For 2023, the Acer Predator line of gaming laptops has taken a big leap of change. The laptops now use the new conventional 16:10 aspect ratio screens, and to signify that, the numbers in the laptop names correspond to the new screen sizes.
However, there is another major change. The Predator Helios line, previously the entry-level Predator laptop (which means upper-mid-range specs starting at RM5,000+) has now gone upmarket into the high-end premium pricing.
In its place, however, is the new Predator Helios Neo series. This new laptop line now fills the game that the Predator Helios has left. So the Neo is the lesser Helios, relatively. But objectively? It still packs a punch in performance, providing amazing performance without overpaying for more over-the-top features you may not need.
Review Unit Specs
Before we go any further, here are the specs for the Predator Helios 16 Neo for this review:
Acer Predator Helios 16 Neo PHN16-71-77HU
- CPU: Intel Core i7-13700HX
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 (8GB VRAM)
- RAM: 32GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe Gen4 SSD
- Display: 14-inch IPS WQXGA (2560 x 1600) 16:10
- Price: RM6,399
As with most Acer Predator laptops, the Helios 16 Neo feels dense. The chassis feels sturdy and the material used here feels premium.
The chassis has an uncanny similarity with the 2023 Acer Nitro 16, revealed earlier in the year before the Helios 16 Neo. The 2023 Nitro 16 is launched here yet in Malaysia, but from the images available online, I have a feeling that the Nitro 16 and Predator Helios 16 Neo of this year share the same chassis, with the latter sporting a Predator blue trim at the back instead of silver, as well as different lid graphics and badge.
This is the first time I got a hands on a laptop sporting the current 16:10 aspect ratio screens and comparing side-by-side with an old laptop with a regular 16:9 screen, the difference is stark. The 16-inch panel is squarer, and the weight feels more centered, and hence more solid. Easy to carry, too.
I’m comparing it with my daily driver which is a 17.3-inch-sized laptop which explains the size difference, but ergonomically, I see why laptop manufacturers have moved to this latest trend.
The lid has grip yet is easy enough to lift it with only one finger. It can still wobble with excess force like most laptops can be, but the hinge built here is solid- at least when it’s brand new.
One of my favourite things to pick on gaming laptops is its aesthetic choice. Gaming laptops want to be loud and proud and it usually comes out too flashy and gaudy to be lugged around public places. It either makes you look cringe flaunting expensive items like that, or an easy target for unscrupulous folks with sticky fingers.
While the Predator Helios and Triton have smarten up and look more premium by being as subtle as they can with the chassis design, the Helios 16 Neo here is less so. Though it has been restrained a bit. The brutish, angular sculpts that make for the rear edge of the laptop are less prominent compared to the previous Helios 300 laptops it is replacing. There’s no flashy lighting other than the 4-zone RGB keyboard. And for the most part, the only branding you see from its exterior is a shiny, reflective Predator logo.
There are some graphics on the clamshell-the top of the lid- yet in most lighting conditions it’s invisible to the eyes. You need to be at a close distance to really see it, which I find to be a nice compromise.
There isn’t a Predator wordmark, but actually there is. It’s just written in Morse Code.
Acer figured out how to still put cool, gamer aesthetics and compromised with folks who prefer boring, unassuming slabs. I can’t speak for the folks who like the loud gamer aesthetics, but as someone on the side of this, it’s a nice compromise.
As for ports, there are plenty. The power port and two USB Type-C ports are at the back, while the rest are on the sides. The ports at the back are centered, while the side ones are further to the front to make way for the exhaust ports for cooling.
And underneath it all is a massive intake where air is sucked in. You need a riser or a laptop stand to really give these intakes the clearance it needs, I don’t think the little bumps from the raised rubber feet are enough.
So how good is the Predator Helios 16 Neo when it comes to running games? Substantially good, great even. I’m surprised how much of a leap the RTX 4060 is to a two-gens-behind RTX 2060, and how it has delivered more than just high-spec gaming.
Cranking up to Epic Settings in Forza Horizon 5 and Cyberpunk 2077 produced stable framerates that hover around, if not above, 60fps. And every other game with a built-in benchmark, and some recent games from 2023, produced a rather excellent performance. It’s more than playable.
I was expecting the specs here to run at about High settings, and struggle at any tier above that. I was wrong.
It helps that the games I’ve tested include Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling tech, which helps boost up the framerate, and some even have DLSS 3 support with those AI-generated frames which, through my limited testing, looks just fine in motion.
Having 1TB of SSD space as storage is also nice to have. We are now past the point where OEMs have to compromise storage size for a fast SSD. 16GB of RAM is still fine for now.
