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Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: The best budget gaming laptop?

Tom Bruce
13 Jul 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
999

Few budget machines can match the Acer Nitro 5 for power. Is there a catch?

Pros 
Fairly priced
120Hz display
Great gaming performance
Cons 
Dull display
Cheap build materials
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Budgeting for a gaming laptop is a lot different than budgeting for an ultraportable. Whereas £1,000 can get you a stunning new notebook, the same amount of money won’t go too far when you’re shopping for a gaming machine. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to get a decent gaming laptop for £1,000 or less: they are simply harder to find.

The Acer Nitro 5 (AN517) certainly slots into that particular sub £1,000 category, which is in itself a bit of an achievement. The question, then, is this: is the Nitro 5 one of the good ones?

It depends on what you value most in a laptop. If it’s screen quality, then the answer is no. But if you only care about power and value for money, then the Acer Nitro 5 might just be the laptop you’ve been waiting for.

READ NEXT: The best gaming laptops for any budget

Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: What you need to know

The Nitro 5 AN517 is an entry-level, Full HD 17in Windows 10 Home gaming laptop that sits a rung below Acer’s Nitro 7 series. It uses cheaper build materials than the Nitro 7, making it more affordable, but its internals components still pack a punch. Acer has quite a number of Nitro 5 laptops on the market right now and, confusingly, the one I’ve been sent for review isn’t even listed on its UK website, although you can buy it from Currys PC World.

Most of the Acer Nitro 5 variants you can buy are powered by the latest 10th-Gen Intel Core i7 and i5 CPUs, whereas the laptop on test here runs on a 9th-Gen Intel Core i7-9750H backed by 8GB RAM. Despite this, Acer says it’s new for 2020, citing its Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU as evidence of this fact. The Acer Nitro 5 of 2019 could be purchased with an i7-9750H but not with dedicated RTX graphics.

Buy now from Currys PC World


Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: Price and competition

As well as the Intel Core i7-9750H and RTX 2060, this laptop includes 8GB RAM (expandable up to 32GB) and, for storage, it uses a 256GB SSD. You can buy it right now from Currys PC World for £999, a price that’s more than fair; you won’t find many other laptops with these specs for under a grand, if any at all.

One of the Acer Nitro 5’s most obvious competitors is its own sibling, the Acer Nitro 7 (2019). At £1,200 from Acer, it costs £200 more than the Acer Nitro 5, yet it runs on the same Intel Core i7-9750H and uses an older Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti GPU. On the bright side, it’s made of more premium materials and has a nicer, brighter display with a higher refresh rate of 144Hz. Sadly, it’s hard to find it in stock online these days.

Stump up a further £100 and you could get your hands on the Asus TUF Gaming A15 FA506IV. Available for £1,300 from Amazon UK, it’s a well-priced gaming laptop with extremely powerful internals which dominated all of our in-house benchmarks. The TUF A15 is powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H backed by 16GB RAM, uses an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 and holds a whopping 1TB PCI-e SSD. It’s our current favourite budget gaming laptop.

Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: Design, keyboard and touchpad

The Acer Nitro 5 is a chunky, black and red behemoth weighing 2.6kg, and that’s before you take the power brick into account. It measures 403 x 280 x 26.9mm (WDH), so you’ll struggle to slot it into the average backpack. Even if you get that far, its heft probably won’t do your back any favours during long commutes.

Looking back at the Acer Nitro 5 15in that I reviewed in early 2019, it seems Acer hasn’t changed up the laptop’s design materials or colour scheme much. The chassis is made of plastic through and through, and the bezels surrounding the display are as chunky as ever. For this iteration of the Nitro 5, Acer has at least ditched the cheap-looking chevron patterning that coated that last model. A 1MP webcam is embedded in the forehead bezel, and it isn’t Windows Hello-compatible.

Acer has equipped the Nitro 5 with a decent selection of ports, with two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 slots (5Gbits/sec), one USB-C port, an HDMI 2.0 output and an Ethernet jack all fitted on the left edge. Over on the right edge, you’ve got one more USB-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a DC power input. The 15in Acer Nitro 5 I tested in 2019 had a regular-sized SD card reader so I was surprised that this newer, larger model does not. There isn't even a microSD slot.

The rear edge is dominated by an impressive-looking row of exhaust ports. Flip the whole laptop over, and you can watch the dual cooling fans at work. These are backlit by red LEDs, fitting in with the laptop’s overall colour scheme.

Much like the chassis, the keyboard materials feel fairly cheap. Keys have a decent amount of travel and elicit loud clacks with each press, resulting in a bog-standard typing experience. The keyboard base plate feels sturdy for the most part but has a little more give as you move over towards the numeric keypad.

Every key has a red outline and this is accentuated by a red backlight, which has four brightness settings. In addition, the WASD and arrow keys have red outlines to help them to stand out. The only unique key is the NitroSense button, which launches the machine’s NitroSense performance software.

Meanwhile, the touchpad performs perfectly well. It’s spacious and responsive, and palm-rejection works fine. However, the touchpad on my unit did let out a worrying creak when the left and right clickers were pressed down firmly, suggesting its construction isn’t all that robust.

