Acer Nitro 5 Review
Can the affordable Acer Nitro 5 outpace its pricier competition?
- Key Specifications
- What is the Acer Nitro 5?
- The Acer Nitro 5 is one of the best looking budget gaming laptops
- General performance
- Should I buy the Acer Nitro 5?
An ideal gaming laptop choice for casual gamers only wanting to play battle royale shooters and other less-demanding titles, but in no way a triple A powerhouse.
This is currently in our Best Gaming Laptop list.
What is the Acer Nitro 5?
The latest refresh of the Acer Nitro range of budget gaming laptops features a 9th generation Intel processor and 16 Series Nvidia graphics card – the specific review model I picked up, the Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54 NH.Q59EK.007), has an Intel Core i5-9300H (2.40GHz, four cores, eight threads) and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 with 4GB of RAM.
At the time of writing, this could be picked up for around £850, which is a very reasonable price for a gaming laptop. If you want more power under the hood, you can get a different model ( AN515-54 NH.Q5BEK.008) with the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti instead for £1000 – for an extra £150, you’ll get a much more powerful system.
In layman’s terms, all of this means that Acer Nitro 5 will be powerful enough to run popular games like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Dirt Rally. It’s not going to be powerful enough to run high-end triple A titles, but the low price combined with a generous number of ports and a full QWERTY keyboard, complete with a number pad, mean it promises to be a capable work machine as a well as a good budget gamer.
Boasting a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) LCD display, the Acer Nitro 5 competes with the likes of the Dell G5 15, and similarly lower-specced gaming ultrabooks like the Razer Blade Stealth.
Priced around £1000, the Acer Nitro 5 is one of the cheaper gaming laptops available to buy right now. While those are nice – gaming laptops can ascend beyond the £3000 price mark – how much bang do you get for your buck, exactly?
The matt finishes coupled with the black ‘n red design are pretty alluring
The Acer Nitro 5 is one of the best looking budget gaming laptops
The Acer Nitro 5’s not as festooned with lights as more big gaming laptops, like the Asus ROG G703GX, and it’s not as fancy-looking as the Razer Blade Stealth, either. That said, it’s a fairly nice looking machine – I like the matt black plastic finishes and the triangular textures on the outer shell. It by no means features the most sophisticated design, but the Acer Nitro 5 looks the business.
Like a lot of gaming laptops, the Acer Nitro 5 comes bristling with ports. You get a Kensington lock slot, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, one Type-C USB port (3.1 gen 1) and three Type-A USB ports (two 3.1 gen 1, one 2.0).
Given the price, you could expect Acer to skimp on a few things here, so this is a good sign. Dell’s G5 15 from last year brings a similar amount of portage to the party, and goes one better by adding an SD card reader to the mix, but smaller gaming laptops, like the Razer Blade Stealth fall down here.
The Acer Nitro 5’s HDMI and USB-C ports mean you can connect it to 4K monitors and output video at 60Hz. Given the lack of high-end gaming power on offer, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be playing games in 4K on the Nitro 5, but if you wanted to hook this up to a gaming monitor for bigger screen action, you could do that and enjoy Full HD gaming at up to 144Hz via the HDMI port. For those times when you’re not gaming, you’ll be able to hook the Nitro 5 up to a non-Smart TV and enjoy Netflix in sweet Ultra HD.
And that’s handy, because during tests, I was easily able to push the likes of Fortnite beyond the 100fps mark (with the settings dialled down, mind).
Ports on the right-hand side of the Acer Nitro 5: L-R, 3.5mm audio jack, USB-A, power supply.
Keyboard – what’s the Acer Nitro 5 like to type on?
The Acer Nitro 5 keyboard is more than good enough for everyday office work, and for a student wanting something to write essays on (while getting in a sneaky bit of PUBG), it’s perfect.
Personally, I found the keyboard layout a little cramped and hard to type on, but I have bigger than average hands, so not everyone will have the same issues I did. That said, I found that the placement of the Enter and hash symbol keys to be an annoyance, as more often than not, I’d finish a sentence and then go to start a new paragraph, only for it to look like I’d written the world’s worst hashtag by mistake.#
Also, for gaming, I found that the WASD arrangement was fine, but the position of the trackpad made for an awkward fit when these were used together. Because the trackpad isn ’t centred, it means that your right hand ends up being closer to your left hand than you might like. You could save yourself some humiliation and pick up a gaming mouse on the side.
Despite some of the keys being a little small for my huge hands, and the positioning of # next to Enter not being ideal, I found the Nitro 5’s keyboard easy to work on
Other than that though, the keyboard’s great. The keycaps are big, spongy and fire back nicely. I liked that brightness and volume controls are mapped to the arrow keys, so you can easily adjust these while holding down the Fn key.
They’re also underlit with slightly menacing red LEDs, which means that if you’re working on something late at night, not only will you be easily able to find the correct keys, you won’t have any blue light keeping you awake and disrupting your circadian rhythm.
The trackpad is a good size and it responds well to swipes and multi-finger gestures, though it’s not entirely clear where on the pad you need to press in for left and right-click, which can lead to misclicks and misfires. I didn’t need to adjust the sensitivity, and by default, I was able to easily swipe from one side of the screen to the other with a single gesture.
Screen – How good is the Acer Nitro 5 for gaming and photo work?
You can pick up versions of the new Acer Nitro 5 with a display which refreshes at up to 144Hz, the model I picked up came with a 60Hz panel, so altering the settings to clear the 60fps hurdle is kind of academic, unless, as I said earlier, you plan on connecting this to a monitor.
At the time of writing, it’s unclear if any of the 144Hz versions will be available to buy in the UK – so far, I’ve only seen 60Hz versions on the shelves.
Refresh rates aside, the Acer Nitro 5’s display is generally underwhelming. Colorimeter tests gave me a maximum brightness reading of 254.78 nits, which might explain why games and websites looked on the dull side. These days, laptops of all stripes should be giving us a max brightness of 300 nits at the very least.
Colour space coverage was also poor, with a mere 56.5% of the sRGB (Standard RGB) gamut covered. sRGB is, as the name implies, the standard colour space used by developers, website designers and digital artists of most stripes, and so is a good indicator of how vivid and vibrant a game’s graphics will look on a display.
As you might expect, coverage of the wider Adobe RGB (favoured by some photographers) and DCI-P3 (favoured by videographers) was also very low. Other than for the sake of comparison and completionism – I recorded 39.1% and 40.2%, respectively – I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning these scores.
On the plus side, the colour temperature I recorded – 6386K – isn’t too far away from the 6500K mid point, and, at a passing glance, the display doesn’t look quite as warm/red as that number indicates.
Horizontal and vertical viewing angles here, while not brilliant, are also not bad by cheap gaming laptop standards. The screen doesn’t reflect a great amount of ambient light either, meaning even if whatever you’re playing or working on might not look great, at least glare is among the least of your worries.
