ACER Predator 21 X Review : Half A Million Peso Gaming Machine

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It’s a notebook from our wildest dreams, made manifest

We’ve seen our fair share of ridiculously powerful and expensive gaming notebooks here at Unbox, but Acer’s new Predator 21 X is really one of a kind. It’s the very personification of overkill, something that’s so utterly, ridiculously powerful and expensive that a majority of the population would never ever consider buying.

Despite that, the Predator 21 X is an important milestone for the Taiwanese company, as it serves as a showpiece of their technical mastery. Nothing about it is practical or normal, which is entirely the point – in an age where liquid-cooled notebooks are the norm, a dual GTX 1080, curved 21-inch 2560×1080 resolution gaming notebook with a mechanical keyboard makes people sit up and take notice.

specifications

  • Intel Core i7-7820HK
  • Dual GTX 1080 GPU, 16GB of combined VRAM
  • 32GB of DDR4 RAM, expandable to 64GB
  • 21-inch Quad HD curved Quantum Dot IPS, G-Sync Enabled, 120Hz, Tobii eyetracking tech, 2560 x 1080 resolution
  • 512GB of M.2 SSD storage, 1TB of HDD storage, expandable
  • Full QWERTY mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX Brown switches
  • Dolby Sound system, 6 speakers + subwoofer
  • 4 USB 3.0 ports, 1 Thunderbolt 3 port,  2 DisplayPorts, HDMI port, Ethernet port, SD card reader

It’s the biggest notebook we’ve ever tested

Weighing in at 8 kilos and occupying the same size as a 1-year old baby, the Predator 21 X is a notebook in name only. Any attempts to put this thing in a backpack and take it with you will ruin your back faster than you can say osteoporosis. You’ll maybe move this thing around once in a while when you’re cleaning your desk, maybe take it with you in its swanky Pelican hard case (which costs a pretty penny on its own) to show off during LAN parties but that’s it. It ain’t a portable machine, is what we’re saying.

We wouldn’t even want to move it if it were lighter anyway, thanks to the 21.5-inch curved, 2560×1080 Quantum Dot display. Because of the nature of the curve of the Predator 21 X’s display, the lid doesn’t close completely, which is obviously a problem.

Rattling off the Predator 21 X’s physical dimensions feels patently absurd – the notebook has an overall thickness of 86mm which is around 3.3-inches thick, a width of a high-end mechanical keyboard, and occupies the same desk space as a desktop printer. It’s more akin to a desktop with a screen attached to an actual notebook.

True to form the notebook’s lid has Acer’s Predator logo on it that’s backlit by LEDs, flanked by two additional LED strips. Since the laptop is so large, it can accommodate a number of plugs and connections, which include 4 USB 3.0 ports, 1 Thunderbolt 3 port that also acts as a USB Type-C port, 2 DisplayPort, an HDMI port, Ethernet port, as well as an SD card reader. A 6-speaker audio system with subwoofer is scattered around the chassis of the notebook as well.

On the hinge of the display is a pair of tobii Eye-tracking sensors that can be used to move the mouse in games, as well as on Windows 10. We found it slightly useful at best, as its accuracy varies from person to person. It’s useful in games like ARMA 3,where your avatar can move its head independently from its body using the eye tracker, as well as flight sims like War Thunder. Other than that, it’s one of those gaming peripherals that are cool on paper but leave much to be desired in practice.

The chassis of the notebook is so large that the included, full QWERTY, backlit mechanical keyboard takes up only half of the space available. That mechanical keyboard uses Cherry MX keys with MX Brown switches.

The Predator 21 X’s keyboard feels like heaven to type and game on, and it’s the first time we’ve ever used a gaming notebook’s keys that felt even better than our gaming rig’s mechanical keyboard. Just like any good gaming keyboard, you’re able to change the backlight color as well as the lighting pattern in Acer’s Predator Sense app, which also controls the overclocking function of the notebook (more on this later).

True to the Predator 21 X’s gimmicky nature, Acer has put in a modular numpad that does double duty as the notebook’s touchpad.

The numpad feels out of place with the keyboard however, since it uses the regular scissor-type keys that’s typically found on regular notebooks.

Above the mechanical keyboard sits the power button as well as one of the five fans that keep the notebook cool under full load. That large panel that has Acer’s tagline for the Predator series of notebooks can be removed and allows you to upgrade some of the notebook’s bits, namely storage and RAM.

You can’t expect to make a notebook 3-inches thick and not run into problems with ergonomics, sadly, and while the keyboard itself feels amazing to type on, their increased height will probably give you a wicked case of carpal tunnel syndrome. To help alleviate that Acer throws in a wrist-rest to raise your wrists to the correct height to be able to type on the mechanical keys without ruining your hands.

It’s time to talk about one of the biggest selling points of the Predator 21 X – the display. The 21-inch, WFHD 2560 x 1080 IPS curved display is unique in the market as far as notebooks are concerned, as no other manufacturer has ever put one into a notebook before. Aside from that curved panel and funky 21:9 aspect ratio, the display also has other features built into it, including NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology and an refresh rate of 120Hz.

