The Acer Predator 21 X is the world’s most powerful gaming laptop, and while the price tag is likely to be far too much for most people, there’s still a lot to admire about this machine.
The Acer Predator 21 X is unlike any other device we’ve tested – which makes for a rather challenging – yet also enjoyable – review. This is an incredibly ambitious device that fits some of the most powerful gaming components available today into a (sort of) portable device.
In many ways, it is a proof-of-concept – Acer’s way of seeing just how far it can push laptop technology. Its aim was to make the biggest and most powerful gaming laptop ever – and it has certainly succeeded, filling the Predator 21 X with cutting edge components that give even the most powerful desktop gaming rigs a run for their money.
While the ambition on display with the Acer Predator 21 X is certainly impressive, it comes at a (major) cost. Calling this a premium or high-end laptop would be doing it a disservice.
Here is the Acer Predator 21 X configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 2.90 GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 3.90GHz)
Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5, SLI)
RAM: 64GB DDR4 (2400Hz)
Screen: 21-inch, FHD+ (2,560 x 1,080) IPS LED
Storage: 1TB HDD (SATA 3), 1TB SSD (2 x PCIe 512GB RAID 0)
Ports: 4 x USB 3.0, 5 x USB 2.0, DisplayPort, microphone/headphone jack, HDMI
Connectivity: Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Camera: Built-in webcam
Weight: 18.74 pounds (8.5 kg)
Size: 22.4 x 12.4 x 3.3 inches (56.9 x 31.5 x 8.4 cm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
That major cost we just mentioned? We’re talking about the price tag. At £9,000 ($8,999.99, around AU$15,120) this laptop will be prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of people.
This is the conundrum when reviewing the Acer Predator 21 X, as we – like many people – would never spend that kind of money on a laptop. However, it is worth reviewing to see just how capable the world’s most powerful gaming laptop really is. Can the undoubtedly powerful components and premium features even remotely justify the price?
It’s also worth noting that, despite the price, there is a market for this machine – it's currently listed as out of stock on Acer’s website, and people have indeed been buying them. We were told of a dad who bought an engraved version for his eight-year-old son – surely putting him in the running for a ‘dad of the year’ mug, at the very least.
Of course, Acer will not be mass producing the Acer Predator 21 X, which makes talking about availability tricky, but should you be willing to put down such a hefty wad of cash for this laptop, we’re pretty sure Acer would be more than willing to oblige.
As you’d expect from a gaming laptop with this amount of power – and because it’s part of Acer’s Predator line up – the design of the Predator 21 X is certainly striking. It’s loud and brash, featuring bright LEDs, sharp angles and edges, and a plastic body with black and silver paint, making it obvious that this is a laptop for gamers. While some people may love the look, it could also prove to be divisive, and it lacks the premium look – and materials – that we expect of expensive laptops.
The Acer Predator 21 X definitely makes a bold first impression, as it arrives not in a box, but in a huge flight case. While the bulk of the flight case is filled with padding to protect the ultra-expensive laptop, the Acer Predator 21 X is still a bit of a behemoth, with dimensions of 3.3 x 22.4 x 12.4 inches (8.38 x 56.9 x 31.5cm) and a weight of 18.74 pounds (8.5kg). This is not a particularly portable laptop – though, of course, it is easier to transport than most gaming desktops.
The sheer size of the laptop is a necessity due to the powerful hardware crammed into the body – and the need to keep everything cool. So, the body includes a whopping five-fan cooling system. Three of these fans – which are metal Predator AeroBlade fans built by Acer to be ultra-thin and quiet – are dedicated to keeping the processor and graphics cards cool.
There are also nine heat pipes in the body of the Predator 21 X, which further help to dissipate heat from the components, while keeping noise levels down as much as possible.
While the large size of the Acer Predator 21 X makes carrying it around a bit tricky, it does allow Acer to add in some nice features, such as four Dolby Audio Premium speakers and two subwoofers touting cinema-like sound quality and virtual surround sound.
It also includes a full-size, backlit mechanical keyboard with Cherry Brown MX switches, which feels brilliant to use, especially when gaming. To the right of the keyboard is a unique module that on one side includes the numpad, but can be detached and flipped to become a trackpad via magnets. It’s a neatly designed feature – and works well – but it would have been lovely if Acer had made it able to function wirelessly, so you could position the numpad or trackpad wherever you like.
