Tablet gaming is huge right now, with behemoths like Blizzard’s Hearthstone extending office bathroom breaks and distracting parents from childminding duties the world over. Gaming-friendly devices like Nvidia’s Shield Tablet are gaining traction for their ability to play such games at Full HD resolutions without stuttering or slowdown, and now Acer wants to join the party. The company announced its Predator 8 tablet at its annual showcase event in New York earlier this year, but IFA this week was the first chance to actually see a working version of the device. Naturally, I was straight over to the Acer stand to give it a try.
The Predator 8 GT-810 is an 8in device with four front-facing speakers, a Full HD display and ‘TacSense’ force feedback. TacSense is much less like a PS4’s DualShock controller rumble and more like an over-eager smartphone vibrate – at first I thought the speakers were rattling but then I realised it was intentional rumble to make me ‘feel’ my Asphalt 8 race. The effect seemed to kick in at certain points but not others, and there wasn’t much differentiation – it felt like rumble was either on or off, with no strength levels in between. Considering developers need to specifically add support for the feature, it’s difficult to see the feature gaining much traction.
At around 8.7mm thick and weighing roughly 350g, the Predator 8 would be relatively svelte – if it weren’t for the stereo speakers in each corner, which protrude outwards at angles. Unsurprisingly they sound very good for tablet speakers, with an impressive amount of volume and a relatively clear mid-range, although there’s no real bass presence and the top-end sounded a little tinny to my ears. They will be fine for playing games or for watching video with another person without having to break out a pair of headphones, but I’d still prefer to reach for my in-ears if I was going to use it to listen to music.
Looks are of course a subjective thing, but there’s no real way to sugar coat it – I think the Predator 8 is one of the ugliest tablets I’ve seen in a long time. The angular red speaker grilles in each corner are supposed to look aggressive and exciting, but I think it all looks rather tacky.
It’s what I imagine an Alienware tablet would have looked like, had the company made one five years ago – before it bucked up its ideas and started making rather attractive gaming laptops. Alienware would also have opted for matt black rather than the silver brushed metal-effect plastic used here. Powerful gaming devices don’t need to look ‘gamey’ – Razer’s Blade laptops are insanely powerful, but the minimal design means you won’t get disapproving looks if you use one on a plane or in a coffee shop. I can’t imagine the Predator drawing any lustful looks if I took it on my morning commute – just lots of eye rolling.
Acer’s choice of components may prove problematic too; 4GB of RAM is about the best you can hope for in a tablet today, but Intel’s Atom X7 processor is a bit of an unknown quantity when it comes to games. Yes, it should help keep the price down, but it remains to be seen how its GPU will cope with 3D games. Asphalt 8 looked smooth enough, but 3D games like the Android port of Grand Theft Auto III could prove a little more taxing. A microSD card slot will let you add extra storage should you fill the tablet with games and media, but with no physical video output you’ll be relying on Google Cast streaming if you want to play on a bigger screen.
The Full HD display is the Predator 8’s saving grace. According to Acer it covers 100% of the NTSC colour gamut, and there’s no question it looks incredibly vibrant. The zero air gap construction is meant to cut down on internal light reflections, and it’s fair to say I’ve not seen an Android tablet with such a crisp display this year. Unfortunately, outside of games, colours are a little too oversaturated.
I’m sure that a certain demographic will love the Acer Predator 8; it’s distinctive, loud and has a very pretty screen. The price is pretty good too, at roughly £260 here in the UK. Nvidia’s Shield Tablet will currently set you back £240, however, and has added extras like ShadowPlay game streaming from a PC with an Nvidia graphics card, and Grid streaming from the internet – two things the Predator lacks. Whether the bonkers looks can convince gamers to part with their cash remains to be seen; we’ll find out in October when the Predator 8 goes on sale.