Acer Predator Orion 3000 review

Size matters not. Acer's Predator Orion 3000 is a pint-sized PC Vader would use

Acer Predator Orion 3000

“Cloaked in black with LED lighting, the Orion 3000 can pass for a Darth Vader helmet in a compact Yoda-sized form.”
  • Lots of ports, including USB-C
  • Solid game performance
  • Compact metal case design
  • Clever lift-out levers to hold headphones
  • Quiet fans
  • Only available in a single configuration
  • Limited internal space makes upgrades difficult

We all know building your own PC is the best way to maximize your performance for the money. But it’s not the only way. Acer’s Predator Orion is one such option. In the past, the 3000 model number indicates this PC’s position as the entry-level member of the Predator gaming family – compared to the 5000 and 9000 series — but Acer has made significant internal upgrades that blurs the line the distinction thanks to modern silicon.

Even though this gaming desktop starts at $1,599, serious gamers and those looking to hang on to this PC for at least several years will want to choose the upgraded configuration used by our $2,299 review unit. At its more expensive starting price point, you’re getting Intel’s updated 9th-gen Core processor – rather than an older 8th-gen silicon – alongside Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 graphics, ensuring that the unit can double as a PC for content creation as well as for gaming.

With this kind of performance, the Orion competes evenly against other gaming desktops in this class, including those from HP and Dell’s Alienware. But with fierce competition in this price range, can the Predator Orion 3000 stand out from the crowd?

Don’t fear the dark side

The angular contours on the front panel of the Orion 3000 gives this gaming rig its striking appearance. Cloaked in black with a perforated grill design and angular LED lighting, the Orion 3000 can pass for a stylized Darth Vader helmet in a compact Yoda-sized form.

All of the Orion 3000’s aggressive styling is focused on the plastic front panel, leaving the sides, top, and rear of this desktop retains an unassuming boxy silhouette. While the front face plate’s plastic construction feels a bit flimsy, the Predator Orion 3000’s side panels are fortunately made of metal giving it a solid, durable feeling. The metal construction adds a premium feel, something we wished Alienware incorporated into the Aurora R8’s design. Additionally, these panels are constructed of metal, making it more durable and premium than the plastic panels that adorn the Alienware Aurora R8. Like its rival, Acer is mainly targeting gamers with the Orion 3000’s design, and even though this desktop has an aggressive front fascia, everything is tastefully done to avoid feeling overly garish.

Elsewhere, the Orion 3000 is largely devoid of gaming flourishes found on many modern rigs, like the tempered glass side panel found on Digital Storm’s Lynx and HP’s Omen Obelisk. The more utilitarian industrial design likely helps to keep the tower’s footprint down to a minimum. Rather than focusing on the flashy internal design, Acer opted to instead stack the components in a layout that maximizes the use of space. When the case is opened, the layered architecture isn’t that appealing to look at, and hiding It behind a metal sheet also helps conceal some of the messiness inside, but that design choice also means that this desktop is devoid of some cooler gaming tech, like liquid cooling radiators and plumbing.

If you play games or listen to music on your PC with a headset, the Orion comes with a clever trick: Flip out levers on either side to house your headphones. Once flipped down, the levers serve as a home to rest your headset when not in use and help to keep desk space tidy and free of unnecessary clutter.

Too cramped for comfortable upgrades

The compact size of the Predator Orion 3000 is this desktop’s biggest asset and its weakness. Without stepping into micro form factor GPU-enabled desktop form factors, like Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC, the Predator Orion 3000 is one of the most compact gaming towers we’ve tested. It’s 13.4 x 13.8 x 6.4-inch dimension makes it nearly 2 inches shorter and almost 2.5 inches less deep than the already compact and competing Origin PC Neuron. Interestingly, this makes the Orion 3000 slightly shorter than the Corsair One Pro i180.

The 3000 series was historically considered the entry-level member of the Orion family, but that distinction is now blurred.

