In the world of gaming laptops it's one thing to have power, it's quite another to have a unique sales point. The Acer Predator Helios - announced at the company's annual global press conference in New York - definitely goes big on the latter, offering a sliding keyboard mechanism design.

Look at the lead picture above and, sure, the Helios 700 looks kind-of like many other gaming laptops. But tug that keyboard forward and it opens the laptop out, exposing the fans for optimum cooling, while the trackpad drops to an angle making for a comfortable wrist rest. Very cool.

So is it gimmicky or does gaming greatness await? We took a look at Acer's top-end gaming laptop to find out.

Sliding keyboard smarts

  • 'HyperDrift' manual sliding keyboard mechanism transforms laptop
  • MagForce keys offer depth sensitivity (or set to Linear Switches)
  • Full colour backlight, standout WSAD keys

Some might say the sliding keyboard mechanism is a bit of a gimmick, but the physical position the keyboard ends up in feels natural, with great access to all the keys. Part of the reason for this slide-out idea is that the fans are exposed in doing so, meaning cooling is optimised when those 4th Gen dual AeroBlade 3D fans kick in. And if you want more 'normal' day to day use then leave the keyboard in position for standard use.

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The keyboard has a lot more smarts up its sleeve though. The full colour backlight array is present and correct, while the WSAD and arrow keys are marked out from the rest - a gaming favourite. But that's not all: this keyboard features what Acer calls MagForce keys, meaning they are effectively depth sensitive.

That means you can programme keys to respond differently to, say, a 10 per cent depress compared to a 70 per cent press. It's a feature that offers more actuation and more precise results for those who will find this useful for nuances in certain games. A clever idea - although one we think people will need to play around with before it's entirely familiar. We weren't able to sample this at the launch event either, which is a shame, as we'd like to see how it operates in the real world.

Design and connectivity

  • 3x USB, 2x USB-C, 2x 3.5mm, 1x HDMI, 1x Ethernet
  • 430 x 299 x 41.7mm; 4.5kgs
  • 5.1 built-in speaker setup

In terms of design the Helios 700 is predictably massive and heavy - but that's a given for top-end gaming goodness. It's hardly going to be your daily commuter laptop, unless you've got some serious guns to lug around that 4.5kg weight.

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It's very well equipped and robustly designed, with every component looking and feeling the part. There are ports aplenty, too, with a full array of USB, USB-C, dual 3.5mm, Ethernet and HDMI ports to cater for all your needs - whether outing to a second screen, plugging in headsets and peripherals or more.

There's even a 5.1 channel speaker setup built into the machine, with a little port on the underside labelled 'subwoofer' to pack out the low-end audio.

Super screen

  • 17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS display
  • 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms overdrive

As gamers will know, a high refresh-rate screen is a glorious thing for super smooth visuals. Here the Helios 700 opts for a 144Hz panel to deliver the goods. At 300 nits it's not the brightest on the market, nor is its Full HD resolutionas pixel-packed as some 4K offerings elsewhere on the market.

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That said, many gamers won't mind: running games on Ultra settings often means 1080p is the maximum resolution that'll likely be available anyway. But we would like to see a 4K panel at least as an option (even if just for the super rich out there).

Specs: A gaming powerhouse

  • 9th Gen Intel Core i9 processor, up to 64GB RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 / GeForce RTX 2070
  • Dual 4th Gen AeroBlade 3D fans for cooling
  • Up to 1TB SSD and up to 2TB HDD combo

When it comes to specs, the Helios 700 certainly doesn't disappoint either. The one operational device at the New York showcase comes loaded with Intel's 9th Gen Core i9 processor, which is certainly mighty, but then there's more to come. What do we mean? On stage, Intel teased that it'll have 'desktop grade power in notebook form' in the near future - and we believe the locked-down laptops at the event were running on that new hardware.

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Elsewhere the up to 64GB RAM possibility makes for yet more turbo power, while the option for Nvidia's RTX graphics cards means ray-tracing goodness is possible for the best visuals anywhere.

All that'll likely get hot and make the fans whirr double time, but the position of these all around the laptop body is a clever idea to keep over-clocked gaming a possibility.

First Impressions

Overall the Acer Predator Helios 700 is a gaming beast with a lot of clever features up its sleeve. The sliding keyboard is great fun and practical for optimum cooling during gaming sessions, while the MagTouch depth-sensitive keys add yet another unique sales point.

It might be big and expensive, but the Helios 700 looks every bit the gaming great. Given that it starts from £2499 in its lowest spec that's no surprise. It'll launch imminently in the US from $2699, while the EU - where it's priced from €2699 - will have to wait until July, as will the UK.


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