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Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44 review: Solid performance at a reasonable price

21 Apr 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
749
inc VAT

The Nitro 5 delivers a decent wallop of performance, a 144Hz display and plenty of upgradability for not much cash

Pros 
Good value
Easily upgraded
Numeric keypad
Cons 
Drab display
Feels plasticky
Weak loudspeaker
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The Acer Nitro 5 series of gaming laptops is available in a wide variety of models with both Intel and AMD chips inside. The model I’ve tested for this review is the AN515-44 model with a Ryzen 5 4600H CPU and a GeForce GTX 1650Ti GPU, which can be yours for £800 from Amazon as part of an Acer gaming bundle with a Nitro gaming headset, mouse and mouse mat.

As is often the case, navigating the intricacies of the Acer laptop range is rather more complex than it perhaps should be. Just make sure you avoid any base models with a 60Hz rather than the 144Hz display on show here and you’ll be rewarded with a laptop that’s great value, if a little rudimentary when it comes to looks.

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Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44 review: What do you get for the money?

Indeed, two words will spring to mind when you first lay eyes and hands on the Nitro 5: “black” and “plastic’. The black with red highlights colour scheme is a little unimaginative but at least it doesn't show up dirt, and although the Nitro is a wholly plastic affair it’s still reasonably solid.

At 363 x 255 x 24mm and 2.2kg the Nitro doesn’t win any prizes for being light or compact, either, but I've encountered bigger and heavier 15.6-inchers. The port selection is similarly par for the course. On the left, you'll find a Kensington lock, RJ45, two USB-A 3.0 ports and a 3.5-mm audio jack. On the right, there is a third USB-A 3.0, a data-only Type-C port plus an HDMI 2.0 video output.

The DC-in power connector is around the back, slap bang in the middle. It’s a slightly odd position, perhaps, but it does have the advantage of keeping the sides clear for connecting peripherals. The drop-jaw Gigabit Ethernet port is backed up by Intel's ubiquitous AX200 wireless card, which offers Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Once you remove 11 Philips screws and whip the base panel off, you can also access the battery, the wireless card, two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, two M.2-2280 slots and a 2.5in SATA3 storage bay. That's a really useful range of upgrade opportunities. The memory slot is especially valuable as the Nitro 5 only ships with 8GB of single-channel RAM (incidentally, the GPU has 4GB of dedicated RAM).

Mechanically, the keyboard is very good – solid, quiet and precise – although some might bemoan the absence of customisable RGB backlighting rather than a fixed red LED. The presence of a numeric keypad more than makes up for it, however, and there’s a bold red border around those vital WASD keys. There’s also a thick border around the cursor keys, which double as screen brightness and volume controls, and the Nitro Sense control panel launcher. All nice touches that I quickly came to appreciate.

The laptop also comes – as all Acer’s gaming machines do – with Nitro Sense, Acer’s bespoke and performance and fan control panel. It’s not as comprehensive as the comparable systems on Asus and HP machines but, being simpler, it’s easier to master and use. If all you want is an easy way to make your notebook run hard and cool when required, Nitro Sense does just that.

Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44 review: How good are the display and speakers?

The Nitro's display is a 15.6in IPS unit with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, an anti-glare finish and a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. Frankly, it’s not all that good.

At 283cd/m2 it’s bright enough, but the sRGB coverage of only 59.3% is very poor, as is the average Delta E of 5.69. The contrast ratio is a more respectable 1,303:1.

The general inaccuracy of the colour representation and poor colour coverage is not much of an issue when gaming, but it does make for a rather poor viewing experience if you’re looking at good-quality photographs or watching an HD film.

The speaker quality isn’t great, either. The width of the keyboard and number pad means the speakers have to fire out of the side and bottom of the base rather than up out of the keyboard deck.

This is never an ideal acoustic solution but I still expected better than the Nitro delivered. There’s very little bass and the volume is merely adequate. The mediocre sound system is doubly unfortunate as the Nitro 5 has one of the loudest fans I’ve heard on a gaming machine.

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Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44 review: How fast is it?

Whether you buy the Ryzen 4600H or the Ryzen 5 5600H-based model, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the resulting performance. Across all our benchmark tests, the Nitro 5 performed handsomely. The GTX series GPU in the Nitro doesn't support real-time ray tracing like the RTX card in our favourite budget gaming machine – the Asus TUF Dash F15 – but then the Asus costs significantly more.

The Nitro returned a decent average of 58.6fps in the Hitman 2 test and 112fps in the Wolfenstein: Youngblood test (sans ray tracing, which this GPU doesn’t support). Playing Doom at the native resolution, the frames-per-second counter constantly hovered between 90 and 100fps even when hell was quite literally breaking loose.

Running the GeekBench 5 general productivity test, I saw scores of 1098 in the single-core part and 5112 for the multi-core segment. That’s a little less than the latest Intel Core i7-based systems can manage, but not by enough to be noticeable in the real world. The 57Wh (3,373mAh) battery lasted for 9hrs 48mins in our standard battery rundown test, which isn’t too shabby a result at all.

Our review machine’s 512GB Western Digital M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD proved fleet enough, too, with average read and write speeds of 2,154MB/sec and 1,712MB/sec respectively.

Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44 review: Should you buy one?

The combination of a reasonably powerful AMD Ryzen CPU and a decent Nvidia GPU in a laptop costing less than £1,000 was always going to be a pretty good idea, and the upgrade options are nothing if not comprehensive.

It's a shame, then, that the screen rather lets the side down, and the sound system could be better. But for a dedicated gaming machine, it’s a solid purchase at this price.

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