Hands on: Acer Predator Helios 700 review

Acer’s ample answer to Alienware’s desktop replacement

What is a hands on review?
Acer Predator Helios 700

Early Verdict

The Acer Predator Helios 700 brings long-overdue innovations to the desktop replacement gaming laptop that actually seem practical and functional, driving both stronger performance and more gaming creature comforts.

For

  • Clever HyperDrift keyboard
  • Overclock-ready components
  • Decked-out display

Against

  • Mighty pricey
  • Plastic-coated trackpad

Acer wasn’t about to stand by as Alienware attempted to revolutionize the desktop replacement gaming laptop with its Area-51m, hence the brand-new Acer Predator Helios 700. The new flagship gaming laptop for the company, this model appears to bring the goods and then some.

With the absolute latest and most powerful in mobile PC gaming hardware inside, and clever innovations about the RGB-lit chassis, Acer stands a fighting chance in a product category that’s been stagnant for far too long. But, of course, you’re going to pay dearly for such a potentially standard-setting gaming rig.

Acer Predator Helios 700

Price and availability

Acer is being pretty mum on the specifics regarding pricing and configurations for its new flagship gaming laptop. However, we do know that the Acer Predator Helios 700 will be available in the US in April and Europe in July, starting at $2,699 (€2,699; about £2,070, AU$3,760).

So, either way this is going to be a pricey gaming laptop with serious hardware inside to match. While we don’t know what the Helios 700 is going to start with inside completely, we at least know that it will feature Nvidia’s RTX 2070 graphics processor (GPU) to start. From there, all Acer has revealed is that the laptop will feature up to a 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor (GPU) and as much as 64GB of memory (RAM).

The laptop will also include Wi-Fi 6 for enhanced wireless speeds, and all of this will be accessed through a 17.3-inch, FHD IPS display running at 144Hz refresh rate and with a 3-millisecond (ms) response time with Nvidia’s G-Sync technology behind it.

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Design

The Predator Helios 700 is definitely a unique desktop replacement gaming laptop, with the ability for its HyperDrift keyboard deck to slide forward along a rail, revealing the laptop’s cooling fans. Acer promises that, on top of its hardware inside being ready to overclock, that pulling the keyboard forward will inherently see an 18% to 20% boost in performance after the special ‘Turbo’ button is pressed.

This feature also reveals some neat RGB lighting underneath that should add to the laptop’s curb appeal, so to speak. Also, doing this causes the trackpad to fall a bit at an angle, creating a pseudo palm rest of sorts.

That’s a particularly handy feature, because it invites the player to actually use the included keyboard, which has been specifically designed to be actually useful for gamers unlike so many keyboards on gaming laptops before it. This keyboard has ‘WASD’ keys that use a different switch than all the rest: Magforce.

These key switches are designed to respond and actuate at various levels of pressure and travel deeper than traditional membrane key switches. These four keys and switches will be replaceable with traditional key switches, for when you need to simply type rather than game.

We can definitely notice the difference in travel and actuation force in these keys versus the others, and typing is definitely a strange experience with them installed. For gaming, however, we can certainly see the appeal, but it’s unclear whether this innovation will be enough to drop an attached gaming keyboard entirely.

As for the trackpad, it’s just fine in terms of accuracy and feel, but at this price we would appreciate a glass coated surface rather than plastic.

It’s tough to glean much regarding the display in such a glaringly lit environment, but it seemed to display what little Battlefield V we could play with incredible detail and smoothness in animation. Between a 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync technology, there’s little chance that this display will produce jittery visuals.

Of course, being a desktop replacement, this laptop is rather thick and heavy, though by exactly how much is unknown so far. This allows for a bevvy of ports: two USB-C ports (one Thunderbolt 3), three USB 3.1 ports, HDMI, DisplayPort and an Ethernet port.

Acer Predator Helios 700

Performance

It’s difficult to make too strong of a judgment call on this laptop’s performance from mere minutes with it at a press event, but the hardware and supporting features on offer are promising. 

With room for a full-fat Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU as well as the latest 9th-gen Intel Core i9 CPU with overclocking capabilities, not to mention a built-in turbo boost mode with improved thermals, it’s hard to see this laptop performing poorly.

However, just how far you can push these parts via overclocking is unknown – that will put Acer’s new 4th-generation Aero Blade cooling tech to the true test.

As for battery life, Acer hasn’t even bothered to mention it. Spoiler: don’t expect this thing to last very long off of its power supply.

Acer Predator Helios 700

Early verdict

The Acer Predator Helios 700 is an impressive new take on the desktop replacement gaming laptop, making clever use of its size to bring the performance that the form factor has promised for years.

We also appreciate Acer taking the enormity of its laptop into consideration with the HyperDrift keyboard and MagForce switches on the WASD keys. While it may not convince hardcore gamers to leave their dedicated gaming keyboards behind, it’s a valiant attempt that we’re excited to test more thoroughly.

Will all of these innovations in convenience, comfort and power be worth the massive price tag, however? Stay tuned for a full review to answer that very question.

  • Image Credits: TechRadar

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.