Short battery life. Lackluster cameras. Android gaming ecosystem not as robust as iOS.
The Acer Predator 8 is a solid Android tablet for gaming, even if Android isn't the best platform for gamers.
BEN RADDINGWith the Predator 8 ($299; 32GB), Acer is attempting to bring some gaming prowess to Android tablets. The Predator 8 delivers solid performance, a sharp display, and immersive haptic feedback that really helps put you in the game. That said, the tablet suffers from very short battery life, as well as a bigger, software-related issue: Compared with Apple's iOS, Android is not the best ecosystem for tablet games. But if you like the games that Android has to offer, the Acer Predator 8 is a good tablet for gamers that won't break the bank.
Design and Features
As its name implies, the Predator 8 is an 8-inch tablet. It feels pretty beefy, measuring in at 8.6 by 5.0 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and 12 ounces, which is a bit larger and heavier than the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 (8 by 5.3 by 0.3 inches, 11 ounces). Along the right side you'll find Power and Volume buttons, while the left edge is home to a microSD slot. On top is a SlimPort-compatible micro USB port for charging and connecting to compatible devices. True to Acer's signature Predator look, the accents on the tablet are metallic silver and red. It's made from aluminum that, while heavy, feels very sturdy; I didn't try dropping the tablet on the floor, but it feels like it would hold up fine if I did. The body is not quite evenly rectangular all around, as four speakers (rather than just two on most tablets) jut out from the corners to provide virtual surround sound; they also give the tablet a bit of a futuristic look (more on these below). There are also plastic grips on the back where your hands naturally rest, on either side of a large, silver Predator logo. The front of the tablet is home to an 8-inch 1,920-by-1,200-pixel IPS LCD, which makes for a crisp 283 pixels per inch. The screen is bright and colorful, though not quite as vibrant as the super-saturated AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0. Still, it's plenty bright and sharp, and good for gaming.One of the Predator 8's best features is haptic feedback. Haptic feedback is basically a vibration motor that reacts to what you're seeing on the screen. On the preinsalled Asphalt 8: Airborne, it makes a huge difference. When you drive on dirt, you feel a subtle rumble. When you wipe out, it's a much bigger shock. You certainly won't get that with an iPad mini 4. Games need to be optimized in order to use the feature. Google Play has a section for haptic feedback-enabled Games You Can Feel, but right now, that list is only home to 13 titles. The virtual surround speakers are another high point. Thanks to four separate front-facing channels (as opposed to the one or two back- or bottom-firing on most tablets), audio is full and loud, which makes for more exciting gameplay. They're also great for watching movies and TV. Even the Galaxy Tab S2 sounds hollow and thin in comparison.
Software and Performance
The Predator runs a stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, so if you're already an Android user, you know exactly what you're getting. Out of the box, the 32GB tablet has 21.6GB of available storage, which you can easily expand via the microSD slot. There are a number of preinstalled games, like the aforementioned Asphalt 8 as well as Clash of Kings, along with apps like Dropbox. Acer includes a bit of bloatware, like Acer Caring (a diagnostics app) and Acer Suggests (an app that helps you find other tablet-optimized apps), but they can be uninstalled to bring you back to a stock Android experience.That said, you should keep in mind that Android isn't exactly a haven for tablet games. Yes, there are plenty of tablet-optimized games available, but you'll still encounter games meant for smaller phone screens that are simply scaled up to tablet size, so this doesn't make for optimal visuals. If you're a dedicated tablet gamer, Apple's iOS remains the best ecosystem for the latest games (popular titles like Dark Sky and Infinity Blade III are currently only available on iOS), even if the iPad isn't exactly a gaming-oriented tablet. It's a bit of a Catch-22.The tablet is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor that clocks in at 1.6GHz, with 2GB of RAM. It scored an impressive 73,020 on the AnTuTu benchmark, which tests overall performance. This is stronger than the Galaxy Tab S2 (52,137) and the Asus ZenPad S 8.0 (45,891), though due in part to the Predator's lower screen resolution; the other two tablets have to render graphics at 2,048 by 1,536. Game performance was extremely smooth in testing. The graphics-intensive Asphalt 8: Airborne was fluid, and the visuals really pop thanks to the integrated Intel graphics chip. I played a little bit of Hello Kitty Café to take a break from the intensity of Asphalt, and as you can imagine, gameplay was just fine. The Predator 8 has two cameras: The 5-megapixel rear-facing camera takes a few seconds to lock focus, and shots are generally pretty grainy. The 2-MP front-facing camera is good enough for video calls, not much else. That said, you're probably not buying this tablet, or any tablet for that matter, for its cameras.The biggest knock against the Predator 8 is its battery life. The 4,420mAh battery only lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes in our rundown test, which streams full-screen video over Wi-Fi. That's well below the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (5 hours and 33 minutes), and even budget tablets like the Amazon Fire (6 hours and 5 minutes). You'll need to make sure you have the included charging cord handy for extended gaming sessions.
The Acer Predator 8 is a unique slate tablet with a design and specs catered specifically toward gamers. It has a good screen and smooth performance, while features like haptic feedback and quad speakers definitely help to enhance gameplay. That said, diehard gamers will find newer and higher-quality titles for the iPad mini. If you're looking to stick with Android, the Asus ZenPad S gets you a sharper display and slightly better battery life for the same price. The Galaxy Tab S2 is a more expensive option, but gets you top-notch hardware and one of the best tablet screens available. And while we haven't tested it yet, the Nvidia Shield K1 looks to be a solid bet, with gaming-geared hardware for $100 less than the Predator 8.