We tested a gaming laptop with a Ryzen processor and Radeon RX graphics back in 2017. We are talking about the model ASUS ROG Strix GL702ZC. Since then, an interesting undertaking has not received any development. We see that the mobile gaming market is still dominated by Intel and NVIDIA. Therefore, the Acer Predator Helios 500, based on the 8-core Ryzen 7 2700 processor and the Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics card, can be safely considered a curiosity. It is especially interesting to compare this model with competitors that use a 6-core mobile Intel chip and GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. Which we will now do.
⇡#Specifications, equipment and software
A series of gaming laptops Predator Helios 500 has a large number of various modifications. Under the marking PH517-61, systems based on AMD chips are sold, under the number PH517-51 – based on Intel and NVIDIA processors. The table below shows the parameters of exclusively “red” Acer laptops. All Predator Helios 500 PH517-61 models use Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB graphics.
|Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-61)|
|Display||17.3”, 1920 × 1080, IPS (144Hz, FreeSync)|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 2700 8/16 Cores/Threads 3.2GHz 65W |
AMD Ryzen 5 2600 6/12 Cores/Threads 3.4GHz 65W
|Video card||AMD Radeon RX Vega56 8GB HBM|
|RAM||16GB/32GB DDR4-2400 2ch|
|Install Drives||1 × M.2 in PCI Express x4 3.0 mode |
1 × M.2 in PCI Express x4 3.0 mode and SATA 6 Gb/s
1 × SATA 6Gb/s
|Interfaces||3 × USB 3.1 Type-A |
2 × Thunderbolt 3 (USB 3.1 Type-C)
2 x 3.5mm mini jack
1 x HDMI
1 x Display Port
1 × RJ-45
|Built-in battery||74 Wh|
|External power supply||330W|
|Dimensions||428 × 298 × 39 mm|
|Notebook weight||4 kg|
|Operating system||Windows 10 x64 Home|
|Price||$3500 test model|
The most upgraded version of the Predator has arrived at our office. Together with the Ryzen 7 2700 and Radeon RX Vega 56, the laptop uses 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512 GB SSD and a 2 TB hard drive. With Windows 10 Home preinstalled, this laptop costs an average of $3,500. I note that the version of Predator Helios 500 PH517-51 with Core i7-8750H and GeForce GTX 1070 costs $200 more. The cheapest Predator (with a Ryzen 5 2600, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 1 TB HDD and a pre-installed Linux operating system) is sold in the capital for about $ 2,400.
The Killer E2500 gigabit controller is responsible for the wired network in the laptop, and the Killer Wireless-AC 1555 is responsible for the wireless connection. The new Wi-Fi module supports IEEE 802.11b / g / n / ac standards with a frequency of 2.4 and 5 GHz and maximum up to 1.73 Gbps and Bluetooth 5.0.
Included with the laptop is an external power supply with a capacity of 330 W and weighing about one kilogram.
⇡#Appearance and Input Devices
In 2017, we tested the Predator Helios 300, Acer’s mid-range gaming laptop. The novelty, as you can see, is quite different from this device. Predator Helios 500 looks… more brutal and more powerful, or something. And in some ways it even resembles the “monster” Predator 21 X.
The body of the laptop is made of high quality matte plastic. The screen of the “Predator” received thick frames, and therefore, even against the background of 17-inch gaming models, it looks very, very impressive. This is not the ASUS ROG Strix SCAR II (GL704GM) I talked about at the end of 2018. With a mass of 4 kg (do not forget about the kilogram power supply, which you also have to carry with you), carrying this “baby” in a backpack turns out to be very uncomfortable. True, I am sure that in 99 cases out of 100 such devices are bought to replace the desktop.
So, the thickness of the Predator Helios 500 is 39 mm – almost four centimeters! The lid of the laptop opens about 135 degrees, very tight hinges are used in the design, but there is still a slight backlash – because the screen of the device is quite heavy.
The rear side looks asymmetrical because the left grille for the heated air outlet is larger than the right one.
Video outputs are also located here. In addition to the HDMI connector standard for gaming laptops, DisplayPort is located on the rear panel of the Predator Helios 500.
On the left, the Predator has two Thunderbolt 3 ports combined with USB 3.1 Gen2 C-type, one USB 3.1 Gen1 A-type and RJ-45. On the right are two more USB 3.1 Gen1, a Kensington lock slot and a pair of 3.5 mm jacks for connecting a headset.
