The new Acer Helios 300 and Lenovo Y540 are great gaming laptops at around the $1200
The new Acer Helios 300 and Lenovo Y540 are great gaming laptops at around the $1200 USD price point, but what are the differences and which one should you get? In this detailed comparison I’ll look at pretty much everything to help you decide which one is right for you.
First let’s cover the differences in specs between the two units I’m testing with.
Both are pretty similar, they’ve got the same Intel i7-9750H CPU, Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti graphics, and 16GB of memory in dual channel.
Both have M.
NVMe SSDs, my Helios 300 happens to have a 256GB one while my Y540 has a 512GB one, but this will vary based on where you’re buying.
Both have a 15.” 1080p screen available with either 144Hz or 60Hz refresh rates, and both have gigabit ethernet, 802.
1ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5 for network connectivity.
Both laptops are available with different specs though, you can find examples and updated prices linked in the description.
Both have black lids, matte black aluminium for the Helios with blue accents around the predator logo in the middle, and black plastic with a grooved finish and subtle Legion branding on the side for the Y540.
The interior of the Helios was the same matte black metal with more blue accenting, while the Y540 was also matte black but seemed to be coated in some sort of rubberised material.
Overall the build quality of both machines felt good, I’ll give a slight edge to the Helios for using more metal though.
In terms of weight my Helios 300 was around 200g heavier, however it does also have a 2.
inch drive installed while the Y540 does not.
Once we include power bricks the total weight of the Y540 is now around 200g more, meaning its large 230 watt power brick alone must weigh around 400g more than the 180 watt brick that comes with the Helios.
As for size differences the Y540 is slightly larger in every dimension, though I wouldn’t consider either large for a 15 inch machine.
As for screen differences both of my laptops had 1080p 60Hz IPS panels, so expect different results with the 144Hz options that most people are likely to buy for gaming.
The Helios 300 had better colour gamut, was brighter, and had a higher contrast ratio, so was all round just a little better.
It was the same deal when it came to backlight bleed, the Helios 300 looks quite fine when we compare it against the panel in the Y540, though that said I didn’t have issues with either while viewing darker content, and this will vary between laptops anyway.
Neither laptop has G-Sync, however the Y540 does give us the option of enabling or disabling hybrid mode through the Lenovo Vantage software, which is their control panel.
Enabling hybrid mode will give us better battery life with Nvidia Optimus, as this will use the Intel graphics outside of gaming, while disabling hybrid mode will give us better performance in games by bypassing Optimus, but at the expense of worse battery life outside of gaming.
It just takes a reboot to swap between the two modes.
Both had some screen flex but I found them pretty sturdy, as the lid of the Helios is metal while the Y540 is plastic but was also thicker.
The screen on the Y540 also goes all the way back, if that’s important to you.
Both machines could be opened up easily with one finger, demonstrating that weight is somewhat evenly distributed and not all up the back, both felt stable sitting on my lap.
While both have thin screen bezels, the Helios 300 was able to keep its camera up the top of the panel, while the Y540 has it down the bottom below the screen.
The 720p camera is about average, it looks ok but still a bit blurry, and the microphone sounds about average too.
Here’s what typing sounds like, and here’s what it sounds like when you hit the turbo button and boost the fan speed.
The 720p camera just isn’t very good, it’s a nose cam so when you type your fingers kind of get in the way, and if I want to be properly in the frame I’ve got to move it right back, and it’s just not very good.
The keyboards were fairly similar, the Helios has a shorter right shift key and blue accented WASD and arrow keys, and mine also had RGB backlighting, but that varies between models.
I thought the Y540 looked cleaner in comparison, it only has white backlighting but there were no coloured accents.
Both laptops light up all keys including secondary functions, and you can turn off lighting if you prefer.
Here’s what typing sounds like with both to give you an idea of what to expect.
If I had to pick I’d say I liked typing on the Y540 a little more, the keys just felt a bit nicer to me.
The Helios also has a dedicated button to enable turbo mode above the keyboard on the left, more on this later.
Both touch pads use precision drivers, were smooth to the touch and worked well.
The one on the Helios clicks down anywhere, while the Y540’s does not as it instead has dedicated left and right click buttons which make audible clicks.
I liked that the touchpad on the Helios was larger, however in the end I think I liked using the one in the Y540 more.
