Acer Aspire Predator
If you are not living under a rock then you would know about the Acer Aspire Predator. Itís captivated the market with its engineered motherboard, outlandish specs, all draped in one of the sexiest casings, known to mankind.
Under the Hood
It comes with all the benefits of unified hardware and none of the drawback as Acer will let enthusiasts to overclock or change parts without any harm to the warranty. Itís the console of PCs without the lame.
So how does one benchmark a pre-built PC? Itís not like there are a huge number of high performance pre-built computers out there. In fact the only other machine worth mentioning would be Alienware but trying to get one of those for reviews is near impossible. It was decided that the Predator should be pitted against our Intel and AMD test beds to get some clarity.
The Predator has some impressive specs. The review model came with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550, 8GB DDR2 800 memory, 2x 9800GTXs and a total of 1TB hard drive space. Combine that all with a DVD Writer, a Blu Ray/DVD writer drive, a Creative X-Fi Platinum, and the most notable of cases and you get the impression that the Predator is not a machine to be taken lightly.
The entire package also ships with a Logitech G5 laser gaming mouse and a Logitech G 11 keyboard demonstrating that Acer cut exactly zero corners.
The predator is every bit good looking too; while actually a high quality plastic, the case is functional as well as being attractive. The 120mm radiator fan is ninja grade quiet and more than capable of keeping the modest water-cooling setup under wraps. Acer has included a hot swappable system for the hard drives complete with clearly labeled OS drive which will keep the noobs from injuring their OS while allowing the rest of us to frantically copy Linux distros at the next LAN. These drives are hidden behind a little door which is worryingly weak and brings about fears of snapped plastic and tears. The optical drive bays have claw-like doors that look really impressive all the while being the biggest throwback to the machines namesake; a butt ugly alien.
This is all covered by the main door which opens Lamborghini style. There is also a multi card reader with a USB 2.0 port, and if your USB flash drive is not excessively large then it will easily fit behind the main door. On the top of the case are more USB, FireWire, and eSATA ports - just in case your Lambo door is closed.
The accompanying Acer G24 24" LCD is a story on its own. Worthy of a separate review, it regularly inspired oohs and aaahs from everyone who saw it. With its burnt orange bezel the Acer G24 not only has the looks to accompany the Predator it also has the image quality to do the Predator justice.
We cannot however, forget about our test rigs. Our AMD test rig comes dressed in a Lian Li ArmorSuit PC-P80 which AMD had customized with a Spider/Crossfire theme. This custom case has a price tag of over $700, which in addition to making us gulp should also be factored into your final conclusion. AMD even went so far as to have green and red cold cathode florescent lights fitted. AMD combined its Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition with a Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H, 4GB Adata DDR2-800, and to top it all of a Sapphire HD4870X2.
The Intel test rig is significantly older and somewhat less impressive on the looks side. It has a Raidmax Aztec chassis but we popped in a recent review processor in the shape of the amazing Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 to compensate. Intel threw in their D975XBX2 board and 2GB DDR3-1066 memory. The system originally came with a 8800GT but we swopped this out with a 8800GTX that we had floating around. The value of the AMD system is a nice round $2100 while the Intel rig tops in at a $2600; both these rigs are around half the price of the Acer Predator, making for an interesting comparison.
The predators biggest strength was that it was an all round gladiator, every component was top notch and this is exactly why we setup our rigs to be better in just one department. Our tests included a SuperPi 1.5 mod 1M run, a Cinebench Rl0 4 core run, a round of H264 encoding, 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark 06, and of course Crysis and World in Conflict. The results were far from shocking. All CPU intensive benchmarks were in the Intel's favor with the Predator coming in a close second; while all GPU biased tests saw the AMD coming out tops with the Predator coming in second.
What we did learn was that the Phenom X4 9950 BE really lets its system down, and the results go to show once again that if AMD want to have any chance of making an impact on the high performance desktop market there needs to be a vastly superior chip and soon. Popping the more powerful AMD GPU into the Intel machine would no doubt tear the predator a new one but that much should already be painfully obvious. The Predator seems to be the perfect middle ground in terms of performance and convenience but it is priced beyond madness and most enthusiasts will scoff at spending so much on a fairly good pre-built system
For far less it is possible to build a water cooled system with a lot more than just a mid-range quad core and two previous generation CPUs. Why the Predator doesn't come with at least two GTX 260's is a mystery, it's not like the Predator was assembled two years ago; in fact the test unit had manufacturing labels dated as recently as August 2008. The Predator looks awesome, and once you figure out how to remove the side panel and you see inside you realize how much effort Acer actually went through. The Predator is a beautiful PC, it looks good, it performs well, but it is not worth the asking price of $4000. The AMD and Intel test machines are powerful rigs far beyond average Joe's budget but still half the price of the Predator.
Acer designed the Predator to be the ultimate solution for non-enthusiasts to experience what the enthusiasts experience and for that we salute them, but unfortunately they have now taken it from being an enthusiasts-only experience to a wealthy-only experience.
Acer knows it has a good reputation and are banking on the fact that consumers are always worried about warranty to make the Predator an attractive solution rather than getting a custom rig from the local PC shop, but why does a warranty have to carry such a hefty price tag?
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