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Acer Predator 21 X

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Acer Predator 21 X
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Summary

Key Features

  • 2.9-3.9GHz, quad-core Intel Core i7-7820HK (overclockable)
  • Dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, 16GB GDDR5X
  • 64GB DDR4 RAM
  • Weight: 8.8kg
  • RAID0 PCI Express storage (UK capacity TBA)
  • Tobii Eye Tracker
  • Cherry MX keys with individual RGB backlighting
  • Numberpad/touchpad module
  • Manufacturer: Acer
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

Hands-on with the craziest laptop set to launch in 2017: the Predator 21 X.

Acer’s Predator brand has been slowly but surely creeping up on established big-brand PC gaming rivals, currently sitting just a whisker behind the likes of Dell’s Alienware and Asus’ Republic of Gamers, and some way ahead of HP’s Omen.

And every gaming brand needs a showpiece. Think Alienware's Area 51 and Asus' ROG GX700. Now, we have the Acer Predator 21 X, one of the most ambitious pieces of computing I’ve seen.

At 8.8kg in weight and what appears to be several feet thick, this is a laptop in form factor only. Everything else screams “small desktop with a curved screen attached”. But if this were a small desktop, I’d still be pretty impressed by the components Acer has squeezed into such a small space.

Watch: Hands on with the Predator 21 X

Inside, there's a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs with 16GB of GDDR5X memory on board. These full desktop-spec chips are ready to play any game you’ve ever heard of at 4K and beyond.

Alongside the graphics you get an Intel Core i7-7820HK processor with four cores, eight threads and the ability to overclock beyond its 3.9GHz factory Turbo Boost speed. The GPUs can even be overclocked, via Acer’s PredatorSense software.

All of this is kept from overheating by a huge five-fan cooling system that works away impressively quietly. Even when running Project CARS at maximum settings, the fans were neither disturbing nor annoying. It isn't as quiet as the liquid-cooled (and cheaper) Asus ROG GX800, but mighty impressive for a set of air coolers.

Related: Best gaming laptops that don't cost $9,000

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Despite its enormous heft, the Predator 21 X looks almost sleek, with a fit and finish that's beyond reproach. Aggressive air vents on the sides and rear work nicely with the slightly curved edges and silver trim on the rear. The customisable LEDs on the lid can be changed to any colour you desire, allowing you to add your own personality to this $9,000 system.

On the right of the machine is a dual-purpose module that doubles up as a number pad and a touchpad. It slots into place using magnets and works seamlessly, but it feels almost pointless. Nevetherless, it’s one of the features that makes this machine stand out even more.Acer Predator 21 X 7

Each Cherry MX mechanical key is individually lit by RGB LEDs, which means you can customise the entire board, divide it up into sections, or even choose the colour of each key. There are five macro keys along the left side, with a sixth letting you switch between macro profiles

The board is set forward on the chassis, meaning there’s a huge empty space behind it. Acer has made this area customisable; you’ll be able to order various panels with pre-set designs, and they can be replaced when you become bored – or change which eSports team you play for. The panel also lets you access the 64GB of DDR4 memory and the (up to) five PCI Express SSDs for easy replacement. Acer Predator 21 X 4

The curved screen is unique among laptops. It has a 2,100mm radius, meaning if you place numerous 21 Xs in a circle, its radius would be 2.1m. It’s a noticeable curve, but since the screen is only 21 inches diagonally – and is, obviously, set back from the front of the laptop – it diminishes its effectiveness. Curved screens are supposed to improve immersion, but this isn't really possible in a screen this small and far away.

Still, it’s a 2,560 x 1,080 panel and looks superb. And since the graphics hardware is so powerful, you’ll have no problem playing any game at maximum settings on this screen. Want to output to your gaming monitor(s)? There’s a pair of DisplayPort adapters and an HDMI port at the rear, alongside a ThunderBolt 3/USB 3.1 port.

Related: Best gaming monitors

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One wacky addition is a Tobii Eye Tracker. The technology is really very impressive, letting you – without any calibration – control on-screen items and look around in games using just your eyes. The jury is still out on whether this will hold appeal in the long term – plus VR is still a much more enjoyable way of immersing yourself – but in some games and applications it might be very handy indeed. It'll be particularly useful for eSports players looking to up their game; the tracker has the ability to create a heatmap of where you spend most of your time looking, which you can use to improve your habits.

First impressions

The Predator 21 X offers plenty of unique features that make it a proper prestige laptop. But its very high price means even the most dedicated and well-off gamer will have to think twice before buying it.With its mighty 9kg+ weight including two power adapters, this stretches the concept of desktop versus laptop to its very limit. While you won't get such ridiculous power in such a small package anywhere else, it seems more sensible (and cost-efficient) just to buy a mini desktop and cart that around instead. That doesn't make the21 X any less impressive, though.

Make no mistake, this is a showpiece device, designed to show what Acer can do, not a product for commercial success. For Acer, however, there’s more to the Predator 21 X than sales: this is a monstrous piece of hardware at which Acer has thrown everything – aside, perhaps, from the kitchen sink. It'll be available in the next month or so.

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