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An on-the-go gaming rig with ray-tracing chops that won’t break your budget or your back, the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE serves up an enticing mix of value and performance. With a list price of $1,400 but currently on sale at Best Buy for just $1,300, the Predator Triton 300 SE arrives with Intel’s cutting-edge Tiger Lake H35 “ultraportable gaming” CPU, along with GeForce RTX 3060 graphics and a slim 3.8-pound design.
The Triton’s understated silver chassis gives the laptop a corporate look, but if you crack open the lid, you’ll find a 14-inch, 144Hz Full HD display, three-zone RGB keyboard backlighting, and one-touch overclocking. Thunderbolt 4 and solid battery life make a good thing even better.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing laptops and how we tested them.
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE is one of the first laptops to pack Intel’s “Special Edition” 11th-gen Core H-series CPU, a so-called H35 chip that’s designed for a new class of (as Intel puts it) “ultraportable gaming” systems. Also inside: a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, which boasts Nvidia’s Ampere 2nd-gen RTX architecture.
Let’s take a more detailed look under the hood:
CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7-11375H Special Edition
Memory: 16GB DDR4 dual-channel SDRAM (upgradable to 24GB using a single soDIMM module)
Graphics: GeForce RTX 3060 with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Display: 14-inch 1920×1080 IPS with 144Hz refresh rate, 300 nits
Webcam: 720p SHDR
Connectivity: Thunderbolt 4, two USB SuperSpeed 10Gbps Type-A ports (one with power-off USB charging), HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm combo audio jack
Starting at the top, Intel’s “Special Edition” H35 CPU promises up to 5GHz single-threaded performance (which we’ll be putting to the test later). The RTX 3060 card should serve up 1080p gaming frame rates north of 60 fps and “smooth” 4K gaming, complete with plenty of ray-tracing eye candy. The roomy 16GB of RAM can be upgraded to an even roomier 24GB, while the 14-inch IPS display can crank out 144Hz visuals (although you’ll have to do without G-Sync support).
Moving along, the 512GB solid-state drive won’t be enough to store your Steam library; thankfully, the Thunderbolt 4 port and the pair of SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps ports should be able to handle your external storage needs. There’s no ethernet, but you do get a Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 low-latency wireless module with Bluetooth 5.1 and up to 2.4Gbps of throughput. Finally, a beefy 60 Whr battery should help boost your on-battery gaming time—although, realistically, you should keep the 1.3-pound AC adapter within reach.
As with other laptops in the Predator series, the Predator Triton 300 SE comes with Acer’s PredatorSense app, which offers the choice of four performance modes: Quiet, which keeps the laptop’s cooling fans as quiet as possible; Default, for “everyday use;” Extreme, which overclocks the CPU and GPU while throttling the cooling fans; and “Turbo,” which is designed to “maximize” overclocking while dialing up the cooling fans to a roar. The PredatorSense app lets you assign a performance mode (as well as lighting and sound modes) to specific games, but the laptop itself always boots into Default mode.
Intel’s been making a push this year for low-profile, H35-powered “ultraportable gaming” laptops that won’t raise an eyebrow at work or on campus. The slim, all-silver Predator Triton 300 SE could certainly pass for one of Acer’s productivity-minded Aspire systems if you don’t look too hard.
You won’t find any garish, bright-red highlights here—even the Predator logo on the corner of the lid is relatively tame. Of course, the jumbo vents on the sides and back of the laptop are a dead giveaway that this is a gaming rig. Measuring just 0.7 inches thick and weighing in at 3.8 pounds, the Triton 300 SE could be slipped into a backpack, although with its largish 14-inch display, you’ll certainly know it’s there.
Inside the Triton 300 SE’s chassis is a dual-fan cooling system featuring upgraded AeroBlade fans. According to Acer, its Vortex Flow technology is designed to “create an aerodynamic flow” courtesy of dedicated GPU and CPU heat pipes, while “strategically placed” fans help cool the DDR RAM, power supply, and other “critical” components. Will the Triton 300 SE’s thermal management solution translate into faster performance? We’ll soon see.
