We’ve been waiting for so long for laptops to catch up with desktops when it comes to raw performance and it seems that the time has almost come. Aside from some MSI models equipped with desktop-grade GPUs and ASUS’ – frankly failed – attempt to offer desktop-like experience with the GX700, now comes the Predator 17X – an extreme modification of the normal Predator 17 with super-powerful GTX 980 and unlocked Core i7-6820HK. We do have to note, though, that the ASUS GX800 is a newly announced updated version of the GX700 with two NVIDIA GPUs in SLI configuration so the external cooling pad now makes total sense.
Anyway, back to the Predator 17X, which doesn’t need any fancy external cooling but instead, the laptop incorporates a triple-fan design in order to keep up with the internal temperatures and as you will see in our “Temperatures” section below, the cooling design did an excellent job. Of course, there are a few trade-offs compared to the standard Predator 17 – the 17X is heavier, bulkier and the power supply is like an enormous brick. Still beats the GX700 and your desktop machine, though. But that’s not all! The Predator 17X also offers tons of storage configurations including RAID0 and NVMe support. But the most important thing to consider here is that Acer has kept some notes from reviewers around the world, apparently, because the 17X now sports a built-in G-Sync chip for a smoother gameplay on the 75Hz Full HD (UHD is optional), display.
Acer Predator 17 (G9-791) review: http://goo.gl/OEkkeB
The notebook is expected to come in the following weeks and you can always check here when it comes out: http://amzn.to/1sJ1wsW
- Retail package
- Design and construction
- Disassembly, maintenance, internals and upgrade options
- Display quality
- PWM (Screen flickering)
- Buy our display profiles
- Specs sheet
- Acer Predator 17 X (GX-791) configurations
- CPU – Intel Core i7-6820HK
- GPU – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (8GB GDDR5)
- Gaming tests
The retail package is the same as before – the laptop comes in a big, black, luxurious box containing all the manuals, power cords, AC adapter and DVD with drivers as well.
Design and construction
The overall appearance of the notebook is largely the same as its earlier counterpart – Predator 17. It uses the same design language but small details have been changed in order to suit the new hardware and cooling system. The good thing is that the changes are mostly good but, of course, result in significant increase in weight – from 4.2 kg to 4.55 kg. Not to mention the big power supply that looks like and weighs like a brick. This adds some weight too when carrying around. But its quite understandable given the higher power demands of the GTX 980.
Anyway, the lid is almost identical to the Predator 17 with soft touch matte plastic and a thin 1.8 mm sheet of fiberglass for added rigidness without affecting the weight too much. According to Acer, this blend of polycarbonate and fiberglass should withstand pressure similar to aluminum while being significantly lighter. This is further proved by just trying to bend the lid. It gives in a little but we don’t think it would cause any damage to the LCD screen and it’s quite normal for a 17-inch laptop. Also, hinges appear to be solid and firmly hold the screen. The bottom has been reworked a little – the service lid is somehow smaller and gives room for the extra vent on the front while the subwoofer is reshaped but remains in the same position. No changes on the bottom grills, though.
The sides aren’t revamped as much but the new model does add a few millimeters from 40.64 to 44.95 mm and it’s kind of noticeable. The port distribution is fine as always – DC jack, two USB 3.0, two 3.5 mm audio jacks for external microphone and headset along with the SD card reader can be found on the left while the right side keeps the other two USB 3.0 ports, USB-C 3.1, HDMI, DisplayPort and the RJ-45. That’s what we call a healthy port distribution without sticking all of them on only one side. The back of the notebook keeps the same huge exhaust vents but the front now accommodates the additional third fan as you can see it in the photo below.
Of course, the interior is identical to the Predator 17 with a small detail. The trackpad area gets an LED illumination of its own while the keyboard adopts RGB programmable backlight as well. The other model used dual-zone LED backlight – only red and blue for the NumPad area. However, the overall user experience hasn’t changed – good key spacing, long travel and comfortable key placement of some of the most used controls during gaming. There’s also that dedicated switch to disable the trackpad during gaming and the macros are on your left.