So yes, the screen is easily the Acer Nitro 5’s biggest weak spot, but it’s not uncommon for devices in this price range to suffer here.
Performance – How good is the Acer Nitro 5 for gaming?
If you want to be able to play battle royale-type games then the Acer Nitro 5 is plenty good enough for this. For anything more advanced, you’ll need to buy something more powerful.
The Acer Nitro 5 can easily push fast-paced battle royale-type titles beyond the 100fps mark if you nerf the graphics and have everything – from shadows to textures – all the way down. In such games, a higher frame rate can make all the difference between getting sniped by some anonymous kid from Nebrahoma and getting a chicken dinner.
If you don’t, you should still be able to play at 60fps on high settings – I was able to regularly hit around 70-75 frames per second on Fortnite with the graphics and textures set to the max.
While some of the more graphically-demanding titles I tested didn’t even come close to touching 60fps, the original Dirt Rally gave me over 60fps on the highest settings.
Here’s how the Acer Nitro 5 fared compared with the Dell G5 15 and Razer Blade Stealth, two other gaming laptops which exist in a similar price and specs bracket:
As you can see, the Nitro 5 doesn’t fare quite as well on paper as the G5 15. That’s slightly damning, when you consider that the Dell laptop uses both a last-gen Intel processor and last-gen Nvidia graphics. Then again, remember that the version I’ve tested here features the GeForce 1650 graphics unit – the model with the more powerful GeForce 1660 Ti will almost certainly return higher benchmark results.
That’s not the complete picture though, and later on in the review I’ll touch on how the Nitro 5 beats the Dell (spoiler: the display, design and keyboard are better), but this graph should hopefully tell you that the Acer Nitro 5 is not really cut out for high-end triple A gaming. This is largely fine, as the Acer Nitro 5 is not intended to be a bleeding-edge gaming machine.
While the screen will still catch ambient light, the non-glossy finish means that most of the time, it’s not an issue.
General performance – what’s the Acer Nitro 5 like day to day?
The benchmark scores below should give you an idea of how this fares for everyday use and how it compares to its rivals:
The PC Mark 10 score of 4882 is good, indicating that the for basic office tasks, like word processing and web browsing, the processor is more than capable. You won’t, however, be able to edit video on this.
Similarly, the Geekbench 4 scores are above average, though not exceptional. Geekbench is a CPU stress test, and so doesn’t provide a snapshot of how much else besides the main processor performs. That said, Geekbench scores of 4000 for single-core and 8000 for multi-core indicate that your laptop is capable of running everyday PC tasks without breaking a sweat.
3DMark FireStrike runs a simulation of a video game to test the GPU performance, and given what we’ve seen with real-life performance and in-game benchmarks, it’s no shocker to learn that the Acer Nitro 5 gave me a fairly middling score of 8162.
That’s roughly half of what you could expect to see from a more powerful gaming machine. An Acer Predator Triton 500 review unit we tested, for example, gave us 16441, but then again, that laptop came with high-end Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics, which is much more powerful and expensive than the GTX 1650 unit in the Nitro 5.
The Acer Nitro 5 model I tested featured a 512GB Western Digital SSD (a WDC PC SN520 SDAPNUW-512G-1014), 476GB of which is user-available. Read and write speeds recorded here are good, typical of what I’d expect from a NVMe-type SSD, supporting PCIe 3.0.
Such solid state drives will always give you faster read and write speeds than laptops using the older SATA technology – in practical terms, faster read/write speeds means this means that programs, files, apps, and games will load and save more quickly.
The trapezoidal mesh underneath the hinge allows for hot air to escape the Nitro 5’s innards, though it’s not the most powerful gaming machine out there, it would, on occasion, get a bit warm
Battery – will the Acer Nitro 5’s battery last all day?
You can, at a push, squeeze over six hours of battery time out of the Acer Nitro 5. By gaming laptop standards, that’s very good – more powerful, and therefore more thirsty machines will give you far less power away from the mains.
Most conferences, meetings and lectures won’t last six hours, so for short bursts of time, you will be able to work away on the Acer Nitro 5 and not have to glance at the battery level.
I ran PC Mark 8’s ‘Work’ simulation, which simulates basic office tasks like word processing and spreadsheet work with some video calls thrown in and, with the screen’s brightness set to 150 nits, I was able to get five hours and five minutes before it hit the 20% danger zone.
I’ve been able to push the battery life up to six hours if I was being really conservative with use day to day, making sure to keep the brightness low – which was tricky, as at levels of 100-150 nits, it’s actually hard to see what you’re working on.
Weighing just 2.2kg, the Acer Nitro 5 is as easy on your back as it is on your wallet
Should I buy the Acer Nitro 5?
The Acer Nitro 5 is worth considering if you’re in the market for a laptop either to play the likes of Fortnite or Apex Legends and squeeze in a bit of coursework or Instagram snooping on the side, and not have to spend over a grand for the privilege.
It’s a great value for money laptop that hits a lot of the right points. However, in terms of performance, it’s virtually on par with the Dell G5 15 from last year, which you can now pick up for a little less money. When you consider the Acer Nitro 5 features some of the latest components, that’s not a good look.
Then again, the Acer Nitro 5 boasts a slick design and a keyboard that’s more comfortable to type on, and the screen’s a little nicer to look at than that of the Dell G5 15, too.
A solid budget gaming laptop that’s ideal for battle royale games.
The Acer Nitro 5 has the longest battery life for a cheap gaming laptop
Editor’s Note: We generally don’t recommend laptops older than 2 years. For our top picks, check out the Best Laptops, or answer a few simple questions in our Laptop Finder to get personalized recommendations
Laptop Mag Verdict
The Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) boasts long battery life and a strong CPU for a great price, but the graphics and display deliver the bare minimum.
- Long battery life
- Strong CPU performance
- Comfortable keyboard
- Ridiculously affordable
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If you’re looking for a gaming laptop for a ridiculously cheap price, look no further than the Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020). For just 669, the Nitro 5 offers class-leading battery life, a powerful AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor and a comfortable keyboard.
However, keep in mind that you’re sacrificing some cosmetics for the price. Furthermore, the Nitro 5’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU is mediocre, its 15.6-inch display is terribly dull, and its speakers are muddy at best.
But overall, if you need something that works for an affordable price, the Acer Nitro 5 is one of the best cheap gaming laptops that you can buy.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) price and configuration options
Price: 669 CPU: AMD Ryzen 5-4600H GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 RAM: 8GB Storage: 256GB SSD Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz Battery: 11:06 Size: 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches Weight: 5.3 pounds
The Nitro 5 that I tested costs a very affordable 669 and comes with an AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 60Hz display.
