Acer Predator Triton 500 review: A truly portable gaming powerhouse with 300Hz G-Sync

You name it, and the Acer Predator Triton 500's got it. This tiny laptop is something special.

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Acer Predator Triton 500 performance

With Intel’s latest Core i7 flagship and Nvidia’s high-end GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q inside—not to mention the lofty $2,600 price tag—you’d expect the Acer Predator Triton 500 to kick all kinds of ass. Good news: It does. Acer’s design tends to favor the GPU over the CPU compared to some rival laptops—but that’s a smart strategy in a notebook designed first and foremost for high-speed gaming.  

We’re comparing Acer’s svelte powerhouse against similar systems that prioritize portability. We test each system while plugged in, using the default settings set by the manufacturer. For the Triton 500, Acer uses the middle-of-the-road “better battery” setting, rather than cranking up the full performance option.

The dual-screen HP Omen X 2XS isn’t as tiny as the others, but it’s powered by the direct predecessors of the CPU and GPU hardware inside the Triton. The 5.5-pound Gigabyte Aero 17 comes with a more powerful Core i7-10875H processor, but less powerful GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q graphics. Meanwhile, the 4.6-pound MSI GS66 Stealth pairs the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q with Intel’s beefy Core i9-10980HK.

We also included the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, which comes packing an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS processor and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q. It’s underpowered compared to the other systems, and costs much less at just $1,450, but it also weighs a lot less, tipping the scales at a mere 3.5 pounds. That’s unheard-of in laptops with Intel CPUs, and we wanted to include results here in case portability is your priority.

This is a gaming laptop, so let’s start with graphics performance. Spoiler: The Acer Predator Triton 500 and its GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q tops the charts.

3dmark fire strike Brad Chacos/IDG

Unlike desktop components, all laptop performance comes as part of a tightly integrated system, so we record the Overall score in 3DMark’s Fire Strike Extreme, a DirectX 11 benchmark, rather than dialing in specifically on the graphics score.

The Acer Predator Triton 500 blows away all comers here, including the MSI GS66, which ostensibly includes the same GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics chip and a more potent Core i9 processor. Yet the Triton easily surpasses its performance—a trend we’ll continue to see throughout the gaming benchmarks.

What gives? The MSI GS66 weighs the same as the Predator Triton 500. Cramming a faster, hotter Core i9 into such a small gaming laptop causes it to throttle more easily, much like the notorious Core i9-equipped MacBook Pro. Either way, the Triton 500 leads the pack.

rise of tomb raider Brad Chacos/IDG
shadow of war Brad Chacos/IDG

We standardize our laptop testing around a pair of older games, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Using established games lets us compare performance across multiple laptop generations and reduces the odds of a game update drastically altering performance and invalidating past results. We test at 1080p resolution with maxed-out graphics settings.

The Triton 500 once again sprints far ahead of the pack here, including the MSI GS66 with an identical graphics chip. It also leaves the HP Omen X 2XS, equipped with older versions of similar hardware, in the dust. No other portable gaming laptop clears 150 frames per second in Shadow of Mordor; the Triton 500 hits 184. Acer’s design gives the Nvidia chip inside plenty of room to run.

stock vs oc game perf Brad Chacos/IDG

That’s not even in the Triton 500’s ultimate form. Acer defaults to using Windows 10’s “better battery” mode rather than “best performance,” and its PredatorSense app includes preset GPU overclocking options. Turning on both results in a noticeable gaming upgrade, so if you’re connected to a wall socket, do it! Be aware that cranking up performance also means cranking up the fan noise, however. Again: Bring a gaming headset.

The chart above shows performance results for the Triton 500 in stock and maximum-overclocked modes. We also included results for Shadow of the Tomb Raider in DirectX 12 and Strange Brigade running Vulkan, so you can see how the laptop performs in newer titles that use closer-to-the-metal gaming APIs.

cinebench r15 st Brad Chacos/IDG
cinebench r15 mt Brad Chacos/IDG

We’ll kick off the more CPU-focused testing with Maxon’s Cinebench R15. It’s a standalone benchmark that measures CPU performance while rendering a 3D image. It’s a good way to gauge multi-core performance, especially in a potent notebook like this. Helpfully, Cinebench can also test single-threaded performance. (Maxon recently launched Cinebench R20 with a longer rendering scene. We also tested that and saw similar results.)

The Acer Predator Triton 500 lands pretty much where you’d expect. The 6-core, 12-thread Core i7-8750H inside isn’t quite as speedy as the faster 8-core chips inside the MSI GS66 or Gigabyte Aero 117, but it’s a good chunk faster than its predecessor in the HP Omen laptop. It hangs tough in single-threaded performance too, which most games favor. This is a fast, capable CPU that won’t hold you back.

