The Acer Predator Triton 700: a GTX 1080-equipped laptop, that’s less than 20mm thick and weighs under 2.5kg? It sounds too good to be true, but there’s a heavy price to pay, and some compromises.
The first thing you notice about the Acer Predator Triton 700 is that the keyboard is in the wrong place, and it doesn’t appear to have a trackpad.
Actually, I tell a lie. The first thing you notice about the Acer Predator Triton 700 is that it has the most obnoxious startup sequence imaginable. Remember the PC Specialist Defiance XS, with that cute little glowing die cut machine detailing on the lid, that softly hums into life like a bat signal when you start it up?
Yeah, it’s not quite so subtle an effect as that.
And when I say “not quite so subtle” that’s being generous. It’s downright irritating.
Imagine opening your laptop, hitting the power button, and it screaming at the top of its lungs, “Hey, everyone! Yes, everyone! I’m starting up! I don’t think people on the next street heard me so I’ll say it louder; I’m starting up!” for some reason.
The Predator Triton 700 annoys my wife, it wakes up my cats, and – if Windows 10 performs an update without telling you, as it is wont to do – this thing will just start making its horrible, murderer-bursting-into-the-room-wielding-a-knife-in-a-teen-slasher-movie sound effect, completely unexpected, and at what ever time it feels like it.
We haven’t been this spooked by an unexpected noise from a piece of electronics since a Furby, thought to be long-dormant, started chattering in a slow, drawling voice – caused by low batteries – in the middle of the night. “Peek-a-boo, I see you,” isn’t nearly as cute when taken out of context and whispered at you from the depths of a cupboard while you’re sleeping.
Then there’s the keyboard and trackpad.
The Acer Predator Triton 700, which you’ll see from the full specs below, fits in an impressive calibre of hardware, including a proper mechanical keyboard, a desktop Intel Core i7 processor, and an Nvidia GTX 1080 with Max-Q design. Max-Q is, if you’ve forgotten, Nvidia’s name for the slightly pared back versions of the full fat desktop cards they’re based on, to reduce thermal, power and cooling constraints for use in thin chassis.
And at approximately 19mm, this laptop is very thin. It’s not as thin as a Razer Blade or Gigabyte Aero, or as the aforementioned Defiance XS which is kitted out with a GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, but for the components found within, it’s remarkable.
Unfortunately, as a result of that component set, compromises have been made in the design.
As you can see from the pictures, the keyboard is located on the front edge of the laptop, where you would normally rest your wrists, and there doesn’t appear to be a trackpad. At all. That’s because the hot components need all the cooling help they can get, and having the keyboard – especially a mechanical one, with increased depth and travel – in its traditional position would have encroached on chassis space for cooling, heat pipes, fans and the like.
So the keyboard is in the wrong place, but what of the trackpad? Well you see that piece of tinted glass between the keyboard and the display, which acts as a viewing area onto the RGB-lit fans of the laptop’s interior? That’s also the trackpad. Yes, above the keyboard.
To be fair to Acer, they’re not the only ones making compromises to fit a GTX 1080 Max-Q into a chassis less than 20mm thick. The Asus ROG Zephyrus also features a keyboard in the wrist rest position, but sacrifices the numpad to move the trackpad to the right of the keyboard, so it’s at least in something slightly resembling a normal desk layout (if you’re right-handed). I don’t know which is worse – losing a numpad, or having the trackpad above the keyboard – but in both cases, I’ll plant my flag and say they’re truly terrible solutions to problems entirely of their own making.
Almost as if to acknowledge the issue, however, Acer have included a recessed USB port on the Triton 700, so you can leave a mouse dongle permanently attached without any danger of shearing it off. It’s a clever touch, but again, a neat solution to a problem that has already been over-engineered into the system.
Whether you should be expected to make any compromises in a laptop that will set you back the best part of £3,000? We’ll come to that later.
Elsewhere on the design front, the Predator Triton 700 looks like a gaming device. It’s angular, it’s angry, and it’s illuminated from every orifice; not the ugliest gaming laptop in the world by any stretch, but the overall design is saved by the slightly grown up feel imposed by the slim, lightweight brief. And it is an incredible amount of power fit into a relatively svelte chassis, so you have to give Acer bonus points for their component Tetris skills.
