An unlikely romance – How I fell for the Acer Predator 21x

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 21.07.2017
Responsible for translation: Eva Francis
It’s big, bulky, expensive and I question why it exists at all. But by the same token, I’ve never had so much fun with a laptop as I am with the Acer Predator 21x.

As I sit in front of the 21-inch curved display, tapping away at my keyboard and making an absolute racket, my editorial colleague Alina Biedermann sighs. I’m working from my Acer Predator 21x, the laptop where nothing is as you expect. Let me explain why you want one too, even if you don’t know it yet.

I love this gadget.

It’s been a while since I was so excited about getting a device. Unpacking it was an experience in itself. The set-up, on the other hand, was tedious, but at the end of it, I had a piece of Acer splendour I could work on. Each keyboard stroke is an absolute pleasure. No, honestly, it is. Do you know why? Because the mechanical keyboard somehow feels so retro. It’s like how it used to be when there weren’t any flat keyboards. That may be a long time ago now, but the concept hasn’t lost an ounce of charm.

Admittedly, I’m not using the two GTX 1080 graphics cards, but that doesn’t matter. During the week I’ll probably lend my laptop to my game editor.

But before I get too carried away with specifics, let me go back to the beginning and answer the question on your lips. Why is he waxing lyrical about a laptop?

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Predator 21X (21", Full HD, Intel Core i7-7820HK, 64GB, 1000GB, SSD)
Acer Predator 21X (21", Full HD, Intel Core i7-7820HK, 64GB, 1000GB, SSD)

Master of the universe

What is it?!

The Acer Predator 21x is a laptop that the world doesn’t really need. No one can see any benefits of it. To put it into perspective, there are faster and lighter desktop computers. The brute weighs in at eight kilograms, has a 21-inch display and a badly built mechanical keyboard. On the right-hand side next to the keyboard, there’s a reversible part that can be used as a notepad or touchpad for the mouse. Above that is a sticker with the picture of a dragon. Because dragons are cool and gamers like cool things. Through a small window the size of a man’s hand, I can see the machine lit up in blue inside. This is home to two GTX 1080 graphics cards. Naturally, only the top of the range is good enough for this device.

In terms of packaging, the laptop is delivered in a case. My suitcase for a two-week holiday is smaller. But then, I am barely 180 cm (5’9”), and the case only goes up to my hips. Along with the best laptop of all time, which is quite rightfully dubbed ‘the ruler of the universe’, you’ll find all kinds of accessories in the case. This includes two power supplies, as one isn’t enough to run the device.

The whole package comes in under 10,000 Swiss francs. What a bargain.

You do admittedly have to put up with a few flaws. For instance, each time you turn the touchpad around, the Num Lock is deactivated. The good news is Acer can correct this using software.

Erm… why?!

Right, let’s be honest. Absolutely no one in the world has a sensible use for this device. The market for Predator 21x looks a bit like this:

  • No one requested it.
  • No one can afford it.
  • No one needs it.

    In spite of all of that, here I am having an unprecedented amount of fun with a laptop. So much so that I’d love to keep the one I’m testing. Predator 21x is ultimately proof that there are still engineers and nerds out there who dare to take risks. Laptop manufacturers have an easy job of it these days. The lighter and smaller the device, the more wow factor it’ll get. They take out the fans, the performance and a whole host of other things. It’s the eternal problem. C-level management in manufacturing are happy when the products get even smaller and lighter because they sell. It’s astonishing that a project like the 21x ever got the green light at all and even more surprising that it made it through the concept phase. To be fair, the device was sure to get a fair amount of media attention because it stands out.

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Status: the 21x is real and is sitting on my desk.

In spite of all of that, the people at Acer set about building a device “because we can” that couldn’t be more ridiculous or amazing if they tried. After all, the Predator 21x can do everything. Everything except battery power. The battery only lasts about two hours when the device isn’t being used to its full potential.

For the price of a 21x you can build yourself three good gaming PCs. But I can already promise you that you won’t get as many quizzical looks as with the 21x. Besides, how often can you say you used your gaming rig in Starbucks? A Frappuccino Americano Venti Latte would compliment the raid quite nicely, wouldn’t it?

How on earth do you use the thing?

While I sit here annoying Alina with my typing, I think about what else I could do with the beast. Although at the outset I had promised to let Phil Rüegg play on the 21x, I start to rethink what I’d said. What if I played on the thing instead? I’m not a big gamer but if I installed a game, then I’d buy myself a few more minutes with the ruler of the universe.

So I download Steam and the one game that I bought there, Mad Max. Why that game? Because Mad Max is the only one that I’ve played intensively since Unreal Tournament 99.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I just went ahead, put all the graphics settings at maximum and got stuck in. I plough through the wasteland and my Magnum Opus is still pretty rubbish. But it’s fun. You can forget a game review, though, because I’m too busy battling the War Boys now. And frankly, you should be doing the same.

When marketing manager Anadi Singh and product manager Manuel Benz told me my time with Predator 21x was up, I asked tentatively whether I could keep the beast. I mean, it’s one of the few models in the world with a Swiss keyboard. Anadi said there was a chance I could keep the device if I explained we would have it on an exclusive basis until 16 August 2017.

In the end, he still took my Predator 21x away.

What I discovered through this project was how much I miss the Predator 21x. It embodies everything that more fashionable laptops don’t. Of course it’s big, bulky and chunky. It’s also expensive and ridiculously strong as far as specs go. But in spite of all of that, it’s fantastic. So even if you don’t know it, you do want one, too.

Video by Stephanie Tresch.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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