Saturday, September 25, 2021
LaptopsWindows laptops

Acer Predator Triton 500 SE pre-review (2021 PT516-51s model


Acer announced their updated 2021 Predator Triton 500 a few months ago, and I got to spend the last few weeks with a pre-release sample and I can share some thoughts about it with you here.

At this point, this is not one of our standard reviews, as this sample doesn’t run on finalized software and we couldn’t run our standard benchmarks and tests on it. So, for now, we’ll only cover everything else except for the performance, thermals, and battery life, and we’ll update on those once we get the finalized BIOS, hopefully in the nearby future.

So the 2021 Predator Triton 500 SE – Special Edition updates and improves on the 2020 model in a couple of ways. The obvious changes are the transition towards a cleaner design with fewer obnoxious branding elements, a different keyboard design, as well as the fact that there are now 16:10 screens on this series, available in a couple of different panel options.

On top of these, the hardware has also been bumped to the 2021 level, and what we had here is the top-specced configuration, built on a Core i9-11900H processor and an RTX 3080 Laptop dGPU at up to 100W.

All these combined make the Triton 500 SE a more viable multi-purpose computer, opening doors for it in stricter business or school environments where the more aggressive-looking past generations might not have been accepted. I’m sure glad Acer went this route and turned their 2021 Triton into a sleeper performance laptop, but we’ll have to see how well this fares against the tough competition in this premium niche, where the other OEMs have also improved on their products this year.

The specs sheet as previewed – Acer Predator Triton 500 SE – Special Edition

Acer Predator Triton 500 SE PT516-51s gaming laptop
Screen 16 inch, 16:10, QHD+ 2560 x 1600 px resolution, IPS, 240 Hz, matte, BOE NE16QDM-NY1 panel
Processor Intel Tiger Lake Core i9-11900H, eight-core
Video Intel UHD and up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 8GB 80-100W (GeForce 471.11),
with Advanced Optimus, MUX and GSync
Memory 32 GB DDR4-3200 (2x 16 GB DIMMs, dual-channel, dual-rank)
Storage 2x 2 TB PCIe gen4 SSDs, 2x M.2 slots
Connectivity WiFi 6 (Killer AX1650i) with Bluetooth 5.2, Killer E3100G Gigabit Ethernet LAN
Ports left: power plug, LAN, 1x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, headphone/mic
right: Kensington Lock, HDMI 2.1, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-A 3.2 gen2,SD 7.0 card reader
Battery 99 Wh, 230 W power adapter
Size 359 mm or 14.1” (w) x 262 mm or 10.3” (d) x 19.9 mm or .78” (h)
Weight 2.33 kg (5.13 lb), .75 kg (1.65 lbs) power brick, EU version
Extras RGB backlit keyboard – 3 zones, 2x stereo speakers, HD webcam, finger sensor

Expect this to be available in a couple of different configurations, with 3060/3070 GPU options and several different panels.

Design and exterior

Construction-wise the 2021 Triton 500 SE is similar in many ways to the previous generation, but is now more rectangular in shape, without the cut corners seen on the 2020 model.

This update is also a tad thicker, at 19.9 mm, and heavier, at 5.1 lbs for our configuration that comes with two installed SSDs. This makes it one of the heaviest devices in its class, but that’s also because 16:10 screens are available here, as well as a 99 Wh battery inside.

I already mentioned that Acer moved towards cleaner looks with this generation. Gone are the glowing Predator logo on the lid and branding under the screen, which have been replaced with much more subtle logos. So once you peel off the multiple stickers that Acer still puts on the arm-rest and under the screen, this will be one of the cleanest models in the class.

Acer also replaced the dark-blue color scheme with a dark-gray color on this SE, and updated some of the metal alloys and finishings. As a result, this Predator 500 is one of the most smudge-resistant laptops that I’ve ever tested, the kind that doesn’t show any smudges anywhere (except on the keys) after almost two weeks of me using it. Impressive!

