If you follow us closely, you know everything about the new Predator line – both its notebook and desktop entries. We’ve shared our in-depth analysis of the Predator 17 laptop, our first impressions of the Predator G6 desktop (stay tuned for our detailed review) and a lot of articles regarding the capabilities of these machines.
A lot of our readers sent us messages with requests for more info about the smaller and more compact Predator 15 model, and as always, we’ll do our best to give you all the answers you need. We tested the notebook in our laboratory for weeks (okay, we admit it, in some cases the “testing” was playing GTA V) and we’re ready to share with you how it managed to handle tests like internal and surface temperatures under high load, benchmarks, gaming, display quality or construction sturdiness.
The configuration we have has NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ and 64GB of RAM. In other words – top notch.
Check out Predator 15’s current prices and all of the available configurations here:
What’s in the box?
There’s a little surprise waiting for you when you open the box for the first time. Along with the notebook and its manuals, you’ll find a FrostCore module made by Cooler Master (an additional fan), which can be injected in place of the DVD writer you’ll never use.
The charger is made by KTC, model number ADP-180MB K. It delivers 180W (19.5V, 9.23A) of power.
Design and construction
We are very pleased with the looks of the new Predator 15. It has a simple but aggressive design with red light elements when working. The body is covered with matte rubber which doesn’t easily get smudges and fingerprints and moreover, looks very durable in the long-term. It can’t be bent easily and the reason is “a secret” lying below the matte surface. Something that even Acer doesn’t share publicly. We’re talking about the glass fiber reinforcement integrated in the body construction.
The panels consist of polycarbonate (plastic) and 40% fiberglass, making the layer 1.8 mm thick. If you’re not familiar with fiberglass, you should know that it’s used as a main material for elevator spools which hold their steel wire ropes. Mechanics choose glass fiber because it doesn’t rust and has great durability. This is how the material compares against Aluminum and PC+ABS+Talc, which are widely used in today’s laptops.
Predator 15’s interior has the same matte rubber coverage and doesn’t show any wearing after two months of usage – it looks perfect and most probably, it will look the same after two years as well. Just like every self-respecting gaming laptop, Predator has great a backlight – it has four customizable zones and two colors – red for the main keyboard and blue for the NumPad. The most important thing, though, isn’t the light below the keys, but the keys themselves, which feel great and have responsive feedback. Their size is 15.5 x 15.5 mm, and that includes the arrow keys (good news for racing fans not equipped with steering wheels).
Predator ProZone is the upper key row with five macro buttons, whose actions can be set in the Predator Sense software. Moreover, the macros can be divided in three groups according to the chosen backlight (you can switch between three colors with the “P” key).
The trackpad area is sufficiently large for comfortable work (~70cm2; 105 x 66 mm). It has two dedicated “left” and “right” buttons below, as well as a small button that turns it off and on (green light – working, red light – turned off).
Even though you won’t use the Predator with its bottom facing up, Acer’s designers have thought about its aesthetics – the subwoofer has a red metal cover, matching the color of the grills in front of the stereo speakers. There are big air vents beside which are the Dust Defender openings – every now and then the fans alternate their spinning directions which stops dust from building up.
On the left, Predator 15 has two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks for a microphone and headphones, memory card reader and the optical drive / FrostCore. On the other side we have three more USB ports, one of which is USB 3.1, while the second has a “Power-off charging” feature which lets you charge your mobile devices even when the notebook is turned off. We also have full sized HDMI and DisplayPort, RJ-45 (Ethernet) and Kensington lock slot.
Also, something rather nice – the right side doesn’t have air vents, so your there’s no hot air blowing at your hand during gaming.
Disassembly, maintenance, internals and upgrade options
You can check out our “Inside” article for more information about disassembling the notebook and its internals:
It’s more than easy to reach the most commonly upgraded components in Predator 15. You just have to remove the service cover on the bottom by loosening the two captive screws gripped to it. Now you have an access to the 2.5″ HDD/SSD, two M.2 slots and two of the RAM slots.