There were some users reporting that the wrist rest area is a bit shallow but we haven’t noticed such an issue. Probably gamers with bigger palms will notice. We would really appreciate if the mouse buttons were slightly bigger, though, so the thumb could reach them easily. ASUS’ ROG G752 and the older G751 generation got that right.
All in all, the Predator 17X offers the same chassis as before but this time around a bit thicker and heavier. If you liked the Predator 17 with its aggressive design language, sturdy chassis, and soft touch finish, you’d probably like the 17X as well. The updated RGB keyboard and touchpad illumination are a nice bonus too.
Disassembly, maintenance, internals and upgrade options
The Predator 17X offers easy access to the most commonly upgraded hardware via the service lid – 2.5-inch drive, M.2 SSDs and RAM chips. However, you can only reach two out of four RAM chip slots. In order to reach the other two, you need to perform a full disassembly and turn around the motherboard.
Storage upgrade options – 2.5-inch HDD, M.2 slot
The notebook holds three M.2 SSD slots and one 2.5-inch drive slot. The SSDs can be configured to work in RAID 0 array or use the latest PCIe NVMe standard. Unlike the Predator 17, the 17X offers two 2280 M.2 slots and an additional 22110, which you can hardly find on the market. It’s just isn’t a very commonly used standard unless it’s a MacBook.
Our unit is equipped with SM951 (MZVPV256HDGL) PCIe NVMe SSD with 256GB capacity and one 2.5-inch HDD with 1TB capacity spinning at 7200 rpm.
|3x M.2 slots||1x Samsung SM951 (MZVPV256HDGL) (2280)||Check price|
|2.5-inch HDD||HGST 1TB @7200 rpm||Check price|
The motherboard holds four RAM slots two of which can be accessed via the service lid. The other two require a full disassembly. It’s compatible with up to 4x 16384MB (64GB) of DDR4-2133 RAM chips.
The battery unit is rated at 88.8Wh with 8 cells.
The Wi-Fi module is located near the right fan (or the left one if you turn it around).
The cooling system is probably the most exciting part of this notebook and for a very good reason too. It uses one fan up front that sucks in cool air, distributes it to the storage M.2 sticks and RAM chips and then drives it through the vapor chamber and the other two fans located at the back. Speaking of which, they are not ordinary fans with the usual propellers. The blades are made of metal and are just 0.1 mm thick making up for 15% better air flow, at least according to Acer.
So the fans combined with the huge vapor chamber in the middle for the GPU do a great job of keeping the internals cool even during extreme conditions.
You can check our dedicated article regarding disassembly and upgrade here: http://laptopmedia.com/highlights/inside-acer-predator-17x-disassembly-internal-photos-and-upgrade-options/
Our unit came with Full HD AH-IPS (1920×1080) panel but you can opt for the higher resolution UHD (3840×2160) version of the machine. Anyway, the unit with the Full HD configuration sports an LG panel with model number LP173WF4-SPF2. It’s an updated version of the LP173WF4-SPF1 panel, which can be found in Lenovo’s Y700 (17-inch) and Y900 as well as in the standard Predator 17 configuration. Specs appear to be similar with a little advantage for the newer SPF2 variant offering 75Hz refresh rate. It’s essential for gaming, especially racing and first person shooters. We also can’t miss mentioning that there’s an SPF3 version as well, but we’ve seen it only on the new ASUS ROG G752 and ASUS N752VX.
You can see our microscope photo below showing that there’s a pixel density of 127 ppi and 0.1995 x 0.1995 mm pixel pitch. It can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 69 cm.
Viewing angles are nice under 45-degree incline.
We were able to record 346 cd/m2 maximum brightness in the middle and 338 cd/m2 as average across the surface. The maximum deviation is just -6% with maximum color temperature 7050K and 6840K as average. Colors will appear slightly colder than displays with optimal white point of 6500K(D65). We’ve also measured the dE2000 (color deviation) compared to the middle of the screen in 9 different areas. The maximum value we got is 1.9 in the bottom right corner, which is a great result considering that the acceptable value is 4.0 and below.
You can see the results with only 36% luminance (145 cd/m2).
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. Starting with the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy. Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that has been used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used by professional cameras, monitors and etc. for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook. Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios and the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s hard to be covered by today’s displays.
You can also see the so-called Michael Pointer (Pointer’s Gamut) gamut representing natural occurring colors perceived by our eyes.
