Around May every year, Taipei-headquartered computer-maker Acer invades New York City with its latest machines. Every year, too, it raises the bar on its gaming machines as it pursues market share in this high-margin sector.
At its next@acer global press conference in New York last week, it launched a series of specialist machines that can only be described as gaming monsters. Appropriately, they all came with branding of the Predator range, underlining their purpose as weapons of gaming war.
The new Predator Orion 5000 desktops offer both high performance and an adaptable chassis. The message? You can adapt and expand this machine as your need – and competitiveness – grows. The slogan Acer used for it at the launch left the audience in no doubt about the intention of the machine, both in the marketing war and in users’ own wars: “Win the battle”.
The Predator Orion range can be customised based on budget, which is just as well since the 5000 starts at US$1 500 (R18 979). That’s quite accessible for serious gamers in the US, but in South Africa will translate into well over R20 000 when it arrives in the second half of the year. The top-of-therange version will cost R30 to 40 000 and is expected to have niche appeal among serious gamers.
It comes with an eighth Gen Intel Core i7-8700K processor along with the Intel Z370 chipset and two-way NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphic cards in SLI. This allows both exceptionally high-resolution graphics and a decent virtual reality experience.
According to Steve Long, vice-president of client computing group sales and marketing at Intel: “The eighth Gen Intel Core i7-8700K is the best desktop gaming Intel has built and when combined with the acceleration and responsiveness offered by Intel Optane memory, the result is incredible performance needed for the most demanding gaming experiences.”
He said Intel collaborated closely with Acer to bring this performance to life on the Predator Orion 5000 and 3000 gaming desktops.
The monsters are designed for showing off, too, thanks to transparent side panels on the chassis. The panels also open easily to allow users to swop out components and cables for quick upgrades.
One of the biggest challenges of high-end rigs, heat dissipation, is addressed with a technology called IceTunnel 2.0, an airflow management design that segments the system into separate thermal zones, each expelling heat through its own airflow tunnel. Another challenge, dust being sucked in as the machine pulls in air, is warded off with a front mesh panel containing dust filters.
The hard-core gamer can also opt for Killer LAN high-speed Ethernet, cradles for audio headsets, and even a carry-handle for portability.
“Getting the specs right is just half the fight,” said Jeff Lee, general manager for stationary computing at Acer. “Predator Orion desktops provide a well-rounded choice for gamers with a striking chassis, built-in airflow management, expandability and award-winning software that brings everything together.”
To this end, a slightly scaled-down series, the Predator Orion 3000, offers wider choice for the more budget conscious, starting at around $1 000. For the beginner, however, it will be hard to tell the difference in performance.
The 3000 also offers options that include eighth Gen Intel Core i7processors and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs. However, it is described as VR-ready rather than supporting VR out of the box.
The Predator range is also differentiated by its accessories. Acer last week unveiled these four beauties:
Predator Cestus 510 is a customisable high-performance gaming mouse with a precise optical sensor that supports up to 16,000 DPI;
Predator gaming chair includes detachable cushions and lumbar spine support to give players an edge during marathon gaming sessions;
Predator hard case protects the machine with a hard outer shell and customisable foam inserts that fit exactly around the PC;
Predator Aethon 500 extra-durable mechanical keyboard with a lifespan of 70 million strokes per key, customizable with 16.8 million colours.
The laptop option
As gamers increasingly opt for the portability of laptops, Acer has come to the party with the Predator Helios range.
“We’ve expanded our Predator Helios gaming notebook line in response to popular demand from gamers seeking extreme performance on the go,” said Jerry Kao, president of IT Products at Acer.
The high-end Predator laptop, the Helios 500, can also be configured according to budget. The “junior” Helios 300 special edition has been upgraded from its predecessor.
“The Predator Helios 500 and Helios 300 gaming notebooks feature Acer’s proprietary thermal technologies and powerful components that coupled with our award-winning software deliver unparalleled gaming experiences,” said Kao.
The stand-out feature of the Helios 500, however, is its overclocking capability. This means the settings of the processors can be tuned to deliver faster performance, a capability usually only open to gaming hardware specialists.
The overclocking features of the eighth Gen Intel Core i9+ processors and GeForce GTX 1070 graphics cards can be accessed from a control panel included in the software on the machine.
The insane performance also generates insane heat, which is managed by two Acer AeroBlade 3D metal fans and five heat pipes that release hot air and circulate cool air through the machine.
An RGB backlit keyboard on the Helios 500 and the red backlight on the 300 give the feeling of piloting a spacecraft. Where will it go next?
Kao, who has been with Acer for 23 years, told The Citizen that he expected the next breakthrough in computing to revolve around artificial intelligence.
“Computing power is getting stronger and stronger, handling things that were not doable in past, including mixed reality and AI.
“In 20 years we will still be using a device similar to what we are using right now, but the interface will be different. By that time there will be no keyboard. Maybe voice control, or even just think and you’ll see something automatically appear.”
Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee and on YouTube.