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The Best Gaming Laptop for 2020

Our pick for the best gaming laptop, the Acer Predator Triton 500 PT515-51-75BH, with Overwatch open on the screen.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Our pick

Acer Predator Triton 500 PT515-51-75BH

The Triton 500 has a less garish design than most gaming laptops, plus longer battery life and a lighter weight. Its RTX 2060 GPU performs similarly to those in cheaper laptops, but it’s easier to tote around.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,580.

If you want a snazzy-looking slim and light gaming laptop—and if you don’t mind sacrificing upgradability and storage space—buy the Acer Predator Triton 500 PT515-51-75BH. It can play modern games on ultra settings, it has a vibrant and accurate high-refresh display, and it’s comfortable to type on. In our tests, its heat management was acceptable compared with that of other thin laptops. But it comes with way too much bloatware.

We recommend the PT515-51-75BH configuration, which has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-9750H processor, 16 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz memory in dual-channel mode (which improves performance in some games compared with single-channel, as this video explains), a 512 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0. If you come across the PT515-51-71VV version of this laptop with an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8750H CPU for a lower price, get that one; the specs are otherwise identical, and that system should perform about the same.

Our recommended Acer Predator Triton 500 model is typically $300 cheaper than the MSI Stealth Thin, our runner-up, for the exact same configuration. But it’s also around $500 more expensive than chunkier 1660 Ti laptops that offer similar performance, so if you don’t care about the size and weight, a cheaper laptop will serve you better.

In our tests and in other benchmarks, the RTX 2060 has performed almost identically to the cheaper 1660 Ti in most games. This year both GPUs hit playable frame rates in every game we tried, an improvement over previous years. Ray tracing, the RTX cards’ main distinguishing feature, can cut the frame rate significantly. For example, in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Triton 500 averaged a respectable 46 fps with ray tracing, compared with 70 fps with ray tracing disabled. The Stealth Thin averaged 48 fps with ray tracing enabled and 72 fps without ray tracing. On a 15-inch screen, those fancy ray-tracing reflection and lighting effects are easy to miss, so most people should keep ray tracing off and enjoy the higher frame rates.

A chart showing the temperature

Due to the thin chassis, most thin-and-lights run hot, but in our tests the Predator Triton 500 managed heat much better than its competition. The WASD keys, where your left hand rests most of the time if you’re playing games using the keyboard, hit 96 °F (35 °C) on the Triton 500, lower than the 102 °F (38 °C) we measured on the Stealth Thin’s WASD keys. That’s warm enough for you to feel the heat, but not so hot that you’ll start sweating. The Triton 500’s CPU and GPU both ran about the same as other gaming laptops we tested, at 206 °F (97 °C) and 176 °F (80 °C), respectively. When we enabled the Turbo fan mode on the Triton 500, temps all around dropped 4 to 5 Fahrenheit degrees, though that came at the price of extremely loud fans and also overclocked the GPU, which can cause problems over time.

A bar graph comparing GPU and CPU temperatures for the gaming laptops we tested.

On the balanced fan setting, the Predator Triton 500’s fans reached about the same volume—very loud—as those of the Stealth Thin. But loud fans are a necessary trade-off to cool these thinner laptops. We recommend manually setting the fans to maximum (instead of tapping the Turbo button) in Acer’s PredatorSense software when you’re playing taxing games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider or The Witcher 3. Be sure to wear headphones. When you’re not gaming, the Triton 500 can run quiet, and we didn’t notice the fans spinning up randomly, a problem we’ve seen in other thin gaming laptops such as the Asus Zephyrus models we’ve tested.

The Triton 500 has a 15.6-inch matte IPS panel with a 1920×1080 resolution and a 144 Hz refresh rate. The refresh rate is slower than that of the Stealth Thin’s display, but we found the Stealth Thin’s 240 Hz panel a waste of money when paired with this GPU because the RTX 2060 can’t push many games at 240 fps. The Triton 500’s display is plenty accurate for games, though it’s not color calibrated, so you can’t use it for design work. Like the Stealth Thin, the Triton 500 surrounds its display with a thin bezel but still leaves room for the webcam up top.

