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Acer's $9,000, 21-inch curved Predator 21X laptop is overkill brought to life

Daniel Howley

Gamers love to indulge in excess. And as a gamer, I’m among the worst offenders. But nothing, not even my own love of recklessly spending money on gaming hardware, could have prepared me for the sheer insanity that Acer has cooked up with its over-the-top Predator 21X.

Sporting a 21-inch curved display, twin high-powered graphics chips and a $9,000 price tag, this 19-pound behemoth is an overzealous gamer’s fever dream brought to life.

I’ve been using one of the only 300 21X’s in the world as my primary computer for the past week. While it’s probably the least portable laptop I’ve ever used, it’s also a gamer’s fantasy rig.

So big it hurts

The 21X is comically huge. You’ve got to cradle the thing in your arms to even hold it. Add in the laptop’s two enormous 330-watt power bricks and there’s no wonder Acer provides a massive Pelican rolling case to transport this thing.

Still, you’re only supposed to move a desktop replacement like this to attend gaming events. If you buy the X21 to take notes in class or send work emails, you’ve made a terrible mistake.

You probably don’t want to take this to the office anyway since the X21’s design, like most gaming rigs, is outrageously gaudy. There are lights galore and a customizable maintenance panel above the keyboard that came covered with a blue dragon.

As far as the eye can see

The world’s first 21-inch, curved-screen laptop, the X21 has a 21:9 aspect ratio that offers quite a view. Images, movies and, more importantly, games all look beautiful on the Predator’s display. I do, however, wish Acer equipped the 21X with a higher resolution panel. Its 2560 X 1080 screen produces sharp images, but for $9,000 I expect a 4K panel.

Playing “Battlefield 1” or “The Witcher 3”on a giant wraparound screen is a blast. “Battlefield 1” in particular provides you with a larger field-of-vision than a standard 16:9 display.

“The Witcher 3” runs into a bit of trouble with the Predator’s aspect ratio, shrinking cut scenes to 16:9 and leaving black boxes on the edges of the screen.

The incredibly popular “Overwatch” can run at 21:9, but it ends up cropping out part of the player’s field of view, so you’re better off just playing at 16:9.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Acer also added Tobii eye-tracking technology to the Predator, which means the laptop can see where you’re looking on screen and automatically target what you’re viewing.

You get four eye-tracking tools including Natural Targeting, which lets you locate and aim at enemies by centering them in your vision and Infinite Screen, which lets you control the in-game character and camera using your eyes.

Acer says more than 45 titles support the feature including big-name offerings like “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” and “Watch Dogs 2.”

Tight keyboard and slick tricks

One of the Predator 21X’s many selling points is its mechanical keyboard. A mechanical keyboard features physical switches that provide more tactile feedback than the kind of rubber membrane-style boards found on most of today’s laptops.

They also produce a nice, chunky click. Going from my Microsoft desktop keyboard and MacBook Air’s keyboard to the Predator’s was difficult at first, as the X21’s keys feel just a hair smaller. When playing games, though, the board feels fast and smooth. The space bar was responsive but hard to depress.

Interestingly, the Predator 21X doesn’t have a touchpad below its keyboard. Instead, it’s hidden under its number pad. Acer’s decision to move the touchpad to the right side of the keyboard seems to make sense for a gaming machine. But like most gamers, I preferred using a separate wired mouse to the Predator’s touchpad.

Push it to the limit

Inside, the Predator X21 gets an Intel Core i7-7820HK, a staggering 64GB of RAM, two Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics chips, two 512GB solid-state drives and a 1TB disk drive. The Predator is the physical manifestation of overkill.

Games I tested on the X21 ran buttery smooth even when I cranked up their settings to the highest levels.

That’s not to say the Predator X21 is the most powerful system out there, though. CNET compared the X21’s benchmark performance against a slew of other equally high-end gaming PCs and found that, for the most part, it offered middle-of-the pack performance. None of them, though, includes a 21-inch curved screen.

As far as battery life goes, well, let’s just say you should never stray too far from a wall outlet when using the Predator. The system gets about two hours of use when doing basic web surfing and video watching. Start gaming, and that’ll drop significantly.

It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to use this beast on the go, though, as its 20-pound body doesn’t exactly make for a comfortable lap companion on the bus.

A laptop or an apartment?

The Acer Predator X21 is essentially a proof of concept that you can buy. Its 21-inch display and massive footprint are meant to see if gamers will pony up for incredibly powerful laptops. Those gamers, though, will also have to make the choice of paying their rent for a few months or getting a hardcore gaming rig.

I’m more than willing to drag my desktop and monitor to a friend’s house for a LAN party, so I don’t necessarily have a problem with the X21’s size. Calling it a laptop is laughable, but it’s certainly easier to carry than my tower and display.

Overall, I’ve had a great time using the X21, and if I had the cash, I’d gladly buy this outlandish laptop. But since I don’t, I’m sticking with my desktop. For now.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.