Over the years there have been many, many attempts to deliver worthwhile pre-built (desktop) gaming rigs, not solely on performance alone, but also price, optimisation, upgradability, looks, and a host of other seemingly trivial aspects that all make could compromise a sale. Looking back, there isn’t a real shortage of units that have come and gone, but almost no one else from Dell has managed to tie down decent sales. And even then, Dell’s success is heavily attributed to their acquisition of Alienware. So when Acer announced the Predator G-series, which included the G6, G3, and G1, we all wondered how much of an impact it would make in such a competitive market. Here we review the Acer Predator G6.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]cer sent us the top of the line Predator G6 unit for review for a few weeks. While most gaming enthusiasts will speak at length about building their own rigs as a matter of pride and achievement, I will add that receiving a pre-built unit has its advantages in not having to deal with compatibility issues, or having to get your hands dirty*. After a few minutes spent customising the initial setup, I was ready to dig in and enjoy all the benefits of the Acer Predator G6.
* Before you have my head, I personally prefer building my own rig, just pointing out an obvious benefit or two in choosing a pre-built unit.
Build and Design
It Looks Like a Tank
If you’re going to purchase a pre-built desktop, you first have to love the design. The G6 may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as it looks like a Cerberus heavy tank destroyer. You’ll often hear the idiom “built like a tank,” referring to the solid build of an object or person, but rarely is it implied so literally. The tread pattern has a functional purpose, however, with many of the folds revealing compartment of some sort. The front face has three of these compartments, one for the Blu-ray writer, one for the external hard drive bay and cradle that pops out on which to rest your headphones after a session of gaming. In addition to this, the front also houses two USB3.0 ports, mic and audio jacks, SD card reader, the power button, and a turbo button.
The rear configuration includes six USB3.0 ports, another two USB2.0, an HDMI and DisplayPort, row of three 3.5mm audio jacks, and Ethernet. In addition to the motherboard’s HDMI and DP connections, the graphics card supports another three DPs, one HDMI, and one DVI port.
The unit is almost entirely plastic, although it doesn’t exactly look or feel like it. The ridges and grooves give it a more premium look, which is further aided by the silver trimming on the sides around the mesh-like cover panels. Both sides also have the Predator logo embossed on it in silver and red-orange highlights. The red-orange is prominent in the overall theme in the form of LED lights, both on the front and side panels. Interestingly, though, the lights will only work when in overclocking modes (of which there are two), although they are able to be configured with the graphics card to provide a better lighting display.
The unit is fairly large, measuring 554x211x462mm, and weighs 15.6KG.
Internals and Upgradability
Before you’re able to take a look at the innards, there is a small matter of opening the unit. Without any assistance, it isn’t as obvious as it would seem. Instead of simply unscrewing the side panel and sliding it out, the rear cover has to be removed, by means of pushing down on the clips at the bottom and pulling the whole panel off as straight as possible. Any sideways or angled pull results in the cover being stuck and you’ll have to realign it before starting again. While the unit may look fairly large on the outside, the space on the inside doesn’t quite measure up in comparison. Still, Acer has done a great job at effectively using the available real estate, with every neatly tucked away.
Acer has made use of a micro-ATX motherboard to optimise space. There are two available bays for storage, one of which is already in use for the fitted harddrive. There are four RAM slots, one of which is used. You won’t be able to fit a second graphics card for SLI connection even if the motherboard did support it. A standard PSU is utilised instead of a modular version in which you’re able to add and remove cables where required, and you’re left with quite a substantial mass of unutilised cables around the back. Thankfully, the LED lighting doesn’t require the same amount of cabling, with most of its wiring hidden with the removable panel walls and connecting to the motherboard by means of pin connector when the panel is slid back into position.
This, unfortunately, is a clear lack of upgradability, which will greatly affect how gamers perceive the Acer Predator G6 when long-term plans are factored in. As the performance sections will point to a rather strong rig, it may not be the case a year or two down the line if/when users seek to swap out a few components. While it may aid in reducing the overall cost of the unit, attention to detail in such matters may make all the difference to prospective buyers.
