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Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 review

The Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 winds back the clock to the Nintendo 3DS era with an admittedly much more powerful autostereoscopic display.

Acer Predator Helios 3D 15
Acer Predator Helios 3D 15
2 out of 5 stars
2
Display
15.6-inch IPS 4K @ 60Hz
Processor
Intel Core i9-13900HX
Storage/RAM
2TB M.2/32GB DDR5
Nathan Lawrence
Apr 30, 2024
Icon Time To Read8 min read
Quick verdict: Acer Predator Helios 3D 15
Out of the box, the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 makes a strong opening statement with powerful specs and plenty of ports (including exhaust ports). And while the benchmarking results are decent enough, everything feels built around a too slow 60Hz display for an autostereoscopic 3D screen. Basically, it’s priced as a top-tier gaming laptop but doesn’t have the refresh rate or screen technology to back up those claims.
pro
Pros
pro Powerful specs
pro Ports and port placement
pro Solid performance
con
Cons
con Fans are too loud
con 60Hz refresh rate is too low
con Eye-wateringly expensive

It’s the end of the single-digit naughties and the world’s gone 3D mad. James Cameron’s revitalised 3D movies with Avatar and TV manufacturers are keen to cash in. Even Nintendo shifts its DS handheld into the 3D space with glasses-free autostereoscopic display.

Then the 3D era ended.

Movies aren’t really 3D anymore and nor are TVs, and Nintendo’s content with the 2D realities of the Switch. But somehow, 3D’s returned. While gaming laptop displays seem to be battling over high-resolution, fast-refresh-rate OLED and mini-LED screens, the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 enters the fray to reignite autostereoscopy with a gaming laptop that offers 3D, albeit at a serious cost.

Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 value for money

Too steep of an investment in a 3D screen ($7,599 RRP).

The Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 is too pricey for what you get, effectively only outpriced by gaming laptops with Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics cards and Mini-LED screens. In fact, the Lenovo Legion 7i Pro has a bigger screen with a higher refresh rate and an RTX 4090 inside for a $600 cheaper RRP. Meanwhile, the MSI Raider GE68 has a newer CPU and the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo has mostly comparable specs, but both are $1,000 RRP cheaper than the Helios 3D 15.

Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 design and features

A bulky design with some thoughtfully placed ports.

That “15” in the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 title is short for 15.6-inch screen. But the overall chunkiness and heft make it look and feel like something that should have a larger screen. That chonk carries over to the power brick, which has an admittedly long total cable length.

On the right of the laptop are two USB 3.2 ports and on the right are four separate ports: a 3.5mm audio jack, Micro SD, another USB 3.2 slot and a gigabit Ethernet. I like how two of the more practical-but-get-in-the-way ports are on the back—namely, the power and a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port—alongside two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

You’ll also find four noticeable exhaust ports around the laptop, too: two on the back, and one at the rear of either flank. Pop open the lid and there’s a cramped but practical backlit keyboard with a numpad. The spacebar and trackpad are off-centre, though, so this takes some getting used to for adapting muscle memory hand placement.

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Upgrades
Bullhorn
What can be upgraded?

Graphics: You might be able to boost the capabilities of the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 by pairing it with an eGPU, but it is otherwise not possible to upgrade the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 laptop graphics card inside the machine.

Storage: The baseline comes with 2TB of SSD storage. You could feasibly open the Helio 3D 15 and put in higher-capacity M.2 PCIe Gen4 drives.

Memory: The baseline comes equipped with 32GB of DD5 RAM (which runs at 5600MHz), which is as fast as it gets.

Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 game performance

A decent performer with impractical longevity.

The Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 is certainly priced and intended as a gaming laptop. And on raw benchmarking alone, it certainly offers decent performance. Obviously, you can’t expect comparable performance for the GeForce RTX 4080 laptop graphics card vs a full-sized alternative, but the performance is decent enough. Note that normally I’d benchmark Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III as part of my testing, but it kept crashing on the Helios 3D 15. All games are tested with their max settings and, where available, ray tracing is enabled.

Game
1080p (fps)
1440p (fps)
4K (fps)
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora956540
Red Dead Redemption 214912078
F1 23896439
Returnal1027541
Dying Light 2926030
Cyberpunk 207735224
Hitman 3986634
Total War: Warhammer 31399650
The Talos Principle 2815728

Note that all benchmarking was done with the laptop’s maxed-out Turbo setting. For DLSS 2 games, there’s a marginal improvement over native and AI-upscaled frames, with the truly impressive results coming from DLSS 3 games, some of which boast double the frame rate. All games below are set to DLSS balanced. The best frame-rate gains come from the DLSS 3 games: namely, Returnal, Dying Light 2, Cyberpunk 2077 and Hitman 3.