Compared to traditional towers, the Orion 3000 will occupy less desk real estate in compact spaces, like dorms and small game rooms. It also means that there is less internal space, making future upgrades challenging but not impossible to accomplish.

Access to the Orion 3000’s insides is done by way of a metal side panel, which is secured to the rig by two screws on the rear of the unit. Because of the unit’s compact size, Acer had to make some modifications to the internal structure to accommodate components, like mounting the hard drive to a metal sheet. Though this design is a workaround for the lack of a drive bay, the metal plate blocks about a third of the access to the Orion 3000, and removing it to dive deeper into the internal of this desktop requires removing yet another set of four screws. Removing the hard drive mount plate will give you access to the two 8GB RAM sticks – for a total of 16GB. If you need more performance, you can add up to 64GB of DDR4 memory.

Predator Orion 3000 review
Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

Additionally, the Kingston PCIe NVMe solid-state drive, though replaceable, is concealed behind the vertically-mounted optical disc drive, and getting to this part will require extensive removal of neighboring components. Unlike modern gaming systems with tempered glass side panels that adds visual interest to the internal components – like liquid cooling pipes and RGB-lit graphics cards – and keeps the internal design clutter-free, the Orion’s internal design is more industrial to maximize available space.

Though the Orion 3000 delivers plenty of performance out of the box thanks to its RTX 2080 setup, enthusiasts will find limited appeal to this desktop. Though you can easily upgrade to Nvidia’s flagship GeForce RTX 2080 Ti consumer graphics or switch to AMD’s Radeon GPU, the Orion 3000’s case won’t accommodate a second GPU, making this system less versatile than the multi-graphics capabilities of systems like Dell’s Alienware Aurora R8. Given the marginal performance return of multi-GPU systems, the tradeoff for a more compact tower size may be well justified in this case for most gamers.

Unleashing the force

The Predator Orion 3000 may look small in size, but it is every bit as powerful as a larger mid-sized tower, and that includes having plenty of options to connect your favorite peripherals. The Orion supports HDMI, three DisplayPort connectors, four USB-A 2.0 ports, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, USB-C port, RJ-45 Ethernet port, Audio input and output jacks, and headphone jack on the rear in addition to a USB-C port, USB-A port, and speaker and microphone jacks on the front of the unit stacked vertically towards the bottom of the case.

The entire system is powered by a 500-watt power supply unit, which delivers a sufficient amount of power given that this desktop cannot accommodate more than one graphics card. Curiously, while the bottom placement of the front ports make the Orion 3000 a good companion on top of a desk, as opposed to a desktop that sits on the floor adjacent to a desk, the top placement of the power cord on the unit could lead to awkward cable management – we’d prefer to see the PSU mounted on the bottom like on competing gaming desktops.

Versatile processing performance

While many high-end gaming rigs ship with Intel’s 9th-gen eight-core Core i9-9900K processor, the Predator Orion 3000 saves on cost by going with a slightly scaled down Core i7-9700K CPU. As we’ve seen with our Alienware Aurora R8 review unit, performance of this 14nm chip is no slouch, and the Core i7 does a great job keeping up with its more expensive Core i9 sibling.

The Predator Orion 3000 may look small in size, but it is every bit as powerful as a larger mid-sized tower.

When benchmarked using the synthetic Geekbench 4 test, the Orion 3000’s single-core of 6,153 points places it slightly ahead of the 6,056 points scored by the similarly configured Alienware Aurora R8 and slightly behind the 6,357 points of Origin Millennium with its Intel Core i9-9900K. The multi-core score of 28,904-point performance of the Orion 3000 is again similar to that of the Aurora R8. However, the stronger 34,309 multi-core score of the Intel Core i9-9900K on the Origin Millennium shows that Intel’s more expensive processor will perform better in multi-threaded applications. Both current Core i7 and Core i7 processor models show generational single- and multi-core performance gains when compared to the prior 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8700 processor on our HP Omen Obelisk review unit, which delivered scores of 5,606 points and 26,359 points, respectively.

