The all-new Predator Triton 500 is Acer’s new benchmark among gaming laptops. A high-end model with a trim, light body, the Triton 500 (starts at $ 1,799.99; $ 2,499.99 as tested) packs Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics and a 15.6-inch screen. While the GPU’s power takes a hit to fit in this chassis, the Triton remains a potent gamer with a strong supporting feature set at a reasonable price. You get greater-than-60fps 1080p performance in demanding games, plus a 144Hz G-Sync display, for $ 100 less than a comparable Razer Blade 15. (The latter we tested has a GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q and no G-Sync.) It can’t quite topple the Blade 15 as our top pick; our Blade 15 had a nicer build, near-equal performance, quieter fans, and far longer battery life. That said, the Triton 500 is Acer at its best, and it’s still worth considering if the savings and G-Sync appeal to you more than the Blade 15’s charms.
A Restrained Design
The Triton 500’s build is among Acer’s best efforts for gaming machines to date. It’s slim and compact, and the design exhibits rare reserve. The style is admirably tame; in gaming laptops, I continue to prefer the shift to a black-and-light-blue color combination, versus the all-too-common red-and-black. No elements stand out as eyesores, too common on gaming machines, and the light-handed look is a nice fit for a premium laptop.
The chassis has just enough blue accents (on certain keys, on the ventilation) to add flair without overdoing it. The lid logo isn’t too bad, if gamer-y, though in 2019 I’m not sure I’d want to sit in a café with a laptop that has the word “Predator” emblazoned on it.
The display bezel is a flimsy-feeling plastic, which compares unfavorably to the rest of the body in metal, in both look and feel. The hinge seems like it will hold up just fine, but it feels just a bit less high-end than the rest of the build. On the whole, the Blade 15’s design is a bit more polished and cleaner all around, but the Triton 500 is nonetheless nicely put together.
The Triton 500 measures 0.7 by 14.1 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.6 pounds. That’s a fitting size for a gaming laptop, and while it would be a push to call it especially light, it’s fine for toting around now and then, or for a short commute. The Blade 15 weighs the same, while some like the Asus ROG Zephyrus S and Alienware m15 are a little thinner. For its part as a thin 17-inch laptop, the MSI GS75 Stealth manages to be lighter, at just 3.9 pounds.
All of these machines, including the Triton 500, are able to be so thin, with such high-end hardware inside, thanks to Nvidia’s Max-Q Design. This technology, where applied to the company’s mobile GeForce GTX and RTX GPUs, limits the clocks and power capability of the GPU so that it produces less heat. This in turn requires less room for heat-dissipation hardware. With this technique, manufacturers can put beefier graphics chips in smaller chassis, even if they’re kept on a bit of a leash. How exactly this affects performance is more complicated and varies by laptop, but you’ll see the results in the performance section below.
The keyboard and touchpad are good quality, if mostly unremarkable. No big issues or downsides on that front: The keys are fairly comfortable to type on, and the touchpad tracks smoothly. The latter is on the smaller side (but you’ll undoubtedly be gaming with a mouse), while the keys have a little more travel than I’d like. That leaves them feeling somewhat airy, with not much feedback. But really, they’re perfectly adequate.
Aesthetically, I think the clear edging on the keys cheapens the look of the chassis a little, but that’s a small complaint. The keys have customizable backlighting in the form of three zones across the left, center, and right of the keyboard. You can play with the lighting and colors in the included PredatorSense software, which can be summoned easily from a button in the top right corner. Here, you can also alter the performance of the laptop via fan speeds (auto or maximum) and GPU clocking (presets include normal, fast, or extreme), as well as monitor component performance and temperatures.
The Triton 500’s display has a lot going for it. The native resolution is full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels, or 1080p), which may not be exciting to some but is the best choice for a gaming laptop. Asking the GPU to push QHD (1440p) or especially 4K at high settings on today’s top titles is a big ask for any but today’s most elite laptops, when you’re already trying to squeeze maximum performance out of tight thermal confines.
