My first desktop PC was an Acer many years ago. If I recall correctly, it ran Windows 95, AOL was my ISP, and it was the coolest thing on the planet to me at the time. It was like the Wild West—the rules hadn't yet been established, so the internet was just a huge playground for…whatever. I could get into a nostalgic post about all the stupid stuff I used to do on that computer when I first got the 'net, but that's another story for another day. (Or maybe never.) Either way, those were good times.
Ever since that computer, though, I've had a bit of a soft spot for Acer—oftentimes not unjustified. I've had a few Acer laptops since then (I currently have an Acer Chromebook 13, in fact), and have gone hands-on with the majority of the tablets the company has released in recent years. While I always want to like what they're doing in the mobile department, that doesn't always work out the way I want it to. The Predator 8 is a great example of that.
Given that this is from Acer's Predator line, that automatically means it's designed for gaming. That in itself sets some notions about what should be expected from the device, with killer performance being the top one in my mind. Turns out Acer sees the whole Android gaming landscape differently than I do, because things like haptic feedback and the audio experience have taken precedence here—even the company's Predator 8 landing page doesn't really mention performance. It focuses on audio, touch, and the display.
After using the device, I can kind of see why. While the audio, display, and touch are all quite good, things like ergonomics, performance, and battery life all fail to impress.
|Display||8-inch 1920x1200 IPS LCD|
|Processor||1.6GHz 64-bit quad-core Intel Atom x7|
|Camera||5MP rear, 2MP front|
|Storage||32GB, microSD card slot|
|Ports||microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Dimensions||218 x 127 x 8.7 mm; 350 grams|
|Good display||If a company is going to release a device for "gaming," then it damn sure better have a good display. The Predator 8's FHD eight-inch panel is pretty nice—vibrant and sharp. It's, you know, pretty good for games and stuff.|
|Good size||Eight-inches is the perfect size for a tablet in my opinion. The form factor of this one, however, is another story altogether.|
|Excellent sound||There are four front-facing speakers on the Predator 8—which Acer calls "Predator Quadio" (so clever)—so it's kind of hard not to get this one right. It does a great job of creating an immersive experience for watching videos and playing games. It's probably the loudest tablet I've ever heard, too.|
|Bloatware||There is an absurd amount of bloatware on this tablet. In fact, I don't recall the last time I saw a device with this much pre-loaded garbage (if ever, really). Most of the pre-installed trash on here is games, which I'm sure Acer justifies somehow because this is a "gaming tablet." Whatever, Acer, you just keep telling yourself that crap.|
|Poor battery life||It drains quickly and charges slowly, which is nothing that anyone wants. Maybe Marshmallow's Doze Mode will help out in the idle battery department…assuming this tablet ever sees an update.|
|Poor Wi-Fi reception||At longer distances where most tablets, phones, laptops, and other wireless devices work fine, the Predator 8 will basically be unusable. You have to stay close to the router with this one, which kind of sucks.|
|Underwhelming performance||Look, the word "gaming" is synonymous with beastly performance, so you can't just go throwing it onto every piece of hardware that looks like it might fit the part on the outside. Judging by how the Predator 8 performs, I'm not sure Acer understand that concept.|
|Not very comfortable||Ergonomics are out the window with the Predator 8. It's all about pointy edges and awkward angles. Yay.|
Design and Build Quality
OK, well, um, yeah. This is definitely the first thing worth talking about when it comes to the Predator 8, because I can't say I've ever seen another tablet quite like it. If you're into super sharp edges, dramatic logos, and devices that scream "just look at how cool I am [trying to be]!" then you're going to love the Predator 8.
The front of the device just craves attention right out of the box, with the deep red, super flamboyant rhombus-shaped Quadio speakers in all four corners. Don't get me wrong here—I get the desire for front-facing speakers, but did they have to make them look like this? Surely there could have been a much more subtle, sophisticated design, right? Sure. But then gamers wouldn't like it. Right?
