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Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Review: Tailor Made For 4K Gaming
Last year, we reviewed the Acer Predator Triton 500 SE, which was the most powerful gaming laptop at that time. This time around, the company has sent us the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021), which is also a premium high-end gaming laptop.
I have been testing the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) with the model number PH517-52 for the last few weeks, which retails in India for Rs. 379,999, which makes this an expensive gaming machine, and here is the review of the most powerful gaming laptop from Acer.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Specifications
- CPU: Intel Core i9-11980HK
- Display: 17.3-inch IPS LCD (3840 x 2160) 120Hz
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 (16GB) Up to 165W TGP
- Memory: 32GB DDR4
- Storage: 2TB PCIe Gen4 (1TBx2 in Raid0)
- Battery: 74WHr
- OS: Windows 11
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Design: Made For Cooling
Let's start with the fact that the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) is a pretty heavy machine and weighs at 3.9KG. In fact, this is the first laptop that I have tested over the last few years that weighs as much as four KG. Not just that, the laptop also comes with dual power adapters with 330W of power, which itself weighs over a kilogram (individually).
If you are considering buying the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021), then you should know that this is not a machine that you can easily carry around. However, there is also a positive aspect to this, as it is equipped with the 5th Gen AeroBlade 3D Cooling technology, which keeps the device cool for an extended period.
As per the I/O, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) has everything that one might expect from a laptop of this class, except for the SD card slot. The laptop has dual USB Type-C ports, three USB Type-A ports with up to USB 3.2 Gen2 support, a miniDisplay 1.4 port, a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port, RJ45 Ethernet port, headphone jack, and a microphone jack.
The laptop is also pretty thick and measures 35mm or 3.5cm. Overall, this is a big and bulky gaming laptop and it has been made in such a way to offer better cooling when compared to the rest of the competition. If you are looking for a high-end gaming laptop that you might not want to carry often, then this should not be an issue at all.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Display: Full-Specced 4K 120Hz Panel
When it comes to display, most gaming laptops will either offer high-resolution or high refresh rate panels. The Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) does things a little differently. It not only has a 4K panel, but it also supports up to a 120Hz refresh rate. This is one of the few laptops that offer a display of this caliber.
It does not end there; the display on the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) is a VESA DisplayHDR 1000 certified panel. This means, the panel can offer a peak brightness of 1000nits in HDR mode, which makes this one of the brightest displays on a laptop. Do note that, in normal mode, the brightness will be limited to 480nits, which is still plenty bright when compared to other gaming laptops.
The display also offers 100 percent DCI-P3 color space coverage, making this a great machine for professionals who might edit photos and video on their gaming machine. This is one of the best IPS displays on a laptop, with great dynamic range and brightness, which will be useful while playing games in HDR mode or even while watching movies and web shows.
When it comes to display, I have no complaints here and this is definitely the gaming laptop for those, who value display over all the other things. From watching content to playing games, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021)'s display does it all with flying colors and sets a new benchmark in the gaming laptop display segment.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Trackpad And Keypad
The Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Design unique trackpad and keyboard. The trackpad has a border with blue LED light along with physical right and left keys. The trackpad is pretty good on its own and can be used for normal day-to-day issues without any issue. However, it does feel small, especially when compared to the trackpad on something like the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17.
Coming the keyboard, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) has a full-sized keyboard with MagForce keys & Racing Key, powered by Mechanical MagTek Switches. On top of that, the WASD keys function like an analog joystick, which allows users to slowly increase or decrease the pressure on the keys for precise control.
This keyboard also supports per-key RGB lighting, which is in line with the other premium gaming laptops. The keys offer plenty of travel and are pretty tactile. However, when it comes to the key layout, the company should have stuck to the regular keyboard styling. Here are some of the issues I faced on the keyboard of the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021).
The left shift key is pretty small when compared to most laptops and even the enter key has a weird shape, which also tends to make a lot of typos. This actually affected both the gaming and typing experience. Even after using the laptop for over 10 days, I still could not get adjusted to this new layout. Acer, please use the standardized keyboard laptop on the next iteration of the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021).
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Web Camera And Speaker
The Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) has a 2.1MP web camera, capable of offering 1080p resolution. Anything less than a 1080p web camera on a laptop with 4K resolution would have been really unacceptable, and Acer did a good job. The web camera is great for video conferences and offers better resolution and clarity when compared to most laptops.
Even the speakers on the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) are better than what we find on most laptops, as they are loud clear and offer plenty of bass which does not distort the lows and mids. However, if you are using the laptop in the turbo mode (more on this in the performance segment) then you might have to use a headphone as it gets as loud as 70 decibels.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) CPU And GPU
The Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) is based on the Intel Core i9-11980H, which was the most powerful mobile CPU from Intel, at least until the launch of the Intel Core i9-12900HK just a few days ago. The Intel Core i9-11980HK is an octa-core sixteen-thread processor with a peak clock speed of 5GHz.
