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Acer Predator Triton 300 SE Review

With every new generation of hardware, the high-end graphics cards lead the way, with more affordable midrange options trickling in a few months later. That time has finally arrived, and our first foray into 3060-equipped gaming laptops is Acer’s latest Predator Triton 300 SE. The successor to last year’s Triton aims to provide a well-built, affordable gaming experience in a stylish-but-grown-up package you can use for work or school. It may not be breaking down barriers of innovation, but it’s a solid workhorse that’ll serve the average user well.I reviewed a model with the following specs:

  • Model: Acer Predator Triton 300 SE PT314-51s-71UU
  • Display: 14-inch IPS 144Hz at 1920×1080
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-11375H Special Edition quad-core processor (12 MB Smart Cache, up to 5.0 GHz)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 6GB with Max-Q
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 (user-upgradeable to 24GB)
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Storage: 512 NVMe SSD
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with Power Delivery and Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 TYpe-A, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x 3.5mm combo audio jack, 1x A/C power
  • Connectivity: Killer Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1
  • Battery: 60Wh
  • Dimensions: 12.7″ x 8.97″ x 0.7″
  • Weight: 3.75 lbs.
  • Price (as tested): $1,399.99

At the time of this writing, there are no other models of the Predator Triton 300 SE – though with user-upgradeable RAM and storage, you at least have some options for configuring it to your needs.

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE Review

Design and Features

If you like the idea of a laptop that stands out from the pack but don’t love the overly-gaudy designs popular among gaming products, you’ll probably like the Triton 300 SE’s design. Its relatively thin metal body is sleek and durable, while the subtle cross hatching pattern on the lid is, in my opinion, the perfect amount of flair. The Predator logo, while distinctly “gamer,” isn’t lit up in RGB or stamped in a high-contrast color – it’s subtle with just a touch of holographic reflectiveness. The vents and keyboard legends are a bit more of a giveaway that this is a gaming laptop, but again, it isn’t over the top, and I’d feel perfectly comfortable using this in a more professional setting.

The build quality is similarly up to the task of your daily work. The keyboard is incredibly comfortable to type on, even for long periods of time, and the layout isn’t overly cramped like on some compact notebooks. You get a full row of function keys including Print Screen, Insert, and Delete, along with full-size arrow keys and a row of media keys along the right. (There’s even a dedicated key to launch the PredatorSense software, which I’ll discuss below.) The right Shift key is on the smaller side, but still wider than a standard 1u key, so it shouldn’t invoke any accidental keystrokes.

The glass trackpad is similarly fantastic, allowing your finger to glide smoothly over the surface without any errant cursor jumps, incorrect clicks, or other difficulties like poor thumb detection. It’s a decent size as well, though for some reason, the laptop’s fingerprint sensor – while a welcome addition – is inside the trackpad’s borders, which means it can get in the way occasionally. I would have rather seen the sensor placed to the left or right of the trackpad like most laptops, where it’s still easily accessible without being a nuisance.

I’m a stickler for external build quality, but internal hardware is just as important, particularly on a gaming laptop where every bit of performance counts. The Triton sports the latest Intel 11th generation processors, pairing a four-core Core i7 with an Nvidia RTX 3060 with Max-Q design. That may not be top-of-the-line (and there’s a lot we could say about Intel’s downgrade to four core i7s this year), but it should be enough to handle gaming on the 1080p IPS display, which is capable of 144Hz of smooth motion. If you need a bit of extra power, the Triton even has a Turbo button above the keyboard that cranks the fans all the way up to provide the most possible boost headroom on the GPU. If you game with headphones, the whirring noise probably won’t bother you too much, and it’s a fun throwback to the days of Turbo buttons on desktop PCs.

Frankly, you’ll probably want to game with headphones on anyway, since the speakers – while plenty serviceable for a laptop – aren’t going to give you a mind-blowing experience. Listening to music on the internal speakers, for example, sounded less than stellar, with a muddy midrange that felt like it was struggling to make itself heard over the more shrill treble. The built-in DTS:X presets do make a huge difference, though, so I recommend leaving them turned on (even though I usually recommend against such things). The addition of DTS Headphone:X is also welcome, if you’re a fan of virtual surround – DTS’ implementation is probably better than whatever is built in to your gaming headset, so give it a try.

Port selection is decent, offering two USB 3.2 Type-A ports and one USB Type-C port. That’s a bit slim for a laptop of this size, but I’ll let it slide for the inclusion of HDMI 2.1, which is welcome if you want to game on an external monitor or new TV with variable refresh rate. What I can’t let slide, though, is the terrible placement of the power port – maybe it’s just because I’ve become accustomed to having this available at the back of the bottom chassis, but its placement in the center of the keyboard (near the left Shift key) is so wonky that it drives me a little crazy every time I plug it in.

Finally, as I mentioned above, the Predator Triton 300 SE is user-serviceable, provided you have a Torx driver to get into the bottom case. The RAM is upgradeable through a single stick of DDR4, the SSD is a standard M.2 drive, and the battery and Wi-Fi card can be easily replaced if need be. This is always good to see, especially in an age where more and more thin-and-light notebooks have their RAM and storage soldered to the motherboard.

