Acer Predator 17 X review: A monster gaming notebook that’s almost ready for 4K

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Acer Predator 17 X review: A monster gaming notebook that’s almost ready for 4K
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OUR VERDICT

This is Acer’s most powerful gaming laptop yet with the cooling system to prove it – but it’ll cost you dearly.

FOR

  • Loaded to the max with features
  • 4K resolution G-sync screen
  • Relatively quiet cooling fans

AGAINST

  • High price for last gen video card
  • Annoyingly loud power-on sound
  • Extremely long battery recharge time

Acer pulls at all the stops with its fully configured Predator 17 X gaming notebook. In fact, referring to this 17-inch behemoth as a laptop can feel a little misleading, as it is obviously designed to be a desktop replacement.

There’s no mistaking the Predator 17 X for anything but a desktop replacement solution, given how the system alone weighs 10 pounds (4.67kg) and the large power brick adds another 3 pounds (1.36kg).

Inside the giant chassis, a fully decked out Predator 17 X comes loaded with a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, a VR-ready Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 GPU, a whopping 32GB of memory, plus a 512GB SSD boot drive with 1TB hard drive to store more files. (about $500, AU$670) price of this computer in China is still quite cheap.

Although it might be a pain to lug around and tiresome to use on your lap, it’s still an excellent solution for LAN parties and BYOC areas at events like PAX.

Design

If it weren’t for its size, the relatively minimalistic black design with red accents and LED lights (a glowing logo and two stripes on the cover) might betray how this notebook rivals the power of many desktop systems.

The Predator also features a luxuriously large wrist rest, a button to turn off the touchpad (which has hard buttons and illuminated edges); customizable, four-zone, multi-colored backlighting for its chiclet keyboard; and four programmable macro profile hotkeys along the left side.

The front features noticeably large speaker grills, enhanced with a true subwoofer that has a vent on the bottom. However, the true stand-out aesthetic of system is its rear cooling fan vents which measure an inch-and-a-half tall.

Busting this system out is a sure sign that you take portable PC gaming seriously, especially when the obnoxiously loud power-up sound plays through the booming speakers.

SPEC SHEET
Brand
Acer
Series
Predator 17
Model
GX-791-73FH
Part Number
NH.Q12AA.001

Quick Info

Color
Black
Operating System
Windows 10 Home
CPU
Intel Core i7-6820HK 2.7 GHz
Screen
17.3″ IPS
Memory
32 GB DDR4
Storage
512 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
Graphics Card
GeForce GTX 980
Video Memory
8 GB GDDR5
Communication
Gigabit LAN and WLAN
Dimensions (W x D x H)
16.65″ x 12.66″ x 1.77″
Weight
10.03 lbs.

CPU

CPU Type
Intel Core i7 6th Gen
CPU Speed
6820HK (2.70 GHz)
Number of Cores
Quad-core Processor
Core Name
Skylake
CPU L3 Cache
8 MB

Display

Screen Size
17.3″
Touchscreen
No
Wide Screen Support
Yes
Display Type
Full HD
Resolution
1920 x 1080
LCD Features
LED-backlit IPS display with NVIDIA G-SYNC technology
16:9 aspect ratio, Wide viewing angle

Operating Systems

Operating System
Windows 10 Home

Graphics

GPU/VPU
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
Video Memory
8 GB
Graphic Type
Dedicated Card

Storage

SSD
512 GB
HDD
1 TB
HDD RPM
7200 RPM
HDD Interface
SATA
Storage Spec
512 GB SSD in RAID 0 configuration

Memory

Memory
32 GB
Memory Speed
DDR4 2133
Memory Spec
16 GB x 2
Memory Slot (Total)
4
Memory Slot (Available)
2
Max Memory Supported
64 GB

Communications

LAN
Killer Ethernet E2400
WLAN
Killer Double Shot Pro Wireless-AC 1535 802.11ac WiFi featuring 2×2 MU-MIMO technology (Dual-Band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
Bluetooth
Bluetooth 4.1

Ports

USB
4 x USB 3.0 (One with Power-off Charging)
Video Port
1 x Thunderbolt 3 (Full USB 3.1 Type C)
1 x DisplayPort
HDMI
1 x HDMI 2.0

Audio

Audio
Optimized Dolby Audio Premium sound enhancement
Predator TrueHarmony Premium High-Performance Sound System
Speaker
Four Built-in Stereo Speakers and Subwoofer

Output Device

Virtual Reality Ready
Yes

Input Device

Touchpad
Precision Touchpad (supporting Windows Modern Touchpad gestures)
Keyboard
Dedicated Numeric Keypad
Webcam
HD Webcam (1280 x 720)

General

Style
Standard
Type
Gaming & Entertainment
Usage
Consumer

Power

Battery
8-cell Li-ion Battery (6000 mAh)
Battery Life
Up to 3 hour(s)

Dimensions & Weight

Dimensions (W x D x H)
16.65″ x 12.66″ x 1.77″
Weight  10.03lbs.

Once we go beyond the exterior, it seems Acer threw everything, including the kitchen sink, into this notebook. Then it went next door and threw everything from there inside too. Acer describes its flagship gaming system as “extreme,” and I’m inclined to agree that it’s no exaggeration.

The 17-inch screen supports 4K UHD 3,840 x 2,160 resolution that is further enhanced with Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, which controls the frame rate to eliminate screen tearing and minimize stuttering.

Gaming Overkill

There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration when considering a high-powered gaming laptop, the first being that portable does not necessarily mean easy to move. Second is that battery power life generally isn’t much of a consideration, especially given the large 4K screen. Don’t expect to use this computer on battery for very long, even if it’s just for movie watching.