The display is able to cover 90% of all sRGB colors. This is enough for excellent gaming and multimedia experience.
Below you will see practically the same image but with color circles representing the reference colors and white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut before calibration.
The new profile has been set to 140 cd/m2 brightness and 6500K white point. At this point, the contrast ratio is 1100:1 or 1050:1 after calibration.
We’ve also measured how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image. It’s essential when watching movies or playing games. The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings while the right one with our custom profile for gaming and multimedia. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis the luminance of the display. An essential part of the near black scale right next to pitch black, which in this case is 0.1% of 140 cd/m2 or 0.14 cd/m2.
We illustrate the first five levels of the gray (1%-5% white), right after black level, using the five boxes on the image below. Keep in mind that whether you can distinguish them or not strongly depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
Below you can see the results from the accuracy color checker with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. The results are before and after calibration.
Gaming capabilities (Response time)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 21 ms. This result definitely isn’t the best we’ve seen but it’s better than most IPS panels on laptops we’ve tested so far.
PWM (Screen flickering)
As we expected, PWM isn’t present when regulating screen brightness and will suit to users even with sensitive eyes.
The screen quality is perfectly fine for your daily tasks, gaming and multimedia. It has a really bright panel that can be used near a strong light source, it has wide sRGB coverage and high contrast ratio. However, the best part of the LG panel is the fact that it doesn’t use PWM across all brightness levels making it usable by people with sensitive eyes. Also, the refresh rate of the panel is 75Hz holding an edge over some competitors with 60Hz screens. The only laptop we’ve tested with a 75Hz screen up to now is the ASUS ROG G752 and its predecessor. Higher refresh rate usually translates into smoother gameplay as the display supports more frames per second as long as the GPU can handle it. And since we have a GTX 980 on board paired with a G-Sync chip into the panel, the fluent gaming experience is assured. It will be interesting how the 4K version will hold up, though.
Buy our display profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for Acer Predator 17X configurations with 17.3″ LG LP173WF4-SPF2 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) AH-IPS screen, which setups can be found at Amazon: http://amzn.to/28ZT6De
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office work / Web design
If your field is office work or web design, or you just want your monitor's color set to be as accurate as possible for the Internet color space, this profile will prove to be useful.
Gaming or Movie nights
We developed this profile especially for occasions on which you spend a lot of time in front of your monitor with some games or watching movies – it will be easier for you to discern fine nuances in the dark.
This profile reduces the negative impact of pulsation and the blue spectrum, securing your eyes and body. You still get a pitch-perfect color image, albeit slightly warmer.
We’ve got excellent sound quality on our hands with rich and full tones across all frequencies. The added subwoofer at the bottom helps the overall experience as well.
The specs provided below are for the tested model only and may differ from yours
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6820HK (4-core, 2.70 – 3.60 GHz, 8MB cache)|
|RAM||64GB (4x 16384MB) of DDR4-2133|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (8GB GDDR5)|
|HDD/SSD||1TB HDD @7200rpm + 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD (up to three M.2 SSDs with RAID 0 support)|
|Display||17.3-inch – Full HD (1920×1080) IPS, matte|
|Battery||8-cell 88.8Wh (6000 mAh)|
|Thickness||44.95 mm (1.75″)|
|Weight||4.55 kg (10.01 lbs)|
Acer Predator 17 X (GX-791) configurations
The notebook used for the writing of this review is a pre-production sample and came with Windows 10 (64-bit) already installed on the system. If you want to perform a clean install, we suggest downloading the latest drivers from Acer’s official support page.
Along with Windows, the laptop came with pre-installed Predator Sense app. It grants you control over the clock speeds of the CPU and GPU in three different modes – Normal, Faster and Turbo, with the latter taking things to the extreme. You can check the gaming tests and the temperatures sections for more information.
Aside from this, the Predator Sense app simplifies the customization of the macro keys and the RGB LED backlight of the keyboard and touchpad as shown in the screenshots below.
