Acers Helios 300 is so bad thisyear its almost impressive.Im going to cover the 4 majorproblems that Ive got with thisgaming laptop as well as what youcan do to improve it in this review. My Helios 300 has an 8 coreIntel i7-11800H processor,Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics, 16 gigs ofmemory, and a 15.6 1080p 144Hz screen. Build quality feels alright dueto the metallic lid and interior,though the front edge and corners could feela little sharp if you brush up against them.
Theres some flex to the lid, butits a pretty standard amount and itdoesnt move while typing. Theres somekeyboard flex if youre pushing hard,but again it wasnt actuallya problem during regular use. The laptop alone weighs 2.3kg or 5.1lb, then 3.
1kgor 6.8lb with the 230 watt power brick and cables,it still feels fairly portable and itsnot particularly large or anything,its quite comparable to a lotof other 15 inch gaming laptops. My Helios 300 has a 144Hz screen. The colorgamut is pretty bad, its one of the worstIve ever measured.
Unfortunately theres noMUX switch, so no G-Sync, but it does at leasthave adaptive sync.
Brightness was low too,I always felt like it was too dim. Maxed outat full brightness were looking at around 229nits, ideally I like to see at least 300 here. Theres more bad news, were looking at a 19msaverage grey-to-grey screen response time,so blur city when it comes to fast paced gaming.Its not looking great when compared to others,especially for a 144Hz panel. Even the one inlast years Helios was significantly better,but the panel in use might vary by region.
The slower screen and lack of MUXswitch help result in a slower totalsystem latency compared to others. This isthe total amount of time between a mouseclick and when a gunshot firehappens on the screen in CS:GO.
Basically the screen is justpretty much bad in all regards,and thats the first major problem Ive gotwith this laptop. Competitive gamers willeither want to look elsewhere or take yourchances with the higher tier 1440p option,which Im guessing would probably do a bitbetter than this one because that wouldntbe difficult. So yeah as usual I guess thatsa problem that can be solved with more money.
Backlight bleed didnt look greateither, though I didnt notice thiswhen just using it normally, andresults will vary between laptops. Theres a 720p camera abovethe screen in the middle,but theres no IR for Windows Hello face unlock. This is what the camera and microphonelook and sound like on the Helios 300,this is what it sounds likewhile typing on the keyboard,and this is what it sounds like if I setthe fan to full speed, so its not doingthe best job of isolating my voice overthe fan noise, granted chances are youreprobably not going to be doing hardcore gamingwhile in the middle of a meeting or something.
My keyboard has 4 zones of RGB backlighting,and all keys and secondary functions get lid up.Key brightness can be adjusted between4 levels with the F9 and F10 shortcuts.
I kind of like how the keys feel,theyre not really clicky or mushy,just average keys that are nice to type on. The precision touchpad worked fine,though the right side of mine was alittle loose compared to the left,but this didnt cause any problems. On the left from the back theres a Kensingtonlock, an air exhaust vent, gigabit ethernet,two USB 3.2 gen1 Type-A portsand a 3.5mm audio combo jack.
The right has a Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port,something previous generations of Heliosdid not have, a USB 3.2 gen2 Type-A port,HDMI 2.1 and Mini DisplayPort 1.4 outputs,and theres an air exhaust on this side too. The back just has a power input towards the centerin between two more air exhausts at the corners.
Unfortunately the Type-C port cannot beused to charge the laptop, and althoughit does have DisplayPort support, it connectsto the Intel integrated graphics. Both the MiniDisplayPort and HDMI outputs connect directlyto the RTX 3070 graphics, bypassing optimus,so you can connect an external screen to either toboost gaming performance, and Ill test this too.
Theres nothing on the front, buttheres a sort of groove along the wholeedge that makes it fairly easy to open the lid. The Predator logo on the lid gets litup blue from the screens backlight,so it cannot be controlled. Getting inside requires removing 11Phillips head screws of the same length,and it was relatively easy to pry open using thetools linked in the description below the video.
