Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 4GB graphics (GTX 1050 Ti available)
15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS screen
8GB DDR4 memory
128GB Kingston SSD
1yr RTB warranty
What is the Acer Nitro 5?
I’ve seen a raft of expensive gaming notebooks over the past few months, so it’s refreshing to see a machine with a price that doesn’t push into four figures.
The Acer Nitro 5 is a £899 notebook that enters the super-competitive mid-range market with an Nvidia 10-series graphics chip, an Intel Core i5 processor and a keen sense of style.
Acer Nitro 5 – Design and build
You wouldn’t know that this is a cheaper gaming notebook from its design. The lid is a smart slab of brushed metal, the hinge is finished with an attractive dark red shade, and the red theme continues to the keyboard and trackpad.
It looks good, and its design aesthetic is shared with its key rival: the £869 Asus ROG Strix GL553. That machine also had a mix of dark plastic with colourful highlights, and its rear showed off the familiar Asus ROG logo.
The two machines look similar, but the Acer is a little chunkier than the Asus. The Acer weighs 2.7kg and it’s 27mm thick from top to bottom, while the Asus was a couple of hundred grams lighter and a couple of millimetres slimmer.
Those figures see the Acer fall behind, but these are minor infringements – the extra weight or depth won’t be noticeable in everyday scenarios.
Build quality has similar, minor infractions. The Acer’s hinge doesn’t move quite as smoothly as another one of its rivals: the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming was far smoother and a little more solid, albeit a little more expensive, too. There’s noticeable flex in the Acer’s base panel and the plastic around the keyboard, which is something that the Nitro shares with the cheaper Asus.
Versatility, at least, is fine. The Acer has a USB 3.1 Type-C port, which the Dell didn’t offer, and it’s got a card reader and three USB ports.
A couple of small panels on the base can be used to access the hard disk and memory slots, although there’s no easy way to access the SSD or the cooling gear. The Nitro also doesn’t have a DisplayPort output or a DVD drive – with the latter included on the Asus notebook.
It’s a solid bill of health for a £899 laptop, but the Acer isn’t without its flaws – the Dell is slimmer and sturdier, and the Asus is lighter.
Acer Nitro 5 – Keyboard & trackpad
The Nitro 5 has a decent keyboard for a laptop, but it’s disappointing when you drill down to its gaming attributes.
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The scrabble-tile buttons are quiet and have a middling amount of travel, and the base beneath the keys is noticeably squidgy – so, beneath the finger, they’re similar to the Asus’ long keypress.
That makes the Acer’s buttons comfortable for typing, but that isn’t necessarily great for gaming – for frantic sessions I prefer a firmer base with more travel and noise. Those attributes provide a more substantial experience, which is why the keenest gamers prefer mechanical hardware.
The Acer’s layout can be occasionally odd, too. The WASD keys are highlighted but not reinforced, and the left-and-right cursor keys are deliberately narrowed. The Return button shares space with the Hash key, and the left-shift button is narrow and shares room with the left-slash key. Those could be problematic if you’re accidentally pressing the wrong buttons in the middle of a game.
The Nitro’s keyboard is soft, quiet and comfortable, which is great for typing but only mediocre for games. That’s acceptable for casual and mainstream gaming, but serious gamers and competitive types will want something with more rigidity.
The trackpad suffers similarly. The in-built buttons are soft, which for regular work will be quite nice but won’t be suitable for gaming. But I doubt many people will be doing proper gaming without a proper gaming mouse.
The Acer’s keyboard has a red backlight, but no RGB LEDs – which is something that the Asus does manage to fit into its budget. It doesn’t have software, either, which means you miss out on macro recording and gaming profiles.
Acer Nitro 5 – Screen & sound quality
Acer has installed a 1080p IPS panel into the Nitro 5, which is good at this price, but there’s no room in the budget for extras – don’t expect a high refresh rate or Nvidia G-Sync.
Don’t expect incredible levels of quality, either. The contrast level of 1,114:1 is good, but that figure is undermined by consistently poor colour reproduction. The Delta E of 5.18 is mediocre, and the colour temperature of 7,028K is on the chilly side.
The worst colour-related issue is the Acer’s sRGB gamut coverage of just 59.1%. That’s poor, especially for an IPS panel, and closer examination reveals that the Acer’s screen can only fully reproduce blue shades. The Asus screen, meanwhile, served up 90% of the sRGB colour gamut alongside marginally better contrast.
The blue hue and chilly colour temperature means the panel has a pallid, washed-out feel. It’s not enough to disrupt gaming, but it’s definitely going to rob skin tones and other colours of their warmth.
The washed-out colours are paired with underwhelming uniformity, with the bottom edge losing around 20% of its brightness. Viewing angles are good, at least.
The contrast ratio ensures that this panel can cope with modern games, although it’s certainly not the best option if you prize warm, accurate colours – and it’s definitely not good enough for colour-sensitive work. If that’s important to you, then the Asus is a little better.
The speakers are similarly underwhelming, with solid vocals and high-end noises that are undermined by the usual laptop complaint of a cramped mid-range and a lack of bass. It’s nothing that I haven’t heard before.