The surfaces also feel nice to the touch, with a smooth finishing, and the entire thing doesn’t flex or creak in any obvious way. The lid could have perhaps been a little sturdier, as it still warps when abused, but other than that, no complaint here.

As far as practicality goes, I appreciate the blunted corners and edges, but there’s still a sharp edge on the underside, where the bottom panel attaches to the main chassis. That part is sharp and you’ll feel it when picking up this laptop.

I’m also a big fan of Acer including 16:10 screens on this series, without sacrificing the camera at the top. No IR, though, just a finger-sensor integrated into the clickpad. The two hinges allow to easily adjust and lift up the screen with a single hand, as well as allow it to go back flat to 180-degrees, something I much appreciate on a portable computer.

On the other hand, Acer could have put grippier rubber feet on this laptop, and should have not placed the status LEDs under the screen. They used to have those on the side on the previous-gen Triton, but now they’re back in the line of sight, where you’ll see them while using the laptop or watching a movie at night.

The thermal design is something else that we need to discuss here. Air goes into the fans through the grills at the top of the keyboard and through the belly, and is then pushed out on the back and on the sides, out of the way and not into the screen, as on other notebooks in this class. This design does result in the keyboard being pushed a little down on this chassis, leading to a more cramped arm-rest, in order to allow for those grills at the top. I for one am OK with this small drawback, though.

As for the IO, that’s lined in the middle of both edges. There’s everything you will need on this laptop, including 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, one on each side, a fast SD card reader, and an HDMI 2.1 port. Both the HDMI and Thunderbolt ports are connected to the Nvidia dGPU here, and the laptop integrates a MUX, with Advanced Optimus on most configurations, as far as I can tell.

Still, if I’m to nit about the IO placement, I’ll just mention that the Thunderbolt and HDMI ports are both on the right edge, and that can clutter your mouse area if you deice to connect peripherals through these ports.

All in all, this Predator Triton 500 SE is one of the better-balanced designs in the premium niche. It’s a bit heavier than the competition and lacks certain features such as up-firing speakers and IR cameras, but everything else is just about right. Except for those annoyingly placed status LEDs!

Keyboard and trackpad

I wasn’t happy to find out that Acer decided to replace the keyboard that they previously used on the 2020 model, but having spent time with this updated version on the Triton 500 SE, I think it’s OK for this sort of a thinner laptop.

The layout hasn’t changed and it’s mostly fine, with full-sized keycaps and arrows. Not a big fan of having media keys in the very right column instead of having dedicated keys for Home/End, but you can remap them in software. Given how Acer steered this product more towards professional users and less so towards gamers now, I was hoping they’d also steer the keyboard layout in the same direction.

The other thing that changed is the keycaps’ design. In the past, they used the same keycaps as on their other Predator lineups, with the translucent edges that let the RGB lighting shine through; here they moved to a more basic and uniform keycap design, perhaps in their effort to sober up the whole design. I understand the decision, but I find the overall feedback of this keyboard even shallower than before, which I don’t think everyone will appreciate.

This feels like typing on a much thinner ultrabook, perhaps closer to the XPS 15 and Acer’s own Swift 3/5 products. This way, typing on this keyboard is a quiet and potentially fast experience, but the whole thing is also taxing and can lead to a fair amount of missed strokes. I do like this sort of shallower keyboard on laptops, so I got along with it well after a couple of thousands of words, but I still feel there’s room for improvement here and that some of the other laptops in this niche (especially the Zephyrus M16 or Aero 15) offer superior keyboards.

As for the illumination, this is a 3-zone lit keyboard with two-light intensity levels to choose from. The LEDs are bright enough and fairly uniform, but a lot of light creeps out from under the keycaps and there’s no option to reactivate the lighting with a swipe over the clickpad once it times off, you have to press a key for it. Or you can set it up to never time-out from the Predator Sense app and only adjust it automatically, if you’re OK with that.

