Getting Up Close
The motherboard is a custom designed MSI nForce 780i SLI – the BIOS has been tweaked by Acer, but it’s still an MSI design underneath (the D.O.T overclocking option is still present). The CPU is cooled by one of Asetek’s all in one watercooling kits – it’s a completely sealed unit and Acer says it doesn’t need refilling for at least 5.7 years (just over five years, eight months).
Acer was quick to highlight the fact that upgrades are allowed under the warranty – every component from Acer has a barcode on it so if something goes wrong it’ll swap out the bad part and, what’s more, you can add and swap out whatever you like in the meantime. Acer’s only comment was that the user has to be able to demonstrate competent skills in upgrading – i.e. no fingers venturing into the LGA socket, Spode.
All the PCs come with SLI enabled – the GPUs range from dual GeForce 9600 GTs, to dual GeForce 9800 GTXs, right the way up to a pair of GeForce 9800 GX2s in Quad SLI. The only fans inside are exhausts from the PSU, CPU Radiator, graphics card and one internal 60mm for the hard drives recycling the hot case air. This concerns us, especially given the heat-related problems we’ve had with the GeForce 9800 GX2 already – the cynic inside would like to see how it lasts after a few years on a carpet in a teenager’s bedroom.
We asked Acer why it hasn’t opted to watercool the whole system – the response from the company’s representatives was that it hasn’t watercooled the graphics cards because of the lack of standardisation of sockets and layouts from Nvidia and AMD (I thought that problem was solved when R520 launched? – Ed.
). Future CrossFire options would be considered, as would single card SKUs in future Predator releases.
With the only real competition (in terms of potential volume) coming from Dell’s two gaming brands—XPS and Alienware—because HP has still not brought its Voodoo brand to Europe, Acer has the chance to jump into a gap in the market here. The system specs are well balanced and at least the European prices are very palatable: €1,699 for the “basic” Sniper, €1,999 for the Trooper, €2,999 for the Crusher and €3,999 for the Eliminator.
- Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 (up to Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650)
- Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit SP1 (32-bit option available)
- 2x 2GB DDR2-800MHz memory (up to 8GB of DDR2-1,066MHz memory available)
- 2x 640GB hard drives (up to four Western Digital Raptor 150GB hard drives in RAID 0, 1, 10 or 5)
- BD DVD and DVD-RW
- (MSI) Acer branded nForce 780i SLI motherboard
- 2x GeForce 9600 GT 512MB graphics cards in SLI
- Asetek CPU watercooling
- Logitech G11 keyboard and G5 mouse
- Delta 750W PSU
This is a clever pricing strategy as most people will be tempted to spend the extra and get the Trooper over the entry-level Sniper because the price difference is pretty small considering upgrades you get. Upgrading from a Core 2 Quad Q9300 to Core 2 Quad Q9450 may not seem like a lot, but GeForce 9600 GT SLI to GeForce 9800 GTX SLI is certainly very tempting if you’re a gamer with a high-res screen. Our only worry with the pricing matrix is that Rip-off-Britain
may come into effect and may make these prices translate directly from Euros to Pounds Sterling.
All the machines come with a Blu-ray drive in addition to a DVD-RW as standard, and have the option of memory upgrades to 8GB and up to four Western Digital Raptor hard drives in all the common RAID options. The 750W and 1,000W PSUs are Delta branded – meaning one of the world’s biggest PSU manufacturers is behind these machines.
In addition, the PC comes with a Logitech G11 keyboard
and G5 mouse, and there’s also an option of a 24” 1,920 x 1,200 widescreen monitor for an extra €449. It’s a 6-bit TN+Film panel with a glossy screen, but it does
feature a 2ms response time and is colour-coded to fit in with the
metallic copper case. Acer claims it doesn’t bundle the TFT with the system because it wants to give the customer the freedom to upgrade.
We certainly believe that Acer has a market in PC World style retail stores for first time buyers and families wanting something special, but we aren’t sure if Acer will ever break into the market covered by boutique system builders like Vadim. What’s more, most serious gamers are often running on a shoe-string budget, so £1,500+ for a gaming machine that will be out of date in a year is a lot of money to cough up.
We’ll be having a much closer look at one of Acer’s Aspire Predator gaming PCs in the near future to see if our concerns turn out to be reality once production grade hardware is available.