There appears to be adequate ventilation onthe bottom panel when seeingwhere light shines through. Inside weve got the battery down the front,two M.2 storage slots, Wi-Fi 6 card above theSSD on the left, two memory slots towards themiddle and a 2.5 drive bay next to the battery. Acer does provide the requiredSATA cable and screws in thebox if youre installing a 2.
5 drive. The Wi-Fi performance was aroundthe middle of the results,generally the Intel / Killer options are higherup on the graph compared to MediaTek / RealTek. Based on my recent laptop reviews, normallyId complain about x16 memory here,but Acer has actually used a dual rankx8 stick here, so decent stuff. Theproblem is theres only one stick, so werelimited to single channel out of the box.
This is a configuration that Acer sells in mycountry, so if they want to limit performancethen I guess thats their choice.
Im not sureif the goal is to save some money or what. Seriously, whos selling a 3070 gaminglaptop in 2021 with single channel memory?Come on. This is the second issue thatIve got with this laptop. Ive shownbefore in this dedicated video how much of aperformance boost this simple change can make,but yeah I suppose like the first issue, thescreen, this is another problem that can besolved with more money.
But its reallynot a great user experience if someonebuying this machine has to go out and spendeven more money to get another stick of RAM,and of course this assumes that the customer evenknows what single and dual channel memory are.
Trust me, Im pretty sure techenthusiasts like us understand this,but yeah most people buying an Acer Helios 300will probably have no idea and might never know.Theyll just be missing out on performancethat they could otherwise be enjoying. Ive also tested the Helios witha dual channel memory upgrade toshow the differences in sometests where it makes sense,but assume the default single channel wastested unless dual channel is explicitly stated.
Something else worth noting is that when Iupgraded the RAM in this laptop and powered it on,the screen was just black and it did nothing.
In order to reset the settings and fix this,I had to remove the CMOS battery, whichis found under the laptops battery. The third issue that Ive got with theHelios 300 is the GPU power limit. Whenthis laptop first arrived I updated it to BIOSversion 1.06, which was the latest at the time,and with this version installed I never foundthe RTX 3070 graphics to run above 75 watts,and RTX 3070 graphics are meant to be 80watts as a minimum according to Nvidias spec. So it was running below spec whether or notI was running a GPU only workload or GPU plusCPU workload.
So it seemed like dynamicboost just straight up wasnt working,as the Nvidia control panel didlist the 3070 as up to 110 watts. Fortunately though, the day after this laptoparrived Acer published version 1.07 of the BIOS,so I was able to update to that before doingall the testing.
Now with the newer 1.07 BIOSinstalled I still found 75 watts couldhappen in a CPU plus GPU stress test,but now when running in a GPU only testit was correctly boosting up to 110 watts.
Its kind of weird though, because I was onlyseeing that 75 watt maximum for a short periodof time when initially running the test, and thatwas in the highest turbo mode too. As youll seesoon in the thermal tests, when running long termstress tests it was actually running properly at80 watts. So yeah I dont know, something weirdis going on and it seems like it can run at 75watts sometimes but also up to 110 watts if theCPU is idle, which isnt really something thatsgoing to happen when playing most games. So forthat reason Im saying that this 3070 has a powerlimit range of 75 to 110 watts, but when runningmost games Id say 80 is probably most common.
Acer does note some changes to the GPU in theBIOS changelog.
I mean its not particularlyuseful or detailed, but it sounds like theyveadded some sort of GPU protection, so perhapshigher power limits were causing issues and theyhad to resort to lower limits, Im not sure. I guess I could have tried rollingback to an older BIOS version to seeif higher GPU power limits werepossible, but the way I see it,if this is how Acer want to run their machine inthe latest updates its how Im going to test it. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider thestock result is kind of depressing.Its beaten by even the last genHelios 300 with 90 watt 2070 graphics.Otherwise a number of 3060laptops are ahead of it.
