The top of the food chain.
Acer’s lineup of gaming laptops is quite broad, as the company offers models ranging in price from a modest $799 for the budget-oriented Aspire VX 15 to the more powerful Predator line which tops out with the ludicrous Predator 21X that goes for an insane $8,999. Back in the real world, we’re going to be examining the larger of its two Predator gaming models; the Predator 17 (See it on Amazon). It boasts an Intel Skylake i7 processor paired with NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1070.
On Acer’s Predator website, the price of this particular unit is marked at $1,999. However, Walmart and Acer’s web store have it listed at well below that price tag — with Walmart winning the price war at $1,548 for a refurbished unit. Acer currently sells new models for $1,799. That’s a big discount off of a device that, despite using a last-generation Intel processor, is fully capable of powering intense gaming sessions. Throw in a removable optical drive that can be replaced by an additional cooling fan (included), and you find yourself looking at potentially one heck of a deal.
Here are the specifications of the Acer Predator 17 I’m evaluating:
- Model: G9-793-78CM
- Display: 1920×1080 17.3-inch widescreen with IPS technology (16:9 aspect)
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
- Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz
- Memory: 16GB DDR4
- OS: Windows 10
- OS Drive: 256GB SSD
- Storage Drive: 1TB 7,200 RPM
- Optical: Removable 8X DVD-Super Multi Double-Layer Drive (M-Disc enabled)
- Ports: 4 x USB 3.0 (1 X USB charging with power off), 1 x USB 3.1 Type C, 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI w/HDCP support, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x audio input jack, 1 x audio output jack 1 x DC-in port, SD Card reader.
- Battery: 8-cell Li-ion (6000 mAh)
- Wireless: 802.11 a/c 2×2, Bluetooth 4.1
- Weight: 9.26 pounds
- Price: $1,799
The Predator 17 is available in alternative configurations at various price points, including a newer model with an Intel Kaby Lake processor (Core i7-7700HQ), a larger SSD, a 4K QHD screen, or a smaller 15-inch display. My review unit’s 1080p display was sharp enough for my liking, but for those who’d rather go with a 4K model can expect to pay a little more, or at least that was the price at the time of this review through Acer’s web store. It’s a surprisingly affordable upgrade, but keep in mind the GTX 1070 GPU in this beast’s belly is a little better suited for 1080p or 1440p gaming.
Design and Features
From the moment I saw the box and then had to unpack the Predator 17, there was no doubt this is a fairly large notebook. Its plastic housing measures 16.65 x 12.66 x 1.56 inches, and it weighs just over 9 pounds. Granted, gaming laptops of this size aren’t meant for toting around campus or on cross country trips, but the size and weight of the larger Predator is going to ensure you’re leaving it plugged in and on a desk. One drawback of the plastic chassis is that it’s a fingerprint magnet. No matter how much I tried to keep the lid clean, I simply couldn’t keep prints off it unless I wiped it down regularly.
As a full-sized notebook the Predator is brimming with expansion ports. On its left side you’ll find a removable optical drive, an SD card reader, two audio jacks (one for headphones, another for a microphone), two USB 3.0 ports, and the charging port. The right side is just as loaded, with a USB Type-C port, two more USB 3.0 ports, a full HDMI port, a DisplayPort, and an Ethernet jack. Easily the main benefit of going with a full-sized laptop such as this, aside from its performance, is the port selection is top notch. This stands in stark contrast to more portable laptops that have a handful of ports, and seem to champion a “less is more” approach.
Black is the predominant color on the Predator, splashed with red highlights on the back of the hinge, around the arrow and WASD keys, and fan grilles. To the left of the full-size backlit keyboard are five programmable shortcut keys for carrying out tasks such as cranking the fan to max or opening the game bar. The touchpad is surrounded by a bright red light, and has two buttons underneath it. Just to the right of the touchpad is a button to quickly disable the touchpad for gaming or long typing sessions. The touchpad is smooth and quick to react to gestures. Speaking of typing, the keyboard is responsive with a pleasing click for each key press. A four zone multi-color backlight is customizable through pre-installed PredatorSense software, with each zone not only getting its own color but customized level of brightness, too.
Keyboard lighting and each shortcut key’s functionality is controlled through a pre-installed PredatorSense app. In the app you can create multiple profiles for keyboard lighting, or turn lighting off altogether. In addition to changing aesthetics, you can create macros, switch between multimedia modes, and even overclock the Predator 17. There are three different overclock settings, Normal, Faster, and Turbo. You need to have the Predator 17 plugged in with at least 30-percent battery in order for the overclock settings to actually work. I generally don’t put much faith in laptop overclocking as thermal constraints usually limit it to a mild bump that the fans need to deal with, making it typically a tradeoff that isn’t acceptable.
As we typically do for our reviews, I put the Predator through a series of gaming benchmarks along with PCMark 8 and 3DMark benchmark tools. For comparison, we have a batch of GTX 1060-powered notebooks from our last foray into the gaming laptop space, and numbers from a similarly-equipped Asus notebook (review to come soon). It’s rarely an apples-to-apples comparison with notebooks given all the differences in components, but in this case the notebooks all have similar components; either Skylake or Kaby Lake CPUs, and GTX 1060 or 1070 GPUs. All tests were run with settings absolutely maxed, including maximum anti-aliasing.
Keep in mind these results are a worst case scenario in terms of performance. Not bad, right? The ROG Zephyrus has a Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K, so that seems to be the reason for its higher score in several of the benchmarks. Overall the Predator faired very well though, and was able to outpace the ROG laptop despite it costing significantly more money. Overall its ratio of bang for the buck is extremely high, since it uses an older Skylake CPU.But keep in mind it is a bigger machine.
As for everyday use, the Predator 17 handled everything I could throw at it. From countless Chrome tabs and streaming music (the four speaker setup is really loud, by the way) to finally learning my way around Rocket League. Just be ready for the nearly constant hum of the system’s fans. Whether I was simply opening the lid to sign in, gaming, or reading an article, the fans kicked on. The fan noise level was reduced after I swapped out the third fan for the optical drive. To swap out the two devices, turn off the laptop, flip it over and slide the locking mechanism to release whichever device is installed. Next, slide the fan or drive out, and then insert the other component in until you hear it click. It’s intuitive and simple. Another check in the win column for this device is the combination of a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD. After installing our gamut of benchmarking games and programs, I was left with a measly 11 GB of space on the default SSD. By not giving users the option to remove the added storage space, Acer is doing its customers a favor and eliminating the panic that can set in as a drive fills up.
Acer puts the Predator 17’s battery life at a respectable three hours. In my video test it didn’t hit that mark, however, with the battery taking 2 hours and 15 minutes until it was running on empty. I looped a 4K video using VLC, with screen brightness set to 50-percent and all extraneous services turned off (keyboard backlight, Bluetooth, and power management features). This isn’t horrible for this class of laptop, but it would be nice to squeeze just a bit more life out of the battery. As it is now, it’s not possible to watch more than a couple Game of Thrones episodes without having to search for an outlet.
The Acer Predator 17 is available in a several configurations, and as we went to press the one we tested is often found for around $1,700 on Amazon. It can be hard to find in stock, but its 15.6-inch little brother that features the same specs is in a little easier to find: