Acer's Aspire Predator is a peculiar power desktop.

We see this particular configuration more as a sturdy base with room to grow than a power PC in its own right; a little more detail work on its guts could push it toward the top of the category.

Our test configuration (G7700-UQ9550A) ships with an Intel Core 2 Quad 9550 processor (stock-clocked at 2.83GHz); 8GB of DDR2 (800MHz) memory; and 1.92TB of total storage, courtesy of three 640GB, 7200rpm Western Digital Caviar hard drives. The Acer Aspire Predator also features a single nVidia 9800GTX graphics board to power games and CUDA-enabled applications, along with separate DVD-writing and DVD-ROM optical drives.

This Acer Aspire Predator doesn't include Acer's matching 24in wide-screen G24 display, but you do get two awesome peripherals bundled in for the price: Logitech's G11 keyboard and G5 gaming mouse.

We love the Acer Aspire Predator's exterior design, accented with stealth-fighter-like lines in metallic-orange. But the proprietary nature of its insides - complete with more plastic coverings than we ever needed to see - could make upgrading a frustrating situation. Given the lack of available 5.25in bay coverings on the case's front, you can't add more 5.25in devices to that section of the chassis. However, the four hot-swappable hard drive bays at the lower front of the machine (behind a lit-up, hinged door), redeems that shortcoming a bit.

Still inside the Acer Aspire Predator's case, why is Acer liquid-cooling its quad-core processor without overclocking it whatsoever? If "acoustics" is the only answer, we frown: you can have a quiet and fast rig with liquid cooling, so there's no need to ignore the potential benefits of an overclocked processor. More frustrating still is that the system's Worldbench 6 score of 122 isn't exactly chart-topping. A little factory-side CPU tweaking could have gone a long way.

The aging nVidia 9800 GTX video card delivers acceptable (again, not stellar) performance; on the other hand, the Acer Aspire Predator has two free PCI Express x16 slots for a dramatic degree of upgradability.

OUR VERDICT

All in all, the Acer Aspire Predator delivers solid performance for its price, but a few additional tweaks and a little reconfiguring could have squeezed even more performance out of this killer-looking machine. Cut the RAM in half, overclock the CPU, boost the video card, and cut another hole in the front of the case. Then we'll talk.