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Acer Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition review: Glasses-free 3D is just pointless

The Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition is a $3,500 curiosity.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

There's a vast gulf between the dreamy notion of glasses-free 3D – extra visual depth without any clunky eye-wear! – and the reality: fuzzy imagery, buggy execution, and headaches. Oh, the headaches. So it goes with Acer's Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition, equipped with the company's glasses-free 3D screen. It's meant to unlock an entirely new dimension of gameplay in titles like God of War and Forza Horizon 5 – and it does, to a degree. But it's also obscenely expensive, starting at $3,499, and its 3D functionality isn't worth losing the higher refresh rates and better quality screens you find on most other gaming laptops.

When I've demoed glasses-free 3D in the past, it's always seemed like a potentially useful feature for deep-pocketed professionals, people who may want to check out their 3D models without slapping on a VR headset. That could very well be true, but the Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition convinced me that it serves practically no purpose in the gaming world, where players are often aiming to inject as many frames in their eyeballs as possible.

It just doesn’t make sense to spend $3,500 on the Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition.

  • Unique glasses-free 3D screen works well for some games
  • Powerful hardware
  • Plenty of ports
  • Too expensive compared to 2D gaming laptops
  • Low refresh rate for gaming
  • Small library of 3D games
  • No support for online shooters
  • Average keyboard and trackpad
$1,936 at MicroCenter

That's just not possible with this computer, since it's limited to a 15.6-inch 4K panel (which scales down to 1080p per eye in 3D mode) running at 60Hz. So at best, this gaming laptop is restricted to 60fps at a time when even budget machines can deliver enough power to fill 120Hz and 144Hz screens. The tradeoff for glasses-free 3D, ultimately, is responsiveness while gaming. The higher the refresh rate, the more silky smooth a game can appear. And when it comes to fast-paced shooters, it could make all the difference between a clutch headshot and digital oblivion.

Now if Acer's 3D technology was truly groundbreaking, perhaps that wouldn't matter so much. But while it can look good, it's a mere curiosity. Acer's TrueGame app lets you play a select handful of games in two different modes: 3D+, which shifts depth buffer pixels to deliver a vague depth effect, and 3D Ultra, which uses a virtual second camera to create a far more immersive sense of space. Eye tracking sensors above the screen help to direct two different sets of images to your eyes, a technique that's typical for glasses-free 3D displays, but that also means only one person can actually use the 3D feature. As for game support, there are only 9 games using 3D Ultra at the moment, including God of War, Psychonauts 2 and A Plague Tale: Innocence. Acer says around 65 titles, mostly older games, work with 3D+.

Competitive online shooters aren't supported at all – Acer claims their anti-cheat software prevents its 3D technology from being applied. That's a shame if you were hoping a bit of depth would make your Warzone or Apex Legends matches more rewarding. Honestly, you wouldn't want to play those in 3D either, as the technology generally makes games look less sharp. You can blame the slightly lower resolution for that, as well as the inherent haziness from having your eyes adjust to a 3D screen on the fly.

PCMark 10

3DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)

Geekbench 5

Cinebench R23

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition (2022, Intel i9-12900H, NVIDIA RTX 3080)


5 ,996



Acer Predator Triton 500 SE (2022, Intel i9-12900H, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti)





Razer Blade 15 (2022, Intel i7-12800H, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti)





ASUS Zephyrus G14 (2022, AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS, Radeon RX 6800S)





Playing Forza Horizon 5 in 3D+ was almost like looking at a Magic Eye puzzle – I had to be in just the right spot to detect any depth. And if my eyes shifted a bit, I would sometimes lose the effect entirely. God of War fared better in 3D Ultra Mode, with a convincing sense of immersion similar to what you'd expect from a 3D film. Throwing Kratos's axe had the uncanny effect of going beyond the screen in my office, and at times the Helios 300 SL felt like a portal into another world.

Still, playing God of War in 3D almost instantly made my eyes tired. 3D Ultra relies on your brain constantly making sense of two different camera views. I sometimes felt motion sick while I was walking around the game, especially if I glanced over to my unmoving, clutter-filled desk. It was almost like playing the game in VR, sans the bulky headset. I found myself resting my eyes every 30 minutes or so, just like I do with VR headsets.

You could, of course, play any PC title in 2D on the Helios 300 SL, but why would you buy a $3,500 glass-free 3D laptop for that? Our review unit was equipped with an RTX 3080 and Intel Core i9-12900H CPU (an updated model with a 40-series GPU is coming in a few months). It was certainly beefy enough for any game I threw at it, especially since the display is limited to 60Hz. But playing Halo Infinite or Overwatch 2 just didn't feel nearly as smooth as it did on the Acer Predator Triton 500 SE I reviewed last year. That $2,300 machine featured a gorgeous 240Hz 1,440p screen, which helped me line up sniper shots with ease.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition side ports

Beyond its unique screen, the Predator Helios 300 SL looks like a typical Acer gaming laptop. Its matte metal case feels sturdy, and aside from a small lightbar up front, and per-key RGB lighting, there's none of the obnoxious bling we've seen on some high-end gaming PC. There's almost every port imaginable spread around the machine: Two USB 3.2 Type-A connections on the right side; with another Type A USB-port on the left side, beside a gigabit Ethernet and a headphone jack. On the rear, there's a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 connection, MiniDisplayport, HDMI and a DC power port.

Acer probably just wanted to keep the Helios 300 SL low-key, but with a unique feature like glasses-free 3D, it would have been nice to set its design apart from the sea of other black gaming laptops out there. It's also clear that the screen was the major priority: Its keyboard feels a bit too mushy for extended typing (though I appreciated the wide layout), and the trackpad isn't very responsive. I often had to click on icons several times before the trackpad responded.

If it had a better keyboard and trackpad, as well as a higher refresh rate screen, the Helios 300 SL could have been a potential option for professionals working with 3D models. Unfortunately, it's focused on gamers, and it's not nearly compelling enough for that crowd. Its mediocre battery life – 6 hours and 15 minutes, according to PCMark 10's office productivity benchmark – didn't help matters much either.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition keyboard and trackpad
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

If, for some reason, glasses-free 3D is still compelling to you, there are few other options. Acer also sells a standalone 15.6-inch SpatialLabs screen for $1,100 – but I don't need to tell you that's a bad idea. The company's ConceptD 7 laptop also had that screen, but it’s no longer available. There's also ASUS's upcoming spin on glasses-free 3D with its ProArt StudioBook 16, which looked compelling during our CES preview.

Barring a miraculous advancement in holographics sometime soon, I'm ready to give up on the entire notion of glasses-free 3D. It just doesn’t make sense to spend $3,500 on the Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition. While there's a chance the technology could eventually help a certain subsection of professionals, those folks would likely be served better with VR headsets, and potentially AR devices like the Magic Leap 2 in the future. Either option would deliver a better dose of 3D without the headaches of glasses-free tech.

While Acer's glasses-free 3D tech is cool, it’s not supported by enough games to justify the Helios 300’s $3,500 price.
$3,500 at Acer