Test: Acer Predator Helios 500 – maxed-out laptop with eight-core AMD processor
Tested product: Acer Predator Helios 500 PH517-61
Award: SEK 21,990 at Proshop.
The Acer Predator Helios 500 is a beefy portable PC to say the least, which is mainly intended to appeal to gaming enthusiasts. It’s a 17-inch thing that weighs four kilograms and is almost four centimeters thick. It has a typical gaming design with a backlit keyboard that can be set to any color in four zones, and substantial cooling holes on the sides and back.
If we open the lid, we are greeted by a matte screen surface, large comfortable surfaces to rest the wrists on, a solid mouse pad with good control, and a really comfortable keyboard. That means we actually think it’s a computer for more than just hardcore gamers.
High frequency screen
The screen has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, and is built on ips technology. Apart from a small blue tint in dark surfaces, the color balance and contrast are convincing, and it is suitable for games, movies and desk work.
Above all, it has a 144 Hz refresh rate, which provides an extra smooth and pleasant experience in fast-paced games, but high frame rate also enhances the experience in other tasks. The screen has good response times, although not remarkably short. It also supports Radeon Freesync, a technology that counteracts so-called screen tearing in games.
The screen has a little too low maximum brightness to be used outdoors, or even with a large window behind it if it’s too bright outside. It is stated by Acer to deliver 300 cd/m2, but we experience it as a little weaker than that.
The sound is also somewhat of a disappointment. We had hoped for more volume and more thrust in the bass from its built-in speakers. Now we get detailless midrange and treble, and not so much bass at all. This can usually be due to over-ambitious surround, but we find no possibilities to adjust the sound image.
The computer is available in versions with an Intel processor and Nvidia graphics – but we have tested that many times before. Therefore, we choose here to look at Acer’s second variant of the Predator Helios 500, with AMD Ryzen processor and Radeon Vega graphics.
In test data numbers, the most powerful is the Radeon 7 2700, with as many as eight high-clocked processor cores and hyperthreading technology that enables up to 16 parallel processes. This is thus the desktop version of the processor and should not be confused with the much more modest 2700U. Performance is on par with a six-core Intel Core i7 desktop model, but the new Intel Core i9 processors are still a step ahead. But also much more expensive.
The graphics card is a Radeon RX Vega 56, also called Vega 10 XL Mobile, with 8 gigabytes of graphics memory. Unfortunately, there seems to be confusion among computer stores, with several listing it as having Radeon Vega 10 cards, which is a much more modest graphics chip.
It performs roughly on par with a Geforce GTX 2070, and we get stable and high frame rates in most games we test. 4k gaming is a little beyond its capabilities, but if we plug in an external display port screen, and turn down some effects, it can deliver a steady 30 frames per second in many new games.
Fast storage, we think?
In addition to the processor and graphics card, we get 16 GB of ddr4-type ram memory, which can be expanded to a full 64 GB, and a 512 GB ssd. Our test computer unfortunately differs from the models sold in Sweden on this point. We have a 256 GB ssd and a 2 TB separate mechanical hard drive instead. Therefore, we have not been able to do a speed test of the right ssd and report results on it. But it should be an ssd of the same type, and the disk we have is convincingly fast, so that bodes well.
The computer has no battery life to speak of – we get a working time of between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on what we are doing. But there is never a good battery life in this type of computer, but the battery should mostly be seen as a temporary power source if you need to change the power outlet. In addition to four kilos of laptop, you need to pack a kilo of beefy AC adapter if you are going to travel with it.
Considering its heavy performance, the computer is relatively quiet in operation. It pumps a lot of air, and it can get hot right back, but with large fans and smart design, the tone of the fan sounds never becomes hissing and shrill.
Specs, reviews and ratings
Unnecessary programs, moderate with bloatware
The computer comes with Windows 10 Home and a bunch of extra programs. Few of these are pure bloatware, really it’s just Netflix and trial version of Norton Security that we could have done without. More add-ons are offered under the Acer Collection portal, but are not pre-installed.
We also get Cyberlink Photo Director and PowerDirector in full version, and 20 GB of Dropbox for a year with the purchase. Then we have the Predator Sense app for controlling the backlight, fans, and a bunch of extra function keys in the keyboard, as well as a couple more useful if not absolutely necessary apps for computer maintenance.
We have to pay around SEK 22,000 for a monster machine like this, so it’s not an investment for everyone. But if you want a portable and solid PC for both games and work, it is a really good option. In any case, Ryzen 7 lives up to expectations and looks to be a solid challenger to Intel processors with good price value. If it weren’t for the underperforming speakers, we would have been completely satisfied. It’s functional without being flimsy and has performance where it’s needed.
Facts Acer Predator Helios 500 PH517-61 (NH.Q3GED.017)
Tested: March 2019
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 2700, 3.2 GHz octa core
Graphics: Radeon RX Vega 56, 8GB
Memory: 16 GB ddr4
Storage: 512 GB ssd
Screen: 17.3 inch matte ips, 1920×1080 pixels, 144 Hz, Freesync
Connections: 2 usb 3.1 gen 2 type c, 3 usb 3.0, lan, display port, hdmi, earphone, microphone
Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (wifi 1-5), bluetooth 5.0
Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Miscellaneous: 20 GB Dropbox for one year
Battery life: 45 min (high load), 2h 10 min (low load)
Sound level: 33-40 dBa
Size: 42.8 x 29.8 x 3.9 cm
Weight: 4 kg
Rec. Award: SEK 22,000.
Award: SEK 21,990 at Proshop.
Cinebench R20, cpu: 3,341 points
Geekbench 4, cpu: 21,830 points
Geekbench 4, gpu (OpenCL): 165,079 points
3dmark Fire Strike (DirectX 11): 13,277 points
3dmark Time Spy (DirectX 12): 5,676 points
3D mark: 7,826 points
High frequency Freesync screen.
Excellent comfort in mouse and keyboard.
Relatively quiet in operation.
Thick and heavy.
Sharper graphics options are available.