Buy now from Currys PC World


Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: Display

Initially, the Nitro 5’s display appears to be everything you’d want from a gaming machine. It’s a 17.3in LCD IPS panel with a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution and a refresh rate of 120Hz.

Plenty of titles will run at well above 60Hz (the standard for non-gaming laptops) on this hardware so the Nitro 5’s display lets you enjoy them at their best. Its maximum measured luminance of 273.5cd/m² is on the lower side but it’s still easily viewable indoors, while its 1,185:1 contrast ratio is fairly average.

As for colour reproduction, the Nitro 5 is a real let down. The panel is only able to cover 57.4% of the sRGB colour gamut, with a gamut volume of 59.2% and an average Delta E of 5.62. Colours lack vibrancy and textures blend into one another as if the screen has been set permanently to Night Light mode, and accuracy is atrocious among all primary colours.

For me, this is a deal-breaker. The on-screen action in games like Hitman 2 and Doom is exceptionally smooth, but their detailed, rich environments look washed out and lifeless on the Nitro 5’s display.

Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: Performance and battery life

Powering the Acer Nitro 5 is a 9th generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor with a base clock speed of 2.6GHz and a maximum frequency of 4.5GHz. The Coffee Lake CPU is backed by 8GB DDR4 RAM, and this combination proved more than competent. In our 4K media benchmark, the Nitro 5 recorded an overall score of 164, which places it a whisker ahead of the Nitro 7 (2019), which also uses an i7-9750H.

As you can see in the chart, it’s not even too far off the scores achieved by the Lenovo Legion Y740 and Razer Blade 15 (2020), machines that both cost over £1,000 more than the Nitro 5. Clearly, though, the Acer is no match for the Asus TUF A15 FA506IV, which cranked out a phenomenal result of 284 thanks to its AMD Ryzen 7 4800H.

To handle the graphics processing, the Nitro 5 packs Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 in addition to its CPU’s integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630. And the gaming performance doesn’t disappoint.

It was able to run Metro: Last Light in 1080p at high settings at an average frame rate of 127fps (7fps higher than its 120Hz display can accommodate) and even managed to hit an average of 34.28fps in the gruelling Hitman 2 1080p Mumbai benchmark.

As our results indicate, the Nitro 5 is as well-prepared to play Triple-A titles as any mid-range gaming laptop on the market. Granted, its 120Hz refresh rate is lower than some competitors but, since the latest games won’t even be hitting these high frame rates, it shouldn’t matter.

Launching or saving games feels snappy on the Acer Nitro 5 too, thanks to the astounding speeds of its 256GB SSD. In the AS SSD test, it read sequential files at 2,961MB/sec and was able to write them at 1,514MB/sec. Mid-gaming session, you’ll definitely appreciate those quick loading times.

No high-powered gaming laptop is going to last all day when unplugged but the Acer Nitro 5 puts in a solid effort. On a full charge, its 57Wh battery kept it going for 5hrs 38mins in our standardised video playback test. That’s about long enough to last you a flight from London to Mykonos, though I wouldn’t recommend you ever bringing this beast onto a plane. Obviously, this battery life would be much shorter if you were gaming.

Buy now from Currys PC World


Acer Nitro 5 AN517 (2020) review: Verdict

In the Nitro 5 AN517, Acer has created a well-specified, attractively-priced 17in gaming laptop. Despite costing half as much as rival gaming machines like the Razer Blade 15 (2020), its performance is just as good. In some areas, it’s better.

Obviously, you have to make compromises at this price. That chunky plastic chassis and uninspired colour scheme aren’t going to set the world on fire, but it is an entry-level gaming laptop, after all. The poor display quality can’t be dismissed so easily. Although it can play games in FHD at 120fps, they are totally robbed of their vibrancy due to the Nitro 5 display’s desperately poor gamut coverage and colour accuracy.

If you can somehow look beyond this, and only care about raw performance, the Acer Nitro 5 is a good-value choice. Then again, the Asus TUF Gaming A15 is superior when it comes to sheer firepower and doesn’t cost an awful lot more.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN517) specifications
ProcessorIntel Core i7-9750H
RAM8GB
Additional memory slotsNo
Max. memory32GB
Graphics adapterIntel UHD Graphics 630 / Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
Graphics memory6GB GDDR6
Storage256GB
Screen size (in)17.3
Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080
Pixel density (PPI)127
Screen typeIPS
TouchscreenNo
Pointing devicesTouchpad
Optical driveNo
Memory card slotNo
3.5mm audio jackYes
Graphics outputsUSB-C, HDMI 2.0
Other ports1 x USB-A 2.0, 2 x USB-A 3.1, Ethernet, Kensington Lock Slot
Web Cam1MP, 640p
SpeakersStereo
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
BluetoothBluetooth 5
NFCNo
W (mm)403
D (mm)280
H (mm)26.9
Dimensions, mm (WDH)403 x 280 x 26.9mm
Weight (kg) 2.6kg
Battery size (Wh)57
Operating systemWindows 10 Home

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