Storage upgrade options – 2.5″ slot, 2x M.2 slots
Along with the HDD, which in our system is 2TB Samsung Spinpoint M9T (5400 RPM), you’ll find two M.2 slots – one “B” key M.2 20110 and one “M” key M.2 2280 below it. The latter is populated by a Samsung SM951 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe.
|2.5-inch slot||2TB Samsung Spinpoint M9T (5400 RPM)||Check price|
|M.2 slot, M key, SATA III, 2280||Samsung SM951 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe||Check Price|
|M.2 slot, B key, SATA III, 22110||Free||–|
RAM upgrade options – 4 slots, DDR4
Although at first you’ll see just two RAM slots, removing the motherboard will give you access to two more, making the new Predator 15 upgradeable to 64GB of RAM. Our configuration is equipped with exactly that much, made by Samsung.
|DDR4 RAM Slot 1||16GB Samsung M471A2K43BB1-CPB 260 Pin SO-DIMM||Check price|
|DDR4 RAM Slot 2||16GB Samsung M471A2K43BB1-CPB 260 Pin SO-DIMM||Check price|
|DDR4 RAM Slot 3||16GB Samsung M471A2K43BB1-CPB 260 Pin SO-DIMM||Check price|
|DDR4 RAM Slot 4||16GB Samsung M471A2K43BB1-CPB 260 Pin SO-DIMM||Check price|
We also have an 802.11ac Killer Wireless-AC 1535 module, so Predator 15 supports the 5GHz band if your router is also 802.11ac compliant. The Killer DoubleShot Pro technology lets you choose which applications get to use your bandwidth. Moreover, you can split your Internet requirements over wired and wireless connections simultaneously.
The battery is made by Sanyo (we’ll talk about it a little further down), and you can also see the subwoofer, part of the 2.1 audio system.
Stay cool under fire. This is one of the Predator slogans and we’ll check on whether it’s true in our “Temperatures and Comfort” section. What we see here is that the notebook has two fans and two pipes plus, as we said earlier, an additional FrostCore module.
Display and Sound
Acer Predator 15 has a Full HD IPS panel (1920 x 1080 pixels), model number LP156WF6 SPP1, manufactured by LG, a display with matte coating. The diagonal is 15.6-inch (39.62 cm) with 16:9 aspect ratio. The pixel density is 141 ppi, with 0.18 x 0.18 pixel pitch. The screen can be considered “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal to or greater than 61 cm.
The display has comfortable viewing angles as you can see from the image below.
We measured the maximum brightness of the display – 315 cd/m2 with a maximum deviation of only 5%. The color temperature is 6642K – daylight type, which aligns almost completely to the optimal of 6500K. We didn’t observe any unacceptable deviations on the surface of the display.
To put things into perspective, we would like to give you a little introduction into the sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts. The CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram represents the spectrum of colors visible to the human eye, thus giving you a better perception of color gamut coverage and color accuracy. Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB), used by millions of people in HDTV and on the Web. As for Adobe RGB, it is used to work with professional cameras and monitors when preparing print. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone, and so reproducing them accurately is key in a quality display.
The yellow triangle represents the sRGB color gamut coverage of Acer Predator 15’s display – 90%, which, despite not being perfect, provides rich and accurate colors.
The graph below is the same but with recorded results pre-calibration. The colored circles represent the reference colors with 100% and 50% saturation inside the sRGB color gamut, while the white circles are the results.
The gamma curve, after calibration, aligns almost perfectly with the standard one. The contrast ratio is high – 1020:1.
We tuned the display at 140 cd/m2 brightness, D65 white point and sRGB color gamut.
X-Rite i1Display Pro was used for the calibration.
We tested the display using 24 commonly used sample colors like skin tones, grass, blue sky, orange etc. We display the color accuracy before and after calibration in the graphs below.
Acer Predator 15’s display uses PWM. However, the frequency is very high (21 kHz), which reduces the negative impact on the eyes.
