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Acer Nitro 5 review: A disappointing Ryzen-powered gaming laptop

Tom Bruce
21 Jan 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
750
incl. VAT

The Acer Nitro 5 is half the price of most gaming laptops, but don’t expect those savings to pay off

Pros 
A cheap gaming laptop
Cons 
Slower than slow
Unreliable touchpad
Poor build quality
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A decent gaming laptop will set you back a pretty penny, which is why it’s understandable that so many seek out a cheaper alternative. Acer is capable of making terrific kit for gamers, but the Nitro 5 is a misstep, both as a gaming machine and as a budget option. Its performance is lacking, the design is flawed and the touchpad is almost unusable, but surely this £750 laptop is capable of doing something right?

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Acer Nitro 5 review: What you need to know

At first glance, the Acer Nitro 5 looks like a pretty standard entry-level gaming laptop. It has a 15.6in, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display with a 60Hz refresh rate, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD (SATA) and 1TB HDD for storage.

This particular model runs on a quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 2500U CPU, a low-end processor with a base clock speed of 2GHz, along with a dedicated AMD Radeon RX 560X GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The Nitro 5 also includes Acer’s own NitroSense software, which allows you to control the laptop’s fan speed, battery efficiency and overclock the CPU.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Price and competition

As mentioned previously, this review model of the Acer Nitro 5 costs £750. That’s actually rather cheap as far as gaming laptops go, although more expensive loadouts include a top-spec model for £1,299 with an Intel Core i7-8750H, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card.

It’s not fair to compare this Nitro 5 model to other gaming laptops we’ve reviewed recently since they typically cost in excess of £1,500. Besides, the Nitro 5 doesn’t put out anywhere near the performance of most gaming laptops. I haven’t reviewed any comparable notebooks around this price point, but for £799 you can pick up a base-spec HP Omen 15 which has a 144Hz Full HD display and an 8th-Gen Intel Core i5-8300H Processor.

The Lenovo Yoga 530, which launched for £999 achieved similar gaming results to the Nitro 5 and is powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 2700U chip with integrated Radeon Vega 10 graphics. For £979 you could also pick up the base-spec Microsoft Surface Laptop 2, which is our current notebook favourite.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Design

With laptop manufacturers such as Razer and Dell moving away from garish-looking gaming devices, Acer hasn’t followed a similar trend with the Nitro 5. In fact, it’s a rather clunky beast: it weighs a back-breaking 2.7Kg (without the power brick) and has a large footprint of 390 x 266mm. This is a bulky machine that takes up more space than its internal components ought to require.

Acer has attempted to brighten up the boring red and black colour scheme with a shimmering chevron pattern on the lid and palm rest areas, but there’s no hiding behind its sub-standard build materials. The chassis is plasticky and feels rather cheap, and the bezels bordering the screen aren’t flush with the rest of the device.

Considering its gaming laptop credentials, the Nitro 5 is lacking in ports. There aren’t any connections on the back edge of the Nitro 5 either, which is far from perfect if you’re trying to prevent cables clogging up your desk space.

On the left edge is a regular-sized SD card reader, USB 3.0 slot, HDMI 2.0 output, USB-C, Gigabit Ethernet port and a Kensington Security slot. On the right, you’ll find a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack and the power cable socket.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Keyboard and touchpad

Despite its many issues, the Nitro 5’s keyboard and touchpad are the worst of the lot. Typing is far from an enjoyable experience, regardless of whether you’re mashing the WASD cluster or performing the not-so adrenaline-pumping task of writing an email.

Individual key presses feel spongy, and the overall keyboard layout is cobbled together. The laptop’s volume and brightness controls are incorporated into the arrow keys instead of the top row, which isn't ideal, and the numpad takes up a lot of space to the right of the keyboard. Likewise, the blood-red RGB lighting can only be turned on/off and there are no colour customisation options or fancy effects.

Typing, in general, is hindered by the laptop’s overall sluggishness, so much so that it often failed to keep up and missed key presses. This is far from ideal while you’re trying to achieve that elusive chicken dinner on PUBG when even a single key press is the difference between life and death.