Given the similarity of the processor between the Acer Predator Orion 3000 and the Alienware Aurora R8, performance is again comparable between the two units when encoding a 4K video using Handbrake. Both units completed the task in approximately 95 seconds, which is slower than the 77 seconds it took the Origin Millennium to finish the encoding job. However, this time is still much better than the 8th-Generation Core i7 processor, which required nearly 125 seconds.

With real-world usage, the 9th-gen  Core i7 delivered similar performance to the Core i9 in handling Microsoft Office files and other productivity tasks. The Core i9 was a few seconds faster at opening large game files, but you’d really have to have both systems on-hand to observe the slight difference in load times here, suggesting that unless you need the best-in-class gaming-focused processor, stepping down to a Core i7 should still give you plenty of speed without denting your wallet too significantly. Additionally, once you’re inside a game, graphics performance matters far more than CPU scores.

The 256GB Kingston solid-state drive also helps keep the Orion 3000 maintain its speeds. Though not the fastest or most spacious drive we’ve tested on a desktop, we didn’t have any problems with the 769 MB per second average read speeds and 958 MB per second average write speeds of the drive. To help with storage, the Orion 3000 also comes with a 1TB Western Digital Blue hard drive where you can offload larger files and games.

4K capable gaming

Like its rivals from HP and Alienware, Acer’s new Predator Orion 3000 comes in multiple configuration, with our review unit topping out with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 graphics. Even though Acer offers a base configuration that comes equipped with Intel’s 8th-gen Core i7 processor and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 graphics for casual gamers, enthusiasts who demand more power, unfortunately, won’t be able to choose an upgraded build with GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics out of the box. Still, the non-Ti RTX 2080 is a capable card for 4K gaming, and unless you’re playing the limited number of ray tracing-enabled titles, the performance gap isn’t too drastic between these two high-end cards.

Predator Orion 3000 review
Chuong Nguyen/Digital Trends

This configuration places the Orion 3000 in the company of very respectable gaming rigs, like Origin PC’s Neuron – though the Neuron can be outfitted with dual GPUs – HP’s Omen Obelisk, and more. In the 3DMark Time Spy test, performance of the Orion 3000 is similar to the RTX 2080-equipped Alienware Aurora R8, with both units scoring approximately 9,600 points. However, performance of the Ti variant is still stronger, and the Corsair One Pro i180 scored more than 3,000 points higher. Compared to enthusiast systems, unsurprisingly, performance of the dual-Ti setup on the Origin PC Millennium is almost double the score of the Orion 3000 using the same benchmark.

The results from the synthetic benchmark only paint a partial picture of the capabilities of the Orion 3000. Titles with less demanding graphics, like Fortnite and Civilization VI, stay above 60 FPS at 4K resolution, even when played with high game details. Civilization VI with Ultra mode enabled with 4K resolution played at 92 FPS, for example.

Titles with more complex graphics, like Battlefield V and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, are playable with high game details in up to 1440p or 2K resolutions. At 4K, when the details are turned up, these titles drop to below 60 FPS, making the games appear choppy. With Battlefield V, for example, the game played at nearly 80 FPS when Ultra mode is enabled at 2K resolution. However, with the same mode under 4K resolution, the frame rate dropped to just 50 FPS. The drop in performance in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is more pronounced at 4K Ultra, as the game only performed at 36 FPS.

Given the performance tax on these titles, you’ll want to stay at 2K especially with ray tracing enabled. For most gamers, however, strong performance of RTX 2080 graphics in 1080p and 1440p resolutions across a variety of titles will be more than sufficient, and only the most demanding gamers will want to push the envelope with 4K gaming at the highest game settings.