Software

I’m rarely a fan of bundled software on laptops, but I have to say Acer’s PredatorSense software is actually a welcome inclusion. The home window shows your CPU, GPU, and system temperatures front and center, with quick shortcuts to change your lighting and overclocking profiles. You can further configure both of these from the Lighting and Mode tabs – the lighting offers a few different effects as well as the capability to set the keyboard backlight to any color you want, while the Mode tab lets you set the PC to Quiet mode for lower fan noise, and Extreme or Turbo mode for overclocked performance. The Mode tab also shows you your CPU and GPU usage, while the Fan Control tab shows you the current speed of your fans.

If you want to see all this information at once, you can open the Monitoring tab, which shows more detailed graphs for your CPU and GPU usage, temperature, and fan speed. (If you game on an external monitor, having this open on the laptop display is a handy way to keep an eye on your hardware). You can even set custom lighting, overclocking, and fan modes for certain games using the Game Sync feature. I have to give credit to Acer – the company bundled some software I could actually see myself using.

The built-in Norton trial, on the other hand, I could do without. This isn’t some $500 budget machine, and I grit my teeth every time I see something like this on a laptop. At least you can uninstall it.

Performance and Gaming

While the Predator Triton 300 SE boasts the latest chips from Intel and Nvidia, it isn’t exactly a powerhouse, aiming for more midrange-to-high-midrange specs. It is, however, still rather capable. The Max-Q designed RTX 3060 has a quoted boost clock of 1282-1382MHz and a maximum power draw of 75W – so while it’s not the lowest-power 3060 we’ll probably see in a notebook, it isn’t top of the pack either. Still, this machine can handle just about anything you’d throw at it at 1080p, often at higher-than-60fps framerates.

Benchmarks

MSI GP66 Leopard

ASUS Zephyrus M15

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

Price as tested

$1,799

$1,279

$1,399

CPU

Intel Core i7-10870H

Intel Core i7-10750H

Intel Core i7-11375H

GPU

Nvidia RTX 3070 Laptop

Nvidia GTX 1660 TI

Nvidia RTX 3060

3DMark Time Spy

10266

5807

6377

3DMark Fire Strike

21626

13168

14416

3DMark Night Raid

47377

36383

30238

Total War: Three Kingdoms

128

44

54

Borderlands 3

87

49

60

Metro Exodus

69

23

48

Hitman 3

158

93

Unigine Heaven 4.0

126

71

85

PCMark 10

6499

5240

5892

PCMark 10 Battery Test

2:20

8:31

6:30

Remember, the values above are worst-case scenarios – Ultra settings in benchmarks designed to stress the system to the max. In actual gameplay, I found Medium settings to be more than adequate in Battlefield V for 80-100 frames per second or higher in the single-player campaign, and I’m sure some extra fiddling could have optimized things further. Like most laptop displays, the response time isn’t super fast, so you may see some ghosting here and there, but it does the job well enough. I achieved similar results in Borderlands 3 firefights with High settings as well.

The Turbo button, while a quaint reminder of days gone by, didn’t boost things too much, but if you’re using headphones and playing a noisy shooter, it can’t hurt to turn it on – I gained a few frames at most during higher-framerate scenes in Battlefield V, while my benchmarks in Borderlands 3 and Total War: Three Kingdoms only jumped by about 1 and 2 frames per second, respectively. This could vary from game to game, especially in cases where Intel’s four-core-eight-thread processor might bottleneck the graphics card – which could become more and more common as games are designed to use more CPU threads.

On the more subjective side of things, the Predator Triton 300 SE hits all the same marks it does with desktop work. The keyboard is plenty comfortable for strafing between enemy bunkers, with well-spaced keys and deep travel (for a laptop). The trackpad is smooth, and useful enough with the sensitivity cranked up in Windows – though as always, you’ll get a much, much better experience with a gaming mouse. The speakers will do you fine in a pinch, but even a cheap pair of earbuds is going to sound better, so factor a few peripherals into your budget for best results.

Finally, the laptop does get warm during gaming, just as any other compact machine would – and like most of today’s modern laptops, it will get hot enough to thermal throttle during intense tasks like gaming (two of my four CPU cores got into the 90s during the above benchmarks, and in a toastier room, I easily throttled on all four). This is unfortunate as always, but it’s also par for the course in 2021, even with the scaled-back 11th gen chips.

Battery Life

Battery life is one of Intel’s selling points for its 11th-gen processors, and the Predator Triton 300 SE fares…fine in this regard. At six hours and 30 minutes in PCMark 10’s Modern Office battery test at 50% brightness, the machine lasted long enough to get you through most of the workday, which is better than a lot of gaming laptops out there. Still, compared to others we’ve tested, I’d call it middle-of-the-road, or at least high-middle-of-the-road. It’s not going to win any battery life awards, but it’ll get the job done nicely as a standard day-to-day laptop.

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Purchasing Guide

The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE is currently available in only one configuration with a Intel Core i7-11375H Special Edition processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of RAM and 512GB NVMe SSD for $1,399 at Best Buy.

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