Acer Helios 700: ludicrously huge, but hey it works

What price performance? The Helios 700 offers cutting edge performance and cool temperatures, but at a cost.

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The Helios is all about extremes, in more ways than one. Not only does it represents Acer’s take on extreme gaming performance, but it also represents Acer’s desire to go over the top with design choices as well.

In its own way, of course. The Helios 700 is unabashedly an understated functional beast if that makes any sense. It has a relatively minimalist design but sprinkled throughout the laptop is a little of that gaming flamboyance to stand it out from the pack.

While it’s not a stylish looker with fancy shell trimmings, it does sport all the classic gaming laptop elements – sharp angular lines, vents aplenty; all of which frame the distinctive Predator logo, which the older folks would naturally associate with the Decepticons from the Transformers franchise.

While the Helios 700 doesn’t exactly transform into something completely different, it does have one party trick to call its own: slide the Hyperdrift keyboard outwards and in one smooth motion you have a palm rest and the keyboard in an ergonomic position for gaming. However, the support offered is minimal, and people who need prefer something more substantial under their wrist would want to prop it up.

But something more important happens when you engage Hyperdrift (hey, it sounds cool to just say it); you essentially send the laptop into overdrive. It’s a cool, intuitive way to turn on the system’s overclocking features, and only exposes the large cooling fans when necessary – because of dust and all that. The panel is also decorated with LED lights to score some flair points when you kick things off. The keyboard keys are individually lit as well and can be individually customised to taste through the Predator Sense app.

The keys themselves are of the springy variety, with about 2 mm of travel. Acer also provides extra keys in metallic blue colour that are not only for aesthetics, they also have a more linear, tactile feel and offers more control when pushing down slowly. They do stand a little taller than the normal keys, so it’s not exactly suitable for typists' work. You could swap the caps every time you play, but I’m not sure that the clips that hold the keys will last the constant changing. So it’s more of the case of having to pick one and going with it. But it’s good that you have options.

The Predator Sense app is pretty intuitive where usage is concerned, though it has to be said that you don’t get much by way of options too. You essentially get different levels of speeds to choose from. I don’t necessarily think it is a bad idea because it’s easy to damage your laptop if you overlook something while having full control.

Outside of that little excursion, the Helios 700 is all business. It’s a massive beast measuring 430 x 299 x 41.7 mm and weighs a metric ton. Sorry, I meant it weighs 4.8kg, but it feels like a ton to me. It is also powered by two massive power bricks, which is perhaps the most controversial thing about this laptop. You can operate the laptop normally with just one power adapter, but you need the second if you wish to overclock the system. Suffice to say that while this is a laptop, it’s not exactly a very mobile device, especially if you expect to have maximum performance out of it. Each power brick and cable weighs 1.5kg so the total weight of your ensemble is essentially 7.8kg. Battery life is understandably a joke given the ridiculous nature of its components – you’d be laughing if you make it past three hours – and it’s more of the case that it’s there so you can move your laptop around without having to shut it down.

By this time, you already should know what you are getting into – this is a very specific laptop for very specific needs.

In terms of available ports and how they are laid out, the Helios 700 is pretty much par for the course. On the left, you have a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet jack accompanied by two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports along with independent microphone and headphone ports. At the back, it’s the two sockets for the power adapters and a DisplayPort. On the right, we have two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports, a dedicated HDMI along with another v3.2 G2 USB-A port. All USB-A ports can be used to charge your devices while the laptop is off.

It’s a reasonably decent array of port options though I’m not sure why the HDMI is located on the right side where your mouse usually is because HDMI cables are typically stiff and not exactly fun to deal with when trying to keep them out of the way.