However, the one area that counts – power – is where this system excels. The Predator 17 X’s desktop grade 980 graphics might be a small step behind the GTX 1070 found in systems like the MSI GT62VR Dominator Pro and the Gigabyte P57X, there’s still plenty of gaming power to be had here, even though they might not be at the highest graphics settings at 4K.

Although its three fans can be heard when the system is taxed, they never become annoyingly loud. Meanwhile, the keyboard remains cool despite hours of playing and the speakers pump out plenty of desk-shaking sound.

 

Let’s take a moment to appreciate how heavy this notebook is. With a 17-inch screen, two hard drives, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 housed inside, the Predator 17 X weighs just over ten pounds, and that’s not counting the power brick, which really is about the size of an average building brick. Measuring 16.65 x 12.66 x 1.77 inches (42.3 x 32.2 x 4.5cm; W x D x H), this is the gaming elephant in the room.

Forget about all practical concerns. This is the kind of notebook that you use to make a statement about power and performance. The Gigabyte P57X’s 6.6 pounds seems almost dainty in comparison to the Predator 17 X, but if you’re truly looking for a thin system without compromising on power, then the Razer Blade systems are probably your best bet.

However, in this case, I argue that the heft may be beneficial, as the notebook isn’t likely to slide around during intense gaming sessions.

As expected, the Predator comes with all the ports necessary to plug in a VR headset or external display, including a USB port that continues to provide charging power while the system is powered down.

 

BENCHMARKS

Here’s how the Acer Predator 17 X performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: 4K Cloud Gate: 23,313; Fire Strike: 10,454; Sky Diver 25,415; Fire Strike Ultra: 2,983
Cinebench CPU: 696 cb; Graphics: 102.3 fps
Geekbench 3: Single-Core Score: 3,821; Multi-Core Score: 13,837
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,926 points (4K); 3,076 (1080p)
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 3 minutes at 4K. Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 2 hours and 40 minutes
The Division (1080p, Ultra): 55 fps; (1080p, Low): 132 fps
GTA V (1080p, Ultra): 76 fps; (1080p, Low): 159 fps

Performance

Some might balk at the idea of spending $3K on a notebook that sports a last generation video card, but the GeForce 980 still packs a considerable punch. Although you’re not likely to get 60 fps with many of the latest games at 4K resolution and maxed out settings, a little compromise and some adjustments can go a long way.

Again, the Predator 17 X isn’t the notebook you want to leave on battery for very long. PCMark put its battery life at about 2 hours thanks to the power hungry 4K resolution screen, but our looping movie test shows some more time than that.

At 4K, the battery held out for 2 hours 30 minutes, and even if you try cutting the resolution down to 1080p, it only buys an extra 10 minutes of battery life. In any case, we can’t emphasize enough how you should avoid draining the Predator 17 X unless you’re willing to put up with the three-and-a-half hours it takes to fully recharge its whale-like battery.

The real test is with games, and Dishonored 2 stayed at a modest 30 fps while playing at 4K resolution with Ultra settings and G-Sync turned off, which dipped to 20 fps or below on some of the more complex scenes. Dropping the resolution down to 1,920 x 1,080 helped bring graphical performance up to between 50-60 fps.

Similarly, Battlefield 1 stayed between 30-40 fps at 4K resolution at Ultra settings but without DirectX 12 turned on. Switching to 1080p kicks the frame rate up significantly, bringing in about 90-110 fps.

Additionally, the SteamVR test utility shows that the Predator 17 X is well equipped to handle virtual reality applications. If you need a little more juice, Acer’s PredatorSense software comes pre-loaded on the system, making it easy to overclock both the CPU and GPU for a little extra performance.

Grand Theft Auto benchmark scores are strong on the Predator 17 X, showing an average of 90 fps at 4K resolution using custom settings. However, benchmark performance with The Division is noticeably less so. Ultra settings at 1080p had a passing rate of 54 fps, but the frame rate dropped way down to about 25 fps once I turned up the resolution.

We liked

As its title indicates, the Acer Predator 17 X is one monster of a gaming machine. It’s heavy as all hell, but it’s packed with features and is the very definition of a desktop replacement notebook. Having both an SSD and a 1TB spinning drive made it a breeze to boot up and get straight to gaming.

Although it might not have a current generation video card, it provides solid performance for the games we played. Plus, according the SteamVR test, the notebook is totally VR-ready. Most importantly, it stayed cool and quiet throughout the hours playing games on the crisp 4K screen.

We disliked

Aside from the weight, perhaps the most annoying aspect of this behemoth is the loud jingle the Predator 17 X plays when it boots up. It may be easy to overcome that annoyance by never rebooting the system, but one thing that’s a little harder to overlook is how the notebook sports a previous generation video card.

Even though the GeForce GTX 980 provides more than adequate performance at 1080p, it’s less so at 4K and it can be tough to justify a $3k investment when competing systems have GTX 1070s built-in. But mostly, the thing I hated most about the notebook is how it takes over three hours to fully charge its mammoth battery, and at least two hours when it’s at 40%.

Final verdict

When considering a high-end gaming notebook, you need to look at performance, features and style. Acer has all those bases covered, and even though it’s pricey for a notebook that’s still using a previous generation video card, all the packed-in features  — including the 4K screen, an SSD and hard drive combo, and booming sound system — make it worthwhile.

Although performance at highest settings and 4K resolution can be middling, a few adjustments can go a long way toward boosting frame rates. Ultimately, this gaming monster is one Predator that is well worth hunting with.

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