The CPU is fabbed using 10 nm SuperFin technology and is power efficient when compared to the 10th Gen Intel Core i9 laptop for mobile. Besides, it offers 24MB of L3 cache and has a peak TDP of 65W. It also comes with Intel UHD Graphics with up to 1.4GHz GPU clock speed.
As per the GPU, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) uses the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 laptop GPU with up to 160W of TGP. The graphics card has 16GB of GDDR6 video memory, which is more than enough even to play games at 4K resolution without. This combination of CPU and GPU makes this one of the most powerful gaming laptops of 2021.
Need Two Power Adapters
Do note that the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) comes with two 330W power adapters, and there is also a rubber gasket to keep the two power adapters together. You need to connect both power adapters to run this laptop in turbo mode, where, the GPU can get up to 165W of TGP while connecting just a single adapter will limit the TGP to 130W.
While you can game and use the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) with just a single laptop, you need to connect both power adapters to use the machine in turbo mode and to unlock the full potential of the laptop.
We did all of our testings in the turbo mode, which gets pretty loud (70 decibels) to get the best performance from this machine. Do note that, there is a dedicated button to enable turbo mode, which is a nice touch.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) CPU Performance
The Intel Core i9-11980HK is a powerful laptop CPU with support for overclocking. On Geekbench 5, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) has posted 1616 points on a single core and 9217 points on a multi-core CPU test. These scores are slightly less than what the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 with the Intel Core i9-11900H has posted, which is a bummer.
Similarly, on the CPU-Z single and multi-thread CPU test, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) scored 620.4 and 5618.2 points, again, these scores are slightly less than that of the Intel Core i9-11900H on the Zephyrus S17.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Cinebench R23 Performance
On Cinebench R23, the laptop scored 1602 points on single-core and 12760 points on multi-core CPU rendering tests. Here, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) outperforms the Zephyrus S17 in the single-core test, while Asus's offering takes a slight lead on the multi-core test.
Given the Intel Core i9-11980HK is a more powerful processor than the Intel Core i9-11900H, we expected a bit more power from the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021). However, despite running these tests in turbo mode, the CPU underperforms in our tests when compared to the competition device with a slightly underpowered CPU.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) GPU Performance
When it comes to graphics or GPU performance, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) gets ahead of the competition. Again, when compared to the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 with the same 16GB RTX 3080 GPU, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) outperforms in every test. On 3DMark, the laptop posted 11687 points.
On the Superposition benchmark, at all the resolutions, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) outperformed the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17. At 1080p high graphics settings, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) scored an average FPS of 110 while the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 just posted an average FPS of 53. Similarly, even at 4K resolution, the Helios 500 (2021) offered an average FPS of 79 on the same Superposition benchmark.
Similarly, on Bright Memory: Infinite RTX test, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) posted 36fps at 4K resolution, 71fps at 2K resolution, and 105fps at 1K or FHD resolution with the ray-tracing quality set to high. Again, at both 1440p and 1080p resolution, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) outperforms the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) Gaming Performance
The Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) is the first gaming laptop that we are testing with a 4K 120Hz display. Hence, we won't be able to compare the performance, at least at 4K resolution. However, we will compare the gaming performance of the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) with the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 at 1440p and 1080p resolution.
Let's begin with the Shadow Of The Tomb Raider at 4K resolution with ray-tracing set to ultra, the laptop posted an average FPS of 63 and the FPS jumped up to 74 when we disabled ray-tracing.
Similarly, on Far Cry 6, we got an average FPS of 63 at 4K resolution with high graphics settings. Lastly, on GTA: V, we got an average FPS of 91 with high graphics settings. It is interesting to see that the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) is capable of handling even the most modern games at 4K resolution without any issue. However, the FPS will be limited to around 60 to 70, especially with the high graphics settings.
Coming to 1440p and 1080p gaming, on laptop outperforms the Zephyrus Z16 at both resolutions. In fact, we got as much as 150fps on GTA: V with 1080p resolution, which is the highest that we have seen on a laptop. Also, note that the performance difference between the 1440p and 1080p is very negligible.
Gaming at 1080p resolution is something that we don't recommend, as scenes look softer. As this laptop is more than capable of handling games at 1440p and 2160p, I don't see a reason why someone would play games on the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) at 1080p resolution.
Verdict: For Hardcore Gamers
The CPU performance of the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021) was slightly lower than the competition. However, the GPU on this laptop with that extra few watts of power make this laptop shine in GPU-intensive tasks like gaming. Hence, this is strictly a gaming machine, who wants nothing but the best when it comes to gaming.
To compliment a powerful GPU, the laptop also comes with a high-resolution, high refresh rate, color-accurate 4K display. Do note that, the model I tested came with a 2TB PCIe Gen4 SSD with 32GB RAM. The Indian retail version actually offers an additional 1TB HDD along with 64GB RAM, which should further improve the performance of the machine.
With the Acer Predator Helios 500 (2021), the company has made a laptop that can offer top-tier gaming performance, which can also sustain it for an extended period. Do note that, all this performance comes at a cost, as the machine is very bulky and that keyboard definitely takes some time for getting used to.