A close up of the keyboard on the triton 500 gaming laptop.
Despite its thinner design, the keyboard on the Predator Triton 500 is a pleasure to type on. Photo: Rozette Rago

The Predator Triton 500’s keys have 1.7 mm key travel, deeper than the Stealth Thin’s 1.5 mm and more tactile overall. The two keyboards have almost identical layouts, and both are comfortable to type and play games on. The lack of a numpad offers more room for the keys, a design that we prefer over the cramped micro-size numpads that laptop makers typically jam in. Above the keys, the Triton 500 has a dedicated Turbo mode button, as well as media keys and a dedicated PredatorSense key for Acer’s customization software on the right side. We’ve read some complaints about the power button’s location, just above the PredatorSense key, but we’ve never pressed it accidentally. The WASD keys, arrow keys, and PredatorSense key are accented with a shade of blue usually reserved for men’s deodorant containers. The keyboard also has three-zone RGB lighting, which isn’t as customizable as the Stealth Thin’s per-key RGB lighting.

If you plan on using the Triton 500 more as a multipurpose machine, the trackpad is an important feature. In our tests, the Precision Touchpad was smooth and accurate, and it provided a responsive click. It’s smaller than the awkward extra-wide touchpad on the Stealth Thin and not as smooth as the best-in-class trackpad on the Razer Blade, but we never had issues with it.

  • A side view of the left ports on the triton 500 laptop.

    Most gaming laptops have shifted to a single audio port, but not the Predator Triton 500 (or the Stealth Thin). Photo: Rozette Rago

  • A close up of the right ports on the triton 500 laptop.

    The inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port is nice, and it’s something we expect to see in all gaming laptops moving forward. Photo: Rozette Rago

The Triton 500 and the Stealth Thin have the same ports, including three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, an Ethernet port, dedicated mic and headphone jacks (long after most laptops and headsets have switched to combo ports), HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.2, and Thunderbolt 3. Both laptops lack an SD card slot. Unlike on the Stealth Thin, on the Triton 500 the charging brick plugs in on the left side, which keeps it out of the way of a mouse.

Acer’s gaming control software, PredatorSense, is well laid out and easy enough to use. With it, you can adjust the lighting and cooling options and sync different configurations to specific games. It’s more intuitive and much less cluttered than MSI’s Dragon Center software.

The Predator Triton 500 measures 14.1 by 10.3 by 0.7 inches and weighs 4.6 pounds, nearly identical to the Stealth Thin, which measures 14 by 9.75 by 0.69 inches and weighs 4.2 pounds. With the default performance profile, the Triton 500 lasted 4 hours, 45 minutes in our Web-browsing battery test, almost matching the 4 hours, 52 minutes we saw from the Stealth Thin. That’s not enough for a full day of work; with either laptop you’d still need to cart around the 1-pound power brick to get through a workday.

A top down view of a closed triton 500 laptop, showing the blue logo.
The Predator Triton’s 500’s logo ruins the otherwise simple design. Photo: Rozette Rago

The Predator Triton 500 shies away from a gamer-centric design in favor of a subdued blackish-blue case Acer calls “abyssal black” and blue trim that’s less edgy than the conventional gamer black-and-red scheme. But the subtlety is ruined by the Predator logo, which looks as if someone had tried to draw a Decepticon symbol while drunk. The body is aluminum, but the interior bezel around the display is plastic, which contrasts with the otherwise excellent chassis. The Triton 500 feels much sturdier and better built than most thin and light gaming laptops we’ve tested, including the MSI Stealth Thin, which creaked when I leaned on the keyboard tray. The Triton 500 doesn’t have the aluminum unibody design found on premium laptops like the Razer Blade, but it is $300 cheaper than a Blade for the same internal specs, it stays cooler, and it beats out the rest of the competition. The black aluminum is a fingerprint magnet, though.

Acer offers a one-year warranty, the same amount of coverage as MSI provides. The Predator Triton 500 has received generally positive reviews from Notebookcheck, Laptop Mag, The Verge, Anandtech, PC Gamer, and Tom’s Hardware.

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