There’s an identical Intel version that comes with an Intel Core i5-9300H processor instead, but it costs 710. Meanwhile, the only upgrade from these two models is the 1,049 version, which comes with a Core i7-9750H CPU, an RTX 2060 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 144Hz display.
If these components are small potatoes to you, consider checking out our best gaming laptops or best VR-ready laptops pages.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) design
While the Nitro 5 has improved on its design over the years, it has gone from gaudy to boring with a red flare. Its black plastic hood is surrounded by faux-aluminum accents that curve against indents in the hood. The rest of the lid is matte, home to a black glossy Acer logo. The most colorful piece on this machine is the red hinge surrounding the grill, and it’s terribly dull.
The interior is just as edgy and bland, with a black deck, red keyboard with red key lighting (ugh) and red-trimmed touchpad. Another one of its many offenses is that the power button is located on the keyboard. The side bezels are appropriately narrow, but the top bezel is still pretty chunky thanks to its large webcam.
At 5.3 pounds and 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches, the Nitro 5 is pretty average for a 15-inch laptop. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (4.8 pounds, 14.1 x 9.8 x 1.0 inches), Dell G5 15 SE (5.5 pounds, 14.4 x 10 x 0.9 inches), HP Gaming Pavilion 15-dk0046nr (5 pounds, 14.2 x 10.1 x 0.9 inches) are around the same weight and size range.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) ports
The Nitro 5 offers a decent number of ports, but it would have been nice to see a Mini DisplayPort connection.
On the left side, there’s a security lock slot, a drop-jaw RJ45 Ethernet port, two USB Type-A ports and a headphone jack, while the right side holds room for an HDMI port, one USB Type-A port and one USB Type-C port. The power jack is on the back of the laptop, which is an interesting choice.
If you’re looking for more ports, check out our best laptop docking stations and best USB Type-C hubs pages.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) display
If you’re in the market for a cheap gaming laptop, expect a display that’s dim, dull or both, and the Nitro 5’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz display is no exception.
In the trailer for Honest Thief, or Taken Part 15, Liam Neeson’s pale blue denim button-up looked like it was thrown in the washer one too many times. When Neeson and Kate Walsh were driving through the night, I could barely make out any details in their clothes because it was so dark. However, the display was sharp enough to spot the splotches of makeup on Jai Courtney’s face.
While saw-blading my way through Far Cry New Dawn, it was difficult to take in the colorful flowers around me as they fell flat on the Nitro 5’s dull screen. When defending a location at night, it was difficult to see where the enemies were coming from, and the only reason I managed was because of the in-game indicators. However, when in bright scenes, I saw all of the fine details around an abandoned safe.
According to our colorimeter, the Nitro 5 covered 63% of the sRGB color gamut, which isn’t very far from the budget gaming laptop average (67%). The IdeaPad Gaming 3i (58%), G5 15 (63%) and Pavilion 15 (66%) were within spitting distance of the average and the Nitro 5.
At 255 nits of brightness, the Nitro 5’s panel was slightly dimmer than the average budget gaming laptop (265 nits). While it was brighter than the G5 15 (231 nits) and the Pavillion 15 (241 nits), the IdeaPad Gaming 3i managed to hit 278 nits of brightness.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) keyboard and touchpad
For a cheap gaming laptop, the Nitro 5 has a surprisingly comfortable keyboard. Each key required a decent amount of force to click and provided meaty feedback.
I hit 78 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which matches my current average. The keys aren’t necessarily clicky, but they’re spaced out in a way that makes it feel natural to type on.
Unfortunately, the keyboard only features one color for its key lighting, which would be fine if the keys and the key lighting were a neutral color as opposed to a harsh, ugly red.
The touchpad is OK, offering a decent clicking experience, but the actual material could be softer. However, the Windows Precision drivers made it quite responsive to Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) audio
The Nitro 5’s corner-firing speakers sound as crappy as you’d expect them to on a budget gaming notebook.
I listened to Windrunner’s “Lotus,” and the vocals sounded OK, brighter than I anticipated. But then the guitar came in with enough treble and gain that soured my entire listening experience. If there was some form of bass backing the percussion, I couldn’t hear it, as each beat sounded congested as me during allergy season.
The best way to describe playing Far Cry New Dawn on the Nitro 5 is like watching a movie and hearing one of the extras playing the game in the background. Character voices are muddled, gunshots are hollow and the surrounding wildlife sounds like something I’d queue up to fall asleep to but then turn off because it delivered the opposite effect.
Unfortunately, the included audio software, Acer TrueHarmony, was basic, offering presets like Shooter, RPG and Strategy, but overall, the sound didn’t benefit from it. There was a noticeable effect between the settings, but making certain sounds a little brighter or quieter didn’t help the bass, which was nonexistent.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) gaming, graphics and VR
While the Nitro 5 is toting around the bare minimum GPU for a gaming laptop these days, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM can get some decent work done while gaming. I drove around the American wasteland in Far Cry New Dawn at a solid 53 frames per second on Ultra settings at 1080p.
On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p), the Nitro 5 hit a playable 32 fps, but fell short against the budget gaming laptop average (40 fps). With the same GPU, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (32 fps) and the Pavillion 15 (31 fps) had roughly the same score. However, the G5 15’s AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU nailed 69 fps (nice).
The Nitro 5 averaged 59 fps on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), which once again misses the mark on the 66-fps category average. Still, it managed to climb over the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (58 fps) and the Pavilion 15 (57 fps), but it was crushed by the G5 15 (88 fps).
When up against the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Nitro 5 scored 40 fps, which is a few frames off of the 45-fps budget gaming laptop average. It landed between the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (41 fps) and the Pavilion 15 (39 fps) but is a far cry from the G5 15 (62 fps).
On the Metro Exodus benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the Nitro 5 averaged 27 fps, which is just short of the playable 31-fps category average. Once again, it landed near the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (26 fps). However, it couldn’t match up against AMD, as the G5 15 nailed 45 fps.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) performance
AMD’s processors are a beast. We’ve seen it in a number of gaming laptops and it has shown up its Intel counterpart at every turn. The Nitro 5’s AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor with 8GB of RAM has the same robustness as its siblings.
On the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance test, the Nitro 5 scored 21,332, climbing over the budget gaming laptop average (19,613). The Intel Core i7-10750H CPU in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (20,911) and the Core i7-9750H in the Pavillion 15 (21,326) couldn’t beat the Nitro 5, but the G5 15’s matching AMD CPU could, with 22,707.
The Nitro 5 took 9 minutes and 11 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark, flying by the 11:26 category average. The IdeaPad Gaming 3i (10:41) and the Pavilion 15 (10:42) couldn’t keep up, while the G5 15 excelled, completing it in 8:44.
Acer’s 256GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in 18.6 seconds, translating to a sluggish 274 megabytes per second, which is slower than the average budget gaming laptop’s SSD (369 MBps). The SSDs in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (476 MBps), G5 15 (419 MBps) and the Pavilion 15 (351 MBps) were much faster.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) battery life
AMD has impressed once again with its battery life numbers on a gaming laptop. After the Nitro 5 continuously surfed the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, its battery clocked out at a ridiculous 11 hours and 9 minutes, crushing the 6:38 budget gaming laptop average. It ran circles around the times from the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (5:40), the G5 15 (7:29) and the Pavilion 15 (5:26).
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) webcam
Acer’s 720p shooter is as bad as any laptop webcam, so it doesn’t win any Golden Raspberry awards.
My super frizzy hair was a blurred mess on my head, while the blue text on my black shirt was practically indistinguishable. The blue it did pick up was pale and drained from its glossy vibrance. The off-balanced contrast blew out half of the window behind me. If you need a webcam for streaming, check out our best webcams page.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) heat
The Nitro 5 was relatively cool under the hood thanks to its plastic chassis. After gaming for 15 minutes, the underside reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit, which is above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad hit 90 and 75 degrees, respectively. Its hottest surface was 105 degrees, which was located on the rear underside.
When it was up against a 15-minute, 1080p YouTube video, the underside measured 88 degrees, the keyboard got up to 82 degrees and the touchpad hit 75 degrees.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) software and warranty
Acer packs in the NitroSense software, which lets you customize the performance, battery, fans and audio. You can also monitor the temperature of your components from the app as well. Other apps include Acer Product Registration (gives you access to Acer’s deals), Acer Collection S (a semi-app store) and the Care Center (runs updates, diagnostics and tuneups for your hardware).
There’s also some Windows 10 bloatware, like Hotspot Shield, Sketchable and Candy Crush Friends.
The Nitro 5 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Acer performed on our Tech Support Showdown, Best and Worst Laptop Brands and Best and Worst Gaming Laptop Brands ranking.
The Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) is hard to beat with its 669 price point offering great performance, ridiculously long battery life and a comfortable keyboard. However, you have to acknowledge that at that price point, you can’t be too picky about its mediocre GPU, crummy display and crappy speakers.
If you’re willing to spend 879, you can pick up the Dell G5 15 SE, which will net you a stronger GPU, but that’s about it.
You won’t find battery life like this in another cheap gaming laptop, which is why the Nitro 5 is a great buy if you need an affordable machine.
The Acer Nitro 5 laptop shreds through games without shredding your wallet
Once again, the Acer Nitro 5 (available at Amazon) delivers an unbelievably good gaming experience for well under 700. Its mid-range Ryzen processor and entry-level graphics card are a killer combo, bolstered by respectable battery life. We would be happier if the Nitro 5 slimmed down and took some design cues from its more premium Predator cousins, but for under a thousand bucks, we’re not complaining.
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- About the Acer Nitro 5 laptop
- What we Like
- What we Don’t Like
- Should You Buy It?
- Related content
For years, the Acer Nitro 5 has been the go-to laptop for gamers on a budget. It sings at 1080p, rarely dipping below 60 frames per second even on many AAA games. However, the Nitro 5 makes some sacrifices to keep the cost under 700, ranging from a poor screen to a mediocre keyboard.
There are a few budget gaming laptops with 120Hz displays and beefier hardware, but they will cost you hundreds of dollars more than the Nitro 5. If you want better ergonomics and a better display, you will again have to look at pricier gaming laptops that have the budget to play with these features. However, the Nitro 5 is still a major step above laptops without discrete GPUs, making it well worth consideration.
About the Acer Nitro 5 laptop
Here are the laptop’s base specs:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5-4600H (Intel Core i5 also available)
- Memory: 8GB RAM
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- Display: 15.6-inch 1080p resolution at 60Hz
- Ports: 1x Ethernet port, 3x USB-A 3 ports, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x HDMI port, 1x USB-C port
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 (GTX 1650Ti and RTX 2060 also available)
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth
- Battery: 57 Whr battery
- Charger: 135W, 19.5V at 6.92A
- Weight: 5.29 lb
- Dimensions: 14.3 x 10 x 0.94 inches
- Warranty: One-year limited warranty
When it comes to budget gaming laptops, there are a lot of factors to consider: Price, display quality, battery life, ergonomics, cooling, and performance are in a constant battle. The Acer Nitro 5 chooses to emphasize price and performance, and settles for decent battery life and cooling. Pricier competitors, like the Lenovo Legion 5 or the Asus TUF A15, may offer slightly smaller bodies or better keyboards and displays, but the Nitro 5 gets the job done.
For a price starting at 669, Acer’s latest Nitro 5 is one stout machine. The base model brings a current-gen AMD Ryzen 5 processor, a slightly older (but still capable) Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Some may feel constrained by the RAM and storage, but the graphics card will only be an issue for those looking for ray-tracing or 4K gaming. Upgrading to a model with a GTX 1660Ti or RTX 2060 will cost you 300 or more, and the only way to get more RAM or storage space is to get a model with a pricier graphics card or processor.
What we Like
It can hold high frame rates in a bunch of AAA games
While there are a lot of traditional and ultrabook laptops with optional discrete graphics, they’re rarely optimized for gaming. The Acer Nitro 5 is built for gaming first and foremost, with everyday laptop tasks designed around that principle. Its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card is one of Nvidia’s cheapest consumer cards available, but the Nitro 5 pushes it like a much more expensive card.
We ran a lot of different games on the Acer 5, from esports to AAA cinematic adventures. No matter the graphics, the laptop pushed out plenty of frames per second. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a hefty AAA game, the Nitro 5 ran at an average of 45 frames per second on the Ultra graphics preset and 1080p resolution. For a picturesque exploration, that’s not bad.
If you turn the graphics down to Medium, you’ll see 60 frames per second without much visual fidelity loss. Poorly optimized games, like Cyberpunk 2077 or The Medium may have trouble reaching 60 frames per second on the Nitro 5 for now, but they should be able to reach 30 frames per second until patches purge inefficient code.
If you’re more concerned about esports and other fast-paced games, the Nitro 5 is fantastic. The laptop makes full use of its 60Hz panel in games like Overwatch and Genshin Impact, rarely dropping below 60 frames per second even on the highest graphics settings. Fortnite, CS:GO, World of Warcraft, and Valorant should all play without a hitch, with a visual experience that far exceeds anything you’d get out of a laptop with integrated graphics.
It can handle many tasks at once
When you’re not channeling all the juice to graphical glory, you’ll find the Nitro 5’s AMD Ryzen 5 processor is a beast when it comes to central processing. Despite its low power consumption, the Ryzen 5 can effortlessly handle just about any task you throw at it, from a 40-tab Chrome page to a 30-layer Photoshop file. Lag is not in the Nitro 5’s vocabulary. Even on startup, the laptop takes at most fifteen seconds before it’s ready to go.