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The Predator Helios 500 keyboard has a single-level RGB backlight, which is configured in the PredatorSense app. The WASD block, the “arrows” and the touchpad are additionally highlighted with a blue border. The main keys are quite large (15 × 15 mm) and conveniently located. The only thing I didn’t like was the Tab button – it turned out to be too small. The key travel is short, but physically felt clearly and has a rather loud click for a scissor mechanism. The buttons for additional functions activated via the Fn modifier are well located. Above the main keys there is a block with programmable buttons “1” – “5”. They are configured in PredatorSense.
In my opinion, it is better to work and play at the keyboard with a wrist rest, which was not included in the kit. It’s just that the Predator Helios 500 has a pretty decent thickness, and I’m used to working on the keyboard with a slight slope.
You’ll laugh, but a $3,500 laptop uses a rudimentary HD camera with a vertical refresh rate of 30Hz. But we are talking about a gaming system, and the Predator Helios 500 can be used for streaming. The image quality of this laptop’s camera can only be considered good on a clear sunny day. The rest of the time, the “webcam” gives out a noisy and unsightly picture: it will work for Skype calls, but not for streaming. You will have to spend money on buying a separate camera.
⇡#Internal design and upgrade options
The cooling system of the Predator Helios 500 is built according to a fairly standard scheme. Through the grate on the bottom, two fans suck in air and drive it through two rather large copper radiators. The manufacturer claims that the AeroBlade 3D impellers have a unique blade shape that provides maximum air exchange inside the laptop case. Already heated air leaves the laptop through the rear and side grilles of the case.
In total, the laptop cooler has five heat pipes.
In order to get to them, you need to remove the entire plastic casing. To do this, you need to unscrew a lot of screws – including hidden ones. I did not do this.
Fortunately, the bottom of the laptop is equipped with a removable sunroof. We unscrew one screw and get access to the LITEON CA1-8D512 512 GB solid state drive, hard drive, SO-DIMM slots, battery and Wi-Fi module. We see that the owner of the Predator Helios 500 has the opportunity to install another SSD – the adjacent M.2 2280 slot is empty.
To the left of the SSD are SO-DIMM slots, which can additionally install up to 32 GB of RAM. The already existing 32 GB of RAM are installed on the back of the motherboard. Only CPU-Z for some reason does not detect modules as separate devices. The “brains” in the Predator Helios 500 operate in dual-channel mode at an effective frequency of 2400 MHz with a set of main delays of 15-15-15-35, although the system uses Kingston brackets, which should operate at an effective frequency of 2666 MHz.
In principle, there is no need to upgrade such a Predator Helios 500 assembly for the next few years. Unless the Seagate hard drive can eventually be replaced with another 1-2 TB SSD. Or buy another M.2 drive. That’s when you get a really ultimatum assembly.
Since the laptop has one of the most productive graphics solutions, it makes sense to use only the maximum or close to them graphics quality settings. However, it is interesting to look at the novelty from all sides, so I expanded the list of settings somewhat.
|Games, 1920 × 1080, driver 19.1.2|
|Name||API||Graphics Quality||Full screen anti-aliasing|
|Assassin’s Creed: Origins, built-in benchmark||DirectX 11||Highest Mode||Tall|
|Far Cry 5 built-in benchmark||Maximum quality, HD textures off||TAA|
|The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Novigrad and surroundings||Ultimate Quality Mode, NVIDIA HairWorks enabled, HBAO+||AA|
|GTA V built-in benchmark (last scene)||Max. quality, advanced quality settings – on, image resolution scaling – off, 16 × AF||FXAA + 4 × MSAA|
|Fallout 4, Commonwealth area||Max. quality, high resolution textures, bullet fragments off, HBAO+, 16 × AF||TAA|
|Watch_Dogs 2 Downtown San Francisco and Surroundings||Ultra Mode, High Resolution Textures, HBAO+||2 × MSAA temporal anti-aliasing|
|Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, built-in benchmark||Ultra Mode||SMAA + FXAA|
|Dota 2 match replay||Maximum Quality||On|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider, Soviet base||Max. quality, HBAO+, 16 × AF||SMAA|
|Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, built-in benchmark||Highest Mode||Tall|
|World of Tanks enCore 1.0 benchmark||Ultra Mode||TSSAA HQ|
|Total War: WARHAMMER II built-in benchmark (campaign)||DirectX 12||Max. quality, 16 × AF||4 × MSAA|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider, built-in benchmark||Max. quality||SMAAT2X|
|Battlefield 1 Mission “To the Best”||Ultra Mode||TAA|
|Battlefield V Call of the Motherland||Ultra Mode||TAA|
|Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Utulek Complex||Ultra Mode, 16 × AF||2 × MSAA|
|Sid Meier’s Civilization VI built-in benchmark||Ultra Mode||4 × MSAA|
|Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Mirage map with bots||DirectX 9.0c||Max. quality, 16 × AF||8 × MSAA + FXAA|
Gaming performance was measured using the well-known FRAPS program. With it, we get the rendering time of each frame. Then, using the FRAFS Bench Viewer utility, not only the average FPS is calculated, but also the 99th percentile. The use of the 99th percentile instead of the minimum frames per second is due to the desire to clean up the results from random bursts of performance that were provoked by reasons not directly related to the operation of the main components of the platform.