Look at how that 8-core Ryzen chip inside the ROG Zephyrus G14 rips through multi-core rendering, though—hot damn. It’s also interesting to see the MSI GS66’s Core i9 chip lag behind the Core i7 inside the Aero 17 at single-threaded performance, further indication that cooling is an issue with that laptop. 

handbrake Brad Chacos/IDG

Cinebench’s biggest drawback is its short run time. Because modern CPUs rely on boosting clock speeds for short periods, a benchmark that’s too brief doesn’t tell you how a laptop might run on a lengthy all-core load. To test that, we use the free HandBrake encoder to convert a 30GB movie file using the Android tablet preset.

HandBrake loves more cores, so it’s no surprise to see the 8-core systems finish the task several minutes before the 6-core Core i7-10950H in the Triton 500. That said, the 10th-gen chip wraps up over five minutes faster than its 9th-gen predecessor in the HP Omen, crossing the finish line after just shy of 29 minutes. For even more context, on most quad-core systems, you’re looking at 50 minutes of running the CPU hard to complete this benchmark.

battery life Brad Chacos/IDG

Now for the lone bit of bad news. All the power inside the Triton 500 and the introduction of a buttery-smooth G-Sync panel comes at a price: battery life. For our test, we loop a 4K video file using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app. We set up the laptop as if it were playing a movie on a cross-country flight. We put it into airplane mode and attach earbuds with the volume set to its midpoint. We set the screen brightness to 250 to 260 nits, which is a comfortably bright setting for an office or airplane’s daylight settings.

Using the laptop’s default settings—“better battery” in Windows 10, and the Nvidia GPU always on—Acer’s laptop gives up the ghost before it even hits the four-hour mark in our video rundown test. That’s disappointing, full stop, and especially in a portable laptop built for going on the road. The HP Omen died sooner, but only because it packs dual screens rather than the usual one. This is the Triton 500’s Achilles heel.

The laptop still held up well for intermittent general task use throughout the day—checking email, watching YouTube videos, web browsing or whatnot. And if you open Acer’s PredatorSense app and click the gear/cog icon in the upper-right corner, you’ll see a “discrete GPU only” option enabled by default.

discrete gpu Brad Chacos/IDG

Disabling it lets the integrated graphics chip inside the Intel CPU take over basic rendering functions, which helps extend battery life when you aren’t gaming, albeit at the cost of G-Sync. Flipping the GPU option off and on requires a reboot, but the ultra-fast NVMe SSD inside will have you up and running again in under 15 seconds. It’s worthwhile. Just be sure to enable the feature before you game to let Nvidia’s GPU and G-Sync capabilities work as intended.

Either way, don’t leave home without your power cord. That’s standard with any gaming laptop, and a necessity with this one.

Should you buy the Acer Predator Triton 500?

acer predator triton 500 2020 5 Brad Chacos/IDG

The Acer Predator Triton 500 impresses me more than any other laptop I’ve touched. It’s incredibly portable, more powerful than any lightweight rivals, and looks gorgeous. The high-contrast 300Hz G-Sync screen makes any game buttery-smooth. The Core i7-10750H pairs perfectly with Nvidia’s high-performance GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q for gaming. Acer also loaded this notebook with everything you could ask for, including plenty of ports and wireless connectivity.

Is it perfect? No. The battery life disappoints, a damned shame in such a portable gaming laptop. The fans—though relatively pleasant-sounding—can get loud under gaming loads. 

Don’t let those quibbles deter you, however, especially if (like you should be) you’re always plugged in while you game. Slight compromises like that are required to squeeze this much firepower into a chassis this small. The Acer Predator Triton 500 proves that you can get desktop-class gaming performance in a truly lightweight design. Few laptops manage to pull off what this one’s achieved. Highly, highly recommended if you can afford it.

acer predator triton 500 2020 4 Brad Chacos/IDG
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At a Glance
  • The Acer Predator Triton 500 delivers outstanding gaming performance thanks to its fearsome internals and buttery-smooth 300Hz G-Sync screen. Better yet, it pulls it off in an incredibly portable form factor. Just don't leave your charger at home.

    Pros

    • Spectacular gaming performance
    • Contrast-rich 300Hz G-Sync IPS panel
    • Thin and lightweight
    • Attractive, sleek design
    • Comfortable ergonomics
    • Solid port selection with Thunderbolt 3

    Cons

    • Short battery life
    • Loud (but not unpleasant) fan noise under load
    • Fully loaded, but difficult to upgrade
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