Gaming laptops are as much a contest of engineering bravado as they are an attempt at portability and practicality. Meet the case in point: Acer’s new Predator 21 X gaming laptop. Its components are excessive, and it is the first ever such machine with a curved display — a 21-inch, 2560 x 1080 resolution IPS display to be exact. We first saw the laptop back at IFA in August, and now we know the whole package will run you an eye-popping $8,999. Acer announced the price at CES 2017 today and says it will be available starting in February.
The Predator 21 X is of course hideous, with rough, protruding black and silver edges and a gaudy blue dragon stock graphic slapped above the keyboard. (The graphic is at least customizable.) It looks not too far off from a military laptop you’d see in the background of an action movie’s oversimplified hacking scene. But then again, you’re not buying the Predator 21 X for its looks. You’re buying the device for its sheer and absurd level of power, illogically stuffed into a package that’s only portable if you’re willing to carry around a 17.6-pound clamshell monstrosity.
The reassuring news: its components are up to the task. The Predator 21 X features two GeForce GTX 1080 X graphics cards linked with Nvidia’s SLI tech, a brand-new seventh-generation Intel Core i7 processor, four DDR4 slots for up to 64GB of RAM, and up to four 512GB solid state drives, in the event you need unearthly data transfer speeds. Two of those drives can also be NVMe PCIe SSDs, which is a complicated way of saying they’re about five times faster than standard SATA drives thanks to updated interface specifications. The standard hard drive configuration on the Predator 21 X will be 2TB.
Acer throws in some other add-ons to make the laptop’s nearly five-figure price tag only slightly less jaw-dropping. There’s Tobii eye-tracking built in, a mechanical keyboard with customizable backlight options, and the numeric keypad flips over to transform it into a touchpad. There are also four speakers and two subwoofers, for outsize sound performance, and five cooling fans.
Still, it’s quite obvious Acer made this to flex its engineering muscles, and not because anyone but the most affluent and hardcore would think this product was a logical and well-spent $8,999. Acer understands this context. In fact, each one will be made to order starting next month, so none of these will be collecting dust in a warehouse. If you’re so inclined, you can be one of the first 300 customers and get a limited edition series number engraved into the graphics panel, preferably next to the giant blue dragon head. For the rest of us, well… we can only dream — or maybe dream of what else we might afford with that money.
On the more moderate side of the spectrum, Acer is trotting out some more affordable and practical options for portable gaming. The companion device to the Predator 21 X is the Predator 17X, which starts at $2,599 and understandably trades out some of the more ludicrous perks of the wildly more expensive version. You still get Intel’s latest Kaby Lake i7 processor, as well as the four DDR4 slots that top out at 64GB of RAM. However, the Predator 17X packs just one GTX 1080 X GPU and limits the type of solid state configurations you can achieve. Acer also trades the massive 21-inch curved display for a 17.3-inch G-Sync screen.
And for those who simply cannot or will not shell out more than $2,000 for a laptop, Acer is announcing a few new additions to its Aspire line. The new V 15 and V 17 Nitro notebooks are being updated with Intel’s Kaby Lake processors. They will cost $1,119 and $1,299, respectively and both will be ready to ship in February. Meanwhile, the Aspire VX 15 gaming laptop, which ships later this month, will start at $799 and pack Intel’s latest processor alongside less powerful Nvidia graphics. All three machines come with 15.6-inch displays.
They are, of course, more portable and practical than the Predator 21 X, but they are noticeably less ludicrous. That is the trade-off.