Acer Gaming at IFA 2016

Acer continues its push to claim more market share in the gaming sector by building on the foundation it laid at least year’s IFA tradeshow. In 2015, Acer announced two additions to its Predator line of gaming products: the Predator 6 smartphone and the Predator 8 gaming tablet. The smartphone never saw the light of day, and the tablet didn’t make a very big splash with gamers for various reasons, like mid-range specs and strong competition from other tablets in the gaming space. This year, however, Acer has announced at least one product that will definitely make a big splash, if only because of its size.

The Predator 21 X

Calling the Predator 21 X a laptop feels like a misnomer, because with a 21-inch screen and a weight of roughly 17 pounds, this machine is closer to a portable desktop. But let’s break down these specs to see just how much Acer plans to pack into this gigantic chassis. Not only is the screen the biggest you can get on a notebook, but it’s also curved and features an IPS display with a native resolution of 2560 x 1080. It also features Acer’s new Tobii eye-tracking technology (more on this later). Finally, the display also offers Nvidia G-Sync technology to ensure smooth visuals when paired with Nvidia graphics cards.

It only makes sense that the machine would come with the new Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 GPU. But when you have this much room to work with, why not add another GPU to take advantage of SLI? Acer agreed and did just that. Add to that the latest 7th generation Intel Core processor and you have a gaming machine second to none. As such, five fans are required to cool this beast down.

Finally, the Predator 21 X is equipped with a full-size mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches and each key offers customizable RGB backlighting. And to top it all off, the keypad is actually reversible, featuring a trackpad underneath in case you felt like using it instead of the gaming mouse you would undoubtedly have with you.

With a quoted retail price of $5000, a non-functional display unit at IFA, and a nebulous pre-order date of “later this year”, I’m guessing that the Predator 21 X may never see the light of day. Instead, it’s probably a marketing ploy to draw some attention to its more mainstream products.

Eye-tracking Added to Predator Gaming Monitors

The Acer Predator line of gaming monitors has already garnered attention in its own right for its aggressive appearance and pleasing performance. Now Acer is adding new Tobii eye-tracking technology that allows gamers to use their eyes to control their games to a limited extent. For instance, the Natural Targeting feature allows gamers to select targets with their eyes, ostensibly to eliminate the latency between what the player sees and what the player physically has to do to target something in-game. Instead, the player highlights the target with his/her eyes and executes the action, like shooting. Another feature, Infinite Screen, will automatically pan the field of view as soon as the player’s eyes reach the edge of the screen.

But while these capabilities are interesting new ways to control a game, they’re probably better suited for mini-games, like searching a room from a static position, or for more realistic NPC interactions. Imagine an NPC telling you to pay attention once the game detected your eyes not focused on the speaker. As presented at IFA, the eye-tracking technology feels gimmicky and of limited use. Moreover, I can see the technology interfering with other controls that the player would be using simultaneously.

Acer has not provided a North American release date for the new Predator monitors that have the Tobii eye-tracking tech. However, gamers in the EMEA region can expect the curved Predator monitor in October and the flat, zero panel Predator monitor in December.

For more on how this eye-tracking technology works, check out our hands-on impressions of an earlier version of the tech working with The Division. 

Predator Laptop GPU Boosts

Finally, fans of the Predator line of mainstream gaming laptops will rejoice in knowing that both the Predator 15 and 17 are getting the new Pascal architecture GPUs from Nvidia. Both models will offer either Geforce GTX 1060 or 1070 video cards. Of all of the gaming announcements Acer made at IFA, this was the most practical.

What’s actually available now?

If you’re not interested in waiting for the Predator laptops to be refreshed later this year, then you can check out Newegg’s selection of current generation Predator laptops in both 15- and 17-inch varieties. Both models sport the most powerful mobile GPUs currently available in either Geforce GTX 970 or 980 options.

As for Predator monitors, Newegg also carries a comprehensive selection of current generation models sans Tobii eye-tracking software. Shoppers can choose between flat and curved screen models, as well as displays that go beyond what Acer announced at IFA, topping off at 34 inches with the Acer Predator X34.