On the plus side, I must add that this layout includes a lit indicator for Caps Lock and for the sound being muted, the former being something many Acer keyboard designs have lacked in the past.

The clickpad is glass, but not as smooth as some of the other options, and not as big either, mostly because of this whole design that drags the keyboard down onto the chassis and leaves room for a smaller arm-rest, and thus a smaller clickpad.

I can’t complain about how this performs with everyday use or taps or gestures, though, or about the smooth physical clicks, so the Triton 500 is not going to lose any points here.

For biometrics, there’s a figner-sensor integrated into the clickpad, in its top-left corner. It works OK with Hello, and I like that there’s no dead-spot when moving your finger or tracking over this finger-sensor, like on other similar designs. I hardly ever felt that there’s a figner-sensor there in the corner during my time with this laptop.

Screen

For the screen, Acer offers a couple of different panel choices for the 2021 Predator Triton 500 SE lineup, all 16-inches in size, 16:10 in aspect ratio, matte and non-touch.

What we have here is the middle-option QHD+ 165Hz 3ms IPS panel from BOE, fairly good for what it is.

It gets very bright at 500+ nits of peak brightness without massively sacrificing on the blacks or contrast, offers good viewing angles and ~100% sRGB color coverage.

Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:

  • Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE0990 (NE160QDM-NY1);
  • Coverage: 98.1% sRGB, 72.3% AdobeRGB, 74.5% DCI P3;
  • Measured gamma: 2.17;
  • Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 530.79 cd/m2 on power;
  • Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 19.23 cd/m2 on power;
  • Contrast at max brightness: 1338:1;
  • White point: 7100 K;
  • Black on max brightness: 0.39 cd/m2;
  • PWM: No.

Further calibration is required to correct the blue-skewed White Point, but once that’s done, this ends up being a good display. We did notice some light bleeding in the corners, but it’s not very bad, as well as some slight DeltaE color imbalances in one of the corners, but again, within reasonable limits. For general use, media, and gaming at 100 to 200-nits of brightness, this is going to be a solid screen.

Sure, it’s only 100% sRGB and not 100% DCI-P3, and that might be a small issue for creators and those of you that want excellent punchy colors on your laptop. No worries, though, Acer mentions two other QHD+ screen options for this series:

  • QHD+ 165 Hz with miniLED panel with 100% sRGB and up to 1250 nits of peak brightness;
  • QHD+ 240Hz “PolarBlack” IPS with 100% DCI-P3 colors.

No word on the peak-brightness for this latter panel, and I worry it might be around 300-nits, as the other QHD+ 240Hz panel we’ve seen so far. I’m also not sure what the “PolarBlack” branding translates into; hopefully, it’s excellent contrast and blacks, which would be possible with a lower max-brightness level.

Nonetheless, this latter panel option should cater well for creators, but I’d look into more details on it before taking the plunge.

FHD 360Hz screen options will also be available for the Triton 500 SE series, perhaps an option for those of you interested in fast-paced games. I’d still prefer the sharper QHD, but up to you.

Both the FHD and QHD screen options come with Advanced Optimus and GSync on the dGPU mode. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on it based this sample that did not run the finalized BIOS. In the past, we’ve run into various issues with most of the laptops running on Advanced Optimus such as stuttering, flickering and so on, so I’d advise you to further look into what Acer did here before jumping on one of these.

Hardware and performance

Our unit is a top-specced configuration of the Acer Predator Triton 500 SE, with an Intel 11th gen Core i9-11900H processor, 32 GB of DDR4-3200 MHz RAM, 2x SSD in RAID, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3080 Laptop dGPU and the Intel Iris Xe iGPU within the Intel platform.

However, this is a pre-production engineering sample that’s not running finalized software, so we can’t properly benchmark it at this point, because it doesn’t perform as it should. We’re in contact with Acer about a finalized BIOS and hopefully, we’ll be able to update this article in the near future, but I don’t have an exact time frame on where this will happen.

So for now I’ll just comment on the specs and internal design a little bit.

