The Acer Nitro 5 is a gaming laptop that checks all boxes for gamers shopping on a tight budget, especially those whose options are severely limited but still want an affordable laptop that can handle the current crop of demanding PC games right now.
Acer’s latest offering certainly meets your portable gaming needs, with a user-controllable dual-fan cooling fan, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card and a mid-tier 9th generation Intel Core processors. Acer then rounds these exciting features with a decent 1080p screen and a comfortable keyboard that will have you playing on for hours on end.
All that with a price tag that’s quite low – there’s no denying that this Nitro 5 is one of the best value gaming laptops of 2020. However, we must note that at its original price, some sacrifices had to be made. How these compromises affect this laptop’s overall appeal and are they big enough to matter? Let’s find out.
On looks and feel, there’s a lot to be desired with Acer’s Nitro 5. That’s not to say it’s bad looking – in fact, there’s a lot to like about it.
For instance, you’ll like the subdued gamer look, with red trims on the keyboard backlight, trackpad and the top rear bar. This laptop gets sturdy and secure hinges, and port selection is just great. More importantly, the laptop has a very comfortable keyboard and the user-controllable cooling system is just out of this world.
Above that, the Acer Nitro 5’s design has nothing to write home about. It’s quite underwhelming, and being a budget laptop, we expected some cutbacks – and these are noticeable with the design. The screen lid, for example, is made of cheap plastic. Also, the top cover and the area around the keyboard track picks fingerprints like crazy, and the screen has almost an inch of bezels around it.
All these make us feel like this is a gaming laptop in its early days, but the feature set on the inside says otherwise. Connectivity options come in way of a single USB Type-C, one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader, Ethernet (RJ-45) port, 35mm headphone and a Kensington lock slot. For wireless connectivity, you have Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Display, Camera and Sound
These are the three things that we’re lukewarm about. The camera offers video recording at 720p 30fps at its highest settings, is grainy. It’s only useful for web chats, but don’t expect high quality imagery here. Sound is a little muted here, though you can personalize it in the Dolby Audio software.
Finally, the 1080p screen, while being sharp and clear, it still is on the darker side, even at its brightest bezels. Again, the dark bezels add unto its woes. We’ve seen other gaming laptops at this price put a little more focus on brighter screens, and that’s what we’d like to see here.
Keyboard & Touchpad
A win for the Acer AN515-54-5812 must be its keyboard. Nothing overly special about it, though. The symbols are in red, the backlit – which, by the way only activated when plugged in, so the keys are sometimes not easy to see in the dark when it’s not – is red, but the WASD keys are boldened in red paint.
Overall, they keyboard is comfortable but it doesn’t bring any special feature into the market. Unlike most middle-of-the-road keyboards, it’s quite reliable and responsive without any missed presses or accidental presses. Whether you’re going to use this laptop for gaming or typing, this laptop has all that matters.
Like most gaming laptops, the touchpad here is something we can easily frown at, especially for FPS, RPG and action games. But the Nitro 5’s trackpad is quite substandard that you won’t even want to use it for even regular computing tasks. Simply said, if you need perfect clicks, grab an external mouse – maybe the Logitech G604 and you’ll be safe.
While it can be had on a budget, the Acer Nitro 5 offers a capable 9th generation Intel Core i5-9300H processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card (with 4GB VRAM), 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD storage. The GTX 1650 offers up to 1.7 times higher performance that the GTX 1050 GPU found in older budget gaming laptops, but is not quite as powerful as the GTX 1060. Still, the newer processor makes running powerful applications a snap.
When running Far Cry New Dawn, you can enjoy a steady 44 frames per second on medium graphics settings, as you crawl through the grass and eliminating enemies in one fluid motion. When you switch to higher settings, the game drops by 4 frames, to an average of 40 frames per second.
It ties with most entry-level gaming laptops to an average of 44 frames per second in Middle Earth: Shadow of War, behind the Dell G5 15 that fares a bit better with 47 frames per second but the big hitter remains Asus’ Zephyrus M pulling a stutter-free 63 fps average.
A proper VR costs almost as much as the Nitro 5, so don’t expect a killer experience pairing a headset with this laptop. The best score you’re getting is 5.8fps on SteamVR, but the Nitro 5 once again beats the G5 15 (5.6fps), and is very above the category average (4.4 fps) but is still bested by the Asus (9.2 fps).
For gaming laptops, battery life is a mixed bag, considering that they run intensive processes to keep even the screen and other components operational. Acer claims that the nitro 5 can last up to 7 hours on a single charge, but on real-world use, it only tops out at 4 hours 23 minutes. That’s slightly above the 3:39 average, but that’s pretty what you get from other midrange gaming laptops.
The Acer Nitro 5 is hardly the gaming laptop of your dreams, it lacks enough firepower to handle the most demanding AAA games in the market, and because it’s a budget laptop, the build isn’t as solid as you’ want. It also has its fair share of deficiencies, the top being the trackpad, which we think is glaring enough for everyday tasks let alone gaming.
However, we ought to be fair here: in most cases, you get what you’re paying for. When paying less a grand for a gaming system, you can’t ask for a lot especially when it comes to hardware and components. An Nvidia GTX 1650 alone can set you back hundreds in cash. The Acer Nitro 5 at least tries, with its comfortable and reliable keyboard, and performance that’s better than you’d expect.
If you’re a hardcore gamer with a hardcore appetite, then look elsewhere – the Acer Predator Helios 300 is a recommendable choice here. But if you’re on a tight budget – or just getting into PC gaming – and willing to compromise a few things, the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-5812 is certainly an option worth considering.