Even with the powerful hardware in this unit, 1080p is a fine match, and Acer sweetened the screen recipe with this panel’s 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync support. The latter is a point in its favor versus the Razer Blade 15, especially considering the Triton 500’s lower cost. (G-Sync tends to boost the price.)
The panel picture quality is good, even if it doesn’t stand out in any particular way to me. The color vibrancy and brightness are spot-on average for a gaming-laptop panel. The real upsides are the two advanced refresh-rate-related features, as they will help your games look and run more smoothly. G-Sync is non-negotiable for some shoppers, so it’s a big plus here. Whether or not you’ll be able to take advantage of the high refresh rate in your specific play scenarios is a different matter, as you’ll see in the testing section later.
That display is also one of the components that are consistent across Acer’s different Triton 500 models. Acer offers only three different Triton 500 SKUs to choose among, so there’s not much variance, and both the display and an Intel Core i7-8750H processor (very common among gaming laptops) are constants. My review unit (specifically, model PT515-51-75L8) is the middle SKU, priced at $ 2,499.99, which gets you the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD.
Acer’s starter Triton 500 option costs $ 1,799 and has the same display, processor, memory, and storage as the tester I have, but the GPU is a much more affordable GeForce RTX 2060. The top-tier model is priced at $ 2,999, and that one goes all-in, with a GeForce RTX 2080, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Ours is a nice mix of price and componentry, though my hunch is that a GeForce RTX 2070 version would really hit the sweet spot.
Rounding out the system are the port options, which are solid on this laptop. The left flank holds an Ethernet jack, a USB 3.1 port, an HDMI connection, a headset jack, and a mic jack. On the right are two more USB 3.1 ports, a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, and a mini-DisplayPort connection. Additional features include a 720p webcam along the top bezel (it delivers an average-brightness and granular image exactly as you’d expect, given the resolution), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0.
Also, I feel compelled to note: The laptop plays a strange whooshing sound sequence on startup, just after the BIOS check, while showing the Predator brand logo. The sound is something of a Predator-esque animal-roar-plus-metal-screech effect, and I can’t help but roll my eyes each time. A nitpick, to be sure, but it’s rather silly, and again: not overly café-friendly. (In fairness, you can disable the animation and the sound effect in the BIOS, if you like.)
Testing: Pushing Turing to Its Laptop Limits
For performance testing, I compared the Predator Triton 500 to the most relevant recent gaming laptops we’ve tested. This includes a mix of GeForce GTX “Pascal” and RTX “Turing” machines, which helps provide some context for the performance of this laptop’s Turing-based GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, seeing as it’s still pretty new to the laptop market. A cheat sheet of the key components in each unit is below…
The competition includes the Gigabyte Aero 15-Y9, and of course our top pick, the Razer Blade 15. Also in the mix is the Asus ROG Zephyrus S, a slim 15-inch laptop with GeForce GTX graphics, which demonstrates how the previous generation stacks up. Filling out the chart is the 17-inch-class MSI GS75 Stealth, which serves as the high mark for GeForce RTX performance so far (while still hanging in among thin systems, thanks to its Max-Q build). Remember, though: A 17-inch-class laptop has a fair bit more chassis to spread around its thermal-dissipation hardware, so it’s not a fully fair fight comparing 15-inch and 17-inch gamers. That’s especially relevant here when comparing an RTX 2080 Max-Q in a laptop of each size.
Productivity and Storage Tests
PCMark 10 and PCMark 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a specialized storage test that we use to assess the speed of the PC’s drive subsystem.
The Triton 500 topped the charts here, which is admirable considering almost all of these systems share the same CPU. The Triton 500 is getting the most out of its chip for everyday home and office tasks, and while they are all capable, you may feel a little extra pep in your step with the Triton 500. Meanwhile, the SSD boot drives present in these systems all ensure speedy load and boot times, and none stands apart from the pack.
