“The Predator Helios 500 is an unapologetic gaming laptop, and it’s great.”
- Excellent gaming performance
- Durable design with access to upgrades
- Great keyboard
- G-Sync, 144Hz display
- Two-year warranty
- Not individually-backlit keys
- Limited battery life
- Hefty design looks a bit outdated
Many of today’s popular gaming laptops, like the Razer Blade, seem almost ashamed of their heritage. Yea, they can game, but they seek to blend in with a sleek, elegant exterior and thin profile. Acer’s Predator Helios 500, though, lets its freak flag fly. It’s unapologetic as a gaming laptop, both in look and capabilities.
Acer knows its target audience and offers two configurations of this 17-inch behemoth, starting at the $2,000 base model. Our $2,500 review unit came with an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, a GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, 16GB of
Whatever configuration you opt for, Acer has brought together the right ingredients to cook a meaty gut-bomb of a gaming feast.
High-end gaming hardware has trended towards subtle designs as of late, but not everyone wants or needs a sleek, nondescript laptop to play games. Some gamers want a laptop that screams its gaming credentials. Others are fine paying less for a thicker, larger laptop with equivalent (or better performance). Whatever the reason, Predator Helios 500 is certainly cut from a different cloth than many of its peers.
This 17-inch laptop has the angular panels, flashing lights, and layers of chrome we’ve come to expect of the Predator brand. It takes a careful eye to distinguish the Helios 500 from the likes of the Predator 17, 17X and Helios 300. There are a couple of small differences between the models, but the key to decoding Acer’s messy glut of brands and names is to know that the Helios
That said, we like the admittedly small changes Acer has made for the Helios 500. The red LEDs have been replaced by blue, and silver has been (almost) completely removed from the chassis. Would we prefer a less ostentatious logo, smaller bezels, and sleeker panels? Definitely. The Predator Helios 500 isn’t a looker. Still, for those who want a in-your-face gaming laptop, the Helios 500 fits the bill.
The Helios 500 is not a thin or light laptop, and it doesn’t pretend to be.
Similarly, the Helios 500 doesn’t pretend to be thin or light in any sense of the word. Weighing in at 8.8 pounds, don’t expect to throw this in your backpack and not notice. Compared to the competition though, it’s actually a bit lighter than the Alienware 17, the king of bulk.
The Helios 500 measures in at 1.5 inches tall with the lid closed, which is thicker than two Razer Blades stacked up. In other words, the Helios 500 is not portable in the slightest, so look elsewhere if portability is a deciding factor for you. The good news is that if you do need to lug it around, you can pretty much guarantee it’ll handle the transportation thanks to its bulky chassis. We did notice some flex in bend in the lid, but everything is as sturdy as a $2,500 laptop should be.
Acer has smartly moved some of the video output ports, like HDMI and DisplayPort, making them both easier to find and out of the way. On the sides, the Helios 500 has a standard array of three USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, and an ethernet jack. It’s all the connections a gamer would ever need, complete with options for futureproofing accessories and powering external GPUs through Thunderbolt 3.
Predator’s unchanged design over the years means the good parts have hung around as well — and the keyboard is one of those. The keyboard provides decent travel for fast typing, and the layout is comfortable. Quick controls are hidden in the function row that gamers will appreciate, such as on/off toggles for Wi-Fi, the screen, and touchpad. You also get six programmable buttons above the function row that open up PredatorSense, Acer’s proprietary thermal control software, by default.
Animations and response times feel incredibly smooth.
The keyboard is backlit with RGB lighting, though it’s lit in zones rather than individual keys, like on the Razer Blade. In addition, Acer still hasn’t included multiple levels of brightness for the backlighting. It’s on or off. That’ll be an annoyance for gamers who play in the dark and need to see their keys without being blinded.
Under the keyboard you’ll find a high-quality touchpad that’s good enough for general use (gamers generally don’t use touchpads in games). It’s made of glass, though tracking isn’t as smooth as many other
The Predator Helios 500’s display puts it ahead of
The Helios 500 has a 144Hz display, which means it can display framerates of up to 144 frames per second. A game like Fortnite, which the Helios 500 can play at up to 144 FPS, will look ludicrously fluid. The animations and response times feel so smooth you’ll swear you’ve become more skilled. This isn’t the only
You may have read controversies involving Core i9s in MacBooks, but rest assured the ultra-fast, six-core processor was made for
Fortunately, Acer bundles that with some equally fast and plentiful storage. There are two configuration options available. You can buy a SATA HDD with either one or two terabytes of space, paired with either 256GB or 512GB of PCIe NVMe solid state storage. Both the
The Helios 500 comes with an overclockable Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, a powerful and smooth
Its advantage is demonstrated in our 3DMark benchmarking, where it scored 10 percent higher than the Razer Blade or Digital Storm Equinox (both of which use the Max-Q version of the same GTX 1070).
The Helios 500 shines in 1080p gaming, making the most of its components. The Helios 500 even matched the Alienware 17 R5’s framerates across the board, despite its lesser
You won’t want to leave home without the power adapter.
The only situation where you may want to splurge for a
High resolution gaming isn’t out of the question, however. If you want to plug into a
The Helios 500 doesn’t make any strides in battery life. As with most
In our testing, the Helios 500 lasted just under five and a half hours in video playback and two hours and eleven minutes in web browsing. That’s like other
The Predator Helios 500 is a compelling mid-range
Is there a better alternative?
The best alternative we’ve tested is the Alienware 17 R5. Both are top-of-the-line
If you’re looking to spend a bit less money but like the vibe of Predator, Acer also offers a 17-inch Helios 300, which features a GTX 1060 and starts at $1,500. Dell also has a 17-inch version of the affordable G3
How long will it last?
Despite the upcoming release of Nvidia’s new RTX 2000 GPUs, the mobile versions haven’t yet been announced. Even if they were, the components in the Predator Helios 500 should last you many years in gameplay, given how long it will take for developers to begin utilizing the new tech. The same can’t be said about the thick bezels and slightly outdated design, but that won’t have a tangible effect on longevity.
Fortunately, Acer provides a two-year parts and labor warranty for its Predator
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you want a
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