After a tough year in the notebook market, Acer aims to claw back market share with dazzling new devices aimed at the high-end, mid-range and entry-level gamer market, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The personal computer market took a beating in 2016, but few felt it as painfully as Acer. The Taipei-headquartered company renowned for its slim notebooks and elegant 2-in1 devices has seen its market share slip from more than 10 per cent five years ago to below 7 per cent last year.
It’s bad enough that global PC sales also slumped over this period, meaning that Acer had a declining share of a declining market. In 2017, Acer is aiming for a reversal of fortunes on all fronts.
At the Next@Acer launch event in New York last week, it launched a gaming notebook that, to the serious gamer, is a thing of eye-watering beauty. The Predator Triton 700 drew gasps of approval from the media, not least for new cooling technology that enabled it to pack the most power yet seen in a gaming laptop of its size.
It is just 18mm thick, but includes a 15.6-inch Full High-Definition monitor, the kind of mechanical keyboard preferred by gamers, a powerful 7th Generation Intel Core processor, the latest Nvidia GeForce GTX 10-Series graphics card, and up to 32GB of memory.
Normally, much of the space in the chassis would be taken up by the powerful fans needed to cool such a machine. However, Acer has ploughed research and development into cooling, and has used the Triton 700 to showcase the innovative dual AeroBlade 3D metal fans that increase airflow by 35 per cent, yet take up less space within the device.
And you can see the fans in action: in its quest to make the device distinctive, Acer has placed the trackpad behind the keyboard, in the form of a transparent glass plate. In other words, the trackpad is a window into the insides of the machine.
If the Triton 700 turns gamers’ heads, it is likely only because they have managed to wrench their attention away from the new jewels in Acer’s Predator range of gaming hardware. The New York event saw the unveiling of two new 27-inch Predator gaming monitors, each more eye-catching than the other.
The Predator X27 brings absurdly high resolution to the gaming experience, using Nvidia’s G-Sync high-dynamic range (HDR) technology. The screen resolution is four times that of regular high-definition, hence the term 4K used to describe it, and it used Quantum Dot technology for better colour accuracy. Most importantly for gamers, it features a 144 Hz refresh rate, almost consigning motion blur to history.
Only fellow-Taipei manufacturer Asus has made an equivalent monitor, turning the high-end gaming display market into a two-horse race, at least for now. But that’s not the only trick Acer had up its sleeve.
It also unveiled a 27-inch curved monitor, the Predator Z271UV, which it says “puts every corner of the screen at the same distance from the gamer’s eyes – this creates more immersive gameplay with a wider field of view and increased perceived area of peripheral vision”.
It also features Quantum Dot, which Acer explains in similar terms to that used by TV manufacturers: “With a Quantum Dot film that is coated with nano-sized dots of various types that emit very specific colored lights, the new displays can produce a wider color gamut compared to standard monitors, increasing color purity and efficiency.”
According to Victor Chien, president of the Digital Display Business at Acer, this makes gameplay more lifelike than ever before.
“The Predator X27’s 4K resolution at 144 Hz and Acer HDR Ultra technology create dazzling visuals that must be seen to be believed,” he said. “Acer’s new Predator Z271UV will also thrill gaming enthusiasts with its rich color gamut and immersive curved display.”
Does it just look good, or does it make for better gameplay? Acer says of the
HDR technology: “It not only delivers a broader, more deeply saturated color gamut, but a luminance range several times greater than that of traditional dynamic range monitors. By dimming the backlight behind parts of the screen displaying black, blacks appear deeper and darker on those parts of the panel, a significant bonus for people who play games with darker scenes.”
The monitors include eye-tracking technology, designed to complement a traditional keyboard and mouse: the camera automatically rotates as the gamer focuses on the sides of the screen.
“Pairing eye tracking with mouse and keyboard or gamepad controls offers a richer, more immersive gaming experience as gamers are able to mimic actions that occur in real life, such as ducking for cover or aiming at a target,” says Acer. So far, a hundred games support eye tracking.
Acer also announced a new entry-level laptop for casual gamers, but it is unlikely to be released in South Africa, with its small but hard-core gamer community. However, The Predator Triton 700 will arrive before long, at a price that is as eye-watering as the device: R34 999. Only serious gamers need apply.
A slightly more accessible device, the Predator Helios 300, also announced during Next@Acer, will arrive later in the year, starting at R25 999.
Designed for both gaming and movie watching, it offers 15.6-inch or 17.3-inch Full HD displays, while Dolby Audio Premium and Acer TrueHarmony promise “immersive audio with crisp, rich acoustics”. Running on Windows 10, it is certified for Skype for Business an includes Microsoft’s voice-activated Cortana smart assistant application.
Most of the new products were demonstrated in the IMAX theatre at New York’s Lincoln Square, featuring the largest IMAX screen in the world. While the message was not spelled out, it was clear that Acer hoped it would symbolise the company going large once again.
* For more information, visit www.acer.com/nextatacer