The word ‘predator’ evokes a series of images, each more bloody and brutal than the last. That Acer has taken the title for its gaming-centred gear means that the Acer Predator 17 has got a lot to live up to. The likes of Asus, MSI and Gigabyte have long been better-known names in the gaming sphere, at least in South Africa. Acer’s gaming support here has been spotty, at best.
That’s changing, though. The Predator series is back and we’ve already gotten our hands on some of Acer’s tech in the form of their curved 4K screen. But this isn’t a screen. This is Acer’s Predator 17, a gaming notebook in the vein of MSI’s top-end offerings. The question we’re asking today is: Can Acer’s biggest Predator deliver the goods?
Looks Fast When Motionless
The Acer Predator 17 certainly looks the part. The 17, obviously, comes from the 17.3-inch display but there’s more to this than just the panel. Angular design is evident in everything from the notebook’s lid to the power switch, with the rear in particular giving the Predator 17 its most aggressive cast.
There are strategic swoops and curves, as befitting any predator out hunting for smaller, weaker prey but the impression users will get from the red and matte grey/black design, replete with all the backlighting you never knew you needed, is of solid construction and durability. We wouldn’t want to drop it but the heft feels as though it would survive the impact.
The keyboard is satisfying. We’ve seen better installations in gaming hardware but the chiclet keys are thicker than usual and the WASD and arrow keys have been marked with red edging for ease of locating when in the thick of things. The trackpad is also generous, making you think that you could game using it. You’d be wrong – get a gaming mouse, dammit. But you can disable the trackpad at will, so your moving wrists won’t throw your aim off.
Tearing Through The Ribcage
Cracking away at the surface, as solid as it may be, reveals a delicious set of innards. There are not for snacking on, as much as we like chips, but they’re responsible for making the Acer Predator 17 as quick as possible. Something needs to hunt and eat netbooks before they multiply, right?
The Predator 17 we had for review packed a 1,920 x 1,080 display that was bright as you might like it. That said, you can find better panels installed in gaming hardware but Acer’s effort is enough to make the likes of The Witcher 3 pop.
Delving deeper into the organs you’ll find that there’s a Skylake processor for you to play with. The Intel Core i7-6700HQ, a speedy 2.60GHz chip, does most of the work and there’s 8GB of RAM providing support. We’ve have preferred 16GB but it’s adequate the way it is. The final piece is a GTX 980M GPU with 4GB of VRAM, which might account for the benchmark results. There’s also dual storage, in the shape of a 128GB SSD for boots and any programs that have to load yesterday, dammit, and a 1TB general storage space.
Tracking Its Prey
Specs are just specs until you’ve seen them run and the Predator has a decent enough turn of speed. There are faster notebooks but if you’re planning on shelling out an extra R20,000 over the Predator 17’s RRP of R32,000 then you can have your SLI setup, Steelseries mechanical keyboard and marginal performance increase. Well, maybe not that marginal…
Still, the Predator 17 did well enough in our benchmarks to make you smile. Heaven, tested at 1,920 x 1,080 on High with 8x AA enabled, clocked in at a rock-solid 65.3 frames-per-second average. The fps spiked at 115,5, for an eventual score of 1,645. Changing that up to 1,920 x 1,080, with no AA but on Ultra, generated an average fps of 84.7 with a score of 2,133.
Using Unigine’s Valley with the same settings gave us an average fps of 52.5 for High/8x. Not quite the 60fps sweet spot but we’ll still take it. The score of 2,198 didn’t hurt either. Ultra/no AA pumped out a frame-rate of 77.2, with a score of 3,229. That 980 M and Skylake chip make a very good team.
Look, you might want to stock up some extra cash for a known quantity but the Acer Predator 17 is solid performer for your cash. It’ll gobble up smaller contenders without blinking or breathing hard but it’s not the apex predator that it would like to be. Get this, a set of Predator-themed extras like that 4K curved display and a few of the other bits that are entering the market and you’ll still be the envy of your gaming peers. Visually, at least. As for performance, what’s a few frames-per-second between friends. Everything, but you’ll still run everything standard that the industry can throw at you for now. If you’re looking for a VR-machine, keep looking. It’s not that powerful.