Things really start improving once we make otherchanges, dual channel memory for instance isenough to give us a 20% boost to average FPS.If we instead use an external screen and keepthe stock single channel memory were ableto get a larger 24% boost. If we combineboth the dual channel memory upgrade andexternal screen, were looking at a 28%boost, and despite the lower power limit ofthe GPU, in this game the Helios is now inline with other 3070 machines, and even beatingthe 3080 in the Scar 15 just below it, grantedthat one doesnt have a MUX switch either, soan external screen would further boost that too. Now this is just a one game example,fortunately even the lower powered RTX3070 graphics can perform prettywell with some basic tweaks,but as youll see soon, its a bit ofa different story in GPU heavy games. The two speakers are found underneath onthe left and right sides towards the front.
I thought they sounded average, only minor bassbut they get loud enough without being too loud,though there was some palm rest vibration,and the latencymon results werent too bad.
Speaking of sounds, by defaultit plays this one on boot. Fortunately you can disable this eitherthrough the Predator sense software,the control panel for the laptop, or BIOS. The Predator Sense software also lets you seta custom boot image, I changed it to my logoand this also removed the boot sound, I didntsee an option for customizing the sound too. This years Helios has the samesize 58Wh battery as previous years.
Battery life isnt amazing compared to others,especially AMD Ryzen alternatives whichdominate the top half of the graph.The Helios 300 from last year was about thesame in the YouTube playback test, whilethe older 9th gen model with lower tier specsbut same battery size was able to last longer. Lets check out thermals next. Theresone heatpipe shared between CPU and GPUwith a couple of fans that exhaustout of the left, right and rear. The Acer Predator Sense Software lets uschange between 4 different performance modes,which from lowest to highest are quiet, default,extreme and turbo mode.
Turbo mode automaticallysets the fan to max speed and attempts to applythe following GPU overclock, and outside of thismode we can set the fan to max at any time orindependently change the speed of either fan. Theres a dedicated turbo button abovethe keyboard which lights up when enabled,though with the boosted fan there wontbe any doubt as to whether or not its on.
Now I mentioned that turbo mode attemptsto apply a GPU overclock, and this is thefourth issue that Ive got with this laptop. IfI set turbo mode in the Predator Sense software,it works fine and applies the overclock. Ifthe laptop is powered off and I power it onthen press the turbo button straight away,it sounds like it works.
The power limitsand fan speed both increase, but it doesntactually apply the GPU overclock. The only wayI could get this turbo button to apply the GPUoverclock was to first open the Predator Sensesoftware and then press the turbo button, so Iguess this is just some kind of software bug.
I suppose its not really the end of the worldbecause in most gaming laptops I dont findGPU overclocking to do all that much. But yeahit seems like a bit of a silly thing that hasbeen a feature in Helios laptops going back foryears. As a software issue, unlike some of theother problems I suppose this does at leastmean they can probably fix it in an update.
I guess the main problem that Ive got isthat standalone this isnt really a big deal,but just combined with all the otherproblems theyre starting to add up. I should also note that you cant changethe performance modes on battery power,youre stuck to default mode, and likewisethe turbo button does nothing when on battery. The internals were on the warmerside when just sitting there idle,and as youll hear soon thats with the fansbeing audible. Ive run stress tests with boththe CPU and GPU loaded up to representa worst case, as well as playing anactual game, with the CPU shown by theblue bars and GPU in the green bars.
The GPU in the green bar was thermal throttlingin quiet mode with the stress test running,but its a quieter performance mode, so with lowerfan speed thats not too unexpected.
The CPU getsa little warmer stepping up to default mode, butthe GPU drops back a bit now. Both CPU and GPUget cooler in extreme mode, and then turbo mode iseven cooler as this maxes the fan out, while thecooling pad I test with, linked in the descriptionbelow, was able to further drop temperatures. These are the clock speeds for the same testsjust shown. Both CPU and GPU speeds increasewith higher modes. The CPU doesnt reallychange between extreme and turbo modes,while the GPU continues to increase,likely because of the GPU overclocksthat extreme and turbo modes apply.
