Review of the Acer Predator Helios 18: enormous power in a huge box

Review of the Acer Predator Helios 18: enormous power in a huge box

Massive is the Acer Predator Helios 18. This is not the laptop for you if you’re searching for something portable, thin, and ready to play games on the go. From its eighteen-inch screen to its roughly seven-pound weight, this is a desktop replacement in every sense of the term. Furthermore, the battery life is not going to be sufficient for traveling.

Desktop substitutes do have a role, though. Because of its strong internals, the Acer Predator Helios 18 can compete with the greatest gaming laptops. Even while it costs more than the finest inexpensive gaming laptops, it’s still fair for what you receive, especially when you compare it to a desktop computer that offers a comparable performance level with a faster or sharper display.

Therefore, the Acer Predator Helios 18 might be the beast for you if you’re seeking something that can run games like Cyberpunk 2077 at completely maximum settings, and don’t mind that it’s a little heavy to tote about.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

In light of the circumstances, the Acer Predator Helios 18’s price is quite affordable, even though its base configuration starts at $1,699.99 (about £1,339 / AU$2,576) and goes up to $2,499.99 (roughly £1,968 / AU$3,788) in the US. The review configuration, which is also the most expensive one in the US, maybe a better value while being significantly more expensive. The base setup, which has an Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060, and a 1200p screen with a 165Hz refresh rate, is fairly powerful in and of itself.

Along with double the RAM and a faster, higher-resolution screen that operates at 250 Hz, the enhancements include a Core i9 CPU and 4080 GPU. Given that this laptop has an 18-inch screen, you probably won’t need to use an excellent gaming monitor in addition to it. You’ll likely wind up spending much more if you figure out how much a desktop setup with comparable specifications and a screen with a 250Hz refresh rate would cost.

When compared to other desktop alternatives, the Acer Predator Helios 18 appears to be a great value. Although its 14th-Gen Intel Core i9, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, 4TB SSD, 128GB of RAM (!), and UHD+ 18-inch micro LED screen pleased us when it was first released earlier this year, the MSI Titan 18 HX also starts at $4,999.99 / £4,379.98 / AU$6,999. For most users, the Acer Predator Helios 18 is a far more convenient desktop substitute.

ACER PREDATOR HELIOS 18: DESIGN

    The Acer Predator Helios 18’s all-black design gives it a subdued, gamer-centric appearance. Fingerprints indeed tend to show up on the matte-black finish, especially on the lid. That’s probably not a big deal, though, if you’re thinking about buying this laptop. When it comes to size, the Acer Predator Helios 18 is enormous. It will take up a lot of desk space at 15.9 x 12.3 x 1.14 inches (404 x 312 x 29 mm) and 3.16 kilogram (6.97 lbs). It should come as no surprise given that this is essentially a gaming computer’s desktop replacement—especially given that it has an 18-inch display.

    In terms of the display, the 2560 x 1600p WQXGA resolution is quite sharp, and the 250Hz refresh rate will make all of your games appear fluid. Its 3 ms response time will differ slightly from fast refresh displays designed for professional gaming, which usually have a 1 ms response time. But if you’re ready to spend a lot of money, this panel offers one advantage over most fast monitors: HDR. The highest VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certification I’ve seen for a laptop is on it.

    There are many ports available, including USB-C connections that support Thunderbolt 4 and an HDMI 2.1 port. In addition, there is a mic/headphone combo jack, three USB-A connections, an Ethernet port, and a microSD card reader. Owing to its ample area, the Acer Predator Helios 18 boasts a full-sized keyboard that includes a numeric keypad. Even a button specifically for switching between power modes is present. The keyboard is positioned a little further back on the chassis, which can feel a little strange if you don’t keep it exactly on the edge of your desk. Other than that, typing is an excellent experience. If nothing else, it has the impressive RGB backlighting that you would expect from a high-end gaming laptop.

    PERFORMANCE

    The past few laptop reviews I’ve written have focused on the exceptional performance of gaming laptops equipped with Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 graphics cards. Although there are certain drawbacks, having improved lighting physics in a game because of Ray Tracing is not very critical to the experience.

    The Acer Predator Helios 18’s internals, however, can easily handle them if you care about having the best possible experience. Any hard game, like Hogwarts Legacy, Cyberpunk 2077 with the most recent upgrades, or Starfield, I could max out the settings, including ray tracing, and have very few problems.

    Naturally, a 4090 will still outperform a 4080 in terms of performance. The average frame rate while Cyberpunk 2077 is run on “Ray Tracing: Overdrive” at the native resolution of 2560 x 1600p @ 250Hz on the Acer Predator Helios 18 is only 38.81. Even if it’s not the smoothest, the combination of the resolution, refresh rate, graphics settings, Ray Tracing settings, and fully enabled HDR makes it still really remarkable. You can achieve remarkably smooth results by slightly reducing some of those parameters. When Cyberpunk 2077 is run at 1080p with Ultra settings, the FPS score for our regular benchmarks is 108.22.

    If those results are still insufficient, you will need to invest money in a gaming laptop with a 4090 or a desktop with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 (desktop results will still surpass laptop ones with identical internals).

    Crucially, the laptop’s thermal efficiency allows me to feel very little heat when gaming in the vicinity of the rear. Thus, the Acer Predator Helios 18 maintains its composure even while under strain.

    No laptop can match the quality of sound produced by a good set of speakers or headphones, such as the Kanto Ora speakers I still have installed. Even yet, the sound quality is sufficient to make you noticeably miss merely a little rumbling when playing without the use of external audio devices.

    BATTERY LIFE

    The Acer Predator Helios 18 is a powerful gaming laptop with an Intel Core i9, 32GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080, so it should come as no surprise that its battery life isn’t that long. Though the laptop switches to integrated graphics when not performing graphically demanding work, the fact that it lasts for slightly under five hours on the web browsing benchmark is quite high. Although it’s simpler to carry than a desktop, it’s obvious that this gaming laptop is meant to be a desktop replacement given its PCMark 10 battery life of just under two hours. You shouldn’t plan on using this laptop unplugged for very long.

    CONCLUSION

    During my month-long use of the Acer Predator Helios 18, I played a lot of taxing games, including Cyberpunk 2077, Battlefield 2042, Hogwarts Legacy, and Starfield. I did this by running the games at different settings, especially at the highest ones that enabled HDR and ray tracing wherever possible, and noting the outcomes. I also checked the laptop’s keyboard, trackpad, webcam, and speakers, among other components.

    It’s evident from using the Acer Predator Helios 18 for a while that its intended use is as a desktop replacement, capable of doing almost anything a gamer might ask of it. I’ve been reviewing tech products for gaming and other purposes for the past few years, so I’ve developed a sense of what to look for and how to test-drive a product to determine if it’s worth the recommendation.

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