It’s nice to see the 11th gen i9-11900H processor here, an 8C/16T processor with high Turbo clocks when supplied with enough power. The 11th gen platform proved to perform very well in the Zephyrus M16 and the Blade 15 Advanced, laptops in the same class as this Predator Triton 500 SE.

Fast PCIe gen4 storage is possible with the Tiger Lake platform, and since our sample comes with 2x fast SSDs in RAID, the excellent bench results come as no surprise.

The GPU on our unit is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop running at 80 to 100W of power with Dynamic Boost, the standard for a thinner performance laptop. 3070 and 3060 configurations are also available.

There’s also a MUX on the Triton 500 SE series, with Advanced Optimus on most configurations and most likely the option to just select a dGPU mode if you’re looking for the best performance while plugged in, and don’t plan to use the laptop on baterry.

Acer usually offer competent power/fan profiles in their Predator Sense control app, including profiles that automatically overlock the GPU for maximum performance. CPU undervolting, on the other hand, is not something you should expect on these newer Acer Predator models, based on our past experience. Perhaps Acer will look into adding some voltage control in the final BIOS, in order to match the options offered by the competition.

These aside, the Triton 500 comes with DDR4-3200 memory support here, with 2x DIMMs and up to 64 GB of RAM. Our unit gets 32 GB, the dual-rank kind. You’ll need to check if the 16 GB configurations are single or dual-rank though, as that would impact the performance.

That’s especially important here as Acer still use an inverted internal design that puts the SSD and RAM slots underneath the motherboard, so you’d have to disassemble the whole thing to get to them, which will most likely void your warranty.

Getting inside to the motherboard is a basic chore, but that won’t help you much when all the slots are underneath. The WiFi, speakers, and battery are the only parts easily accessible, but again, that’s not going to matter if you’re looking to perform upgrades.

In here you’ll also notice that Acer still didn’t put much effort into updating the audio system, which as far as I can tell right now, remains one of the poorer traits of this series.

That’s about it for now, but we’ll update you on our performance findings once we get the finalized BIOS. We’ll also touch on thermals, noise levels, and battery-life results in the final update, but in the meantime, our review of the previous-gen Triton 500 should be indicative of what to expect here, since the two generations are very similar in terms of internal and thermal design. I can also add that I haven’t noticed anything unusual about the thermals and noise readings on this early sample that we had here, and that the Turbo mode still runs very loud, but delivers excellent thermal results.

Some final thoughts

While I can’t draw any conclusions on the 2021 Acer Predator Triton 500 SE based on this early sample without properly testing out the performance, I can say that I expect it to be a competitive option in its class, based on how the previous design fared, the early tests on this unit, and the overall changes of this 2021 generation.

I’m happy to see the cleaner design, the 16:10 screen, and the bigger battery, and I expect a competent hardware/software implementation that should cater for most needs. However, the slightly larger footprint and increase in weight might push this out of some people’s maps. I feel this is more an alternative to the Lenovo Legion 7 or the Gigabyte Aero 15 now than to the more portable designs such as the Blade 15, Zephyrus M16, or the GS66 Stealth.

Pricing is going to factor in a whole bit as well. From what I can tell right now, the i9 + 3080+ QHD+ 165Hz screen option is mentioned at $2699 on Acer’s website, which is a fair cheaper than the Blade 15 or the GS66 Stealth, and about on par with the Legion 7. But the Legion is a more powerful unit, as well as chunkier and somewhat heavier.

Nonetheless, the 3060 (starting at $1749) and 3070 (starting at $1999) configurations are arguably the better value and where most people should end up shopping, so we’ll have to see how competitive this Triton 500 SE ends up once available in stores. Based on past experience and the little data available so far, I’d expect it to be aggressively priced in most regions.

Anyway, that’s about it for now with this preview of the Acer Predator Triton 500 SE PT516-51s. I hope we can have the finalized review soon enough, and in the meantime, let me know what you think about this series and leave your comments below so I can go over them in the update.

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