Acer Predator 15’s display has high resolution and brightness with sufficiently accurate colors for gaming, Internet surfing and video playback. The viewing angles are comfortable, and both the sRGB color gamut coverage and the contrast ratio are high.
Acer Predator 15’s sound quality is very high, thanks to the Dolby Audio technology and its various modes. In Dynamic mode, the tones are rich and have an expanded ring, which means that the covered range is wider and the tones are more detailed and cleaner, while in Music they sound more melodic. There’s also a Game mode available, which helps the notebook provide an even better gaming experience. Regardless of the mode you’re using, the sound is clean and pleasant to listen to across the whole range of frequencies.
These technical specifications refer only to the particular device being tested in this review. Laptops from the same series could have different characteristics and features.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6700HQ (4-core, 2.60-3.50 GHz, 6MB cache)|
|RAM||up to 64GB (4x 16384MB) – DDR4, 2133MHz|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M (4GB GDDR5)|
|HDD/SSD||2x M.2 SSD + HDD|
|Display||15.6-inch Full HD IPS, matte|
|Optical Drive||DVD Writer (interchangeable with FrostCore)|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||88.8Wh / 6000 mAh|
The configuration we tested came up with pre-installed Windows 10(64-bit) and Acer doesn’t plan on selling their notebooks without an OS at this time. If you still need drivers, you should check the official support page:
Here’s a nice surprise – despite the smaller form-factor, the Predator 15 has the same battery as its 17-inch sibling. Inside we found a 6000 mAh Sanyo Li-Ion battery (14.8V/88Wh), which should be more than enough for pretty long battery life, regardless of the presence of Intel Core i7-6700HQ with TDP of 45W and the most powerful mobile GPU on the market – GeForce GTX 980M. The screen has Full HD resolution and that will make the difference, giving noticeable advantage to the 17-incher.
To make sure, we’re going to check that using our standard battery tests that include Surfing the Web, Video Playback and Gaming.
We run all tests with connected Wi-Fi, 120 cd/m2 brightness and Power Saver mode.
As usual, we start with the Web browsing test which uses a custom script to automatically load different popular pages.
464 minutes (7 hours 44 minutes) is an awesome result for a gaming laptop. In comparison, the Predator 17 reached 315 minutes (5 hours and 15 minutes) and the Alienware 15 R2 stopped our timer after 375 mins (6 hours and 15 minutes). We were pretty happy with these figures.
For our Video playback test we use a 720p HD film.
Another win for Predator 15 – 440 minutes (7 hours and 20 minutes) on one charge. You can watch several movies before running out of juice. Alienware 15 got us exactly 6 hours.
For accurate simulation, we used the F1 2015 benchmark running on a loop with graphic settings set to minimum, 768p.
Predator 15’s battery endurance got us a bit over 3 hours of gaming – 183 minutes.
Intel Core i7-6700HQ represents the Skylake H family and it’s a high-performance chip with high voltage – 45W TDP. This is a step down from its direct predecessor – Core i7-4700HQ, but matches its short-lived predecessor Core i7-5700HQ. The Core i7-6700HQ has four cores ticking at 2.6GHz and can go up to 3.5 GHz for one active core and 3.1 GHz for four active cores. The silicon supports the so-called Hyper-Threading technology that emulates one virtual core for each physical and thus establishing a total of 8 threads.
Furthermore, the chip is manufactured using 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 more useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-6700hq/
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 i7-6700HQ managed to get 12.181 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.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M is a high-end graphics chip, announced on October 7, 2014. It will be available in models with up to 8GB of GDDR5 memory. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M uses the Maxwell GM204 architecture and has 1536 CUDA cores. All of them operate at 1038MHz, but NVIDIA’s GPU Boost 2.0 can dynamically increase that frequency.