Im guessing the cooling pad has thehighest GPU clock speed as NvidiasGPU boost prefers lower temperatures.
We can see the CPU power limit is around 35watts in quiet mode, 45 watts in default mode,then turbo mode boosts it up to 55, not bad, asa lot of other Intel gaming laptops will cap thisat 45 in a combined CPU plus GPU workload. Morepower equals more performance, but also more heat,yet despite this as we saw earlier, in the higherperformance modes I dont think the temperatureswere that bad. Now I was complainingabout a 75 watt GPU power limit earlier,it seems that this is only at the startof my combined CPU and GPU stress test,because in these longer term tests whichare each run for at least half an hour,we can see the 3070 is actually runningstable near 80 watts. There wont really bemuch performance difference with 5 watts in anycase, but as the 3070 can still run below 80 attimes Im saying its range is 75 to 110 watts, butyour mileage may vary depending on bios version.
Heres how CPU only performancelooks in Cinebench R23,so the GPU is now idle. For some reason, thedifferent performance modes didnt changeanything at all here.
Acer must be letting theCPU max out regardless of the performance mode,the four performance modes only affectcombined CPU plus GPU workloads. Its not amazing when compared to other 8core laptops, but its not the worst i7-11800Hat least, though there are a number of othersthat perform better compared to the Helios 300. The performance drops like a brick when running onbattery power.
The multicore score was below someof the 6 core laptops now, and only a little aheadof the quad core in the ASUS TUF Dash F15, ouch. The keyboard area was a littlewarmer compared to others at idle,most laptops are around 30 degrees Celsius inthis test, not much difference though and itwas only a little warm feeling. With the stresstests running its quite warm in the middle now,but the fans are quieter as per the name so thatsa tradeoff. In default mode its much the same,but the fans are louder as its performingbetter too. Extreme mode was noticeably cooler,the middle was still warm but not uncomfortablelike before.
Turbo mode is fairly similar,and I want to note the WASD area was cooland so was the left of the palm rest whereyour hand would be, but the fans are ofcourse louder now, lets have a listen. The fans were still audible whenit was just sitting there doingnothing in quiet mode. Its of courselouder with the stress tests running,and the fan noise gets progressivelylouder as we step up to higher modes,though again there is some level of userfan control available for customizations.
Now lets find out how Acers Helios 300 performsin games and compares against other laptops,and well look at both the stock single channelmemory and the dual channel memory upgrade. Cyberpunk 2077 was tested the same onall laptops, and Ive got the Helios 300highlighted in red.
The lower result is with thestock RAM, while the one a couple of FPS higheris with dual channel memory, so two physicalsticks instead of one. The dual channel memoryseems to make a larger difference inthe 1% lows compared to the averages.In general I think the average FPS differenceis low between them because at high settingsthe GPU is the bottleneck due to its low powerlimit. This is why its near the TUF Dash F15which also has a low power limit 3070, thoughthat one only has a 4 core CPU. The fact is,even with a memory upgrade the 3070 in the Heliosis getting beaten by other RTX 3060 machines.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was testedwith the games benchmark,and the memory difference is a bitlarger here.
Were able to get an 8%boost to average FPS by using two sticks of memoryin dual channel rather than one in single channel,and although the 3070 in the Helios is atleast now more ahead of the quad core F15,its still being beaten by a fewlaptops with lower tier 3060 graphics.Even the 100 watt 3070 in the Omen 15 is doingbetter, and thats not particularly impressive. Its a bit of a different story in Control, thisgame is very GPU bound, so the memory changebasically isnt helping at all here. The dualchannel configuration is actually slightly behind,though realistically were talkinga margin of error difference there.
Again there are a few 3060 laptops that areahead, both because they have higher wattageGPUs despite the GPU being a lower tier, butalso probably because many of them also havea MUX switch and can disable the integratedgraphics for a further boost. Personally,I just think its a bit sad for Acer tosee cheaper 3060 laptops doing better. The differences between single and dual channelmemory will depend on things like the game,resolution and even setting level in thegame.
