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Home News Acer Predator Triton 300 SE hands-on review: Gaming laptops are growing up

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE hands-on review: Gaming laptops are growing up

The Triton 300 SE is not a Predator laptop I thought I’d ever see. If I wasn’t holding it in my own hands, I wouldn’t have believed it could exist. The Predator brand is most known for its bulky, unashamedly nerdy vibe — the kind of laptop that says “I’m a PC gamer, and I want the world to know.”

There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but it’s not for everyone. As PC gaming continues to expand beyond only that hardcore enthusiast crowd, there’s an opportunity to sell gaming gear with a bit more finesse. A more subdued aesthetic. It’s the trend companies like Razer and MSI have been chasing, and at CES 2021, Acer finally has its own laptop to add to the mix.

It’s more than just a new look, though. Thanks to the unique size and performance capability, the Predator Triton 300 SE might just represent the future of gaming laptops.

Design

From its front, you might mistake the Predator Triton 300 SE for one of Acer’s mainstream Aspire laptops. It’s silver instead of black or dark blue, and the usually huge Predator logo has been reduced to a small badge in the corner. Noticeably, nothing lights up or glows.

Along the rear, there are still some thermal vents, but they’re no longer painted red or blue. They’re there for cooling purposes, but now it seems Acer would rather you didn’t notice them.

Once open, you’ll find a few more familiar elements to the Predator brand. The keyboard bears some resemblance to what you find on Helios or Triton gaming laptops, as does the hinge, which leaves a gap between the screen and the keyboard.

I would have preferred Acer to do something new with the keyboard as a whole — whether that’s a new font, larger keycaps, or even a more tactile feel to the keys. They’re a little squishy for my tastes.

Fortunately, the touchpad is quite good, which isn’t usually a priority for gaming laptops. But on a laptop like the Triton 300 SE, where gaming is not the only use case, nailing the inputs is essential.

Importantly, the keys do still light up in RGB goodness. It’s three-zone backlighting rather than per-key. There’s also no backlighting control — just on or off.

Portability

The Predator Triton 300 SE is a strange bird beyond just its chassis. With a 14-inch screen, it’s part of an entirely new class of gaming laptop. It’s not the first, however. The 14-inch gaming laptop category was spearheaded last year by the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, an AMD-powered laptop that squeezed a powerful Ryzen processor into a much smaller laptop than anything I’d ever seen.

It’s not quite as light as the Zephyrus G14 though, which weighs 3.5 pounds. The Triton 300 SE is 3.75 pounds, by comparison. But remember, even a thin and light laptop like the Razer Blade 15 is almost a pound heavier at 4.65 pounds. The difference is definitely noticeable, which is what makes this new breed of laptops so special.

These bezels are a bit heftier than I’d like to see, especially along the bottom border of the screen. It’s nothing too egregious though.

Performance

As a first-look, I wasn’t able to do any performance testing on the Predator Triton 300 SE. The components inside, though, make me thrilled to eventually get to. It comes powered by an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, the latest generation of graphics, just announced at CES. While it’s not the most powerful of the 30-series generation, the fact that Acer could squeeze it into a laptop this thin is promising.

Strangely, the desktop version of the RTX 3060 still has not been released. Nvidia chose to first put out the RTX 3060 Ti, a $399 graphics card that’s perfect for high refresh rate 1080p gaming. The RTX 2060 sat in a similar position to the previous generation, though if Nvidia’s promises hold true, the RTX 3060 should prove to be much more capable.

Its only real downside is its 6GB of VRAM, which is down from the 8GB available on the RTX 3060 Ti card. But that shouldn’t stop the Triton 300 SE from some serious gaming chops.

Despite its size, the ROG Zephyrus G14 proved that a laptop of this stature didn’t have to make any sacrifices to gaming performance. It easily handled games like Civilization VI, Fortnite, and Battlefield V at Ultra settings at over 60 frames per second. You had to pull the graphics down a bit to fully use its 144Hz screen, but it left me seriously impressed.

Looking at last year’s Zephyrus G14 as a baseline, there’s plenty of potential for the Triton 300 SE to handle most games at closer to 144Hz at max settings. Now, that might change if you flip on ray tracing in a title like Cyberpunk 2077, but my hopes are high for what the RTX 3060 can do in the Triton 300 SE.

But that’s not all. The Triton 300 SE includes another highly-anticipated PC component: Intel’s 11th-gen H-series processors. Finally, we’re getting Intel’s 10nm Tiger Lake chips in a gaming laptop, and the performance improvements should be meaningful. This unit came with the Core i7-11370H, which has four cores and a base clock speed of 3.3GHz. But unlike standard H-series chips, this is a 35-watt processor — the first of its kind for Intel. But it’s perfect for a 14-inch gaming laptop like this one. A 35-watt chip offers lots of interesting opportunities for laptop manufacturers to do something beyond your standard 15-inch laptops.

It’s certainly true that the Ryzen 5000 or even last year’s Ryzen 4000 chips have better multi-core performance. But when it comes to gaming, I think there’s still a lot of potential here with what Intel, Nvidia, and Acer have put together.

Ports

The Triton 300 SE offers a pretty complete set of ports. On the left side, you’ll find a headphone jack, a USB-A port, a barrel power plug, and a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port. The USB-C port can be used for charging, though the barrel plug will charge the laptop faster.

On the right side, you’ll find an additional USB-A port, an HDMI connection, and a headphone jack.

Price and availability

The Predator Triton 300 SE will be available some time starting in March. The configuration I looked at cost $1,400, and for now, it’s the only option Acer will be selling at launch. It comes with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Acer says more powerful configurations could be launched in the future, however.

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