This year’s CES was filled with some seriously over-the-top gaming tech that’ll never see the light of day. There was Razer’s ludicrous triple-screened gaming laptop (which was stolen from the stand at the show) and the same firm’s Project Ariana gaming lighting rig.
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Acer’s absurd Predator 21X laptop looked like it was cut from the same cloth – a hugely powerful but equally impractical gaming laptop with a specification to equal the most hardcore of gaming PCs – that is until the firm announced it was actually going to start selling the thing, for £9,000 a throw, no less.
Acer Predator 21X review: What you need to know
The Predator 21X is proper high-end stuff. Inside this beast Acer has squeezed dual Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics chips, a desktop-grade Kaby Lake Intel Core i7-7820HK processor clocked at 2.9GHz, 64GB of DDR4 RAM and space for up to five storage drives (two reserved for the pre-installed pair of NVMe PCIe SSDs).
That’s not all, however. There’s also a curved (yes, CURVED!) 21in 2,560 x 1,080 IPS display to contend with, complete with Tobii Eye Tracking. And it all comes wrapped up in a package that folds up just like a normal laptop. It weighs nigh-on 9kg, though, so it’s less a laptop than it is a desktop PC in a slightly more compact chassis.
Acer Predator 21X review: Price and competition
Given the Predator 21X’s hefty £9,000 asking price, there’s little in the way of similarly-priced competition. Our current favourite gaming portable is the Razer Blade and that will set you back £2,399 for the top spec model.
It isn’t anywhere near as powerful as the Predator, but its Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and 6GB of GDDR5 RAM should be fast enough for most. And you can buy three of those for the price of one Predator 21X. The 21X is made to order too, so don’t expect to see this on the shelf of your local PC World.
Acer Predator 21X review: Display
All of this is insanely impressive, of course, but the machine’s most arresting aspect is its enormous, curved 21in display. Yes, you read that right: 21in and with a dramatic 2,200mm radius at that. It’s an Nvidia G-Sync 120Hz panel with a 2,560 x1,080 resolution and widescreen 21:9 aspect ratio and in use it’s simply awe-inspiring.
Now, I’ve wasted many an hour playing Elite Dangerous in my time, but running it on this monster felt like I was booting it up again for the first time. I felt completely immersed in the cockpit of my virtual ship. The display is just as sharp as you need, the 120Hz refresh rate keeping everything looking ultra-smooth.
Subjectively, it’s a fantastic display and, technically, it’s great, too. The 21X’s display produces 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut according to our X-Rite colour calibrator. Its maximum brightness is highly impressive, too – not that you’ll ever need to turn the brightness up to its maximum 423cd/m2, though.
Acer Predator 21X review: Features and design
Aside from the eye-catching screen, there’s much more that draws the eye. An easy access panel is located just above the keyboard, where you can swap out the RAM and add an extra hard disk. The panel can also be engraved with your name.
To the right of the keyboard is a numeric keypad, which can be flipped over and transformed into a second touchpad. If you’re still left wanting more, there’s also a dinky triangular window reserved solely for peering in at one of the laptop’s three processor fans.
The keyboard is a real treat. Equipped with fully mechanical Cherry MX Brown switches, it feels fantastic to type on and game with and it’s fully backlit, with RGB customisation for each individual key via Acer’s Predator Sense software. You’ll also find five programmable macro keys on the left-hand edge.
The 21X is a riot of colour and crazy one-off features but one thing it isn’t is particularly portable. With all the heat generated by the laptop’s twin graphics cards, the laptop needs a serious cooling system and this occupies space and adds weight.
The consequence is that the Predator 21X tips the scales at a back-breaking 8.5kg and that’s without factoring in the two beefy power bricks required to keep the 21X supplied with DC electricity. Add those to your backpack and you’ll be lugging 11kg around.
But, given its size, there is at least a goodly selection of physical ports. On the right edge you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, while the left houses another pair, plus 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks and an SD card reader. Take a look at the rear and you’ll spot two DisplayPorts, a solitary HDMI port, USB Type-C and a single Gigabit Ethernet port.
Acer Predator 21X review: Performance and battery life
It’s certainly an arresting sight, but the Acer Predator 21X is all about what’s going on beneath the surface. With two Nvidia GTX 1080 SLI graphics chips buried inside, along with 64GB of DDR4 RAM and a full-fat Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU the laptop promises absurd levels of gaming performance.
And boy did it live up to its promise. Both Metro: Last Light and Doom were buttery smooth at a stable 112fps and 120fps respectively, even with settings tweaked to max. Both Unigine tests – Valley and Heaven – also achieved a stable 120fps. And it caters perfectly for VR, too, running the office Oculus Rift without a hitch.
For what it’s worth, the Predator also performed brilliantly in our regular media-focused 4K benchmarks, which it dispatched with dismissive ease. An overall score of 128 brings it roughly in line with the rest of our favourite gaming laptops; most of these are about a third the price, mind.
And although the Predator 21X looks like a laptop, you certainly won’t want to stray too far from home with it. Still, considering how powerful the thing is, the fact that it lasted 1hr 53mins in our video rundown test is actually pretty impressive.
Acer Predator 21X review: Verdict
The Acer Predator 21X is bonkers and it’s understandably expensive. Made to order, this is an audaciously bold machine, crammed with top-end hardware, but it isn’t a machine built to turn a profit or to be practical.
No. This is a laptop made so Acer can show off, grab a few headlines and perhaps sell a small number to a handful of moneyed gamers with £9,000 to burn. And if the folks at Acer are to be believed, they’ve already sold plenty.
However, even if I did happen to know anyone with enough cash to splurge on the 21X, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it. Despite its prowess, it’s a ludicrous amount of money to spend on a ‘laptop’ that isn’t really all that portable, especially when a similar specification PC, complete with the best 24in curved gaming monitor money can buy, mouse, keyboard and Windows 10 Home will run you just shy of £2,800.