If there’s one aspect of the G6 that truly stands out amongst all else, it comes in the way of performance, both processing and gaming performance. At the heart, the unit lies the Intel Core i7-6700K 4GHz Quad-core, which is paired alongside 16GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM, and a hybrid 2TB HDD and 256GB SSD. When putting the rig through its paces, it performed very well, even beating out most of its competition. Things get even more extreme with the simple click of the Turbo button, which boosts the CPU clock speed close to 4.6GHz. The Turbo mode makes all the difference here, and there’s no denying the G6’s secret weapon. After running through a number of benchmark performance tests, I decided to perform additional tests on the bootup speeds in different modes. On average, boot up into Windows takes less than 5 seconds, with an additional second taken off when switched into overdrive with the Turbo. The SSD no doubt is a great asset towards said boot up speed.
What I loved about overclocking the G6 with a mere touch of a button wasn’t really in the form of power, but rather how silently it ran, even under the more strained conditions. When switching to Turbo mode, there isn’t even as much as a quick gasp of air from the fans to signal anything significant has occurred, as it continues doing it job as it did prior.
Graphics and Gaming Performance
While the raw performance of the Acer Predator G6 isn’t in dispute, that’s only half the battle completed. In fact, I’d say that gaming performance on the G6 is far more important, considering that this is a gaming rig hoping for mass appeal. To get the job done, Acer has fitted a NVidia GTX980. The GTX980 has enough muscle to play many of the AAA games on Ultra settings, including Project Cars, Call of Duty, and Star Wars Battlefront, to name a few. Running games in 1080p at maximum settings yielded results in access of 60fps almost without breaking a sweat. Moving up a notch, at 2560x1440px, the frame rates dropped somewhat, although the card was still able to reach the 60fps sweet spot. Pushing beyond this resolution and results start to vary across games. While the card is able to run in 4K, the frames drop to around 30, which is still fairly playable. Overclocking the G6 yields slightly improved frame rates at a minimum of 10% across all games. It is also worth noting that you could always turn down one or two of the settings to achieve a higher frame rate without too much of a notable difference in visuals.
All good, right? But, as the saying goes, can it run Crysis 3? Yes, I know this one of the longest running jokes when it comes to gaming performance, but the question does have some bearing. And you’ll be happy to know that the G6 does, in fact, tick off this box. Although it fell just short of the 60fps mark when running on Ultra settings in 1080p, which is more than adequate on the whole.
Laptops often come pre-installed with tons of bloatware, and gaming rigs at times do the same. Thankfully, Acer has streamlined the G6 to almost zero, with only one real Acer product installed and running in the background, Acer PredatorSense. And what’s even better, the software isn’t some trivial add-on, but something that you will often use. The software is used to used to control the lights, turning them on and off when in Turbo mode, for which you can also choose to switch between. Additionally, users can also monitor the CPU frequency, temperature, and adjust the rig’s fan speeds. And that’s it. No arbitrary inclusions you don’t need that take-up memory and processing that often annoy power users.
When it comes to pre-built gaming rigs, the Acer Predator G6 packs a large punch, and can easily compete and beat out most of its competition in sheer performance. If you wanted a unit that you can pick up that will play almost all games at max settings, while also being VR-ready, the G6 is a perfect unit.
I also loved many of the design elements, from the tank-themed casing to all the nifty hidden panels that are actually functional. What is disappointing in the overall design is the lack of internal space for upgrades, as well as some cable bloat by not choosing the modular PSU option. The lack of space for a second graphics card is also not ideal. While the unit is already fairly large and heavy, a few additional centimeters to fit a full-sized motherboard would have been greatly appreciated.
At a cost of R26,500, the unit carries a reasonable price tag. Based on the internals alone, I chose the cheapest options for all of the parts and it was still a struggle to get the overall cost below the R25,000 mark, and that’s before you add any of the additional extras, such as lighting, hard drive bay, cooling system and Blu-ray writer. Acer does offer a number of variants for the G6, including hard drives with less capacity, GTX970 card, and less RAM. These will no doubt also provide value for your hard-earned cash. If it wasn’t for the lack of upgradability, the Acer Predator G6 may have been one of the best pre-built gaming rigs in its category, after its performance dominated the competition.