Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition review: Paint it white

Acer’s Predator Helios 300 Special Edition adds a touch of class to the bang-for-buck $1,100 gaming laptop we fell in love with earlier this year.

The baseline Predator Helios 300 screams “GAMER” with its aggressive red-and-black design and chunky frame. The Special Edition shows what a difference a fresh coat of paint can make. Acer clad this version in white with gold accents, and it’s an absolute head-turner. Literally. My wife wandered into my office and stopped talking to me mid-sentence, snapping her head to drool at the Special Edition when she saw it sitting on a table. She’s been begging to use it, simply to touch it, ever since. It’s a real looker.

This laptop ships with a matching mousepad, mouse, and earbuds, and Acer gave the Special Edition a faster processor and blazing-fast 144Hz display upgrade. But the base black-and-red Predator Helios 300 received the same internal upgrades—and it costs significantly less on the street. At $1,400 on Newegg, can the Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition still be considered an appealing bang-for-buck gaming laptop? Let’s dig in.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition specs, features, and price

acer predator helios 300 special edition lidMelissa Riofrio/IDG

The Special Edition remains largely the same under the hood, delivering plenty of power for 1080p gaming. Here’s what’s inside:

  • CPU: Core i7-8750H
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4/2666
  • Storage: 256GB M.2 SSD
  • Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Display: 15.6-inch 1920×1080 144Hz IPS
  • Ports: 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI, SD card reader, ethernet, headphone jack, lock slot
  • Weight: 5.95 pounds
  • Dimensions: 15.4 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Price: $1,400

Acer crammed a couple of notable improvements into the Special Edition. The laptop got a computing boost courtesy of Intel’s more-core 8th-gen processors: While the Helios 300 we reviewed earlier this year packed a then-flagship Intel Core i7-7700HQ with four cores and eight threads, the Special Edition hums along with a 6-core, 12-thread Core i7-8750H. It’s faster, too, topping out at 4.1GHz turbo speeds.

The 1080p display also received an upgrade, going from 60Hz up to a buttery-smooth 144Hz, though the GeForce GTX 1060 GPU inside won’t be able to push most games anywhere near that fast. If you don’t mind bumping graphics settings from Ultra down to High to gain more speed, it’ll be a welcome upgrade, though, and the IPS display offers wide viewing angles. The Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition’s screen shines brighter than its predecessor, too, rated for up to 300 nits compared to the 230 nits we measured on the standard model.

I wish the keyboard backlighting were brighter, though. And better.

backlit keyboardBrad Chacos/IDG

White backlighting on. If you click to enlarge the image you can see the inconsistency of the backlighting (look at Enter, Backspace, Alt Gr, B, N, and more).

backlit keyboard disabledBrad Chacos/IDG

Ah, it’s much better with the backlighting off completely.

All the keys are white except for WASD, which ship with golden caps. But Acer also decided to use a white backlight on the keyboard, and it’s uneven at that, with the letters on some keys alternating between backlit patches and ugly dark blobs. Unless you’re in a dark room the white-on-white setup proves illegible, frankly, and the keyboard’s much more usable if you disable the backlighting completely. I’ve never had to recommend that for a laptop before. It’s pleasant to use when you can figure out which keys to click, though.

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