Small form factor PC gaming is currently making a case for itself as a mainstream pastime, bolstered by the releases of handheld gaming PCs like the Steam Deck and the Aya Neo. While not quite as small or wieldy as those devices, Acer last year made its own foray into an adjacent space with a heavy redesign of its Predator Triton 300 SE, a sleek laptop with a traditional form factor that nonetheless packed an RTX 3060 into a 14 inch shell. The idea was to make a gaming laptop that’s easy for a college student to lug between classes or a novelist to sneak in a game or three of Counter-Strike while drafting up their latest masterpiece at the local coffee shop.
It impressed us in terms of power and weight, and came in cheaper than alternatives like the Alienware X14. Now, it’s getting a refresh that bumps the processors up to Intel 12th gen versions, plus introduces a high-res 16:10 OLED screen. We got to go hands-on with this model, and while its fans are still a bit too loud for us, the max storage capacity is also twice as high, helping alleviate one of our biggest complaints about the last model. Despite having to make a few sacrifices to hit its size and budget goals, we’re excited about what this laptop brings to the PC gaming space as an accessible (depending on your configuration) and portable entry point into the hobby.
Acer told us about two configurations it’s got planned for this laptop, although more are likely on the way depending on region. Both will release in August, and the key difference is that one has a 3K OLED screen. I’ll talk more on that later, but the luxury will cost you, as its Intel Core i9 CPU, RTX 3060 GPU, 32GB of memory and 1TB SSD will run $1,949. This is still cheaper than an Alienware X14 with similar internals and no OLED screen, but maybe stretches that “accessible” standard. At least it’s still easy to carry!
The other has a far friendlier $1,599 price, and packs and Intel Core i7, an RTX 3060, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD. The screen is IPS and maxes out at 1920 x 1200, but its 165 Hz refresh rate is actually higher than the 90 Hz the OLED model offers.
I should note that my personal test sample didn’t fit into either of these configs, instead mixing different aspects of them. Again, expect more options to likely come down the line.
The sample Acer sent me, which was only for hands-on purposes and not benchmarking, specifically came with an Intel 12th Gen Core i7-12700H processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, which is already twice as much storage space as the review unit we got for its predecessor. While models for that version maxed out at 1TB (though one was not available when we reviewed it), this version is supposed to top out at 2TB, with models that hit that capacity expected to come in the future. Pricing isn’t nailed down yet, nor are the release date or all of the configuration options, but it’s a solid sign of things to come.
I wasn’t allowed to run benchmarks on my sample unit, but given that it packs an RTX 3060 laptop GPU, you can expect to hit at least comparable performance to last year’s model, which already impressed us with stats like 66 fps in Far Cry 5 and 69 - 80 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. In fact, given the new CPU, it’s likely to net you a few extra frames, though I can’t speak to that without testing.
What I can speak to is the gorgeous new screen. The OLED’s deep blacks help keep it mostly glare free even in direct sunlight, and I was able to make out text on the screen even at as low as a 10 degree angle. The new 2880 x 1800 display also makes productivity a breeze, thanks to the extra vertical real estate the 16:10 aspect ratio provides. Typing this up hands-on, for instance, felt more like I was working on an actual piece of paper than past laptop screens. Gamers should also get a kick out of the increased resolution, enabling them to hit 1440p and beyond. It’s arguable whether the system’s internals can support that, though, depending on which game you’re playing and how high you like to push your settings. Again, we’ll have to wait until the full review to discuss that.
To me, this OLED screen would be the main reason to upgrade, though if you’re a stickler for high refresh rates, you can also get an IPS screen with a 2560 x 1600 display that goes up to 165Hz. As it stands, the OLED screen can only go up to 90Hz, which is higher than the 60fps standard but is becoming more common even among non-gaming devices.
While I couldn’t run benchmarks, I put both the screen and the speakers to the test by watching the music video for Industry Baby by Lil Nas X. Colors were deep and accurate, whether in a well-lit scene or a scene bathed in shadow, and I could easily make out details like the grills on the rapper’s teeth. Unfortunately, the speakers sounded echo-y and tinny, though they got loud enough that I could make out the song’s lyrics across my entire 2-bedroom apartment.
Fan noise, unfortunately, was about on par with last year’s model. That’s to be expected, given that the chassis and cooling tech hasn’t changed and that the components are more powerful. The Turbo button, a common feature on Acer laptops that supposedly overclocks the CPU for you, is also here. But note that pressing it will push the fans from being a mild irritation to a full-on menace. There’s also a quiet mode available for when you’re in class, but you can still expect the computer to push out about as much noise as a small desk fan even when in this mode. The “custom” mode gives you enough control to limit this noise, but limiting it too much could reduce your system’s lifespan.
I should note, again, that all of these observations were made with a sample unit, and Acer does have time to change things before the Triton 300 SE releases.
The updated Predator Triton 300 SE once again wows on size and weight, and is in fact so light that I was able to use my backpack as an impromptu umbrella by holding it over my head during a rainstorm, even though it had this laptop and a Macbook Air in it.
Overall, new additions like the OLED display are both well executed here and help make this update more than just a general refresh. This laptop also doesn’t seem to be losing any of its previous strengths. You’ll likely still have to contend with compromises to speakers and heavy fan noise even once the final build is released, but we’re excited to see performant small form factor PC gaming getting some care and attention outside of exclusive brands like Alienware or handheld specialty devices like the Steam Deck.