There was some flex while pushing down on both, perhaps just a tiny bit more with the Y540 as it’s plastic rather than metal like the Helios, however this wasn’t an issue for either during normal everyday use.
Both machines show up fingerprints quite easily, and although they both have smooth surfaces they were easier to clean off the Helios 300, as the Y540 has that rubberised texture.
The I/O is quite a bit different, at least in terms of layout.
On the left the Y540 just has a USB 3.
Gen1 Type-A port and 3.
mm audio jack, while the Helios 300 has a kensington lock, power input, status LEDs, gigabit ethernet, two USB 3 Type-A ports and 3.
mm audio jack.
On the right the Y540 is keeping things simple again, with just a second USB 3.
Gen1 Type-A port, while the Helios 300 has a USB 3 Type-C port, no Thunderbolt though, a third USB 3 Type-A port, mini DisplayPort 1.
and HDMI 2.
On the back the Helios just has air exhaust vents, while the Y540 also has the rest of its I/O.
From left to right it’s got a USB Type-C port, again no Thunderbolt here either, mini DisplayPort 1.
, third USB 3.
Gen1 Type-A port, HDMI 2.
output, gigabit ethernet, power input and kensington lock.
The Y540 also has icons above all of the ports so you can easily see where you need to plug a cable in when standing over it from the front without the need to turn the machine around.
There’s nothing on the front of either machine.
For those keeping track we’ve got essentially the same I/O on both machines, just placed in different locations.
Personally, I prefer the layout of the Y540, the sides are kept clean so no cables get in the way of your mouse hand, all the thicker cables run out the back and out of the way.
For instance the head of the charger on the Helios does slightly obstruct the side air exhaust vent, though I didn’t find this to do anything when testing thermals.
Underneath both have air intake vents towards the back of the machine, and the design of the Y540 looks a bit cleaner.
We can also see the speakers here, both are towards the front left and right corners, actually on the front for the Y540 and towards the sides on the Helios.
Unfortunately I didn’t listen to them side by side so can’t directly compare them, however when looking at max volume the Helios seems to get louder.
I found the Latencymon results on the Y540 to look quite good, while some issues were detected on the Helios in this test.
The Helios 300 also plays this sound by default on boot.
You can turn it off through the predator sense software or in the BIOS though.
Speaking of the BIOS, here’s a super quick run through of each of them, both are quite basic and locked down with not really many advanced options available to the user.
The bottom panels can be removed by taking out 10 Phillips head screws for the Helios and 11 for the Y540.
The overall layout isn’t too different, single 2.
inch drive bay down the front left, an M.
slot next to it, however the Helios has two M.
slots for storage while the Y540 just has the one.
Both have two memory slots in the center and a WiFi card found on the left for the Helios and right for the Y540.
While the 57 watt hour battery in the Y540 looks a little bigger due to the L shape, it’s slightly smaller compared to the 58 watt hour one in the Helios.
I’ve tested both machines with the screen at 50% brightness, background apps disabled, and keyboard lighting off.
While just watching YouTube videos I actually found the Y540 to last 21 minutes or 6% longer.
The Y540 allows us to disable hybrid mode, which uses Optimus to swap to the Intel graphics for improved battery life, and as expected it burns battery much faster in this mode as we’re using the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti the entire time which is less power efficient.
While playing the Witcher 3 with Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS the Helios lasted a little longer, however the Y540 dipped to 10 FPS 48 minutes in with 25% charge remaining, so in terms of gaming on battery the Helios 300 seems to do better.
It’s worth noting the Helios 300 undervolts the CPU by default which would help improve its battery life a little.
Now let’s take a look at thermals.
Both laptops were tested in an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius with the same settings, so this should be a fairly apples to apples comparison, or at least as close as we can get.
By default out of the box the Helios 300 has a -0.
25v undervolt applied to the CPU while the Y540 does not.
In the upcoming tests I’ve tested the Helios 300 with turbo mode and Y540 in Performance mode, and both are the highest option you can set through their respective control panels.
With the Helios, turbo mode maxes the fan speed, raises power limits, and overclocks the graphics.
With the Y540, performance mode boosts the power limit, and I’ve manually applied the same GPU overclock and CPU undervolt to match the Helios for a fair comparison.