Acer’s latest addition in the midrange gaming scene, the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-728C ticks off the right boxes for your portable gaming needs. Ideal for budget-minded gamers, this gaming laptop certainly gives you expanded options for a cheap laptop that can handle the more demanding PC games.
That’s because the Nitro 5 delivers more for less, coming in for just over a grand. It rocks an Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics card and a mid-tier 9th-generation Intel Core processor then rounds it all out with a user-controllable dual-fan cooling system, a crisp 1080p screen and a keyboard that’s comfortable enough to play on for hours on end.
With this combination of decent price, outrightly powerful specs and a nice feature set, there’s no denying that the AN515-54-728C is one of the best value laptops out there. Of course, to hit this sweet pricing, a few sacrifices have been made, but none affect this laptop’s overall performance enough to matter, especially for the savings it attracts.
On looks and feel, there’s a lot to be desired with Acer’s Nitro 5 Series. 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 AN515-54-728C 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 bolded 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 and you’ll be safe.
Acer Nitro 5 AN515-54-728C performance
While it can be had on a budget, the Acer Nitro 5 offers a capable 9th generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card (with 6GB VRAM), 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD storage. The RTX 2060 offers up to 1.7 times higher performance that the GTX 1060 GPU found in older budget gaming laptops, but is not quite as powerful as the RTX 2070. Still, the newer processor makes running powerful applications a snap.
When running Far Cry New Dawn, you can enjoy a steady 86 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 3 frames, to an average of 83 frames per second.
It ties with most entry-level gaming laptops to an average of 77 frames per second in Middle Earth: Shadow of War (ultra, 1920 x 1080), behind the Asus TUF FX505DV-ES74 that fares a bit better with 82 frames per second but the big hitter remains Asus’ Zephyrus G pulling a stutter-free 92 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 8.7fps 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 might easily be the gaming laptop of choice, it has enough firepower to handle the modern games at high settings, but 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 just over a grand for a gaming system, you can’t ask for a lot especially when it comes to hardware and components. An Nvidia RTX 2060 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, looking for something portable and powerful, a gaming laptop like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 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 AN515-54-728C is certainly an option worth considering.