CPU and memory performance was measured using the following software:
- Corona 1.3. Testing rendering speed using the renderer of the same name. Measures the build speed of the standard BTR scene used to measure performance.
- WinRAR 5.40. Archive a folder of 11 GB with various data in RAR5 format and with the maximum degree of compression.
- Blender 2.79. Determination of the final rendering speed in one of the popular free packages for creating three-dimensional graphics. The duration of building the final model from Blender Cycles Benchmark rev4 is measured.
- x264 FHD Benchmark. Testing the speed of transcoding video to H.264/AVC.
- x265 HD Benchmark. H.265/HEVC video transcoding speed testing.
- CINEBENCH R15. Measuring the performance of photorealistic 3D rendering in the CINEMA 4D animation package, CPU test.
- Fritz 9 Chess Benchmarks. Testing the speed of a popular chess engine.
Display testing is performed using the X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter and the HCFR application.
The laptop battery life is checked in three modes. The first load option – web surfing – involves alternately opening and closing the tabs of the Computeruniverse.ru and Unsplash.com sites with an interval of 30 seconds. This test uses the Google Chrome browser with the “Block data and cookies from third-party sites” and “Do not allow sites to save data” options enabled. In the second mode, x265 (HEVC) video is played in a standard Windows 10 player with the repeat function activated. The third type of load is running the Unigine Heaven benchmark at maximum graphics quality settings in full screen mode. In all three cases, the same display brightness was set to 210 cd/m2.
It is very important that I managed to get structurally similar devices. In games and other applications, the results of the following laptops are considered:
|MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider||17.3”, 1920 × 1080, TN||Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 4/8 cores/threads, 2.8 (3.8) GHz, 45W||16 GB DDR4-2400 Dual Channel||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5||HDD 1TB 7200rpm + 2 × SSD 256GB SATA 6Gb/s||51 Wh|
|MSI GE73 Raider RGB 8RF||17.3”, 1920 × 1080, TN||Intel Core i7-8750H, 6/12 cores/threads, 2.2 (4.1) GHz, 45W||32 GB DDR4-2400 Dual Channel||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5||HDD 1TB 7200rpm + SSD 256GB SATA 6Gb/s||51 Wh|
|Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-61)||17.3”, 1920 × 1080, IPS||AMD Ryzen 7 2700 8/16 Cores/Threads 3.2GHz 65W||32 GB DDR4-2400 Dual Channel||AMD Radeon RX Vega56 8GB HBM||HDD 2TB 5400rpm + SSD 512GB PCI Express x4 3.0||74 Wh|
⇡#Display and sound
The Predator Helios 500 uses a 17.3-inch IPS anti-glare screen. In our case, the AUO329D matrix is installed. And all the “red” Acer models support FreeSync technology with a vertical frequency of 144 Hz.
The screen contrast ratio of the Predator Helios 500 is 1311:1. The minimum white luminosity is 15 cd/m2 and the maximum is 270 cd/m2. This brightness is enough to use the laptop in bright sunny weather and at night.
The color temperature of the AUO329D is slightly “dancing” and is mostly well above the reference mark of 6500 K. The gamma is slightly higher than the reference value of 2.2 and is 2.25. These features of the display affect the color reproduction. So, the average deviation of DeltaE on a gray scale is 17 (maximum – 32). Such a result is no good.
The average score in the ColorChecker24 test was noticeably better and amounted to 6.24 with a maximum deviation of 13.49. Obviously, the screen of the test sample will not satisfy the requirements of professional artists and photographers, but the image quality will be quite enough for gamers.
