Acer Predator 21X review: Hands-on with Acer’s $9,000 curved-screen laptop

This year’s CES was filled with some seriously over-the-top tech that’ll never see the light of day. There was Razer’s ludicrous triple-screened gaming laptop (that is, before it got nicked) and that Project Ariana gaming lighting rig, but Acer’s absurd Predator 21X is the real deal, a gaming monster that’ll cost you an arm and a leg, and we’ve just had the chance to grapple with one, hands on.

The Predator 21X is proper high-end stuff. Inside this beast Acer has squeezed dual Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics chips, a desktop-grade Kaby Lake Intel Core i7-7820HK processor clocked at 2.9GHz, 64GB of DDR4 RAM and space for up to five storage drives (two reserved for the preinstalled pair of NVMe PCIe SSD’s). If you’re a gamer with a hefty trust fund, read on.

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All of this is insanely impressive, of course, but the machine’s most arresting aspect is its enormous, curved 21in display. Yes, you read that right: 21in and with a dramatic 2,200mm curve radius, too. The specs are impressive, though. It’s a G-Sync 120Hz panel with a 2,560 x1,080 resolution and widescreen 21:9 aspect ratio and in use it’s simply awe-inspiring. Now, I’ve wasted many an hour playing Elite Dangerous in my time, but running it on this monster felt like I was booting it up for the first time. I felt completely immersed in the cockpit of this virtual ship, surrounded by those stellar views.

The display is the Predator’s dominating feature, but it’s not the only thing it has going for it. With two Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics chips buried inside, the laptop promises absurd levels of gaming performance. Both Project Cars and Elite Dangerous were buttery smooth; I didn’t spot a single dropped frame, even with those demanding titles running at native resolution.

There are costs to all this crazy hardware, though. With all the heat generated by the graphics chips, the laptop needs a serious cooling system and this occupies space and adds weight, the consequence being a device that tips the scales at nearly 9KG. Acer was also quick to point out you won’t get much from the battery – only three-hours – so I wouldn’t stray too far from home. That, and it requires two beefy power supplies to get going.

Acer Predator 21X review: Extra features

In-built Tobii eye-tracking is on the menu, too, the idea being to control camera movements in supported games by flicking your eyes around. It’s a little gimmicky, and it didn’t work perfectly in-game when I tried it, but it seemed like a useful accessibility alternative to the typical mouse and keyboard control in Windows 10.

An easy access panel is located just above the keyboard (which by the way is equipped with luxurious Cherry MX Brown switches), where you can swap out the RAM and add an extra hard disk. The panel can also be engraved with your name and there’s even a numeric keypad on the right, which can be flipped over and transformed into a second touchpad.

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If you’re still left wanting more, there’s also a small triangular window reserved solely for gawking at one of the laptop’s three processor fans. I’m sold.

Acer Predator 21X: Early verdict

We’re yet to get proper UK pricing, but as Acer’s Predator 21X is just a dollar shy of $9,000 in the States you can guess at roughly what it’s going to cost over here. The cost is largely irrelevant, though. Made to order, this is an audaciously bold machine, crammed with top-end hardware. But it’s not a machine built to turn a profit or to be practical.

No. This is a laptop made so Acer can show off, grab a few headlines and perhaps sell a small number to a handful of moneyed gamers with cash to burn. For those few who do take the plunge and splash out, though, there’s always the bonus of the free Predator-branded lanyard bundled with every purchase. Bargain.

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