As you can imagine, these pointy objects stuffed into the corners of the device make one thing especially uncomfortable: holding it. This seems to be the result of lots of computer-generated designs, and very little hands-on time. When I hold tablets of this size, I always put the bottom right corner into the center of my palm, with my pinky along the bottom. The sharp corners of the Predator 8 makes this a very uncomfortable position—it's not "painful," and is still basically usable, but it's not pleasurable. It's just awkward.
Because of the design and shape of the speakers, this isn't as pronounced when holding the tablet in landscape, though it's still a little weird-feeling. I've basically had to adjust how I handle the device with one-hand to make it a little more comfortable—instead of holding it by the bottom corner, I grip it by the side (again, in landscape), in between the two speakers. Still awkward as hell in my opinion, but not as bad, I guess.
That's actually in part due to the grip pads on the back of the tablet, which are designed to improve handling while playing games. They do increase comfort and traction, so I guess that's an improvement. But they're also pointy, which is just stupid. It's a pretty simple concept: pointy edges don't feel good stuffed into the palm.
Past that, the back of the Predator 8 is equally as edgy (in the non-literal sense this time), with the hyper-aggressive Predator logo in a mirror finish (which I will admit I kind of like) flanked by deep red nearly-translucent bars on the top and bottom. There's really a lot of stuff going on with this tablet from a design standpoint, and I honestly can't say how much of it is actually good.
Some? Maybe. Not much? More likely.
OK, I've been kind of a downer up to this point, so let's talk about something a little more positive.
The Predator 8's display is actually pretty solid. It’s an eight-inch full HD (1920x1200) display, which is slightly lower-res than most of the flagships that are out right now—like the Pixel C—but it’s really enough. And compared to the Pixel C’s density, it’s 308 PPI (Pixel C) to 283 PPI (Predator 8), so it’s not even that different. Everything is sharp and detailed on the Predator, so I have no complaints about the resolution. On another high note, if the resolution were any higher, the performance would take an unwanted and unnecessary hit, so I like it just where it is.
When it comes to color reproduction, things aren’t as simple. In fact, there are a variety of different color balance presets on the Predator 8: standard, album, movie, and game. Naturally, they all slightly change the display’s internal settings (this doesn’t seem to be manually adjustable) for a better experience depending on what you’re doing. I honestly think the “game” setting is way too saturated and “movie” is too dark, so I found myself using the “standard” option the most often. Your eyes may differ from mine, so it’s really about whatever you think is best. Options are options.
There’s also a built-in Bluelight Shield feature, which is designed to reduce the amount of blue light that’s used to display an image. Blue light has been known to have negative impact on the eyes, so if you’re going to be staring at the tablet for extended periods of time (assuming the battery will let you, that is), this is a nice feature to have. It’s a simple toggle in the quick settings shade, but there’s a slider in the settings menu that allows the user to manually tweak how much blue light is actually removed. I turned it on, saw it made the screen yellowish, then turned it back off. And that’s the extent of my time using the Bluelight Shield. I know what it does and how to use it, I just don’t care.
For the most part, I really like the Predator 8’s display—it’s not the best on the market today, but it’s very good at this price point and shouldn’t really leave anyone outside of the pickiest users wanting more.
Storage and Wireless
The Predator 8 has 32GB of storage and a microSD card slot, so it's pretty much got the whole storage thing covered. I had no issues with storage during my time with the P8—it performs consistently even when apps are installing or the storage is otherwise under "heavy" use. It's fine.
Wireless, on the other hand, is a whole different story altogether. Basically, the Wi-Fi performance on this tablet is kind of pathetic (and exceedingly frustrating). In places where I would normally have decent—usable, at the very least—Wi-Fi coverage, the Predator 8 constantly performs poorly. Page timeouts, "can't reach server" errors in games and whatnot—you name it. The icon will show it's still connected, but for all intents and purposes, it is not.