I did not reveal the presence of PWM in the test sample, that is, the laptop matrix can be safely attributed to the category of Flicker-Free solutions at any brightness level – the eyes will definitely not get tired during games due to the display. The IPS-matrix gives itself away with good viewing angles, but also with the presence of a Glow effect – it is especially pronounced on a black image.
But the sound in the Predator Helios 500 is simply amazing! Here is a good example when the overall body of a laptop allows you to install really good speakers. The Predator, in particular, uses a 2.1 system (with a subwoofer). For a laptop, the volume margin of the speakers is decent. When playing musical compositions, there are no wheezing and other artifacts. Low and high frequencies sound very bright. Unless the middle “falls through” a little – in this regard, the Predator Helios 500 sounds very similar to the Predator 21 X.
⇡#Temperature, frequencies and noise
The hardware of the PH517-61 model is the main feature of the Predator Helios 500. That’s why this laptop came to us. I repeat, we have the right to call such gaming laptops a curiosity. In our case, the desktop version of the 8-core Ryzen 7 2700 processor and Radeon RX Vega 56 8 GB graphics are installed in the laptop. Components are hot, the laptop’s cooling system must work very efficiently.
The hardware in the Predator Helios 500 is installed desktop, only Acer engineers noticeably “cut” the performance of both chips (for obvious reasons, of course). Look, in our review of the Ryzen 7 2700, my colleague Ilya Gavrichenkov clearly showed and clearly explained that the frequency of this chip varies in the range of 3.4-4.1 GHz depending on the load level, as well as on the number of cores used by a particular application. In our case, when using the Prime95 program, the frequency of the Ryzen 7 2700 changed between 3.1-3.3 GHz when all 8 cores were loaded. Yet the Predator chip operates at lower frequencies. The maximum CPU temperature reached 71 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the noise level of the laptop, measured from a distance of ~ 30 cm, was only 37.1 dB.
As you know, any Ryzen chip can be overclocked. So I managed to increase the frequency of all cores of the Ryzen 7 2700 to 3.8 GHz. To do this, in the Ryzen Master program, I had to increase the processor voltage from 1.1 to 1.25 V. In such conditions, the CPU temperature increased to 90 degrees Celsius, but the laptop worked stably. The noise level, however, increased to 47.8 dBA. All in all, I wouldn’t risk running a Predator Helios 500 24/7 with this kind of overclocking.
The most annoying thing is that the laptop’s RAM was not overclocked at all. Games with timings and frequencies did not lead to anything – after each reboot, I received the standard 2400 MHz and the formula 15-15-15-35. It’s a shame, because the use of fast memory along with Ryzen “stones” can increase its performance (including in games) by 15-20%.
Overclocking of the graphics chip in the Predator is also blocked. By default, its frequency is 1301 MHz, but the real frequency in games jumps in the range of 1145-1238 MHz.
As you can see, the laptop’s GPU is also “fixed”, and seriously. For example, the reference desktop Radeon RX Vega 56 chip in Wattman Turbo mode operates at a frequency of 1431-1463 MHz – a noticeable difference, I think. We know that the discrete Radeon RX Vega 56 rivals the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti. The mobile version of the GeForce GTX 1070 is the same GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, since this graphics uses a complete modification of the GP104 processor. Next, I will compare the Predator Helios 500 with the GE73 Raider RGB 8RF and MSI GE73VR Raider RGB 7RF models, which use the GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. MHz, while the MSI GE73VR Raider RGB 7RF ranges from 1683 to 1860 MHz.
In The Witcher, the Predator Helios 500 GPU heated up to 70 degrees Celsius, and the CPU reached 72 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the noise level of the Predator, according to our measurements, was 37 dBA. Honestly, this is one of the quietest gaming laptops I have ever tested – the Predator Helios 500 has an excellent cooling system!
⇡#Performance of the processor, RAM and disk subsystem
The device was tested in two modes: in the nominal mode and after overclocking the Ryzen 7 2700 to 3.8 GHz. The results turned out to be quite interesting.
Ryzen processors are great for graphics processing, video encoding, cryptography, and data archiving. So the 8-core installed in the Predator Helios 500 masterfully “figured out” the Intel chips. Oh, and if the system still used faster RAM! For example, in Blender, the Ryzen 7 2700 is 13% faster than the Core i7-8750H.
