You’ve probably heard about the Acer Predator 21X that was announced way back during IFA 2016 in Berlin but since then, the company has kept the curtains closed around this ambitious project. Until this year’s CES when the OEM announced that it will start shipping its first units sometime during Q1 of 2017. Luckily, we had the chance to snatch one of the early samples for a review, but unfortunately, the expected performance wasn’t reached when we tested the device. But judging by its cooling performance, it’s safe to say that it won’t fall too far behind a full-sized desktop machine integrating two GTX 1080 in SLI mode and a Kaby Lake quad-core processor.
However, we did our extensive display tests, we had the chance to test it out with some of the modern games, to tear it apart and see what makes it tick and also play around with the cool Tobii Eye Tracking technology, which is one of the main key selling points of the product along with a fast 120Hz 21-inch curved IPS display. But in the end, the Predator 21X is just a Bugatti in the world of laptops – an extremely expensive piece of machinery ($9 000), absurdly powerful, feature-packed and exotic. We also don’t expect Acer making a lot of money on this laptop since it won’t go into mass production and can only be ordered through your local retailer. Again, just like Bugatti Veyron is to Volkswagen.
The Predator 21X isn’t available yet, but you can regularly check here if it comes out: http://amzn.to/2kXcxWZ
Our testing unit came in a huge box containing only the unit itself and two huge charging bricks. Yes, you read that right, not one but two AC adapters each weighing 1.250 kg. To put things in perspective, the two bricks put together weigh as much as one 15-inch gaming laptop. Even more than some.
Design and construction
In order to house all this impressive hardware and a 21-inch curved IPS display, it’s obvious that you will have to make a big compromise in terms of mobility. However, the Predator 21X takes it to the extreme. For instance, the profile measures at around 61 mm on the sides (in some areas less and in some even thicker) while the screen curve bumps up the size in the middle up to 86 mm. In addition, it weighs is just around how much a desktop configuration would – 9 kg.
As expected, the weight of this beast is compensated with extremely robust construction. The lid is covered in some kind of anodized thick aluminum plate and it’s not so easily bendable, despite its curved nature. Heck, the display itself is around 16 mm thick. In comparison, the XPS 13, for example, is slightly thinner than that. Anyway, along with the cool metal finish, you will find an illuminated Predator logo in the middle along with two LED-illuminated strips on the sides – typically in Predator style. Of course, the base is so heavy that opening the laptop with one hand is quite possible, although the hinges feel really tight. But perhaps extreme measures had to be taken in order to eliminate any chance of wobbling. Whereas the bottom piece is made of really high-quality plastic imitating anodized aluminum. You can see all the vents for the extra airflow, the main service lid and the subwoofer opening.
Along with all the cool-looking exhaust vents on the sides and the back, Acer has managed to squeeze in a ton load of connectors and ports. This time, they are really well-distributed. For instance, the left side integrates only two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader and the two 3.5 mm audio jacks for headset and external microphone. Whereas the right side offers you only two USB 3.0 connectors. What’s interesting, the rest of the ports are positioned on the back of the device giving you enough room on the sides for your peripherals. You can benefit from one HDMI, not one but two full-sized DisplayPorts, USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 support and an RJ-45 LAN port. Next, to the latter you will find the two DC connectors for charging. The back side also draws attention with the aggressive-looking and huge grills with metal shell and plastic ornaments in the middle.
Opening the lid reveals somehow familiar design concept. MSI’s GT83VR Titan SLI – keyboard near the front and a huge blank space near the screen hinges. On the left, you will notice the LED-illuminated cooling fan along with the power key. Right next to them is the second maintenance lid but more on that later. On both sides of the keyboard, you will also find two out of a total of six Dolby Digital Audio speakers each dedicated to reproducing high, medium and low frequencies for increased sound fidelity and quality. And we finally reach the keyboard. The keyboard is no ordinary laptop keyboard. It’s actually a full-sized desktop-grade keyboard featuring individual RGB LED backlight under each key and integrating Cherry MX Brown (Speed) switches with 4 mm key travel. Gamers familiar with the switches know them for their excellent clicky feedback halfway through the full key press. The peak force of the switch is 55 g and 45 g at the point of actuation. This design characteristic makes them an excellent middle ground between typing and gaming.
