Hands on: Acer Helios 18

The Acer Helios 18 is an affordable desktop replacement

What is a hands on review?
black gaming laptop with rgb lit keyboard
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

Those looking for a desktop replacement have a great option with the Acer Helios 18 and a surprisingly affordable one at that. The starting price is less than $2,000 and it comes with top-notch specs and display, great port selection, a keyboard with the WASD keys featuring MagKey 3.0, and more. Its design takes advantage of RGB lighting to give it an even more unique and lovely aesthetic.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent display

  • +

    Strong specs

  • +

    Partially customizable keyboard

  • +

    Beautiful RGB lighting design

  • +

    Impressive port selection

Cons

  • -

    A bit pricey

  • -

    Very heavy

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Hardcore gamers should be on the lookout for the Acer Helios 18, a gaming laptop that's loaded with some great specs, an excellent display, and much more. The design is a bit simpler than the Acer Helios Neo 16 or 18, but still has a nice sleek metallic look to it.

Pricing isn't bad either, starting under $2,000, somewhat reasonable for a gaming laptop of this size and class. The keyboard allows for some customization as well, another notch on the positive features belt. If the performance matches its specs once we do a more throrough review, this could be one of the best Acer laptops of the year, and a solid candidate for our best gaming laptop list.

Acer Helios 18: Price and availability

The Acer Helios 18 will be launching in the US in March 2024, with its price starting at $1,999.99 (around £1,570 / AU$2,990), while the Helios 16 is slated for a release later in January. The pricing isn't bad, a tad expensive but still cheaper than pretty much any other desktop replacement gaming laptop options with the same specs.

We don't have official information on when the Helios 18 will launch in the UK and Australia, but it'll most likely show up in other regions later down the line.

Acer Helios 18: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Acer Helios 18 specs
ComponentSpec
Display18-inch Mini LED WQXGA (2560 x 1600), 250Hz
CPUUp to Intel Core 9 14900HX
GraphicsUp to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
RAMUp to 32GB LPDDR5
StorageUp to 4TB PCIe 4 SSD in RAID 0
Port selection2x Thunderbolt 4 USB Type-C port, 1x Ethernet port, 1x power port, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack, 3x USB Type-A, 1x microSD reader, 1x Kensington port
Weight3.5 kg (7.17 lbs)
Dimensions15.91 x 12.27 x 1.14 inches; 404 x 311.6 x 28.9 mm (WxDxH)

Acer Helios 18: Design

The Acer Helios 18 is a simple black gaming laptop that uses RGB lighting to make it more visually appealing, including the logo on the lid. Unlike the Helios Neo 16 or 18, it doesn't have a coded lid or a clear plate over silver metal on the back piece. 

The back piece, however, does feature a pattern fanning out from the Neo letters in the center, all lit up in rainbow lighting, which looks gorgeous. And the lit-up Acer logo on the lid is also a nice touch that gives it a bit of aesthetic appeal.

The keyboard is similarly lit with RGB back-lighting and feels pleasant to type on. There's also a rather unique feature, with the WASD keys featuring MagKey 3.0, compared to the regular membrane switches in the rest of the keyboard. This adds in two features called MagClick and MagSpeed, with the former letting users install mechanical switches (and I felt the difference immediately when I tried it out) while the latter has a speedometer-inspired design and a more distinctive LED lighting.

Its 18-inch Mini-LED WQXGA (2560 x 1600) display is lovely and crisp with a massive 250Hz refresh rate. It also has a 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, making this the perfect laptop for not just gaming but for editing and especially creative projects.

The port selection is incredible with Thunderbolt 4 USB Type-C ports, USB Type-A ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI 2.1, a combo jack, a microSD reader, and way more. There's not anything lacking in the selection, with more than enough USB ports to go around.

Acer Helios 18: Performance

black gaming laptop with rgb lit keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

The specs for the Acer Helios 18 are all current-gen CPUs and GPUs, including up to the Intel Core 9 14900HX and up to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, respectively. It also has up to 32GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 4TB PCIe 4 SSD in RAID 0 storage, far more than enough for any gamers' needs.

We don't have any benchmark test results to determine its actual performance but judging from performance from adjacent models like the Acer Predator Helios 300 (2022) and the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16, the Helios 18 should perform extremely well. Hopefully, the ventilation system, including a fan system, liquid metal thermal paste, and vector heat pipes can keep up and keep internal temperatures down.

Acer Helios 18: Early verdict

black gaming laptop with rgb lit keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Helios 18 is a well-rounded gaming laptop with tons of upgrades that make it more than worth investing in if you're looking for a solid desktop replacement. It has an excellent display, a robust port selection, current-gen specs that promise top-of-the-line performance, and a partially customizable keyboard.

Not to mention its unique design that takes advantage of RGB lighting uniquely and beautifully, a compliment very few gaming laptops receive. If the Helios 18 checks out once reviewers get it in their hands, this could end up as a sleeper hit of a gaming laptop.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.

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.