But wait, there's more! Even where Wi-Fi coverage is solid (like right beside the router), it will just randomly disconnect for no good reason. Trying to watch any sort of streaming media will result in an incredibly irritating experience, even (especially?) over Chromecast. I made the mistake of trying to use the Predator 8 to stream a Bulls game over NBA League Pass to Chromecast once. I had to restart it approximately 3 times per quarter because the tablet would just drop Wi-Fi and I had to manually reconnect. You guys are actually lucky this tablet is still in one piece after that experience. I haven't wanted to smash a piece of technology that badly in at least four years.
I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it.
First off, I can't remember the last time I saw this much bloatware on one device. Just take a look at the homescreens directly out of the box.
I'm sure the justification is something like "but this is a gaming tablet and here are a bunch of free games!" But seriously, it's ridiculous. Not once did I even remotely want to tap on any of those icons, though I did accidentally hit one once. Because they're everywhere. No escaping the bloat on this one. Ugh.
Aside from the pre-installed garbage (because let's be real here—most of this is just that), Acer added a few features of its own, and most of them aren't really terrible. Going in order of the settings menu, here's a look at each modification and what it does:
- EZ Tasking: It seems that almost every manufacturer has its own way to run two apps on the screen at once, and this is Acer's. Like so many others, it only works with a handful of apps, but I guess it's better than nothing.
- EZ Wake Up: Gestures. Gestures everywhere. Quickly launch applications from sleep mode.
- EZ Snap: This is supposed to be a simple way to take screenshots with a three-finger gesture. After multiple attempts, I got it to work about 25 percent of the time. So much for EZ, eh?
A few mostly useful modifications to an otherwise-stock system? I'm OK with this. EZ Tasking and Wake Up both work well, and EZ Snap is hit or miss. I find it the least useful of the three though, so it's really not a big deal in my opinion.
Acer also modified the quick settings panel, but only slightly. The brightness slider is now hidden under the "more" button, and options for display presets and Bluelight Shield (which I covered in the display section) have been added. It's neither better nor worse than stock, just different but kind of the same. Yeah.
The only other thing worth talking about here is the OS version and future updates. It's running Android 5.1 out of the box, so the real question is when (or if?) it will get Marshmallow. Unfortunately, I have no idea. If you're going to buy the Predator, I would do so under the impression that it will never get updated, then be pleasantly surprised if it does.
When you think about devices made for gaming, the word "fast" generally ends up in there somewhere in there. The Predator 8 is decent or average at best—definitely nothing I'd call "fast." It's sometimes slow to launch apps that other devices (like SHIELD or the Pixel C) are much, much faster to get out of the gate. Once the game or app is launched it's generally OK, but getting to that point sometimes takes patience.
I've been anything but overwhelmed with the Predator 8's performance—it's as average as average can be. On a scale of one to ten, it's a five. It's so boring I don't even know what else to say about it.
It's basically just OK on every level when it comes to performance. Here are some benchmarks to prove it.
The Predator 8's battery life straight-up sucks. It drains quicker than anything I've tested in the last few years, at least while using it. Idle battery life is nothing to be impressed by either, but it's more on-par with other modern Android devices. Once that display turns on, however, it all goes to hell. Playing something like The Walking Dead No Man's Land or The Room 3—neither of which are all that processor intensive in my experience—for an hour will easily drop the battery by 30 percent (or more). That puts the screen-on time at around three hours, which is pretty much what I routinely saw with the P8.
OK, so here's where we're at so far: crap battery life, average (at best) performance, good storage, awful design, and a decent display for $280. It's a gaming tablet! Two areas where it shouldn't skimp are battery and performance, yet here we are.
If you're thinking about buying this tablet, you know what you should do instead? Don't. If you want a gaming tablet, get a SHIELD Tablet K1. Sure, it has less on-board storage, but it has Marshmallow and a microSD card slot. Otherwise, it has dramatically better performance and battery life, not to mention killer support and essentially guaranteed updates. Oh, and it's only $199. So, more tablet for less money…essentially.
But if you insist on buying this tablet, go ahead and get a backup battery and extra wall charger, because you'll need them. Also, get yourself a nice cup. That way you can go get drinks while you wait for games to load.