Acer's Predator gaming laptop is a stark contrast to its gaming laptops from last year. Whereas the previous Acer Aspire V Nitro gaming laptop has a sleek subtle design, the Predator is a hulk that is reminiscent of gaming notebooks from Alienware and Asus.
This means you will find huge cooling vents at the rear and plenty of LED lights. Its black plastic chassis has a soft-touch finish that, thankfully, appears resistant to smudges.
The 15-inch Predator has a thick chassis that allows for a Blu-ray optical drive. This drive can be removed by pressing a switch at the bottom of the laptop. In its place, you can insert a special cooling fan module from PC peripheral company Cooler Master.
Acer says this Predator FrostCore fan module will keep the laptop cool during intense gaming sessions. In my testing sessions, having this fan module present lowered the system operating temperature by an additional 4 to 5 deg C.
I could monitor the system temperature easily by using the preloaded PredatorSense software utility. Besides showing the temperatures of the CPU and the system, this app also tracks the speeds of the laptop fans.
But it is not as comprehensive as similar tools on other gaming laptops. For instance, you cannot increase the fan speed gradually. You can only choose between the default and maximum speeds.
Another miss: there is no software or hardware key to disable the Windows logo key. Hitting this key during a gaming session will interrupt your game, which is annoying. Acer does provide a hardware button to disable the touchpad. This is useful, but I feel the laptop should be intelligent enough to automatically disable the touchpad once a mouse is connected.
The keyboard is comfortable to type and has good key travel. It has dedicated macro buttons that can be customised to launch apps or change settings. But the Function keys are too small.
Like most gaming laptops, the Predator's screen is of the matte variety. It has a standard 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. The display does not support Nvidia's G-Sync - a technology that reduces screen tearing and stutter. However, the laptop's powerful GeForce GTX 980M graphics chip supports G-Sync, so you can still enable it by connecting the laptop to an external G-Sync monitor.
The laptop performs up to par in games, scoring around 55 frames per second in Crysis 3 at Very High setting. It is also impressively fast in storage benchmarks because of its two solid-state drives.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5
SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: 4 x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt port, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jacks
BATTERY: 88 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5
BATTERY LIFE: 1/5
Verdict: A powerful albeit pricey gaming laptop with an unusual fan module.
This article was first published on December 23, 2015.
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