PC gaming is the hardest gaming ecosystem to join since a decent gaming PC, be it a desktop or laptop, can easily run for $2,000 or more. But the Acer Predator Helios 300 laptop disrupts that trend: this $1,199 laptop is fully capable of high-end gaming and VR. If you’re in the market for a gaming laptop but you have a limited budget, you should be excited because, until now, your options have been far more limited.

The Helios 300 is a true-to-form gaming laptop with a 15.6-inch 144Hz screen, GTX 1060 graphics, and an Intel Core i7 chip. Specs like these are usually reserved for laptops in the $2,000 range, yet the Helios 300 offers all of them for a fraction of the usual cost.

While it seems like the Helios 300 is a too-good-to-be-true laptop, it does come with some caveats, namely in design and keyboard quality. But even with those compromises, the Helios 300 is a precursor of a trend in cheaper but still-capable gaming laptops.

 

The Helios 300 reminds me of gaming laptops from two years ago when tasteful styling was unheard of and a gaming laptop that could double as a productivity machine was equally unheard of. I cannot say this design language has aged well — it hasn’t — but the real worth of the Helios 300 is in how well it can play games.

 

A “gaming” laptop, no matter its price, should be able to deliver high-end performance through a decent GPU and CPU and have the bare essentials to take advantage of that performance, such as a high refresh rate screen and reliable cooling. To this point, the Acer Helios 300 delivers a little bit of everything and then some.

The first spec an affordable gaming laptop should focus on is a good screen. Acer used a 144Hz IPS screen on the Helios 300. High refresh rate screens are important in PC gaming because the higher the rate, the smoother your gameplay experience will be. 144Hz is the current standard for high-end desktops and laptops, and it’s a welcome addition to a $1,200 laptop, which are usually equipped with slower, 60Hz screens.

There’s a lot I can say about the Helios 300’s gaming and productivity performance. Prior to the Helios 300, I haven’t tested a sub-$2,000 laptop that can play Rainbow Six: Siege and League of Legends, at a consistent 144 frames per second. Overwatch also runs at ultra settings, but it dips to the 80 fps mark in intense firefights. Destiny 2 also runs comfortably at around 100 fps with settings on ultra.

The gist of it is that you’ll be able to play most current-generation PC games on high (or the highest) settings, well past the 60 fps mark needed for smooth gameplay, and sometimes you’ll even reach the native 144 fps target.

Compared to pricier gaming laptops, the Helios 300 actually fares pretty well. The $2,399 Razer Blade 15 that I reviewed in June got similar frame rates playing the same games. Most other high-end gaming laptops, like the MSI GS65, operate in the same ballpark, with the only major differences between them and the Helios 300 being the thinner and lighter frames.

 

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