Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL Review
The Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL is a gaming laptop that does stand out quite as much as it did in the past, with a better CPU and a peppy Turing GPU for gamers.
- Sturdy build quality
- Excellent 144 Hz matte screen
- Easy to upgrade
- Reasonable pricing
- No SD card reader or Thunderbolt 3
- Small 58 Wh battery
In 2019, our favorite Acer Predator Helios 300 gets even better. For years now, the Helios 300 has been the ultimate mid-tier gaming laptop of choice, but its design was getting too familiar. After updating the Helios 500, Acer have decided to update not only the design, but also the hardware and components in the all-souped up Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL.
Acer has finally come around to spread the love in a 5-inch laptop that features a 9th-Gen intel Core i7-9750H processor, a 256GB solid state drive and 16GB of RAM. Also, in tow are a super-fast 144 Hz refresh rate and a Turing-based Nvidia GeForce 1660 Ti graphics card. Does it have what it takes to battle the best midrange gaming laptops you can buy?
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The 2019 Predator Helios is a completely new laptops that shares very little with the previous versions, save for some signature Predator body lines and branding. This one gets thinners bezels around the screen, though not very thin, they are smaller than previous Helios models. In the same scope, it is fairly smaller than its main competitors including the Lenovo Legion Y740 or the MSI GE63 Raider. Weighing 5.3 pounds, it isn’t the lightest gaming around, neither is it the thinnest at 0.9 inches thick.
With the added weight, the laptop gets a better build quality. The main deck is sturdy and doesn’t bulge under stress, meaning you’re getting a solid arm rest-rest and keyboard deck. The screen, however, flexes a little, but the shock isn’t actuated from the thick pieces of metal used for the lid cover. For aesthetics, Acer opted for a Black and Blue theme, with a dark interior.
On the lid, there’s an illuminated Predator logo which cannot be switched off, as well as a pair of dark-blue accents that aren’t lit. For colleges with strict laptop policies, this laptop will struggle to get accepted in such work/school environments.
On the Helios PH315-52-78VL, Acer went with a matte IPS FHD 144 Hz panel made by AU Optronics, precisely, the popular B156HAN08.2 variant that we’ve seen in many other mid-tier gaming notebooks, including the bigger Acer Predator Triton 500 and the Asus GL504 SCAR models.
Having tested laptops with the same panel, the 144 Hz screen is pretty good for daily use and an exceptional choice for gaming, thanks to the short response times and high refresh rate, even if GSync is not supported on this laptop (you won’t really need it on a 144Hz panel and GTX 1660 Ti configuration, anyway).
Other display aspects including color coverage, contrast and peak-brightness are only above average, so you should use the notebook indoors and hook-up an external display if you need to work on a color-accurate project. That said, the panel is well-calibrated out of the box, and doesn’t suffer from any obvious light-bleeding or significant color-uniformity imbalances.
The Predator PH315-52-78VL gets a respectable array of ports including: Gigabit Ethernet, one USB Type C, three USB 3.1 (one with Power-off charging), an HDMI port, a Mini Displayport and a headphone jack. For gamers, an Ethernet port is perhaps the best aspect of connectivity, offering a platform for expedited online gaming and score sharing as compared to wireless options.
Wireless connectivity comes via Killer Double Shot Pro Wireless-AC 1550 802.11 ac Wi-Fi, alongside an HD Webcam (1280 x 720) with Super High Dynamic Range (SHDR) support.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Acer offers a chiclet style keyboard with nice travel, and includes a dedicated numeric keyboard, something you rarely find on a 15-inch laptop. It is spacious, with 4-zone RGB backlighting and a main deck of 15 x 15 mm keys. The Power button is still part of the keyboard, in the top-right corner, but Acer disables it by default in Windows, so pressing it won’t put your laptop in sleep mode by accident.
For the individual keys, Acer uses 4-zone controlled RGB LEDs with 4 intensity levels, and you can easily set a few effects in the Lighting subsection of the Predator Sense app. When enabled, the keys get bright, and the white/clear borders of the keycaps allow the light to shine through.