Game
1080p (fps)
1440p (fps)
4K (fps)
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora102 (+7%)73 (+11%)58 (+ 31%)
Red Dead Redemption 2160 (+7%)136 (+12%)93 (+ 16%)
F1 23109 (+18%)91 (+30%)64 (+ 39%)
Returnal188 (+46%)143 (+48%)85 (+ 52%)
Dying Light 2169 (+46%)138 (+57%)86 (+ 65%)
Cyberpunk 2077113 (+69%)80 (+72%)43 (+ 91%)
Hitman 3195 (+50%)148 (+55%)85 (+ 60%)
The Talos Principle 2165 (+51%)128 (+55%)74 (+ 62%)

The big elephant in the room is the 60Hz max refresh rate of the laptop’s screen. For those unaware, the refresh rate dictates how many rendered frames are shown on screen. It effectively means anything over 60 frames per second (60fps) is wasted. With DLSS games, 60fps is basically possible for all games at 4K resolutions, which means not too many wasted frames for this laptop’s 4K screen.

The catch, though, is playing games at 1440p and 1080p resolutions run at up to two or three times that 60Hz restriction, which effectively relegates the Helios 3D 15 to primarily for single-player or co-op games. This isn’t a system you should consider for online gaming, particularly for shooters that benefit from higher frame rates. You could bypass this by connecting the Helios 3D 15 to an external monitor via HDMI cable, but that dents the overall mobility of the gaming laptop.

So, why the 60Hz limit? That “3D” part of the full laptop name is in reference to an autostereoscopic screen. Technically, you can turn any 2D on-screen image—static, video or gaming—into a 3D one with the Helios 3D 15, but there are some catches. First, whatever you’re 3D-ifying needs to be full screen. Second, it’s restricted to 1080p (at least for games). And third, well, results vary based on my tests.

At the time of testing, there were 120+ games fully recommended for 3D. I tested a few of them but, honestly, I wasn’t able to play any of them for very long. Mouse cursors, text and other UI elements were recurring problems, with my eyes feeling like they were either perpetually trying to focus or objects were blurry. The 3D was at its most impressive in parts of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but also at its most painful when there were too many foreground objects.

Info Box
Laptop batteries: why size isn’t everything

Laptop batteries are typically measured in watt-hours (Whr), this unit measures how much power is expended per hour. The more Whr a laptop battery has, the longer the battery life is on paper. However, raw size isn’t everything. It’s not uncommon to find two laptops with the same amount of Whr and very different battery life. There are plenty of other factors that can affect battery life, from software optimisation to how the display has been calibrated.

It’s also worth noting that batteries can only go so big. Most airlines won’t allow you to take any device with a battery larger than 100Whr onboard, so most manufacturers treat that as an unofficial size limit.

Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 everyday testing and battery life

The keyboard takes getting used to but powerful enough for everyday computing.

I also performed 3D tests on select movie scenes. The Battle of Helms Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was my first stop, and it was initially impressive. Still, the 3D tech seemed to struggle with longer hair, which made heads look deeper than they should be, and certain rain shots made the top of the screen blur.

Top Gun: Maverick was particularly immersive for the steady shots but proved a literal eye-watering pain for faster camera movements. Rogue One’s attack on Scarif looked good in parts—like Top Gun, in-cockpit shots are a great match for the tech—but felt out of focus in others. My partner couldn’t stomach more than a few seconds before she felt “bilious”, and my eyes felt weird for a few minutes after testing.

In terms of other everyday use, the off-centre keyboard placement was a constant pain. Admittedly, keystrokes are responsive and quiet, and the trackpad is functional without being giant. The main pain was fan noise. It’s barely noticeable if you’re on the Quiet preset and manageable on Balanced and even Performance. But if you choose the all-out Ultra setting, the fans power up to a painful 55dB-minimum level, even if you’re not doing anything particularly demanding.

In fairness, you’d likely only want to use that setting for intensive tasks, but the size of the exhaust ports made the fans sound even louder, and I’ve never been so annoyed by fan noise during testing. It got to the point where I was using my Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ear headphones to drown out the noise, which was noticeable from every room in my apartment.

As for battery life, forget about it. I typically leave laptops on overnight to test battery longevity but the Helios 3D 15 couldn’t make it past two hours. My battery tests with 3D enabled couldn’t even make it past 90 minutes. It takes about an hour to recharge from 0% to full. That short battery life relegates the Helios 3D 15 to an always-plugged-in workstation and not something you could practically use while out and about.