2. Build quality
To say a word in the Predator Triton 700’s favour for a moment, it feels absolutely rock solid. Unlike a couple of other Acer review units we’ve had recently – with a spongy trackpad on a laptop, and a loose hinge on a VR headset – we haven’t found any fault with the device during our testing. And we know it’s been around plenty of other testers before us, because someone looks like they’re tried to feed the cardboard packing through a wood chipper, so it’s a positive sign that it’s holding up so well after what must be continuous abuse.
That being said, we only had the device in for a couple of weeks. Normally we try to road-test devices over longer periods of time – several months, if the PR folk will let us keep them that long – so keep that in mind when we’re saying that we didn’t observe any technical or mechanical faults with the Predator Triton 700.
The chassis feels tough, the hinge seems robust and on the stiff side (which is a good thing), and the mechanical keyboard has plenty of travel without ever feeling bouncy. It’s loud, as laptop keyboards go – like every noise this laptop makes, bordering on antisocial – but it has a satisfying clunk that suggests it will keep going for years.
There’s little comment to make on the mouse, especially, because it doesn’t have any buttons. Reviewers can’t complain of spongy buttons, if there aren’t any buttons to become spongy over extended use.
It is worth pointing out that the Gorilla Glass surface on the trackpad feels very smooth and tough, but the tappable area seems inconsistent from time to time; sometimes you’ll wander over to the extreme edges of the glass and it’ll work fine, but on other occasions, it’ll seem like a dead spot. Multi-finger gestures seem a little less reliable than dedicated trackpads, and right-clicking – by tapping with two fingers together – can be hit or miss at times. Also, the trackpad surface does get rather hot, but we’ll touch on that later.
Here are the full specs for the Acer Predator Triton 700 they sent us through to review.
Acer Predator Triton 700 specs:
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home
- Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz; Quad-core
- Chipset: Intel HM175
- Memory: 16GB DDR4 (32GB maximum)
- Storage: 1TB SSD
- Screen: 15.6″ Full HD (1920×1080) IPS panel (with ComfyView technology)
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB with Max-Q Technology (GTX 1060 also available)
- Connectivity: Killer Wireless-AC 1535 wireless LAN, Bluetooth
- Audio & Video: 1280×720 webcam, Two speakers
- Ports & Connectors: 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 (recessed), 1x USB 3.1 Type-C (Thunderbolt), Network (RJ-45), 1x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort
- Battery: 4-cell 4670 mAh Li-Polymer
- Battery Life: (up to) 5 hours
- Adaptor: 230 W external
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 393 mm x 266 mm x 18.9 mm
- Weight: 2.4 kg (approx.)
There is some variance available in the models of Predator Triton 700 out there, from a machine kitted out with a GTX 1060 and 16GB RAM down as “low” as £2,300, while the review model listed above will retail at a few pennies under three grand. It’s not cheap, however you slice it.
4. Power, cooling, noise
If you thought the startup noise of the Predator Triton 700 was obnoxious, then just wait until you start using the thing in anger. The Core i7 processor and GTX 1080 – even in the lighter, trimmer Max-Q variant – require a huge amount of power in laptop terms, 45 and 150 W respectively.
All of that heat has to go somewhere and – thanks to an advanced system of heat sinks, heat pipes and fans – is forced out of the rear of the laptop at high speed. But smaller, thinner devices mean smaller fans, and smaller fans need to operate at higher frequencies to shift the same volume of air as larger ones. The fans in the Triton 700 kick out a high-pitched whine, somewhere between an electric leaf blower and a small jet turbine.
This cooling system actually does a remarkable job of keeping the Predator Triton 700 relatively cool. Even under the most extreme real-world load scenarios the highest we’ve seen the CPU temperature peak at is 84°C, while the GPU hasn’t been higher than 76°C.
The heat doesn’t all get evacuated out from the rear of the laptop, however. The glass panel, that allows a view into the spinning fans and also doubles as a trackpad, gets unbearably hot while the system is under load. If you’re going to be pushing this system to the limits gaming, you’re more than likely going to be using an external mouse and not even contemplating touching the trackpad, but when you’re benchmarking it’s easy to forget that it gets hot. And it hurts. If it wouldn’t have made a mess to try, we probably could’ve cooked an egg on there.
The Triton 700 also has rather nice speakers, situated on the top of the laptop – rather than underneath, which is the norm – which can produce some fairly convincing stereo surround effects. They’re powerful enough in their own right and great by laptop standards, but over the high-pitched whine of the fans, they’re difficult to hear without cranking them up to the max. You might get good results from them when watching movies or streaming TV, but when you’re gaming, it just makes the whole affair even noisier and, yes, more obnoxious.