The clickpad hasn’t changed over the generations, it remains to be an averagely sized plastic surface with Synaptics hardware and Precision drivers, thus handles everyday use smoothly and reliably. The individual clicks are fairly stiff and quiet, but that may vary between implementations. There’s a blue trim around the touchpad, giving it a premium look.
That aside, the 2019 Acer predator Helios 300 lineup skimps on a finger-sensor, and doesn’t include other biometric login options.
Our review unit is a fairly high-specced configuration of the newer Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL, packing some new hardware by both Intel and Nvidia.
It boasts a Coffee Lake ‘9th Gen.’ Intel Core i7-9750H processor, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 16GB of RAM and 256SSD for storage. While the GeForce 1660 Ti is the shorter guy in the lineup of ‘big boys’ including the Turing GeForce RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti, the released-in-April GTX 1660 Ti and it equally new sibling, the GeForce GTX 1650, occupy a spot between the last-generation 10-Series “Pascal” GPUs, and the current top-tier RTX 20-Series “Turing” GPUs.
Being the first time, we’re reviewing a laptop with both a GTX 1660 Ti and Core i7-9750H, our review section will be setting the benchmark, if it does matter, for the components’ performance going forward.
For general productivity, the inclusion of the six-core (12-threads) processor and enough memory count for a lot, especially in a laptop that can be used for gaming at 1080p and equally deliver on media creation tasks. When stacked against systems released in mid-2018 that use previous-gen processors and GTX 1050 Ti GPUs, the latest iteration of the Helios 300 packs a punch.
In theory, and considering the GTX 1660 Ti’s place in the hierarchy, its performance should be equivalent to a GTX 1070, or a little better, but still below that of a GeForce RTX 1060. Both the GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1650 are part of the new Nvidia Turing architecture, which is bested by the RTX Line (2060, 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti), but they still bear the GeForce monikers, just like last year’s Pascal GPUs.
That naming sequence is based on the consideration that, despite using Turing architecture, both GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1650 don’t readily offers gamers the advanced ray-tracing technology or have Tensor cores, required for the anti-aliasing DLSS feature we’re seeing in a few top-tier games. The concept was for Nvidia creating a more affordable option with good performance, even if it won’t include these prime features, which is part of the reason the Helios 300 comes at a very good price than competitors.
You’ll get away with impressive frame rates on most modern games played at native 1080p resolutions. With a 144 Hz refresh rate and a refreshed GPU, the Helios PH315-52-78VL delivers 159 frame rates per second (FPS) on the 2018 edition of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, played at maximum settings, but drops to 134 FPS in Ultra preset. It also puts a strong showing on other titles including Fortnite (129 FPS) and League of Legends (174 FPS) in the same maximum detail settings. In all these games, the system delivers smooth frame rates.
Except for the new crop of gaming ultrabooks, including the Asus Zephyrus S and Razer Blade 15 that deliver fairly good battery life, the rest of the flock an average performer. In fact, its not even average, some are simply worse. Take the Predator Helios 300, for instance, that delivers only 5 hours 13 minutes of battery life when streaming videos, but can drop to as low as 3 hour 29 minutes during actual game play.
We’re not complaining, though, that’s how gaming laptops are cut to sip battery juice in order to fuel your gaming sessions. If you’ll be doing intense gaming, better be near a power outlet.
The Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL is a gaming laptop that does stand out quite as much as it did in the past, with a better CPU and a peppy Turing GPU for gamers. With an impressive screen, a refreshed look and great gaming performance, it still has certain strengths over its perennial competitors. It’s on the lower end of the midrange gaming pricing scale, though it still offers an alternative to the spendiest machines form Acer.
Is there a better alternative?
Unless you’re looking for something petite. If true, the Asus ROG Zephyrus S, a high-end gaming laptop we can recommend, boasting an Intel Core i7-9750H (6-core) CPU, a GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. For casual gamers, that sounds like an overkill, of which the Helios 300 emerges as a better choice at a lower price point.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL has a few flaws, compensates with plenty of power for the professional creatives and midrange gamers.