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Power-settings performance
All of the main benchmarking was performed with the Ultra performance preset, which includes those painfully loud fans. I also tested The Talos Principle 2 on the Performance, Balanced and Quiet settings to see how much the fps fared at native and DLSS resolutions:
  • 1080p Performance: 6.94% decrease (native); 0.85% increase (DLSS)
  • 1440p Performance: 7.02% decrease (native); 3.04% decrease (DLSS)
  • 4K Performance: 0.35% increase (native); 3.64% decrease (DLSS)
  • 1080p Balanced: 19.95% decrease (native); 12.27% decrease (DLSS)
  • 1440p Balanced: 22.98% decrease (native); 17.72% decrease (DLSS)
  • 4K Balanced: 17.38% decrease (native); 17.14% decrease (DLSS)
  • 1080p Quiet: 26.39% decrease (native); 24.17% decrease (DLSS)
  • 1440p Quiet: 26.49% decrease (native); 19.91% decrease (DLSS)
  • 4K Quiet: 21.63% decrease (native); 21.59% decrease (DLSS)
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Pre-installed software
Info Box
What software is installed by default?
There are few things more annoying than buying a brand new laptop and discovering it has a bunch of annoying bloatware installed out of the box. Here’s how much software you’re dealing with when you boot up the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15.
  • Acer Purified Voice Console and Care Center
  • Dropbox (promotion)
  • DTS Sound Unbound
  • DTS:X Ultra
  • ExpressVPN
  • Intel Graphics Command Center
  • Intel Optane Memory and Storage Management
  • Killer Intelligence Center
  • McAfee
  • Microsoft 365 Office
  • Nvidia Control Panel
  • Planet9 Stub
  • PredatorSense
  • Realtek Audio Console
  • SpatialLabs: Experience Center, Go, Model Viewer, Player, TrueGame
  • Spotify
  • Thunderbolt Control Center

Is the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 worth buying?

Impossible to recommend given the high asking price.

The Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 is a really tough sell. It’s bet everything on the autostereoscopic 3D screen and, short of being able to test it yourself before buying, you’re effectively hoping your $7,599 investment pays off. There’s decent enough performance but there are too many concessions for what ultimately feels like an overpriced gaming laptop with a glorified 3D gimmick.

How we review laptops

Whether you're looking at a mainstream computer brand like Dell or a dedicated gaming brand like MSI, there's an immense number of decisions you'll need to make when purchasing a laptop. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few important features to consider when shopping for your next laptop:

  • Screen size and type: Unlike upgradeable components like your GPU, RAM and storage, you're stuck with the display you buy when you purchase a laptop. Is it a comfortable size? Does it offer a wide-viewing angle?
  • Resolution: Similarly, you can't change your display's resolution after the fact. 1080p (Full HD) is the bare minimum these days and most laptops worth their price tag aim for 1440p at least (QHD or QuadHD) but you can also opt for 4K if you're willing to spend a little extra.
  • Refresh rate: A screen's refresh rate is the measurement of how frequently it changes. If you play fast-paced multiplayer games like Call of Duty, you know that the difference a few milliseconds that a high refresh rate gets you can count for a lot. The higher the refresh rate, the better. Most conventional laptops offer 60Hz to 90Hz but fancier gaming laptops can offer 144Hz, 165Hz or even 240Hz screens.
  • Ports and connections: Like your screen, ports will impact your everyday experience with a laptop, particularly if you use it for work. While you can work around this with USB hubs and adapters, a laptop with fewer ports than you need can quickly become a headache.
  • Future-proofing: There are no hard and fast rules here but as a general suggestion, you'll want to sure you're laptop has the legs to survive a few years of technology improvements in any way you can. You can overshoot on your desired specs, spending more on a machine that's more powerful than you currently need, or opt for a model or brand that has support for upgrades down the track. Check which features of the machine are upgradeable. The Dell XPS 15, for example, supports additional RAM, while Apple MacBooks do not.

Check out our dedicated laptop buying guide for more suggestions on shopping for the best laptop for your needs.

Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 FAQs

The Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 is a powerful gaming laptop with an Intel Core i9-13900HX processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 graphics card. It can handle any game you throw at it, but it’s limited by a 60Hz refresh-rate screen.
In our tests, the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 only lasted two hours on a 1080p video playback test with default battery settings.
It depends on the model you buy, but the Acer Predator Helios 3D 15 is too expensive to recommend for what you get, especially when competitors offer better displays at a cheaper asking price.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.