This kind of CPU performance isn’t unique to the sub-thousand laptop market, but there aren’t a lot of laptops with such a powerful CPU/GPU combo. Some laptops, like the HP Pavilion gaming edition or the Asus TUF A15, encroach on the Nitro 5’s budget gaming crown, but ultimately their higher price tags come from upgraded design features, not performance improvements.
The Nitro 5 gives you options
Unlike so many modern laptops, you won’t be starved for ports with the Nitro 5. This laptop packs 3 USB slots, a USB-C slot, an HDMI port, and an ethernet port so you can hook up whichever peripherals you need. If you’re not much of an ethernet or wires person, the Nitro 5’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth make sure that connections are blazing fast. Its 720p webcam is decent, though you’ll want to use your own mic if you can.
Acer’s built-in software, NitroSense, lets you fidget with your processors’ fan speeds to find a balance between quiet fans and cool processors. You can monitor and adjust your CPU and GPU fan speeds, while also tracking your CPU and GPU temperatures and load over time, too. While NitroSense may not offer the raw data and customizability of some other software, like AMD Ryzen Master or Intel Extreme Tooling Utility, it’s incredibly easy to use.
The battery life can get you through
Should you find yourself far away from a power outlet, you can use the Nitro 5 for up to five hours while surfing the web. It’s less than half the time you’ll get from an ultrabook like the M1 MacBook Air, but it’s in line with pricier gaming laptops, like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 or even the 3,000 Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
What we Don’t Like
The design is clunky and basic
As processors have become more efficient, many gaming laptops have slimmed down since their processors don’t need as much room to breathe to stay under critical temperatures. However, the budget-conscious Nitro 5 keeps it simple and features a thick, airy chassis that is overkill for its components. At 0.9 inches thick and 5.5 pounds, it is one of the clunkiest gaming laptops we have tested in a while. This is not a laptop meant for daily travel.
The Nitro 5’s red-on-black color scheme screams gamer, a trend many other gaming laptops are moving away from. I think it can be a fun color scheme, but the plasticky red backplate and keyboard betray the laptop’s price tag.
The built-in speakers sound bad
A lot of us use headphones when we want to FOCUS on a game or movie, but it’s nice to take them off and enjoy speakers on occasion. When the Nitro 5 powers up a game, its fans whir too loudly to hear its quiet speakers, which barely make it over a normal conversation-level of sound.
Not that you’d want to hear these speakers. They’re exceptionally tinny, killing any mids and muddling any bass that could have lived in the audio. Beautiful soundtracks turn into soulless mush, all-but necessitating an internal speaker for such applications. Even a cheap Bluetooth speaker will be a massive upgrade over the laptop’s out-of-box sound.
The display is dim and muddy
Cheap gaming laptops are stereotyped to have bad battery life and worse displays. Unfortunately, the Nitro 5 follows the latter trend, with a matte display that reproduces muddy colors at low brightness. Contrast isn’t great either, with the blacks appearing lit when the display is at max brightness. On the other hand, the display is easy on the eyes, allowing you to game for hours on end. If you find the Nitro 5’s screen isn’t accurate enough to meet your needs, you’ll either have to give up the graphics card or spend more money to get a better screen on a competing laptop.
At home, of course, you can also utilize the Nitro 5’s handy HDMI port to plug into a purpose-built gaming monitor.
The keyboard and trackpad are only mediocre
Neither the trackpad or keyboard are bad enough to be considered dealbreakers, but they’re not great. If you have large hands, you may feel constricted on the Nitro 5’s small trackpad and smaller keys. The red backlighting makes it difficult to read the keys, and touch typists may struggle to adjust to the awkwardly spaced keyboard. If the laptop got rid of its numpad and extended its trackpad by an inch, it would make a huge difference.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. If you’ve been looking for a gaming laptop that won’t bankrupt you, the Acer Nitro 5 gets the job done.
It can be extremely difficult to find a decent laptop under a grand that can also handle the load of a AAA game. The Acer Nitro 5 will fill that niche for many people, offering a respectably powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card and AMD Ryzen 5-4600U processor for well under 800. If you need to use it away from an outlet, you’ll get five hours of power surfing the web. It is one of the cheapest gaming laptops on the market at its 669.99 base price, but its performance trades blows with laptops that are two, three, even four hundred dollars more expensive.
While the Nitro 5’s chassis does a good job of keeping the insides cool, it’s not for everyone. This 15.6-inch laptop is an inch thick and weighs 5.5 pounds, so it’s hard to lug around if you’re commuting often. While its display is fine for gaming, the poor color accuracy will hamper any visual work you may aspire to do. The small keys on the keyboard and the small trackpad may be difficult to get used to for some, but it offers reliable tracking and actuation that’s a cut above other budget laptops.
You won’t find a cheaper gaming laptop with the Nitro 5’s raw performance, but other affordable gaming laptops will give you a different balance of price, performance, and features to consider. The base Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 offers a great screen, svelte form factor, and a great ergonomic experience while still packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card and a more powerful AMD Ryzen 7-4800HS processor for just over a thousand dollars. Meanwhile, the 700 HP Pavilion gaming laptop offers almost the same specs as the Nitro 5, so it should theoretically perform about as well as the Nitro 5, but we haven’t had the chance to test it yet.
If you’re sick of the horrible framerates often seen on laptops with integrated graphics, the Acer Nitro 5 will breathe new life into your gaming sessions. It’s a clear step above ultrabooks in this regard, but you will have to make some sacrifices for this powerful and affordable laptop. If you don’t mind a cumbersome body or a mediocre display, you and your wallet will be very happy with the under-700 Acer Nitro 5.
Acer Nitro 5 review 2021 | Fast budget gaming laptop | Gaming performance benchmarks | Webcam, microphone and speaker tests
Inside the box you get the laptop itself, a beefy 135W charger and a couple of brief getting started guides. You can download a complete user manual here.
The left side of the laptop has the Kensington lock slot, a cooling vent, a Gigabit Ethernet port, 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports and a combined headphone / microphone jack.
The right side has a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, another USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a full size HDMI port and another vent.
I would have liked to have seen an SD card slot but it’s great to see a full speed Gen 2 USB Type-C port that supports speeds up to 10GBps, double that of the 5Gbps of other Gen 1 ports. This is particularly useful for gaming or video editing which I’ll come back to later. You can’t use this port for charging the laptop or for output to a display.
The back of the laptop has the charging port with further cooling vents on either side.
The lid can just about be opened with one hand revealing a full size chiclet style keyboard with a number pad. The keys have red edges and lettering and there’s also adjustable red backlighting.
The trackpad also with a red trim measures 106mm x 78mm and is offset to the left.
The laptop is made almost entirely of plastic, the type that does attract fingerprints, but feels fairly robust especially around the keyboard and palmrest. The lid does have a little flex, especially down towards the hinges, which won’t offer a huge amount of protection for the fragile LED panel behind it.
