Though dedicated gaming desktops will only ever be so small, more companies are finding ways to cram ever-bigger performance into ever-tinier packages. Acer’s approach is the Predator G1-710-70001, a “miniature” spin on the combat-themed PC the company has already released in two larger forms. You’ll have to endure at least one major annoyance with it, but the balance of performance and features is so good for the price ($2,299.99) that the Predator G1 is more than worth the extra trouble if you’re looking for an affordable entry point into the world of 4K and VR gaming.
Design and Features
Though it measures only 16.46 by 4.33 by 13.70 inches (HWD), the black-heavy Predator G1 certainly looks the part of a “man the front lines” gaming PC. The top and front panels fuse a tank tread and a marauding alien’s scaly skin to look as militaristic as futuristic, an aesthetic the bold angles on the red-lined side panels unmistakably encourage. Only the Predator logo, placed near the top center of the front panel, looks in any way traditional, and even that could be construed quite easily as a battalion medal or battle flag. Through a few gaps in the the folds (fins?) bleed glimpses of colored lighting; you can configure this across three lighting zones using the preinstalled PredatorSense software, which also displays important system information like temperature and fan speed.
All these design fillips help underplay other necessary visual evils, such as the front-panel ports (an SD card slot, a USB-C port, a USB 3.0 port, and headphone and microphone jacks) and a vertically oriented tray-style DVD±RW drive, though you probably won’t notice that the first time you look at the Predator G1. You might also be surprised to discover that there are two pull-out headphone hooks, one on either side of the front panel; Acer claims that this is not because it expects you to be simultaneously using multiple gaming headsets, but so you always have a place to hang your gear even if you put one side of the computer against the wall.
Honestly, though, it doesn’t much matter how you orient the Predator G1. You can open either side by undoing two screws in the back and sliding off the appropriate panel, but you have access to nothing through the right one, and opening the left one reveals an interior that is so tightly designed with respect to its storage cages and video card bracket that performing your own upgrades isn’t really going to be realistic or desirable. According to Acer, you can add another 2.5-inch drive, but to me doing that (or anything else) looked like a lot more trouble than it would be worth.
Not that you have much to worry about: There are some solid components in here. The processor is a 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700 (no, not a K, so forget about overclocking), a fine gaming chip these days. The 32GB of DDR4 RAM is way more than even most power users will need in most situations. More generous is the storage: a 512GB solid-state drive for running Windows 10 and your other programs, and a 2TB hard drive for data. The video card is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, the most powerful reasonable single GPU you can buy right now. Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11ac are the supported wireless protocols.
Also packaged with the Predator G1 are a copy of the game Tom Clancy’s The Division and two peripherals of impressive quality that nicely match the design scheme of the rest of the system. The standard left- and right-click buttons on the red-backlit mouse are mated with Forward and Back buttons in the traditional thumb-access position, there’s the expected scroll wheel, and a DPI-flipping switch is in the center. The mechanical keyboard is svelte and no-nonsense (it has almost no deck area beyond that to which the keys are attached), you have a number of options when it comes to adjusting the colored backlight, and the keys have an appealing blend of click and spring. Acer covers the Predator G1 with a two-year parts and labor warranty.
What’s the catch, you might ask? You’ll see as soon as you turn the computer around. I’m not referring to the rear port selection, which is fine (audio, four USB 3.0, and Ethernet coming from the motherboard; three DisplayPort, one HDMI, and one DVI coming from the video card; and a Kensington lock slot). Rather, there are two power jacks here for plugging in the cables from the two required external AC adapters. Because you need both plugged in whenever you use the Predator G1, it’s a problem there’s no way of avoiding. Acer has tried to smooth over things by also providing an attractive red-and-black caddy for the adapters, but at about 5.1 by 4.5 by 9.6 inches, it’s sufficiently cumbersome to spoil the illusion of a thin, go-anywhere PC Acer is trying to project with the Predator G1.
Despite its diminutive stature, the Predator G1 proved a strong performer for its price. It was, in fact, the new winner in its class at all our gaming tests, save one: Valley at 1,366-by-768 resolution and the Medium graphics quality preset. There, it was beat out by last year’s configuration of the Maingear Vybe (an Editors’ Choice winner), although only by a slim margin (135 frames per second, or fps, versus 140). And although these results should only be considered anecdotal at this point, as we are still integrating the tests into our benchmarking routines, it delivered playable frame rates on the high-end versions of both our Heaven and Valley when the resolution was upped to 4K (3,840 by 2,160). True, they just met our threshold for smooth playability (30fps is the floor, and that was what the Predator G1 earned on Heaven; Valley was slightly better, at 38fps), but if you’re willing to turn down the graphical detail a bit, you should do decently at these high resolutions, which bodes well if you regularly use a serious gaming monitor or a VR headset.
There’s no problem with the Predator G1’s capabilities as far as everyday productivity performance (in case you want to do work on a PC that looks like the business end of a Panzer), but it wasn’t quite the king of the hill in these areas. It matched its bigger (although less-expensive) sibling, the Predator AG6-710 (70002), on our HandBrake video enconding (with a time of 56 seconds), though the Predator G6 loped past the Predator G1 on our CineBench rendering challenge (868 versus 794), likely because of the Predator G6’s faster-clocked processor. But the Vybe, driven by a faster-still CPU with more cores and threads, skunked both in our Photoshop filter application test (2 minutes, 26 seconds, versus 3:21 for the Predator G1 and 3:07 for the Predator G6).
Last year, the Maingear Vybe bowled us over with an outstanding selection of gaming-aimed components for an unbelievable sub-$2,000 price. The Acer Predator G1-710-70001 can’t quite make it below that price mark, but offers plenty of value on its own, using some of the best of the currently available parts and packing a lot of storage for an exceptionally reasonable price. This isn’t to say it’s perfect: The restricted upgradability is less than ideal, and the required two AC adapters and the caddy for organizing them are an enormous irritation we’d be thrilled to live without. Still, all the other features are good enough to help the Predator G1-710-70001 rate among the best of current midrange gaming desktops, and merit our Editors’ Choice award.
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