Acer Nitro 5 Review

Acer's latest budget gaming laptop promises great performance for under a grand.

Verdict

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.

Pros

  • Good selection of ports
  • Can run Fortnite, Apex, PUBG etc easily
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • Keyboard layout is a little cramped
  • Screen quality and brightness is sub-par

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £850
  • 15.6-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD display
  • 363.4 x 255 x 25.9 mm
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 / 1660 Ti
  • 2.2kg
  • Intel Core i5-9300H (four cores, 2.4GHz, boost up to 4.1GHz)
  • Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, USB-A 2.0, 2 x USB-A 3.1, USB-C 3.1

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 prices are nice – gaming laptops can ascend beyond the £3000 price mark – how much bang do you get for your buck, exactly?

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - laptop open, deck visible

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). 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - right hand side ports

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.

Related: Best gaming mouse 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - keyboard

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. 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

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. 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) reviewHorizontal 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:

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - in-game benchmark results

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. 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - left hand side ports

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:

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

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.  

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

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. 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

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. 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - logo

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. 

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review - laptop open, a-side visible

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. 

Verdict

A solid budget gaming laptop that’s ideal for battle royale games.

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