Unlike some gaming laptops, apart from its angular design and red protrusions around the vents at the back, it doesn’t look too much like a gaming laptop when closed. The red keys, red trim around the trackpad and red keyboard backlighting show off its credentials when you open the laptop, but it’s not too overdone if you wanted to use it as your everyday laptop as well.
The base of the laptop feels rigid with four rubber feet and further venting. I’ll discuss removing this bottom panel to upgrade the laptop later.
The laptop is 363mm wide, 255mm deep and 28mm thick including its feet. It weighs 2176g, a little less than listed.
You need to ensure the AC adapter is completely inserted into the charging port. It will firmly click into place. If the charging LED doesn’t light up, it’s not fully seated and you need to push a little harder. The right angle adapter also needs to be parallel to the back of the laptop otherwise it can interfere with the lid.
With its fast NVMe SSD, finishing off the Windows install took around 10 minutes. There is some junkware that I uninstalled including software from Norton, but I’ve seen a lot worse. I let the laptop use the free built in Windows Defender for antivirus. If you need further protection I’d usually recommend MalwareBytes. There’s also Acer Care Centre to update drivers and guide you through backup and recovery that I also left installed. As well as Acer’s Nitrosense with its own dedicated key for configuring and monitoring the laptop’s performance.
There’s a 9mm bezel around the sides of the 15.6” display.
The top bezel is 16mm but includes the 720p webcam and dual microphones.
The bottom bezel with the Acer logo measures 30mm.
I particularly like the keyboard which has over 1.5mm of travel and is very comfortable to type on, even for longer periods – and it’s fairly quiet too. You can hear how it sounds typing in the accompanying video.
There is a little flex in the middle and I’m not a huge fan of the accentuated gaming WASD and arrow keys – at least you can turn down or off the red backlighting.
It’s not too bad and this is primarily a gaming laptop, but I would have preferred the emphasis on these keys being achieved with lighting that could be switched off for everyday use.
You need to hold down the Function keys by default to access the various hotkeys – for example to turn down or off the backlighting brightness. If you rarely use the Function keys and want easier access to the hotkeys you can switch this behaviour in the BIOS.
Hold down the F2 key when you start up the laptop to enter BIOS and change the Function key behaviour to Media Key under the Main tab.
The trackpad is plastic but still feels fairly smooth as far as Windows trackpads go, and has positive clicks if you choose clicks over taps. I still much prefer using the laptop with a mouse and it’s a little too much off centre for my liking.
Display general performance
The laptop has a Full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS screen. It’s not a touch screen, but that does mean it can have a nice non reflective matte finish.
The hinges feel fairly solid and let it tilt back a decent 150 degrees and without too much wobble.
The panel looks fairly sharp and has decent viewing angles.
My display did have a single bright green sub pixel which is quite noticeable on a dark background. There isn’t an awful lot you can do about it and Acer don’t consider it a warranty issue unless there are more than two.
It has a 144Hz refresh rate which can be an advantage for gaming which I’ll come back to, but it also makes scrolling and moving around Windows super smooth.
It has a listed response time of 3ms. It’s difficult to confirm this claim precisely, but in the tests I ran it seems plausible it’s less than 5ms and I didn’t notice any ghosting either. And it supports variable refresh rates via Freesync.
Using an X-Rite i1Display Pro monitor calibrator, I measured a maximum brightness of just over 330 nits which is bright enough indoors and would be ok outside if it’s not too sunny.
This was with the laptop charging and at maximum brightness, but dropped to around 246 nits when on battery – even with the brightness slider still at maximum. often than not, you’d want the extra brightness available when you’re not near a plug socket. Luckily there is a way to disable this behaviour. Open the AMD Radeon Software and under the Display tab, disable Vari-bright. The brightness should jump back up to its full brightness again.
This is not really a laptop intended for critical colour work, but I was a little disappointed that it could only display 59% of the sRGB colour space – the spectrum of colours that most devices conform to, from phones to TVs to monitors, and around 40% of the Adobe RGB and P3 colour space.
I also measured the colour accuracy or Delta E of the screen. Delta E is a metric for understanding how the human eye perceives colour difference with a value of less than 1 being not perceptible to the human eye. And a value between 1 and 2 being barely perceptible.
I measured an average Delta E of 2.85 which is acceptable and an improvement over the 4.95 I got before calibration.
These aren’t hugely impressive results, but for general use it’s more than adequate and the brightness was fairly uniform across the screen, in a final uniformity test.
The laptop has a 57.48Wh battery, which is a little on the low side for its intended use.
It charges with the 135W, 19.5V, 6.92A AC adapter with a 5.5mm pin. Gaming laptops always need hefty chargers, but this one is slimmer and lighter than many others I’ve come across.
A full charge takes just around 2.5 hours with the charging LED changing from amber to blue.
It doesn’t support fast charging – a 30 minute charge from just below 20% with a low battery warning only brought it up to 34%.
Acer claims the battery lasts up to 10 hours but don’t list any details as to how they achieve this.
I ran PCMark 10’s range of battery tests which simulate various usage scenarios, with the screen brightness set to 200 nits and the laptop power mode set to Better Battery. With lighter office use it did get between 6 and a half hours and 9 hours 41 minutes which is not too bad. But in the Gaming test the laptop only managed 1 hour 17 minutes. If you want further information on these tests, I’ll provide a link down below.
I also conducted a few real life tests. As a worst case scenario, I ran Forza Horizon 4 in benchmark mode continuously until the battery ran out, starting out with the battery at 100%. The screen brightness was 246 nits. The laptop lasted just 53 minutes – I was hoping for a little more.
Watching a Full HD YouTube video full screen on continuous loop, with the screen at 60% brightness or around 200 nits the laptop managed almost 3 hours.
In general, light use with the screen at around 60% brightness, browsing the web, watching YouTube videos and writing documents, I got between 4 and 6 hours.
I did connect the RavPower Power House AC portable charger I reviewed a while back to try and extend the battery life, particularly for gaming. I wasn’t expecting it to work since the laptop’s 135W charger exceeds the power pack’s 100W maximum capacity. But in my testing it was able to charge the laptop even running the intensive 3DMark Timespy benchmark. A lot of games also perform better running off the AC charger. For example by default Forza Horizon 4 locks at 30fps on battery but gets double that on AC power.
There are a few iterations of this laptop. This model comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H 3GHz Hexa or 6 core processor, 8GB of DDR4 memory, a 512GB NVMe SSD and a discrete NVidia Geforce 1650Ti graphics card.
For everyday use it’s the Western Digital SN530 NVMe SSD that makes it feel quick.
Using CrystalDiskMark to test the speed of the drive, I measured 2488MB/s read speed and 1797MB/s write speed. This is comparable to the Xbox Series X’s built in SSD.