Games I tested that can maintain 60fps at high settings on the Predator Helios 16 Neo include the following:
- Cities: Skylines
- Civilization VI
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Forza Horizon 5
- Grid Legends
- Hitman 3
- Need For Speed Unbound
- Park Beyond
- Street Fighter 6
- Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
- Wild Hearts
Now, this isn’t top-of-the-line specs, mind. The RT Overdrive setting in Cyberpunk 2077 see the Helios 16 Neo struggle to reach 30fps, let alone 60. But that’s an overkill setting anyways. Games at High and Epic settings with stable framerates above 60fps look good enough for most folks like me. And if you’re looking for that level of performance, this laptop delivers more than enough.
And it is for this level of performance is why you need to pay more than RM5,000 for the privilege. Though the price is above RM6,000, it’s definitely a bit out of reach for most consumers, especially in this current economy.
I can see where the 2023 Nitro 16, which seemingly is wrapped under a similar chassis, can still slot in the market- that’s the one to get if you just need an above-average but still decent gaming laptop to game on High settings.
With the Predator Neo 16, you’re getting even more performance than you really need at High settings. I reckon can last one or two years longer than the usual gaming laptop lifecycle before its specs become outdated. And since we’re in the middle of a new console generation, I don’t think upcoming games would make large leaps in performance demands right now. So the high price might be justified if you’re looking for a long-term daily driver.
Acer’s proprietary CoolBoost fans sure come alive in this packaging. The twin fans are huge, and you can just see how large the air intake slits are underneath the laptop’s chassis, there are enough holes that you can glimpse at those fancy fans that keep the beast of a GPU to a cool and safe operating temperature.
When cranking up the performance to the max, at balance power settings, the laptop surface gets pretty toasty, though thankfully heat is more felt on the bottom right side of the laptop, not on the WASD keys- so your fingers won’t be scalded during long gaming sessions.
But, should you hit the one single button sitting far apart from the keyboard keys where you shift into Turbo, the fans come full speed, and raging. It hovers around -30dB when on full speed, that’s half of the sound meter going green on OBS. It’s a good thing software noise removers do a good job of silencing whirring sounds like that because it can drown out your microphone if left unfiltered. If the old PS4 whirs so loudly you’d think it’s sporting a propeller to fly off, the Predator Neo 16 is whirring up a jet engine for takeoff. It’s that loud.
Thankfully, the fans definitely are doing their job. The surface is noticeably cooler to touch when in Turbo mode, you’re trading that excess heat for noise, essentially. It gives a piece of mind that the fans and cooling system really are doing their job, so you can push the graphics settings to their limits without worrying if it’ll damage its innards.
Is the extra screen space from the switch to 16:10 screens have any benefit to gaming? No, not really. When a game supports it, you just have a teeny bit more vertical space than before. If a game doesn’t support that aspect ratio, you’ll have black bars on the screen. A virtual bezel, if you will.
With the wide adoption of these new displays on almost all the major OEMs, the onus now goes to the games to support 16:10 displays, so this won’t be a big issue in the future. But there are some new releases from big publishers that don’t support it, so you have to cope with the black bars adding a “cinematic experience”. It would have been, but the review unit I had has some blacklight bleeding at the corners which comes off as distracting.
The Helios 16 Neo may look subtle enough to be used in public spaces, but there is one problem: the bootup sound. When you turn it on it has a custom Predator boot sound where it does a loud futuristic whoosh like a jet fighter is priming its engines, which I’m not sure if it can be toggled off.
The battery life allows you to stream a video for 3 hours straight and the AC adapter is chonky. So like most gaming laptops, this one is made to be a semi-desktop where it’ll spend most of its days operating on a desk but allows the flexibility for easy transport should you need to go places. Which comes as no surprise.
This is my first time experiencing a fresh Windows 11 install, and, boy, I am not a fan. There’s a checklist upon checklist that needs unchecking so that it doesn’t scrape off personal data from you. And man, the OS can’t stop insisting you try a free trial of Office, OneDrive and yes, even Game Pass, that’s included on a fresh PC. All in an effort to get you to subscribe to a monthly service.
This is not Acer’s fault, and unless Mac and Linux (via Valve’s SteamOS) step up efforts to support all modern PC games and launchers, any PC gamer should be gaming primarily on Windows. It’s just something we have to deal with it. And that’s the price we pay for having Windows 11 for free.
The Predator Helios may have gone upmarket, but Acer has filled the void with a new challenger. The Predator Helios 16 Neo is now the go-to choice for those looking for a premium gaming laptop for upper-mid-range spec in the RM6000 range.
The Predator Helios 16 Neo is the new Predator Helios that’s just like the old Predator Helios. Good specs, fantastic thermal management, and astoundingly great gaming performance. The price point means that this is for the gamers with money to spend. But for the power it bestows upon you, it’s worth it.
Review unit provided by Acer Malaysia