Do not forget that the final result in processes such as data archiving, photo processing and video conversion is also affected by the speed of the drive used in the system. The test “Predator” has a good SSD, but at the same time, it is far from being the fastest representative in its class. Thus, the performance of the LITEON CA1-8D512 reaches 2200 MB/s in linear read operations and 1000 MB/s in sequential data writing. It could be better using, for example, Samsung drives.
A slow hard drive is the most unsightly element of a reviewed laptop. The Seagate ST2000LM007 spindle speed is only 5400 rpm. In linear operations, the read and write speed of the hard drive does not exceed 100 MB / s – this is a low figure even among other mechanical storage devices. So it makes sense to use this device only as a “storage room” for files that you do not use constantly.
We figured out the frequencies of the Radeon RX Vega 56 used in the Predator Helios 500. In 3DMark Time Spy, the Acer laptop loses 6% to the MSI GE73 Raider RGB 8RF in the overall standings. Of course, this is due to the fact that the frequency of the Predator GPU is noticeably underestimated relative to the discrete version of the video card.
And yet, the considered version of the Predator is quite suitable for games using Full HD resolution and maximum graphics quality settings. If we consider an indicator of 25 FPS as conditionally comfortable for games, then the Predator Helios 500 passed the “standard” in 18 cases out of 18. If for you a comfortable frame rate is 60 frames and above, then in 12 games you will have to reduce the graphics quality to the parameter “ High” or disable anti-aliasing.
|Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-61)|
|Rated mode||CPU Overclocking|
|AVG FPS||1 % min FPS||AVG FPS||1 % min FPS|
|Assassin’s Creed: Origins, built-in benchmark||49||37||49||39|
|Far Cry 5 built-in benchmark||73||60||75||62|
|The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Novigrad and surroundings||67||54||67||54|
|GTA V built-in benchmark (last scene)||51||35||52||37|
|Fallout 4, Commonwealth area||74||50||74||50|
|Watch_Dogs 2 Downtown San Francisco and Surroundings||52||30||53||33|
|Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, built-in benchmark||38||31||38||31|
|Dota 2 match replay||120||70||134||80|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider, Soviet base||45||35||45||36|
|Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, built-in benchmark||39||31||39||31|
|World of Tanks enCore 1.0 benchmark||97||73||97||73|
|Total War: WARHAMMER II built-in benchmark (campaign)||34||28||34||28|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider, built-in benchmark||59||46||59||46|
|Battlefield 1 Mission “To the Best”||102||68||105||93|
|Battlefield V Call of the Motherland||82||61||83||62|
|Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Utulek Complex||54||41||54||41|
|Sid Meier’s Civilization VI built-in benchmark||79||55||82||56|
|Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Mirage map with bots||286||197||291||205|
The Predator Helios 500 consistently loses to MSI laptops that use the mobile version of the GeForce GTX 1070. Now, if the frequency of the Radeon RX Vega 56 were to increase by 200 megahertz…
Overclocking the CPU to 3.8 GHz for all eight cores, as you can see, had almost no effect on the increase in FPS in games. Only in Dota 2 there is a noticeable increase in frame rate. And in Battlefield V, the minimum FPS increased from 68 to 93 frames.
The Predator Helios 500 has a 74 Wh battery. At a brightness of ~210 cd/m2, the battery only lasted an hour and a half in web surfing mode. When viewing 4K video, the laptop lasted even less. Obviously, a laptop with such endurance is destined to be literally chained to an outlet.
When switched off, the battery charges in approximately two hours.
|Runtime, 210 cd/m2|
|Web (opening tabs in Google Chrome)||1 hour 30 minutes|
|View video (x265, HEVC)||1 hour 20 minutes|
|Games (UNIGINE Heaven, max settings)||52 min|
Acer has a great laptop. What I liked the most was the cooling system – it handles rather hot components and is very quiet at the same time.
Predator Helios 500 is suitable for those who not only play with a laptop, but also work. The fast 8 cores of the Ryzen 7 2700 processor in tasks related to graphics processing, video encoding, cryptography and data archiving turn out to be better than the six cores of the Core i7-8750H. However, in games, models with GeForce GTX 1070 graphics are faster. Alas, the Radeon RX Vega 56 in the PH517-61 model is quite seriously “cut” in frequency. Nevertheless, the laptop is suitable for games in Full HD resolution using the maximum graphics quality settings.
The only thing I didn’t like about the tested model was the quality of the display calibration, it could have been much better.
Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-61) wins the Hardcore award for 8 AMD cores and great cooling!