Though it’s marketed as a gaming system, the Orion 3000 can also serve as a workstation for GPU-intensive tasks for creatives who need to take work home from time to time. If you need a capable workstation for creative workflows, we’d recommend stepping up to the Ti variant of the card found on the Corsair One Pro i180 workstation or upgrading to the professional grade Titan RTX graphics. However, for moderate photo editing, video encoding and quick rendering, the RTX 2080 card on the Orion 3000 is very capable, and the system was very adept at handling even medium-sized Photoshop files when working in Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Warranty

Acer’s limited two-year warranty policy for its gaming system is generous, as most consumer systems ship with one year of coverage. The policy covers both parts and labor, though on-site repairs aren’t part of the deal, so you’ll have to ship your defective system in for service. Acer also offers 90 days of software support.

In addition to the standard warranty, Acer also offers its extended Care Plus coverage. This optional upgrade option can help cover accidental damage or extend the length of your coverage, but unlike traditional PC brands like Dell, HP, and Lenovo, the Care Plus packages are hidden on Acer’s websites and aren’t presented as options that can be added on at the time of purchase.

We wish Acer would make it easier to obtain extended coverage information and provide up-front pricing information. Both HP and Alienware offer standard one-year limited warranty policies, but both brands make it easy to add and customize extended warranty options. Additionally, boutique custom gaming brand Origin PC also offers an Evolve option that makes it easy to sell back existing parts when you’re upgrading internal components, something that isn’t available on the Orion 3000 or many competing brands today.

Our Take

Acer’s Predator Orion 3000 is a no-frills, compact gaming PC that offers solid performance at a reasonable cost. While the Predator Orion 3000 is available in a number of configurations to satiate your performance needs, our upgraded review configuration with a 9th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics delivers solid performance, ensuring that this desktop can be comfortably used for content creation, content consumption, gaming, and office work for years to come.

Is there a better alternative?

Competitors to the Predator Orion 3000 include the Alienware Aurora R8, which was reviewed in a configuration outfitted with similar CPU and GPU options, and the HP Omen Obelisk.

Our $2,300 Alienware Aurora R8 review unit is perhaps the most evenly matched unit against the Orion 3000. Both units come with 9th-Gen Intel Core i7 processors and Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics, placing them on a level playing field. And in reality, both systems performed very similarly in our suite of benchmarks and games. If you choose the Aurora R8, you’ll get a unit that’s more upgradeable and can support dual graphics, but the tradeoff is that the Alienware’s case is bigger, made from plastic, and bulkier.

If you need an inexpensive gaming PC to get started today, HP’s Omen Obelisk is available in a variety of configurations that start at just $749, making it an excellent candidate for a starter rig. Though the Omen Obelisk ships with a larger case, this makes it easy to upgrade the internals. The open glass panel design means that you can showcase your PC’s build and add a liquid cooling system if you want something a bit more ostentatious than the quiet black frame found on the Orion.

For something a bit more affordable, Digital Storm’s Lynx is another affordable and solid option. Topping out with the same Intel Core i7-9700K processor seen on the Orion 3000, the Lynx manages to keep its cost down to just $1,999 by going with a slightly weaker RTX 2070 graphics card. Though this mid-range GPU won’t do much for enthusiasts, most gamers will find the performance to be sufficient for 1080p gaming, and you can always upgrade to newer or faster graphics in the future thanks to the unit’s upgradeable tower design.

How long will it last?

Though it may be the entry-level tower in Acer’s Predator Orion series, this year’s Orion 3000 comes with a lot of staying power thanks to powerful silicon upgrades under the hood. The aggressive front plate design may make this desktop look dated as time passes, but given the Intel Core i7 processor and RTX 2080 graphics, it should keep running for a long time. Likely, you’ll want to upgrade to 32GB of RAM and larger 512GB solid-state drive if you intend to hang on to this desktop for some time.

Should you buy it?

Yes, the Predator Orion 3000 is a great pre-built PC that delivers solid performance at a reasonable price point that’s competitive with other rigs.

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