Windows boots in less than 10 seconds and wakes from sleep in less than 3 seconds. Games load pretty quickly as do large applications. Shadow of the Tomb Raider loads in 26 seconds, Fortnite in just over a minute and Adobe Premiere Pro starts up in around 14 seconds. Games still load faster on a Xbox Series X – Fortnite took around 50 seconds to load – but there’s not a huge amount in it.
Running the PCMark 10 benchmark which measures the computer’s overall performance for a range of office and productivity tasks, gave a score of 5117 which compares well against similar machines in the benchmark’s database.
Running the Geekbench 5 CPU Benchmark gave a single core score of 1053 and a multi-core score of 4969 which are both decent results. Its compute score for its graphics capabilities was 44801.
The UserBenchmark test gave the laptop a high 90% Desktop score, with the 1650Ti getting a Gaming score of 41%. This is a useful test that you can run on your own machine to see what benefits upgrading to this laptop might bring.
Gaming laptops should also make good photo and video editing machines. Ideally you’d want to upgrade the RAM to at least 16GB which I’ll come back to, but I was still able to edit a complex sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro. These were 4K clips in a 1080p timeline and I had created proxies or lower resolution substitute files as I do even on my powerful video editing desktop PC. I could play and scrub the timeline without any dropped frames which is quite a challenging task.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get the sequence to export using the 1650Ti for hardware encoding, and software encoding using the CPU took over an hour. This sequence exported in 7 minutes on my desktop PC with an i7-8700 processor, an Nvidia RTX 2070 video card and 32GB of RAM. RAM would certainly help here.
I also ran the UL Procyon Photo and Video Editing benchmarks which are real life tests using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Premiere Pro. You can see how the laptop fared.
I attached a 500GB Sandisk Extreme Pro drive which measured 971MB/s read and 920MB/s write speed in CrystalDiskMark – almost its maximum spec’ed 1050MB/s. Premiere Pro was happy editing directly off this external storage.
This USB-C port also supports charging up to 5V at 3A or 15W. If you have capable devices this is a useful feature.
In general use the laptop is surprisingly quiet. Fan noise is barely noticeable until you start pushing the laptop a bit. And then you can definitely hear it. It’s loudest playing games as you’d expect but most of the time you’ll probably be wearing headphones anyway.
The 720p HD webcam did a pretty good job and would be more than acceptable for video chats. And the two mics either side do a decent job too. There’s no privacy slider but a green LED lights up just beside the camera to let you know it’s active. This is how it compares to the popular Full HD Logitech C920. You can also hear the differences in microphone quality.
The stereo speakers sit just under the raised front section on either side of the laptop. You can use the Nitrosense software to switch their EQ preset – but this works a lot better with headphones attached.
You can hear how the speakers sound in the accompanying video. They don’t sound great, like most laptop speakers, with very little bass, but would again be ok for video chats. For anything else I’d want to use headphones or external speakers.
The integrated Wi-Fi card impressively supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 with speeds of up to a theoretical 2.4Gbps, if you are lucky enough to have Wi-Fi 6 in your house. Even over 802.11ac or Wi-Fi 5 as it’s now known, I get a very good connection around the house connected to my Unifi access points, matching my iPhone 11. This Intel module also supports the very latest Bluetooth 5.1 standard with its extended range and I got a reliable connection to several devices including my Xbox Series X controller. Even if you don’t have Wi-Fi 6 or any compatible Bluetooth 5.1 devices, it’s great to see these new standards that will become commonplace soon, already implemented in relatively affordable laptops.
This is a gaming laptop first and foremost and it handled most of the games I tried at decent frame rates at its full 1080p native resolution and with at least high graphic settings. You should be able to play even new and upcoming games – you might just have to settle for medium or even low settings sometimes, depending on the game and what frame rate you’re after.
It got a 3DMark score in the Timespy benchmark of 3948 which is respectable. 3DMark also predicts how the laptop may fare in real games.
Fortnite played fine in its maximum Epic settings averaging around 45fps and around 70fps in High mode. There was the occasional stuttering where the frame rate dropped briefly.
Forza Horizon 4 looked like it wasn’t going to play with an error message about the hardware not meeting minimum specs even though it does. But ignoring the messages it played very well averaging a smooth 55fps with Ultra graphics settings in its benchmark mode. Upgrading the RAM to 16GB I would imagine would overcome the initial warning.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider averaged a decent 46fps with the High preset which still looked great.
I also played Doom Eternal with High settings which averaged around 50fps with no stuttering. There’s only 4GB of video card RAM or VRAM which isn’t enough for higher graphics settings.
I also tried it with my cycling turbo and the Zwift cycling app. It’s not the most demanding game and it ran smoothly.
As I alluded to earlier the fan is noisy while playing games but it does keep the laptop cool. The exterior of the laptop barely got above 40C. For all the games I used Nitrosense to put the laptop in high performance mode. In Nitrosense you can also adjust cooling yourself and monitor the temperature and loads of the CPU and GPU. You can also turn on Coolboost mode which increases the fan speed to increase cooling.
I generally found Auto mode worked fine. It’s nice to be able to turn down the fans if they’re too noisy for you for general tasks, although it’ll most likely throttle the speed of the laptop and I wouldn’t recommend that when gaming.
The laptop has some excellent upgrade options if you’re happy removing the bottom cover. Unfortunately it’s held on quite securely and is not particularly easy if you’ve not done this sort of thing before.
Unplug the AC adapter and remove the 11 screws with a Philips #1 screwdriver and then very carefully unclip the cover ideally using a spudger or pick. I started from near the hinges and worked around from there.
The battery is not glued in and is easily replaceable when it gets to the end of its life if you can get hold of one. There are two screws and two tabs holding it in.
There’s a single 8GB DDR4 3200MHz memory module, but the laptop supports up to 32GB. This is the easiest upgrade and you could just add another 3200MHz module. For the best performance though I’d remove and sell the existing memory and insert a matched pair of 8GB modules.
There’s the 512GB Western Digital M.2 NVMe drive already installed, but there’s space for another one and you should be able to set them up in RAID 0 for even faster performance, but that’s not something I’ve tried yet.
On top of that there’s even space for a 2.5” drive – either an SSD or mechanical drive. Acer even supply the required motherboard cable and set of screws – which are often quite hard to get hold of – so don’t lose them if you plan to upgrade the laptop in the future. If you wanted the laptop as a video editing machine, you could add a second M.2 NVMe drive for your media and then add a large cheaper 2.5” drive for archiving.
The Acer Nitro 5 is a well thought out budget gaming laptop. It can play most games at decent graphical settings at its native 1080p resolution. Its fast 512GB NVMe SSD makes the laptop feel quick in general use, and it’s big enough for a few larger games. There’s also the Gen 2 USB-C port to easily add additional fast external storage. And the upgrade options are even more plentiful if you’re happy removing the bottom cover. If you are, I’d recommend upgrading the memory to 16GB.
