70 to 80 degrees celsius. I pushed the limit even further by maxing out the CPU and fans and the Geekbench scores went up even more. In a nutshell, the Core-i9 in the Helios 500 can be easily overclocked to 4.9Ghz without it being throttled thanks to the cooling in the device. It is also important to know that the CPU naturally reaches higher clock speeds without you having to physically overclock it. Still, it is clear that the CPU is a beast as the extra boost it gets from the "unlocked" state makes a big difference especially for higher resolution gaming and rendering programs. 

Geekbench CPU Scores

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Cinebench

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As for the GPU, the GTX 1070 is already a pretty hefty chip so while it is also overclockable to a certain degree, it handles everything pretty well without you having to push it even further. Gaming, in general, was flawless. Destiny 2 was maxing out at 144FPS on max with 20% render resolution increase too. This was with overclocking set to Turbo and the Coolboost tech on. 

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When running tests, the proof was in the results. Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition came out 7th on the list of all tests ever done for the game which is very impressive. This being 400 points shy of beating a desktop GTX 1080. This just goes to show how much power is inside this device. 

Final Fantasy XV

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Heaven

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There is no doubt power in this Helios 500 as you can see from the tests. You will be able to get away with running any modern game on ultra while benefiting from 144FPS on some titles too. 

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Speaking of which, the display on the Helios 500 is remarkable. It is a 144Hz G-sync FHD screen and it is bright coming in at a max 410nits, one of the highest I have ever used on a gaming laptop and much better than the competition. With a 91% colour space and great viewing angles, it was really an impressive experience while gaming and even working and watching Netflix. Contrast ratio was a solid 1000:1 after calibration which is also very good. Acer chose a great display and everything it has to offer makes it a gaming breeze. 

Verdict

The Acer Predator Helios 500 is a beast of a machine but at the same time, it feels like it has the perfect balance of power and performance to deliver something we have been asking for. There is no gimmick here, just a powerful CPU coupled with a great GTX 1070 all delivered with a remarkable display. It also looks great on your desk with its sleek blue finishes and sexy vents. It is a complete package. 

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This review as conducted off a device given to us by Acer Africa. 

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