Things aren’t much better when it comes to the Nitro 5’s touchpad. It failed to keep up with my finger flourishes most of the time and its surface isn’t particularly smooth, either. It also picks up grease quite easily and feels poorly fitted – simply press down and the touchpad drops down much further than I would have liked.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Display

A quality gaming experience requires a quality display. Unfortunately, this an area where the Nitro 5 fails to deliver. The 15.6in Full HD panel is only capable of a maximum brightness of 259cd/m2, so you can forget about playing games by a window or a brightly lit room. An overall sRGB colour gamut coverage of only 56.7% means that colour coverage is exceptionally undersaturated, and the screen looks very washed out as a result – especially with a low contrast ratio of 1159:1.

A game like Metro: Last Light Redux, with the majority of levels set in dark environments, is difficult to play due to the lack of vibrancy, and the low contrast between dark and light colours makes it very tricky to see important details. Lastly, because this is a 60Hz panel, all games will be capped at a maximum framerate of 60fps, unless you plug in an external monitor with a higher refresh rate.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Performance and battery life

A low-tier Ryzen 5-powered laptop was never going to compete in the same ring with four-figured gaming machines, although you’d still expect it to be reasonably adept at playing the latest titles. The Nitro 5 achieved a total score of 99 in our in-house performance benchmark, which assesses image and video rendering, as well as the laptop’s multitasking performance.

That’s actually rather good, coming in ahead of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 and well clear of the Lenovo Yoga 530, as you can see below. For reference, higher-priced gaming laptops we’ve tested lately tend to score between 150 and 200 in the same test.

The Acer Nitro 5’s file sequencing speeds aren’t quite as nippy. The included 128GB SATA SSD only achieved read and write speeds of 477MB/s and 116MBs in the AS SSD benchmark, which lags far behind its rivals.

Ideally, gaming laptops should be capable of handling the latest games at a decent frame rate, even if you have to dial down a few settings. Sadly, the Nitro 5’s dedicated AMD Radeon RX 560X graphics chip simply isn’t up to the task, only managing an average of 14fps in the Dirt: Showdown benchmark at Full HD resolution at high graphics settings. Drop the resolution down to 720p and apply medium settings, however, and you’ll achieve an average of 58fps.

As for Metro: Last Light Redux at the same resolution, the Nitro 5 reached an average of only 17fps. Tinkering with Acer’s NitroSense software didn’t help the experience either, and in fact made things worse when I switched the laptop from ‘High performance’ to the ‘Maximum performance’ setting.

The Nitro 5’s GFXBench results aren’t even notably better than non-gaming laptops. The Surface Laptop 2 actually matched the Nitro 5’s GFXBench Manhattan result of 41fps. If standard laptops can keep pace with the Nitro 5, then perhaps this isn’t a gaming laptop at all.

If the Acer Nitro 5 has one saving grace, however, it’s battery life. In our video playback test, the Nitro 5 lasted 5hrs and 21mins before needing to recharge, which is a pretty good result for a gaming laptop. Still, the Surface Laptop 2 lasted nearly 2 hours longer under the same conditions.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Verdict

You have to be careful when shopping for a budget gaming laptop. If you spend half as much as a top-end notebook you might expect half the performance, but the Acer Nitro 5 doesn’t provide anything close. Not only does this budget gaming laptop fail to run games at playable frame rates, but the Nitro 5 falls short in every other area – and that’s a serious problem.

Acer Nitro 5 specifications
ProcessorAMD Ryzen 5 2500U (Quad-core,
2.0GHz)
RAM8GB (DDR4 SDRAM, 4GB X 2)
Additional memory slots0
Max. memory32GB
Screen size15.6in
Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080 (60Hz)
Pixel density141.2
Screen typeIPS LCD
TouchscreenNo
Pointing devicesTouchpad
Graphics adapterAMD Radeon RX 560X
Graphics outputsHDMI 2.0, USB-C
Graphics memory4GB (GDDR5)
Storage128GB SSD (Serial ATA),
1TB HD (Serial ATA/600)
Optical driveNo
Memory card slotSD
USB portsUSB 2.0 x 2, USB 3.0, USB-C
Other portsHDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet
RJ-45, Kensington Secuirty Slot,
3.5mm audio jack, power socket
Web CamYes
SpeakersDual speakers
3.5mm headphone jackYes
Wi-FiIEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi
BluetoothYes
NFCNo
Dimensions (WDH)390 x 266 x 26.8mm
Weight2.7kg
Operating systemWindows 10 Home
Operating system restore optionWindows restore partition
Battery size3320 mAh

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