The battery of the machine is the same as the one on the Predator 17 – it’s rated at 88.8Wh with 8 cells. We were expecting somehow similar results but due to the absence of integrated GPU into the CPU, the battery performance fell short. Yes, sure, we are dealing with a gaming powerhouse here, but if the iGPU was present, the results would have been much better. The Predator 17 showed excellent battery runtimes even with a UHD screen and the same goes for the Alienware 17 R3.
All tests were run with the usual settings – Wi-Fi turned on, battery saver switched on and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
Unsatisfying result even for a gaming notebook – 239 minutes (3 hours and 59 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Slightly lower but similar result – 224 minutes (3 hours and 44 minutes). That should be more than enough for a full movie.
We recently started using the built-in F1 2015 benchmark on loop for accurate real-life gaming representation.
It’s quite unlikely that you will start a gaming session without being close to a power source, but it’s good to know that you can play for about two hours – 127 minutes (2 hours and 7 minutes).
CPU – Intel Core i7-6820HK
Intel Core i7-6820HK represents the Skylake H family and it’s considered a high-performance chip with relatively high consumption – 45W TDP, which matches its little sibling i7-6700HQ. The Core i7-6820HK has four cores ticking at 2.7GHz and can go up to 3.6 GHz for one active core, 3.4GHz for two active cores and 3.2 GHz for four active cores. It has 8 MB Intel Smart Cache, which is the other notable difference when compared to 6700HQ (with 6MB Smart Cache). The silicon supports the so-called Hyper-Threading technology that emulates one virtual core for each physical, thus establishing a total of 8 threads.
Furthermore, the chip is manufactured using a 14nm FinFET process and integrates Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU with 24 EU (Executable Units) clocked at 350 – 1050 MHz. The memory controller supports up to 64GB of DDR3 or DDR4 RAM at 1600 or 2133 MHz respectively. The CPU is suitable for heavy applications and gaming.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-6820hk/
Results are from the Cinebench 15 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-6820HK managed to get 14.671 million moves per second. In comparison, one of the most powerful chess computers, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
GPU – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (8GB GDDR5)
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 is a desktop-grade chip, which recently found its way into the notebook market as well. With the developing gaming market, notebooks start to run cooler and can handle more powerful hardware. So the GeForce GTX 980 is not the mobile GTX 980M variant but instead, it utilizes the full potential of the desktop-grade GPU.
The GTX 980 for laptops uses the same GM204 chip and runs at 1126 MHz but can go up to 1216 MHz with a 256-bit bus width, 3500 MHz memory speed and up to 7 Gbps memory bandwidth. The GPU is unlocked for overclocking and manufacturers are providing custom software with the notebooks for easier adjustments on the go. NVIDIA claims that the performance will differ ever so slightly compared to the desktop variant due to the better cooling capabilities of a full-sized desktop machine.
Other notable features such as DirectX 12 support and CUDA cores are present. NVIDIA claims that the GPU draws up to 165W but when overclocked, the GPU can go up to 200W. Given the TDP of the chip, it can find its way only in large 17-inch notebooks with good cooling solutions.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-950m-2gb-ddr3/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
|Tomb Raider (1080p, Low)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Medium)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max @Turbo)|
|375 fps||204 fps||101 fps||111 fps (+9%)|
|F1 2015 (1080p, Low)||F1 2015 (1080p, Medium)||F1 2015 (1080p, Max)||F1 2015 (1080p, Max @Turbo)|
|172 fps||144 fps||100 fps||111 fps (+10%)|
|Thief (1080p, Low)||Thief (1080p, Medium)||Thief (1080p, Max)||Thief (1080p, Max @Turbo)|
|73 fps||71 fps||68 fps||81 fps (+16%)|
|GTA 5 (1080p, Low)||GTA 5 (1080p, Medium)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max @Turbo)|
|156 fps||107 fps||38 fps||41 fps (+7%)|
|Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Low)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Medium)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Max)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Max @Turbo)|
|186 fps||147 fps||93 fps||102 fps (+9%)|
|Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (1080p, Low)||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (1080p, Medium)||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (1080p, Max)||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (1080p, Max @Turbo)|
|263 fps||262 fps||215 fps||253 fps (+15%)|
This test is probably the most interesting one considering the hardware of the notebook. As we discussed earlier, there are a few tricks Acer is using to handle all that heat coming from the GTX 980 and it seems that they do a wonderful job. And while this two-staged test isn’t representing real-life usage, it’s still a good way to determine the reliability of the system in the long run and assess the capabilities of the cooling design. We should also mention that the test was run with Turbo mode switched on.