The display looks great with accurate colors and response times, though we did see light leak at the bottom corners of the bezel when the screen is completely black. It’s a little odd for a notebook of this price to have that flaw, though considering that the unit that we reviewed was an engineering sample, we’re going to overlook that.

There are a few quirks using that ultra-wide display. If you’re watching content on streaming video sites like YouTube, for example, you will see blank spaces on the left and right of the screen, since the content is formatted for 16:9 displays, and not 21:9 aspect ratio that the Predator 21 X has. You can download widgets to make the video stretch the entirety of the screen, but it’s a compromise at best.

Overkill hardware inside the beast

Alright, let’s get to the fun stuff: the components. Because of the Predator 21 X’s size, Acer was able to stuff in the best and latest tech in its gigantic body that would make even top-dog gaming desktops piss their pants. The Predator 21 X packs Intel’s Kaby Lake Core i7 7820HK processor, a quad-core, 8 thread chip that can turbo-boost up to 3.90GHz from its base clock of 2.90GHz. Along with that comes not one, but two NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPUs running in SLI with a combined VRAM of 16GB, 32GB of DDR4 dual-channel memory (with the option to be expanded further to 64GB), a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD drive and a single 2.5-inch, 1TB HDD drive spinning at 7200 rpm.

Because of the size of the notebook you can further augment the RAM and storage of the Predator 21 X via the compartment located right above the keyboard, which is accessible via a tiny hex key. There’s 4 x M.2 slots in there so you can put in more SSD storage in RAID 0 config, and 32GB more memory if you desire. The current configuration is already plenty freaking fast as it is, though if you already bought the Predator 21 X, what’s a couple of thousand pesos more for SSD storage, right?

All that performance requires a lot of power, and the Predator 21 X requires not one, but two gigantic power bricks to work.

The PredatorSense app allows instant overclocking on the fly, though you’ll need to have the notebook plugged in for you to be able to overclock it. From what we can see there’s three presets available for both the CPU and two GPUs – normal, faster and turbo. We couldn’t find a way to overclock the Predator 21 X manually from the app, and for the purposes of this article all of the benchmarks we did were all under the turbo preset.

We tested the Predator 21 X in its native resolution of WFHD (2560 x 1080) during our testing. used three synthetic benchmarks  and a few games. For the synthetic stuff, we used FutureMark’s 3D Mark Fire Strike Ultra and the Time Spy graphics test, as well as Unigine’s Heaven and Valley benchmarks, all in 2560×1080 and all set to the highest quality possible.

For the games, we used EA’s Battlefield 1 in the Ultra preset, Ubisoft’s The Divisionwith the Ultra preset, an early access game Squad set in Ultra, as well as the un-optimized mess that is ARMA 3, also in the ultra preset. All games were run in the notebook’s native resolution.

As expected the Predator 21 X passed all benchmarks with flying colors, with its average frame rates for both the Heaven and Valley benchmarks going above 80 FPS. We did encounter weird minimum frames while running the benchmarks, which can probably be explained by bottlenecks within the machine because of its engineering unit status.

The Predator 21 X also posted excellent frame rates in Battlefield 1, with an average FPS of 100. The notebook does better in Ubisoft’s game The Division, posting an average FPS of 138.

Squad is a hard game even on optimized gaming machines thanks to its early access status, since the game’s code isn’t complete as of yet. Despite this the Predator 21 X still recorded excellent frame rates, with the average FPS hovering around 71 FPS.

While Crysis (and its subsequent sequels) have notoriously been hard on graphics, it’s Bohemia Interactive’s ARMA 3 that regularly makes PCs weep once the graphic options are turned up. While the Predator 21 X’s score’s aren’t that impressive at first glance, the game is notoriously hard on both processors and GPUs.

The 5-fan setup of the notebook keep the GPUs well ventilated, though we did see temperatures get as high as 80 degrees Celsius during benchmarking, with the fan set on auto. Once the fans go full throttle you will hear it, but it’s not going to drown out the sound pumping from the six speaker setup that the notebook has.

Battery life is non-existent

The statement above is pretty self explanatory.

Fine, if you want to be specific, battery life is abysmal, with the notebook going from100% to 0% in a matter of minutes, not hours. There’s no point in battery life anyway, since this gigantic, crazy curved machine probably won’t be moving once it hits your desk because of its sheer size (see first few paragraphs at the start of the article).

Verdict: A gaming notebook for millionaires, trust fund babies and politicians

With a monetary value of a Mitsubishi Mirage, we’re confident in saying that Acer’s Predator 21 X isn’t going to sell well. It’s an incredibly expensive notebook that only afew people will ever realistically consider buying. There’s a heck of a lot of other, more practical things (not just notebooks) that you can buy with the Php 549,999 price tag that it commands.

But selling well isn’t the point of the Predator 21 X. Acer won’t ever admit it obviously, but the monstrous gaming notebook is more of a technological showcase meant to show the world what the company’s gaming line can do. It’s beacon that’s meant to draw attention to the other notebooks in their Predator lineup. It’s also a wake-up call to the other players in the highly competitive gaming notebook segment: Acer’s here, and they’re serious about gaming.

(unbox.ph, https://goo.gl/i1lKBd)

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