Media Processing and Creation Tests
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. This stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters. (Systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.)
The Triton 500’s media test results didn’t stand out in the same way its PCMark 10 showing did, but the laptop did just fine. Its Cinebench score was on the lower side for the group, but the Photoshop result was there with the rest of the pack. As usual with machines in this category and price tier, the Triton 500 is perfectly capable at media tasks, even if it lacks the oomph of a more specialized workstation-grade laptop. Edit photos and videos on this machine to your heart’s content, but perhaps consider something else if you’re a professional.
Synthetic Graphics Tests
Next up: UL’s 3DMark suite. 3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
The following chart is another synthetic graphics test, this one from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s done in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, whose different 3D-workload scenario presents a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
The Triton 500 held close to the other machines on these tests, which is both good and bad news. It performed a little too similarly to the Blade 15 considering it has a theoretically superior RTX 2080 Max-Q, as was the case with the Aero 15, too. Razer may have done especially well on the thermals in its laptop, but part of this also points to a larger trend we’re starting to see with the Max-Q chips. The RTX 2080 seems to require a fairly significant down-tuning to work effectively in these slim chassis, especially in 15-inch laptops (the larger MSI GS75 Stealth fares better, which helps prove the case). At least in the case of the Razer Blade 15, the GTX 2070 seems a better fit for these circumstances. This working theory seems supported on the next tests…
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern AAA titles with built-in benchmark schemes.
These tests are run at 1080p on both the moderate and maximum graphics-quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5; Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) to judge performance for a given laptop. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for that benchmark.
The Triton 500 does very well on these tests by any measure, cruising past 60fps on these games at maximum settings in HD. That alone is impressive in a laptop this size, and it shows the power of RTX graphics. In context, though, as explained above, it’s a little less impressive. The Blade 15 has the theoretically inferior RTX 2070 GPU, yet it sits side by side with the Triton 500 on these tests. The RTX 2080’s raw power pokes its head up every now and then, but maintaining boost clock speeds for long doesn’t appear sustainable. The Blade 15 generally seems more efficiently designed, because it was also much quieter: The Triton 500’s fans really sound like they’re straining while running these tests, and even when sitting on the in-game menus.
Using the higher GPU settings in the software does eke out a few more frames per second, but the laptop really sounds like it’s about to take off for flight in these modes. All in all, this RTX 2080 Max-Q performed very RTX 2070-like in our tests.
That said, I’d be harsher on that point if the Triton 500 were pricier than the competition. It’s still cheaper than the Blade 15, after all, even if you’re paying for the RTX 2080 name. It might not do what you’d hope for from an RTX 2080, based on the relative difference between the GeForce RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 desktop cards. (There is a gulf between those.) But it does offer top-end performance without inflating the price past plausible.
I’d be more leery of the fan noise, and the results of our final test…
Battery Rundown Test
Finally, the battery-life testing. After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video-rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
The battery here is, simply put, pretty short-lived. The Triton 500 lives up to the gaming-laptop stereotype of short battery life, even though that trend has been reversing on average. Less than three hours off the charger isn’t useful for traveling or using the laptop on the road for long, which undermines the portability of the design. The Blade 15 did much better here, with more than double the runtime. So did the larger MSI GS75 Stealth.
A Strong High-End Gaming Contender
There’s a lot to like about the Predator Triton 500. It’s compact and relatively light for the category. It boasts an appealing feature set, and it performs very well.
That said, given the performance parity with the Razer Blade 15, in a mid-$ 2,000s price tier where spending $ 100 more or less is not as significant as with a budget machine, the Blade 15 wins out. Its build is better, it’s much quieter, and the battery life is significantly longer.
Nonetheless, the Triton 500 is a worthy option, especially if the savings make the difference for you. But in this rarified price zone for GeForce RTX-based gaming laptops, the Blade 15 is still our top recommendation, and remains our Editors’ Choice.