To the right of the keyboard, you will see the removable and rather small touchpad. Yep, it’s removable because flipping it around will give the set of Numpad keys, which aren’t mechanical. The touchpad itself uses an excellent low-resistance surface and proved to be extremely accurate and comfortable for use. The same goes for the mouse buttons and our only complaint would be the small trackpad surface. Right next to the touchpad you will find the LED status lights. While on the right, you will see 5 macro keys, which can be customized in several profiles. Each profile can change their functionality by pressing the key on the top.
In terms of design and build quality, we give the device a solid A+. Unfortunately, all of this comes at a big price. And we mean that literally. It’s not only absurdly expensive but it’s also really hefty. It can easily be a desktop replacement with a 21:9 aspect ratio high-quality curved IPS panel and a mechanical keyboard. So actually, you are just saving yourself the trouble of carrying around a monitor along with all the peripherals and instead you end up carrying an absurdly heavy laptop. The notebook weighs around 9 kg and when you add a total of 2.5 kg for the charging bricks, you get more than 11 kg of luggage.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
We have to note that the notebook isn’t designed to be taken apart. It’s really hard to do so but the OEM has provided two dedicated service lids for easy maintenance and upgrade. One of the hatches is positioned right above the keyboard while the bottom offers a bigger lid for most of the upgrade options.
Storage upgrade options – 2.5-inch HDD, 4x M.2 slots
The system is quite generous when it comes to storage configurations. The reviewed sample shipped with 1TB HGST HDD spinning at 7200 rpm, which was located under the keyboard lid.
Removing the bigger hatch on the bottom will reveal four M.2 PCIe NVMe-capable connectors. In our case, the laptop had two Toshiba PCIe NVMe drives (this year’s Predators came with the same fast drives) with 512GB capacity working in RAID 0. But if that’s not enough for you, another set of M.2 slots are available for an upgrade. All connectors support the 2280 standard.
|4x M.2 slots||512GB PCIe NVMe Toshiba THNSN5512GPU7 (2280)||Upgrade options|
|2.5-inch HDD/SSD||HGST 1TB HDD @7200 rpm||Upgrade options|
Since the motherboard holds up to 64GB DDR4-2400 RAM using four slots, two of them can be found under the bottom lid and two of them above the keyboard. The unit we reviewed had just 32GB of DDR4-2400 RAM using two 16GB sticks manufactured by SK Hynix.
|Slot 1||SK Hynix 16GB DDR4-2400||Upgrade options|
|Slot 2||SK Hynix 16GB DDR4-2400||Upgrade options|
|Slot 3||Free||Upgrade options|
|Slot 4||Free||Upgrade options|
The Wi-Fi module can be found under the big service cover right next to one of the M.2 slots. Of course, the card is Killer1535.
The battery, however, isn’t easily accessed and requires full disassembly of the notebook to be replaced if needed. It’s rated at 88.8Wh – practically the same as the one found in other Predator notebooks.
We also took the keyboard out so if dust gets stuck, it can be easily cleaned. The layout appears to be for a desktop-size system. Of course, the switches are Cherry MX Brown (Speed).
The full disassembly of the laptop is a huge pain. You have to remove all the screws around the bottom – including the ones under the service lid – and then gently pry up the whole keyboard tray. Be extra careful with the area around the screen hinges because the curved display obstructs the whole process of disassembly. Also, make sure you remove all the cables attached to the keyboard tray.