Regardless, you’re likely to be using a proper mouse with the Acer Predator 21 X, especially when gaming.
Along the left-hand side of the keyboard are five programmable keys that can be assigned various macros and functions. Above them is a sixth key, which is used to switch between three pre-set ‘groups’, effectively giving you 15 function keys.
These function keys (along with back lighting effects and overclocking options), are handled by Acer’s Predator Sense software, a well-designed app that lets you easily configure the laptop to suit your needs.
The main keys can also be removed and their switches changed, offering an excellent level of customisability, and there is a wrist pad included that magnetically attaches to the Predator 21 X’s body.
Above the keyboard sits the power button and a Perspex window that shows one of the fans running inside. To the left of that is a big plate with stylish illustrations of the hardware components located underneath (and this can be customised). This plate can be easily removed, giving you access to some of the hardware, which Acer told us could, in some cases, be replaced and upgraded.
This is a welcome feature for such an expensive laptop, as although the powerful components installed in the Acer Predator 21 X ensure a laptop that will be future-proofed for a very long time, at some point you may want to update it. Rather than ditching this uber-expensive laptop, you should hopefully be able to swap out some of the components.
Due to the size of the Predator 21 X, it’s little surprise that Acer has managed to pack in plenty of ports. These include a gigabit Ethernet network port, HDMI, four USB 3.0 ports, five USB 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort, and microphone and headphone jacks.
While there’s plenty of space for all these ports, there apparently isn’t any room for an optical drive. For many people who download their games from services such as Steam and Origin, this won’t be an issue, but it may disappoint some who still have games (and apps) that run off CDs and DVDs. It also means you can’t make use of the Predator 21 X’s amazing screen to watch DVDs or Blu-rays – unless you purchase an external drive.
As for that screen, well, it’s one of the most impressive aspects of the Predator 21 X, second only to the amazing components inside it. At 21 inches, it would be one of the largest screens available on a laptop anyway, but it also has an ultra-wide aspect ratio of 21:9. This adds extra space onto either side of the display – which makes playing games even more immersive.
At 2,560 x 1,080 resolution, it’s not the most pixel-dense 21:9 screen we’ve seen, but it's certainly sharp enough for playing games on.
Further bolstering the Acer Predator 21 X’s gaming credentials is the fact that the screen utilises Nvidia’s G-Sync technology with a refresh rate of 120Hz. This means that screen tearing and input lag is kept to a minimum (if not eliminated altogether), and frame rates in games remain smooth.
Under the display sits a thin line of transparent plastic, with two LEDs flashing behind it. This is part of the Tobii eye-tracking technology included in the Predator 21 X. This allows compatible games to track your eye movement, which Acer claims gives the already-large monitor an ‘infinite’ aspect, as the in-game camera should move with your eyes, so you should never reach the edges of the screen.
While including a 21-inch, ultra-wide display further makes the Acer Predator 21 X big and unwieldy, the sheer audacity is impressive, and when you see it in action, you can almost forgive the size. What’s less forgivable – but still understandable – is that the Predator 21 X requires two (yes, two) chunky power supplies to power it. That is pretty ridiculous, and doesn’t bode well for its battery life. It also shows that portability and convenience aren’t the top of Acer’s priorities when it comes to the Predator 21 X.
Of course, the reason why anyone would spend such a huge amount of money on this machine, rather than a considerably cheaper – yet still as powerful – desktop , is because it is at least somewhat more portable than the usual gaming rig.
So, if you do want to carry the Predator 21 X around with you, Acer does have you covered by supplying a robust carrying case built by Pelican. This is a large, solidly built, flight case that comes with four wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle for dragging along with you. Inside, the case is filled with foam to protect the Predator 21 X, while cutouts in the material allow you to store the various extras – such as the power supplies – with ease. The case is also watertight and dust-proof.
Like pretty much everything to do with the Predator 21 X, the case is large, over-the-top and attention-seeking, but it is very well made, and you wouldn’t have to worry too much about carrying around your ultra-expensive laptop in it.
However, there’s a line on that is rather telling: “Despite its size, you might occasionally need to travel with the 21 X”. This is a laptop that isn’t really designed to be moved around – which begs the question: “what is the point?”