The graphics card has a 256bit bus and supports DirectX 11.2, Pixel Shader 5.0, Optimus, SLI, PhysX, OpenCL 1.1, OpenGL 4.4, DirectCompute, CUDA, Blu-Ray 3D and 3D Vision. Memory bandwidth is 160GB/sec. Max resolutions (WxH) are 3840×2160 digital and 2048×1536 analog.
You can browse through our GPU ranking to see where the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M (4GB GDDR5) stands: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
For more information about the GPU, follow this link: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-980m-4gb-gddr5/
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)
We conducted the gaming tests in Full HD resolution and with the 361.43 driver version.
|Tomb Raider (1080p, Low)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Medium)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max)|
|294 fps||150 fps||74 fps|
|F1 2015 (1080p, Low)||F1 2015 (1080p, Medium)||F1 2015 (1080p, Max)|
|99 fps||92 fps||71 fps|
|Thief (1080p, Low)||Thief (1080p, Medium)||Thief (1080p, Max)|
|64 fps||60 fps||56 fps|
|GTA 5 (1080p, Low)||GTA 5 (1080p, Medium)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max)|
|123 fps||71 fps||33 fps|
|Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Low)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Medium)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Max)|
|142 fps||109 fps||71 fps|
Temperatures, Comfort and Stability
Usually, this two-staged tests don’t represent real-life situations since most users are unlikely to reproduce conditions that include 100% CPU and 100% GPU load at the same time. However, the test allows us to assess the overall stability of the system and the cooling design. The Predator 17 did pretty well in our tests, and we were somehow skeptical about the 15-inch variant since the smaller casing will not provide the much-needed airflow. Turns out we were wrong, the 15 incher did just as well, proving that the cooling design on both machines is impeccable.
We started off with 100% CPU load for at least an hour and the results were around 74 °C for one of the cores, but the CPU kept running at a stable 3.1 GHz, which is the maximum operating temperature with four active cores. You can see the red line below representing the temperatures, and the green line indicating CPU load.
After an hour had passed, we turned on the GPU torture test as well. The temperatures of the chip rose to around 80-84 °C, but that’s still a good way away from the maximum allowed operating temperature – 100 °C. We were happy to see that no throttling occurred and the silicon was running at its highest frequency – 3.1 GHz. The same goes for the GPU – running constantly at 1037 MHz at 54 °C, which is exceptionally low for a gaming notebook at full throttle.
But what about the external temps? Does the internal heat disperse to the keyboard tray? Well, just like its 17-inch sibling, the Predator 15’s outer temperatures were so low that we barely felt the heat. The cooling system does its job pretty well and it passed our tests with flying colors.
We’re just as delighted with the results we got from Predator 15 as we were after testing the 17-inch version. Actually, even more – the smaller version has the same battery capacity (88 Wh) which managed to give us almost 8 hours of web surfing on one charge and that’s amazing, especially given the gaming nature of the laptop. Speaking of that, you won’t need to look twice to see that it’s made for gaming – it has aggressive and hard angles and elements, and we have to admit that it was a genuine case of love at first sight.
On the negative side, Predator 15 weighs 3.6 kg, or 12-13% more than the latest 15-inch Alienware, for example. It’s a bit heavy, even for a gaming notebook, but that’s the price one has to pay for the sturdy and solid construction.
Acer Predator 15 has a high-quality IPS screen with good colors and wide viewing angles, however it uses PWM, though it has very high frequency. The sound quality is good as well – clear and loud.
One of the most important things for gamers is how the notebook manages to cool its internals, or in other words, how effective the cooling systems are. The Acer Predator line handles high load flawlessly, even better than Alienware in some aspects. A well-earned Editor’s choice award!
Check out Predator 15’s current prices and all the available configurations here:
- Nice looking, aggressive design
- Fiberglass enforced construction with great sturdiness
- Comfortable keyboard and trackpad
- Outstanding battery life (up to 8 hours of Web surfing at one charge)
- High CPU and GPU performance
- Exceptionally low temperatures under high load
- No G-Sync support on the integrated display
- A bit heavy, even for a gaming notebook (3599 g)