Acer’s Nitro 5 is a gaming notebook with an attractive price. The appeal of these laptops is their higher end spec also make them a great option for photo and video editing on the move or just a fast everyday computer. It’s still not cheap at around £800 or $800, but you can pay a lot more for a laptop far less capable.
This model comes with a 144Hz 15.6” Full HD IPS screen, an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H, 512GB of fast SSD storage, 8GB of RAM and an NVidia GTX 1650Ti graphics card. At this price it’s not perfect. Battery life is not great, the screen is only average and it’s mostly made of plastic, but it can handle most current games at its native resolution and it’s no slouch editing your videos in Adobe Premiere Pro or your photos in Adobe Photoshop.
Could this be the perfect budget gaming or performance laptop? Let’s find out.
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. More 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. More 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’ll discuss upgrade options shortly, but even without opening up the machine, the USB Type-C port supports fast external drives, which are an excellent addition, not only for fast loading storage of additional games, but also as a separate media drive fast enough to use for video editing. It’s always a good idea to have your media on a separate drive to your system.
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 WiFi card impressively supports the latest WiFi 6 with speeds of up to a theoretical 2.4Gbps, if you are lucky enough to have WiFi 6 in your house. Even over 802.11ac or WiFi 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 WiFi 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 gaming notebook: https://amzn.to/3dq7SIk
Portable AC charger: https://amzn.to/3awvqcV
Sandisk Extreme Pro external SSD: https://amzn.to/37sE1eD
RAM upgrade: https://amzn.to/37qqx2V
Internal SSD upgrade: https://amzn.to/3u4SNC9