Battery life is also not good. Not even a little bit. The stated battery life is up to five hours, according to the specs, but the most we managed – even with power saving turned on and just performing light productivity tasks and web browsing – was between two and three hours. If you’re running anything intensive, like gaming, you might not even trouble an hour.
That’s not unexpected with this combination of components, and probably wouldn’t upset most people in what they want this laptop for – gaming, on mains power – but it’s worth keeping in mind that, even though this is a relatively thin and light laptop for its spec, it won’t turn you into a road warrior.
5. Performance, usability
First up, some real world gaming benchmarks. We don’t perform synthetic benchmarking – you can find that sort of stuff online very easily – but like to include real world gaming figures, because they’re useful at a glance and many of the games make familiar frames of reference.
1080p benchmark data:
- Final Fantasy XV (standard/high preset) – 95 / 70 fps
- Gears of War 4 (ultra preset) – 113 fps
- PUBG (medium settings, ultra draw distance) – average 115 fps in quiet zones / 95 fps in busy zones
- World of Tanks Encore (ultra preset) – 158 fps
This was all done as per our usual testing methodology. For the games with built-in benchmarking tools, we ran the tests five times and calculated the mean average. For PUBG, which is so variable it’s damn-near impossible to benchmark accurately, we played about 20 hours and worked out rough averages based on what we’ve seen during different play conditions in that time.
2160p (4K) benchmark data:
- Final Fantasy XV (light/standard/high preset) – 39 /34 /29 fps
- Gears of War 4 (low/med/high/ultra preset) – 60 / 55 / 49 / 44 fps
- PUBG (medium settings, ultra draw distance) – average 55 fps in quiet zones / 45 fps in busy zones
- World of Tanks Encore (medium/ultra preset) – 131 / 53 fps
There are, of course, some compromises to be made when running any device at 4K. If you want to be running at that resolution, at the highest settings, you’re going to need a desktop machine running something like a full fat GTX 1080 Ti. But for a laptop to be able to reach 44 frames per second at the ultra preset on Gears of War 4, and bob along at around about 30 frames per second on the machine-melting Final Fantasy XV? That’s thoroughly impressive.
The laptop also comes with Acer’s Predator Sense software, which allows you to use built-in overclocking presets to push the GTX 1080 Max-Q to its absolute limit. Full disclosure: we were running on the maximum overclocking preset to achieve those 4K benchmarks on Final Fantasy XV and Gears of War 4. Oddly, however, with the benchmarking cranked up PUBG actually started hitching and stalling, even though the frame rates seemed higher. When we turned the overclocking back off, it ran smoothly and only a couple of frames per second lower than with the GPU overclocked. Your mileage may vary, is the key takeaway here.
At 1080p resolution, however – the laptop’s native display resolution – on its frankly brilliant IPS panel, with a 120Hz refresh rate and Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, the Triton 700 is an absolute beast. It will devour anything you put in front of it, and even notoriously stringent tests like Final Fantasy XV never dipped below 60 frames per second.
The Predator Triton 700 also effectively maxed out the Steam VR performance benchmarks, meaning it’s very capable as a virtual reality machine.
My issue with the Acer Predator Triton 700 has nothing to do with its performance, however. This absolute beast of a machine leaves most other laptops in its wake; certainly anything else in this sort of size and weight category. But I find myself wondering exactly who this laptop is for?
The awkward keyboard position, abysmal trackpad, and disappointing battery life means it doesn’t really work as a portable device. I’ve put in some extended gaming sessions with the Triton 700 on my lap, and ended up with some fairly extreme discomfort in my left wrist as a result. Trying to type for long periods of time is also noticeably uncomfortable, and there’s no way you can use it at all if you don’t have at least a foot spare on your dominant hand’s side to operate with a proper mouse.
You might argue, then, that the Triton 700 isn’t designed for use on your lap at all. If you set this laptop up on your desk, with a decent amount of space for your mouse and enough room to put the keyboard at a comfortable stretch away, then it all feels much better. But if you’re just looking for a desktop PC, you could put together a desktop PC this powerful – or buy something off the shelf – for around half the price.
If for some reason you can’t accommodate a full-sized desktop PC – you’re cable phobic, perhaps? – this might suit, but there are cheaper powerful desktop replacement workstations out there, if you’re not really planning to take it anywhere.
If, however, you’re in that sweet spot of people who need an extremely powerful device and need to take their laptop with them – but have a full desk setup at every destination, and don’t ever intend to use it on the move – then you might just be the target market for the Acer Predator Triton 700.