As expected, the cooling system looks quite extreme in order to keep up with the powerful hardware. There is a total of five fans – two for the intake positioned at the front, which rarely spin, only under full load, and three main fans right next to the two GPUs and CPU. As you can see, all heat sinks are connected with a decent amount of heat pipes. Here’s a gallery of the cooling design.
It’s funny that Acer didn’t include this information in their marketing material because the display is actually really strong selling point not only for gamers but for content creators as well. We came to the conclusion that the display is not WLED-lit but uses the Blue LED + Quantum Dots combination for backlight. This allows for high maximum brightness, saturated colors and excellent contrast ratio since it’s an IPS type of matrix.
Anyway, the notebook uses the so-called UW-UXGA panel (read ultra-wide) with 2560 x 1080 resolution (21:9) aspect ratio manufactured by AUO with model number B210DAR01.0. The diagonal is way above what we are used to seeing – 21-inch so the pixel density is 132 ppi and the pixel pitch is 0.19 x 0.19 mm. It can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 64 cm.
There’s no noticeable color shift under various viewing angles.
We’ve also measured a maximum brightness of 369 cd/m2 in the middle of the screen and 326 cd/m2 as average across the surface leading to 20% deviation. The color temperature is 7000K and it’s slightly above the optimal 6500K. Colors will appear slightly colder than usual but nothing noticeable to the untrained eye. The contrast ratio is exceptionally high – 1200:1.
The maximum dE2000 color deviation on the surface of the screen is 5.4 which is above the accepted 4.0 range. Still, we have to take into account the big surface of the screen and its main focus on entertainment.
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. To start, there’s 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 is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors 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, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
The yellow dotted triangle represents the coverage of the display, which is almost all of the DCI-P3 standard. Anyway, the panel is able to reproduce 97% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976 but its coverage goes way beyond that. It offers extremely saturated colors (we mean that in a good way) and the graphic shows that the red color is exceptionally punchy. This is a further confirmation of the used Quantum Dot technology. Quantum Dot doesn’t rely the conventional WLED type of backlight but instead uses a blue LED combined with crystal quantum dots that emit light with custom wavelength depending on their size.
Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.
We’ve created a profile with 140 cd/m2 luminance, D65(6500K) white point and 2.2 gamma.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with our Gaming profile.
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the Gaming & Movie Nights profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
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 = 12 ms. We are quite surprised by the fast response of the panel considering the nature of notebook IPS panels.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Unfortunately, the unit we’ve tested had problems with regulating screen brightness so we couldn’t lower it. This means that any attempts at measuring the PWM will be useless. There was no PWM at 100% screen brightness but we can’t confirm that there was no screen flickering at lower levels.
Blue light emissions
Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SDP) graph.
Due to the nature of the panel, you can see that the wavelength of the red spectrum is much longer than the blue light even without Health-Guard profile installed.
Tobii Eye Tracking technology
Along with the near-perfect image quality, the display also offers a brand new technology, which is coming to external monitors as well. We are talking about Tobii Eye Tracking and it can’t go unnoticed in the lower part of the screen bezel. The bar consists of micro projectors and camera sensors working thanks to a specially designed algorithm. The micro projectors take care of the reflection patterns NIR (Near-Infrared) of the eyes while the camera sensors capture high-frame-rate images of the reflection patterns. Then all the data is fed to the image-processing algorithm, which does all the number crunching resulting in super accurate eye tracking. The system sees where your eyes are gazing on the screen.
We were instantly amazed by how well the current implementation of the technology works but we found it inaccurate in some situations. For example, users with glasses won’t be able to fully utilize the technology, although it still works perfectly well in a dark room. The best part is that the Tobii Eye Tracking system already works with a number of AAA titles like Watch Dogs 2, Dying Light, Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, etc. You can check them out here.
Again, we are surprised by the fact that Quantum Dot didn’t make it to the marketing materials while it’s clearly one of the key selling points of the product. It’s bright, it has high contrast ratio, excellent viewing angles, punchy and vibrant colors and its color gamut coverage goes way beyond the standard sRGB, although a small portion of the latter is missing. These properties make the display perfect for multimedia and gaming and with our profiles installed, the display might come in handy to users working with content creation on the go. On top of all, the panel offers 120 Hz refresh rate, which combined with the dual-GTX 1080 GPU setup will prove to be extremely beneficial to gamers. However, we are puzzled by the fact that G-Sync is missing from the specs sheet. Lately, it has become a standard for all upper-mid-range and high-end gaming laptops.
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 21X configurations with 21″ AUO B210DAR01.0 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS screen.
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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.
The specs sheet provided below is for this model only and may vary depending on your region or configuration.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-7820HK (4-core, 2.90 – 3.90 GHz, 8MB cache)|
|RAM||32GB (2x 16384MB) – DDR4, 2400MHz|
|GPU||2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X) SLI|
|HDD/SSD||2x 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD (RAID 0) + 1TB HDD (7200 rpm)|
|Display||21-inch Quad HD (2560×1080) curved IPS (Quantum Dot), matte|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Thickness||61 – 86 mm (2.4 – 3.39″)|
|Weight||9 kg (19.84 lbs) + two charging bricks 1.25 kg each|
CPU – Intel Core i7-7820HK
The Core i7-7820HK is part of Intel’s latest generation Kaby Lake processors sporting an improved 14nm+ manufacturing process allowing for slightly higher clock speeds and better efficiency, although the performance per clock hasn’t changed since this is practically the same microarchitecture as the one used for the previous Skylake chips.
Anyway, the Core i7-7820HK offers higher operating frequency than its Core i7-6820HK predecessor – 2.9 – 3.9 GHz (for four active cores the Turbo Boost frequency drops to 3.5 GHz or 3.7 GHz for two active cores) vs 2.7 – 3.6 GHz but keeps most of the features like Hyper-Threading, (4/8 core/thread design), 8MB LL cache, a dual-channel DDR4-2400 or DDR3L-1600 memory controller and a TDP of 45W including the iGPU. Speaking of which, the processor integrates an Intel HD Graphics 630 chip clocked at 350 – 1150 MHz.
The most noticeable feature of this processor is the unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking and usually, OEMs provide the needed software for doing so. In the end, the processor’s maximum frequency can be increased depending on the notebook’s cooling system.
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-i7-7820hk/
We used the results from Acer’s new Predator 17X with Core i7-7820HK with a normal profile and overclocked one. The normal operating frequency in multi-threaded applications is around 3.5 GHz but with the overclocking multiplier applied, the chip can go up to 3.8 GHz during non-stop workload with four active cores. We suspect that the chip can be pushed even further with the current cooling design from the Predator 21X.
|CineBench 11.5||CineBench 15||Novabench B3||Fritz|
|Intel Core i7-7700HQ||8.15||728||888||13470|
|Intel Core i7-7820HK (normal profile)||8.39||762||893||13838|
|Intel Core i7-7820HK (overclocked profile)||9.23||849||1002||16045|
GPU – 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X) SLI
The GeForce GTX 1080 is the top-shelf GPU from NVIDIA’s Pascal generation (except for the Titan X Pascal, of course) built upon 16nm TSMC process, which is a huge leap over the last generation (Maxwell), which featured a 28nm node. Anyway, the new architecture allows better thermals, efficiency and considerably higher clock speeds than its direct predecessor the GTX 980. Also, for the first time, NVIDIA has made the difference between the desktop and the mobile variants of the Pascal GPUs mostly unnoticeable in real-life use, although there’s a slight difference according to synthetic benchmarks.
CUDA cores (2560), ROPs (64) and TMUs (213) are identical to the desktop variant of the GTX 1080 since they are based on the same GP108 chip including the memory controller, which is the highlight of the new graphics card because it features a next generation of GDDR5X memory developed by Micron allowing higher memory bandwidth on a 256-bit interface clocked at 10 000 MHz. However, there’s a small difference in the base clock speeds – 1566 – 1733 MHz for the laptop version and 1607 – 1733 MHz for the desktop variant. Both frequencies can be altered depending on the manufacturer and the cooling system’s performance.
The GPU’s power consumption is rumored to be around 165W making it suitable only for large 17 or 15-inch machines with high-performance cooling system. In addition, the graphics card delivers new and exciting features like DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, HDR, Simultaneous Multi-Projection, refined H.265 video encoding, etc.
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 with this GPU that we’ve tested: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-1080-8gb-gddr5x/
Since the laptop was a pre-production unit, the usual benchmark and gaming tests showed subpar performance. We decided to make a fair estimate of how a dual-GTX 1080 SLI setup would perform based on results from a single-GPU system with GTX 1080. In other words, about 90% increase in performance without taking into account the overclocking profiles. Of course, 90% increase in performance over a single-GPU system is a best case scenario.
|3DMark Cloud Gate (Graphics)||3DMark Fire Strike (Graphics)||3DMark Sky Diver (Graphics)||Unigine Heaven 3||Unigine Heaven 4|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)||100753||17159||55642||4731||3838|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop)||110078||20475||61057||5319||4359|
|2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 SLI (Laptop)||160908||33487||59094||6674||4843|
|2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 SLI (Laptop)||~209148||~38903||~116008||~10106||~8282|
It’s really hard to compare this laptop to anything currently available on the market. It’s definitely one of a kind. Yes, there are some alternatives with dual-GPU SLI configurations but nothing can come close to the feature-packed powerhouse Acer is currently offering. In addition, the unit we received had problematic SLI configuration that wasn’t able to even surpass the results of a GTX 1070 SLI system and thus all performance tests would have been useless. Also, no temperature tests and no battery tests. But close examination of the cooling system suggests that the laptop will have absolutely no problems with all three chips on board (the CPU and two GPUs). And, of course, we expect around 90% better performance than a single GTX 1080 setup.
Clearly, for a price of $9 000, the notebook will appeal only to enthusiasts and extravagant gamers due to the extraordinary powerful hardware and the slew of exciting features like mechanical Cherry MX Brown keyboard, overclocking capabilities, 21-inch curved IPS panel with Quantum Dot technology and Tobii Eye Tracking.
The former, however, came by surprise. The panel’s properties make it an excellent choice for entertainment but will also work for most content creators on the go. It won’t be as accurate as other external monitors but it will still do the job pretty well. By installing our custom-tailored profiles, however, the panel’s color accuracy will greatly improve while the gamma correction will do wonders during gaming and movie nights. The only considerable drawback here would be the absence of G-Sync, which is downright absurd not to include it. The provided DisplayPorts, though, can be used with an external G-Sync-enabled monitor.
Anyway, if you have $9 000 to spare for the very best possible gaming or multimedia experience in one place, Acer’s absurdly powerful and feature-packed Predator 21X would be the way to go. You will save yourself most of the peripherals that you’d normally carry with a desktop but you still have to take about 11 kg of luggage with you.
The Predator 21X isn’t available yet, but you can regularly check here if it comes out: http://amzn.to/2kXcxWZ
- Impeccable build quality and outsanding design
- Desktop-like performance thanks to the dual GTX 1080 SLI setup and big overclocking capabilities
- Curved 21-inch IPS (120Hz) Quantum Dot display with excellent properties
- Tobii Eye Tracking sensors
- Mechanical Cherry MX Brown keyboard
- Offers easy and generous RAM and storage upgrade options – up to 5 drives (4 of which support PCIe NVMe)
- A big collection of ports and connectors including Thunderbolt 3 (via USB-C), two DisplayPorts, HDMI, etc.
- Absurdly big and heavy (up to ~86 mm thick and 9 kg heavy) + 2x 1.25 kg charging bricks
- The display doesn’t support G-Sync
- A lot pricier than we would expect