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE ships with a 14-inch full-HD (1920×1080) display with a 100-percent Adobe RGB color gamut and a fast, but not exceptional 144Hz refresh rate. Given the Triton 300 SE’s moderate price tag and its bleeding-edge H35 CPU, we’re not surprised that Acer opted to dial down the refresh rate a tad. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with refresh rates in the ultra-fast 240Hz-300Hz range, you’ll need either to up your budget (substantially) or go for a more affordable system saddled with an older-gen CPU.
The IPS display delivers typically solid viewing angles. Its 300-nit maximum brightness spec is good, provided you keep the gaming indoors. The screen is surrounded by slim bezels on top and particularly along the sides, although the chunky bottom bezel is a bit of an eyesore. The top bezel, incidentally, houses the Triton’s 720p webcam and a three-mic array. The display isn’t touch-sensitive, but that’s common for a gaming laptop.
Keyboard, touchpad and speakers
The Triton 300 SE’s keyboard boasts three-zone RGB backlighting, which you can control via the PredatorSense app. You can pick from seven dynamic lighting profiles, ranging from “Breathing” and “Neon” to “Wave” and “Zoom,” or you can create your own static patterns.
As for the keyboard itself, the Triton 300 SE’s flat keys offer plenty of travel and are virtually silent. Gamers who prefer a smooth, linear-style action (ideal for those who want to flutter their fingers over the keyboard) might not like the solid, tactile bump at the actuation point, but again, that’s par for the course given the laptop’s price range.
The Triton 300 SE’s keyboard lacks media playback hotkeys, but there is a dedicated key that launches the PredatorSense app. A one-touch “Turbo” button sits above the left side of the keyboard. Positioned directly—and worryingly—above the PredatorSense button is the Power key, which immediately puts the Triton to sleep when struck. Take heed.
The Triton’s compact glass touchpad felt smooth and responsive, with the cursor floating along in unison with a silky motion. The touchpad is small enough that my palms rarely brushed against it while I was typing, but even when I tried smashing both my palms on its surface, the cursors barely budged. There’s a fingerprint reader embedded in the top-left corner of the touchpad for those who want to enable biometric security.
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE’s up-firing stereo speakers are augmented by DTS:X Ultra, an object-based sound format that competes with Dolby Atmos (an audio technology that commonly appears on Lenovo laptops). While object-based audio can effectively open up a laptop’s soundstage, it won’t necessarily improve overall audio performance, and that’s pretty much the case here. Whether I was running Vanguard strikes on Destiny 2 or listening to The Boss on Spotify, the Triton 300 SE’s speakers sounded disappointingly thin, with barely any bass response—in other words, par for the course as far as laptop speakers go. If you really want to crank the sound while listening or playing on the Triton, you’ll be better off with external speakers or a decent set of cans.
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE comes with an impressive array of ports, which will come in handy for putting your Steam library on external storage as well as connecting gaming mice or controllers.
First and foremost is the left-side Thunderbolt 4 port, which can support up to two 4K monitors or a single 8K display at 60Hz. The Thunderbolt 4 spec also allows for connecting up to four Thunderbolt 4 hubs, as well as longer cable runs (including upcoming 50-meter optical cables) compared to Thunderbolt 3.
Next to the Thunderbolt 4 port is the first of two SuperSpeed 10Gbps USB Type-A ports, along with a barrel-shaped power port for the bulky 180-watt AC adapter and a Kensington laptop security slot.
On the right side is the second SuperSpeed 10Gbps USB Type-A port, an HDMI 2.1 port, and a combo audio jack.
Not bad, but there are a couple of omissions, including a media card reader and a wired ethernet port (although you could always just get a USB ethernet adapter).
While the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE’s RTX 3060 is—or was, until just recently—the least powerful of Nvidia’s 30-series RTX graphics cards, it still packs impressive bang for the buck. Coupled with Intel’s H35 “ultraportable gaming” chip, the GPU should manage solid performance gains compared to its predecessor, the RTX 2060. So how does the Triton 300 SE compare to pricier—and heavier—gaming laptops with beefier graphics cards? Let’s take a look.
Our first benchmark measures how well a given laptop handles crushing CPU loads over a lengthy period—in this case, transcoding a 30GB MKV file to a format suitable for Android tablets using HandBrake, the free video encoding utility. This multi-core chore is guaranteed to spin up cooling fans. Because it can take up to an hour or more to complete, it’s a great test of a laptop’s thermal management.