The display on the Helios is fairly modest. It’s a 17.3" IPS Full-HD panel with a 144Hz refresh rate. It also supports Nvidia’s G-Sync. It’s a bit odd that you have so much power and the screen seems disappointing in return. But I’d imagine this was designed to maximise the living hell out of first-person shooters to strike a balance between smooth, high-frame-rate motion and high texture visuals. To this end, it succeeds for the most part, because pretty much everything runs as smooth as silk here. However, it would have been good if they offered alternative panels for those who don’t mind compromising frame rates (especially if you have excess) for higher resolutions. Likewise, the speakers aren’t exactly great either. They have enough volume but these are cursory at best. But it has to be said that it sounds a lot better for video games than for videos on Youtube.

If the speakers bother you, not to worry – when the fans start to kick in, you won’t be bothered by the speakers. At Extreme settings, it’s just a constant whirr. But remember, it’s trying to cool down an overclocked Intel Core i9-10980H with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super along with 32GB RAM. The good thing is that the laptop never feels warm. The ambient temperature may rise, but your hands never get uncomfortable.

Headphones might just be the way to go when you are gaming though it’s perfectly fine during regular use. While you can set the fans speeds manually, I chose to go auto because it performs slightly better (just an itsy bit) when you push it in extreme mode. But if you want to keep your internal temperatures as low as possible all the time, by all means go ahead.

Like the lights, you control the fan speed through the Predator Sense app. The app is pretty intuitive where usage is concerned, though it has to be said that you don’t get much by way of options too – you essentially get different levels of speeds to choose from. I don’t necessarily think it is a bad idea because it’s easy to damage your laptop if you overlook something while having full control. That said, it would be nice to have a second, advanced mode to choose from.

Combined with modest display settings, the Helios 700 has no problem with the majority, if not all, of video games on the market. Older games like Witcher 3 run seamlessly at maximum settings without problems, while newer, challenging ones like Cyberpunk – the Crysis of modern times – run in maximum settings with ray tracing at…. wait for it, 60 fps thereabouts at least – almost as if the 1080p display was perfect for the purpose of consistently delivering good visuals.

In terms of synthetic benchmarks, PCMark in Helios' Normal mode gives you 5069 points, 3DMark Time Spy 10031, Firestrike Extreme 12007, and Port Royal 6161. In contrast, you get 7116, 10953, 6828, and 13257 points, which is quite a fair bit of difference. Because the cooling system seems to do its job pretty well, I was comfortable enough to set it on maximum overclock (or as much as the default settings allow).

The numbers are pretty good for a high-end gaming laptop, and while you can play demanding video games with ease, they are behind the competition in an equivalent setup equipped with RTX 3080 graphics, so the only consideration is value and whether you can find a Helios at an appropriate price. The most impressive thing about the Helios 700 is that behemoth of a cooling system, which suppresses temperatures like by magic – but at the expense of noise. The ideal scenario here would be to use the laptop in Normal mode most of the time, and when you’re gaming you put on a pair of gaming headphones.

The reality is that it’s hard to recommend the Helios 700 on the basis that equivalent laptops are offering next-generation graphic cards, but if you evaluate based on performance alone this setup is still a top tier performer, so long as the price is right.

  Features - 9/10

  Value Proposition - 5/10

  Performance - 9/10

  Design & Build Quality - 7/10

  Overall - 8/10

  Verdict

This is more high tech arcade cabinet than high tech laptop. It may not have the latest RTX 30 series GPU, but it can still handle anything you can throw it.

Specifications

Price USD$3,500 (PH717-72-93LW)

Operating System Windows 10 Home
CPU Intel Core i9-10980HK 2.40 GHz Octa-core
GPU NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER 8 GB GDDR6
RAM 32GB DDR4 SDRAM
Storage 1 TB HDD, 1TB PCIe SSD

Display 17.3"1080p IPS LCD 144 Hz
Network WiFi 6, 2.5GB Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports DisplayPort, HDMI, 3x USB-A (USB 3.2 Gen 2), 2x USB-C (USB 3.2 Gen 2, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, DisplayPort over USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, USB charging 5 V; 3 A), Microphone Battery 4-cell Li-Ion

Dimensions 430 x 299 x 41.70 mm
Weight 4.8kg

Security Features Firmware Trusted Platform Module (TPM) solution, Kensington Lock Slot, BIOS Passwords

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