While we didnt see too much of adifference in these more GPU heavy titles, aswe saw earlier in Shadow of the Tomb Raider,upgrading the memory could give us a20% boost, which is pretty significant. Ive tested the Helios 300 in 14 moregames in the dedicated game benchmark here,so check that out next if you want to see how wellit performs at all setting levels in more titles.
Here are the 3DMark results for those that findthem useful, now for some content creator tests. Adobe Premiere was tested withthe Puget Systems benchmark,and Ive got results again with single channeland dual channel memory highlighted in red,as these workloads are affected bythe change. Were looking at a 28%higher score with the memory upgrade,which was actually giving a great result. Adobe Photoshop typically depends more onCPU performance, and while dual channel wasboosting performance, the difference wasntas big here. Still though, despite the lowerpower limit of the 3070 the memory upgrade putsthe Helios near other higher specced laptops.
DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy,so its no surprise to see higherpower limit GPUs ahead of it, though dualchannel memory could still help it out. Ive also tested SPECviewperf which testsout various professional 3D workloads,and were back to the stocksingle channel RAM here. Intel 11th gen supports PCIe gen 4, and sodoes the 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD, which is whywere seeing excellent read speeds. The writesare far lower in comparison, but not too bad.
The BIOS looks nice and has a few useful options.For some reason the touchpad didnt work in theBIOS, I had to connect a USB mouse, andit has TPM 2.0 support for Windows 11. Linux support was tested by booting an Ubuntu21 live CD. By default the keyboard, touchpad,Wi-Fi, ethernet, speakers and camera allworked.
The volume adjust shortcuts andkey brightness shortcuts work, but thescreen brightness shortcuts did not,and the turbo button doesnt work,it must need software support. Lets discuss pricing and availabilitynext. These will of course change overtime so refer to those linksin the description for updates. At the time of recording, I can only findthe cheaper 3060 model available in the US,and this is around $1370 USD at the moment,though Ive seen it on sale for about $100less on Amazon, which is definitely on thecheaper side for a 3060 based laptop to be fair. The 3070 model Ive tested isabout $3000 AUD in my country,if you remove our tax and convertcurrency thats around $2000 USD,so on the more expensive side for a 3070laptop with this level of performance.
So then, is Acers 2021 Helios 300actually worth considering? Letsrecap both the good and the bad tohelp you decide if its worth it. Personally I just think there are just betterlaptops than this with less negatives for similarmoney in the case of the RTX 3060 model, or lessmoney in the case of the 3070 Ive got here.
The screen in my unit is just objectivelybad. Its got low color gamut, low brightness,backlight bleed, and a slow response time, butthis could vary by region depending on the panel.
Gaming performance was lower compared to otherlaptops with similar specs due to a low GPUpower limit for the 3070, and of coursethe single channel memory. The front edgecould feel sharp at times, battery life isntgreat, and the turbo button seems to be buggedas discussed. Though like GPU power limits,I suppose that could change in an update. There just wasnt a whole lot that I likedabout this laptop. Its got decent ports,but Type-C charging would have been nice tohave.
Otherwise I liked typing on the keyboard,and those are pretty muchthe only positives Ive got.
Its crazy to think how things have changed injust a couple of years, because if I recall in2019 I think I was saying the Helios 300 with1660 Ti was one of the best options available. Are you still able to get this laptop,run games on it and have a good time?Absolutely. Theyll perform well enough andyou might not ever know better, its justthat theres probably better performancefor similar money with an RTX 3060 laptop.
Check out this video next to see how the Helios300 performs in 14 games at all setting levels,or this one next to see how RTX 3070 graphicsare actually meant to perform. Make sure youresubscribed to the channel for future laptopreviews like this one, and come and join me andthe community in Discord and get behind the scenesvideos by supporting the channel on Patreon.