We start off with 100% CPU load for at least an hour. As you can see in the screenshot below, the chip was running at around 85-95 °C and reaching as high as 97 °C. And while these temperatures seem high, we do have to note that the CPU was able to utilize the maximum clock speeds of 4.0 GHz for a while and then slowly went down to 3.4 GHz, which is still above the maximum operating speed for the Core i7-6820HK with four active cores.
After an hour had passed, we turned on the GPU stress test as well but interestingly enough, the CPU didn’t go any hotter. Instead, it clocked down to 3.0 GHz in order to give enough headroom for the GPU. Since the CPU didn’t go below 2.7 GHz, which is the base frequency of the chip, we can’t consider this as thermal throttling. Moreover, the GPU was rock-solid at 1347 MHz – this is the maximum frequency when overclocked.
The highest measured external temperature was 49.5°C:
The temperature of the GTX 980 didn’t go above 80 °C, which is a very nice result, even after continuous and heavy workload.
Even at these extreme conditions, the laptop performed excellently without any signs of thermal throttling or overheating. And again, it’s quite unlikely that you will reach 100% CPU + 100% GPU load during gaming or other CPU and GPU intensive tasks.
Even after two hours of maximum load, the temperatures on the surface remained low so it won’t affect your gaming experience. Nevertheless, the fans are exceptionally loud when the Turbo mode is turned on but the effectiveness of those fans make up for all that noise.
We were also able to make some thermal shots of the notebook to see which are the hottest areas of the notebook. As expected, the area between the hinges, near the main exhaust vents, gets pretty hot during long hours of usage but it’s still far enough from the user’s hands. We’ve recorded around 49 °C after at least half an hour of 100% CPU and 100% GPU load. We also suggest checking out the timelapse to get a better grasp of how the cooling design handles the heat.
Here is a thermal photo of the laptop’s interior at the end of the test. Drag the slider to view the internals.
The Predator 17X is a much better version of the standard Predator 17 configuration in every way possible. But this, of course, comes at a price… a very big one. While the 17X retains that rigid and subjectively good looking chassis, it’s considerably heavier and bulkier. Still, we can’t miss mentioning the updated keyboard and touchpad RGB LED backlight, which is now programmable to better serve your taste.
However, the Predator 17X offers a desktop-like gaming experience, which other competing notebooks rarely do. It packs an outstanding cooling system that supports the Core i7-6820HK and GTX 980 while utilizing their full potential via overclocking. Unfortunately, there’s one downside in all of this and it can be considered as a big one for some users. The Predator 17X doesn’t have an iGPU (no Intel HD Graphics 530 inside the Core i7-6820HK) so this can mean only one thing – reduced battery life. If you recall, the standard version of the Predator 17 offered more than satisfying battery runtimes with the same 88.8Wh unit.
The upgraded storage options are also a great bonus. You can now fit up to three M.2 SSDs and configure them into a RAID 0 SATA III array. If not, you can use them with the PCIe NVMe controller for faster read/write speeds.
The screen is another great thing about this laptop. It’s a close relative to the ones found in the Lenovo Y900 and ASUS ROG G752 and inherits the 75Hz refresh rate of the latter while maintaining the same picture quality. The G-Sync chip finally makes its way into the Predator as well so no external monitors are needed for you to enjoy smooth gameplay.
The notebook is expected to come in the following weeks and you can always check here when it comes out: http://amzn.to/1sJ1wsW
- Aggressive, cool and rigid chassis
- Updated keyboard and touchpad with better LED backlight but keeps the same ergonomics
- Healthy port distribution with wide range of connectivity options including DisplayPort and USB-C 3.1
- Excellent IPS panel with 75Hz refresh rate + G-Sync support
- No PWM across all brightness levels
- Desktop-grade performance with overclocking capabilities…
- …and good cooling system to support it
- Supports up to three M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs or three M.2 SATA SSDs in RAID 0 array
- Extraordinary bulky and heavy including the charger
- Doesn’t have integrated graphics and thus sub-par battery life