At first glance, the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE’s HandBrake performance might look disappointing (remember, shorter bars are better), but keep in mind that all of the laptops that snagged better HandBrake scores are heavier—in some cases, much heavier—than the Triton 300 SE.
The Acer Nitro 5, for example, is nearly a pound heavier than the 3.8-pound Triton, while the two top finishers—the MSI GE76 and the Gigabyte Aorus 17G—tip the scales at 6.6 and 6.1 pounds, respectively. That extra bulk gives the MSI and Gigabyte, and the Acer Nitro 5, much more latitude in terms of thermal management, thus allowing them to turn up the heat with HandBrake.
More of a sprint than the marathon of our HandBrake benchmark, Cinebench measures how long it takes for a laptop to render a 3D image in real time, a process that generally only takes a few minutes. We run Cinebench in both multi-threaded and single-threaded modes, giving us a chance to consider a laptop’s single-core efficiency as well as its sheer multi-core speed.
Again, we see the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE’s multi-core performance fall behind those of its heavier competitors (with the six pound-plus Aorus and MSI laptops again leading the pack), but take a look at the Triton’s single-threaded performance. If we rejiggered the chart to highlight single-threaded scores, the Triton 300 SE would come out on top, followed by the Gigabyte, the HP Spectre x360, and the MSI. Pretty impressive.
3DMark Fire Strike 1.1
Next up is a synthetic graphics test courtesy of 3DMark’s Fire Strike 1.1 benchmark, which should give us an indication of how the Predator Triton 300 SE’s overall graphics performance lines up with the competition. We’re expecting the Triton and its GeForce RTX 3060 GPU to fall roughly in the middle of the pack, behind the RTX 3080 laptops in our comparison but ahead of GTX 16 series- and RTX 20 series-powered systems.
No surprises here: The Triton sits somewhat behind a trio of RTX 3080 laptops but slightly ahead of the RTX 2060-powered Gateway, while beating three GTX 1650 systems by wide margins. With these results, we’d expect to see real-world gaming performance well north of 60 fps at max settings in most titles.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Speaking of real-world gaming, the second entry in the rebooted Tomb Raider series can help give us an idea how the Triton 300 SE fares during actual gameplay, even if the 2015 title is getting a tad long in the tooth.
As you can see, the Triton easily clears the vaunted 60-fps mark with Rise of the Tomb Raider, trailing (as expected) only the three RTX 3080-powered laptops in our chart. More interesting is the sizable margin between the Triton and the RTX 2060-enabled Gateway. Looking down the list, the three GTX 1650-powered laptops can’t quite make it to the 60-fps mark, which goes to show what you’re giving up when you dial back to the GTX 16 series.
3DMark Port Royale
To wring out the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE’s ray-tracing performance, we fired up 3DMark’s Port Royale benchmark, which puts RTX-powered laptops through their paces with ray-traced reflections, shadows, and glass surfaces.
Once more, the Triton falls pretty much where we’d expect, significantly behind three laptops with RTX 3080 GPUs but ahead of the RTX 2060-powered Gateway.
We test battery life by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies & TV app, with screen brightness set to about 260 nits and the volume dialed to 50 percent, with headphones plugged in.
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE and its 60-watt-hour battery acquit themselves well here, lasting a solid nine hours during our battery drain test and outlasting all comers save the LG Ultra PC 17 (which has a larger 72.7 watt-hour battery) and the Acer Nitro 5 (a heavier laptop with a slightly smaller 57.5Whr battery). The Gateway at the bottom of the chart has the smallest battery (46 Whr), while the system with the beefiest battery, the Aorus 17G (99 Whr) limped to the finish with a second-to-last result.
We should note, of course, that the Windows Movies & TV app is a fairly lightweight task as far as CPU loads go. If you’re playing Destiny 2 with Turbo mode engaged, you’re not going to get anywhere near nine hours of battery life.
The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE will be a pleasant surprise for budget-minded gamers who thought RTX-powered laptops were out of reach. Affordably priced, slim, light, and powerful, the Triton 300 SE can hang with the ray-tracing crowd even if it can’t scale the visual heights of RTX 3080-enabled systems. Toss in Thunderbolt 4, RGB keyboard backlighting, and solid battery life, and you have a good value in gaming laptops.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices.