Painful to crack the case open, and wheres the SSD?
Last year, Acer officially bumped Dell from its status as the No. 2 PC maker in the world, and now Acer is hoping that its Predator can hunt down one of Dell’s most prized brands: Alienware.
No, we are not making this up. It’s literally Alienware vs. Predator. Sure, we’re writing this while listening to that bootleg of the Predator soundtrack that made the rounds in the 1990s, but c’mon, what else could you think after seeing Acer’s Predator case.
Besides probably getting Stan Winston’s estate to call the lawyers, the Predator can draw a crowd. In fact, when we unboxed the Predator, a small crowd of gawkers formed to take a peek. That rarely happens with this jaded bunch, even for some of the $8,000 gaming rigs we see here. And once we ripped off the Predator’s mask and fanned out the two crab-like optical-drive arms, it was hard not to yell, “You are one ugly mother…!” Well, you get the point.
Inside the Predator, the guts are sadly of this earth and pretty pedestrian. The full specs are available below but the highlights are an Acetek water-cooled, stock-clocked 2.8GHz Core i7-930, 12GB of DDR3/1333, and a GeForce GTX 470. Acer configured this machine as a midrange box so there’s no SSD, and no SLI. It is SLI-ready, though.
We didn’t have time to get a current Alienware rig for a remake of AvP, but even the specs of the Alienware Aurora ALX we reviewed in February are enough to take out the Predator. That’s all conjecture as we no longer have that machine for a true showdown, but the Alienware’s 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition and two Radeon HD 5870s trump a 2.8GHz Core i7-930 and GTX 470. We have to mention that said Alienware carried twice the price tag. But while performance comparisons between the Alienware and Predator would be unfair, build comparisons are valid. Between the two chassis designs, Alienware’s is the victor with its motorized vents and lighting system. The Predator case, while head-turning, is a serious pain to get into. You have to remove the geared face-mask and arms just to crack the side open.
So how does the Predator compare with our zero-point? The latter’s Radeon HD 5970, Intel SSD, and Core i7-920 ticking along at 3.5GHz, hits the Predator with the firepower of a man-portable mini-gun. Granted, our zero-point’s parts total about $2,500 today compared with the Predator’s $2K. But the Predator won’t even be ripping out the skull and spine of the $1,400 budget gaming box we built this month.
We realize we need to recalibrate our gaming benchmarks for midrange systems. The Predator looks like its frame rates are anemic but that’s because our benchmarks are run at 2560x1600 — a res that probably only 5 percent of people game at, and which practically mandate a dual-GPU or multicard setup. The Predator should run anything out today and tomorrow comfortably at 1920x1080. In the plus column, the Predator’s BIOS supports overclocking and we easily pushed the Predator up to 3.5GHz with little effort. We’re pretty sure it’ll reach 4GHz with more testing.
So what’s the final verdict? While radical in looks, the Predator actually plays it very safe. That’s not a surprise coming from a tier 1 PC maker, as they tend to play it safe and reliable rather than let it hang all out. Still, Acer played it a bit too conservative and perhaps a bit too budget with the Predator. If it’s truly going after Alienware, its machines are going to need to be loaded for, umm, aliens.
|Zero Point ||Acer Aspire Predator|
|Vegas Pro 9 (sec)||3,049 ||3,832 (-20%)|
|Lightroom 2.6 (sec) ||356 ||443 (-20%)|
|ProShow 4 (sec) ||1,112||1,445 (-23%)|
|Reference 1.6 (sec) ||2,113 ||2,728 (-23%)|
|S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP (fps)||42 ||25.1 (-40%)|
|Far Cry 2 (fps) ||114.4 ||69.9 (-39%)|
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.