Battery life for gaming was a little disappointing as was the limited coverage of the sRGB colour space. And the graphics card while capable doesn’t really do justice to the 144Hz screen – you won’t be able to play many games approaching those refresh rates without dropping graphical settings a fair amount. But jumping up to a model in the range with a Nvidia Geforce 1660Ti or 2060 also pushes the price up significantly.
For most people these shortcomings and its all plastic build are acceptable considering its asking price and overall if you’re after a budget gaming laptop or a fast general purpose laptop that can handle gaming or video editing, I would definitely add this model to your list of contenders.
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Acer Nitro 5 review: Terrific for 1080p gaming, but poor for work
With an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU, the Acer Nitro 5 is great for PC gaming on the go. Sadly, its poor ergonomics aren’t great for work.
The 2021 Nitro 5 comes in various configurations that range from as little as 800 to as much as 2,000. Like many gaming laptops, it’s big, bulky, and very red for some reason. No one would ever confuse it for a MacBook Pro or Dell XPS or Surface Laptop Studio. For gaming, the Nitro 5 lives up to its looks. It can handle graphically intensive, big-budget games at 1080p with no sweat.
But in pursuing gaming first, Acer has created a laptop that is not great for anything else, like work or entertainment.
As the ongoing shortage of computer parts (especially for desktop GPUs) continues, consumers are turning to gaming laptops to get their RTX30-series fix. If all you desire is a GPU to play the latest games with ray tracing turned on, the Nitro 5 has the right combination of performance and price. You don’t get quite the same amount of performance from a laptop GPU as you do from a desktop version, but it’s good enough.
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The Acer Nitro 5 is a laptop designed for gamers in every sense.
The 2021 Acer Nitro 5 has so many different configurations that it makes my head spin. On the lower 800 range, you’ll get a 144Hz FHD display, an Intel Core i5 processor, a GTX1650, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The spec’d up 2,000 version comes with a 165Hz QHD display, a hyperthreaded AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, an RTX 3070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The Nitro 5 that I tested is a middle ground of sorts. It’s loaded with an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU, an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-11800H, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It’s got a 15.6-inch LED display with FHD resolution and a 144Hz refresh rate for smooth gameplay. At 1,099, I think it’s a great value for the performance, and while it’s not as powerful as the gaming PC I built a few years ago, it comes close and costs a fraction of what I paid to build and upgrade it.
The 8-core hyperthreaded Core i7 is one of the top options for laptops at the moment and somewhat comparable in performance to the Apple M1 chip. I could definitely feel the speed when booting up the Nitro 5 and loading games, and it blew me away when running 3DMark. It traded punches with my years-old, yet still very formidable, AMD Ryzen 2700X. The Nitro 5 is a gaming laptop, though, and that means the GPU runs the show — the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU does not disappoint.
As the runt of Nvidia’s RTX GPUs, the RTX 3050 Ti is nowhere as fast as its older siblings, nor does it pack the same amount of VRAM. But when playing everything from Halo Infinite to Apex Legends to Ghostrunner, the GPU did better than I expected.
Halo Infinite ran at 70 fps, with no major fluctuations, when set to medium graphics settings. For comparison, the game ran at 90 fps when playing on my PC with the same settings. On the Nitro 5, the game warned me not to set the graphics too high because the 4GB of VRAM on the 3050 Ti wouldn’t be enough. In my opinion, the game looked comparable on medium settings to what I was seeing on my PC and Xbox Series S, albeit at a lower framerate; I didn’t notice the game looking worse off on the Nitro 5. In Apex Legends, a game that I mention too much, framerates were even better, hovering around 90 fps, which is not far off from the AMD Radeon 5700XT in my PC.
Those two games, however, don’t take advantage of Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), which is why you want an RTX card above any other. These two features aren’t supported in every game, but more and more titles are. Ray tracing essentially allows light to realistically simulate light.
Meanwhile, DLSS uses a deep-learning neural network to upscale the resolution of the game from lower resolutions. This works through the AI Tensor Core processors on the GPU. The result is that you’re able to play games in 1080p or higher resolutions, though it’s actually running at a much lower resolution, which frees up GPU resources for higher, more stable framerates. Ray tracing is the big buzzword that publishers and developers like to throw around, but DLSS is equally as game-changing.
To test DLSS, I played Ghostrunner first with DLSS turned off and then on. With DLSS off, the game looked good. That’s no surprise; Ghostrunner is one of the prettiest games to come out in the past few years. Framerates hovered around 70 fps for the most part when set to high graphics setting, though at times, they went up as high as 120 fps. While the game remained playable, the difference between 70 and 120 fps is noticeable, especially in a fast-moving action game like Ghostrunner. But with DLSS, framerates climbed to 144 fps and held steady. It dipped by a few frames occasionally but nothing as severe as before. I set the DLSS preference to “performance” which prioritizes higher framerates over resolution. I did notice some textures and surfaces were not as sharp as before, and there was some grain. However, the benefits of a stable framerate far outweighed the almost imperceptible change in graphics quality.
My experience with ray tracing in Ghostrunner on the Nitro 5 wasn’t nearly as positive. Even with DLSS on, framerates slowed to a painfully slow 9 fps; the game sometimes hit 40 fps but not often. The game was unplayable with ray tracing turned on. Regardless, DLSS as a standalone feature more than makes up for the shoddy ray tracing.
It was more of the same playing Wolfenstein: Youngblood, a two-year-old game that was one of the first to feature RTX and DLSS. The ray tracing in this game only covers reflections, which didn’t wow me if I’m being honest. You’ll notice ray tracing when walking past reflective surfaces such as Windows, metal, or pools of blood, but I didn’t think it was worth turning on. On the other hand, DLSS is worth it. The feature is automatically turned on, and I noticed the game ran at around 144 fps. The run-and-gun shooter felt like a brand new game at higher framerates.
Overall, the Nitro 5 is a solid laptop for gaming, especially when considering the price of this particular model. As a budget-conscious consumer, I like that the RTX 3050 Ti won’t be obsolete by next year. Sure, you’ll need to lower your graphics settings, but I’m confident that this GPU will continue to deliver for years to come.
As I said earlier, the Nitro 5 has one of the best laptop CPUs you can get right now. The model I tested also has 16GB of RAM, which is now considered the base amount of memory for modern gaming. In other words, the Nitro 5 shouldn’t be slow, particularly when browsing the web or the Steam store. For some reason, my Nitro 5 review unit would frequently slow to a crawl when downloading games, actively running other programs in the background, or when idling. I realized when unplugged, the laptop defaulted to its battery saving mode in the Nitrosense software, which throttled down performance to increase battery life. I changed both unplugged and plugged modes to high-performance; that didn’t seem to completely stop the random slowing from happening.