Budget price and performance.
Acer is well-known for its high-end Predator gaming laptops, but it also has an entry-level lineup dubbed Nitro as well. Since IGN typically only reviews expensive, herculean laptops we figured we’d add a bit of variety to our coverage with a review of the $900 Nitro 5 (See it on Amazon). It’s made for gamers on a budget, and features a pretty basic design but with enough gaming-specific features to satisfy most folks. Honestly, it’s mostly about setting your expectations correctly, because for a device that’s priced under $1,000, you can’t expect more than what the Nitro 5 has to offer.
Here are the specifications of the Acer Nitro 5 I’m evaluating:
- Model: Acer Nitro 5
- Display: 15.6-inch IPS (1,920 x 1,080)
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB DDR5)
- Processor: Intel Core i5-7300HQ (Quad-core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.5GHz w/Turbo Boost)
- Memory: 16GB DDR4
- OS: Windows 10
- OS Drive: 256GB SSD (SATA M.2)
- Ports: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 X 3.5mm headphone jack, 1 x SD Card Reader, 1 x Ethernet port
- Wireless: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4
- Dimensions: 15.35 x 10.47 x 1.05-inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 5.95-pounds
- Price: $899
Acer Nitro 5 – Design and Features
If it weren’t for the red highlights surrounding the keys and the touchpad, you’d have a hard time identifying the Nitro 5 as a gaming laptop. Its black exterior is a bit slab-like, as opposed to the exquisitely shaped designs I’m used to seeing in more expensive laptops. Keyboard aside, it looks like a “daily driver” type of laptop.
The chiclet keyboard is backlit with red lighting. The WASD keys also have a red border, making them a bit easier to find at a glance. There are quite a few ports on the Nitro 5, with a headphone jack, two USB 2.0 slots and the charging port on the right side. On the opposite side is an SD card reader, a USB-C 3.1 port, a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port.
The backside of the Nitro 5 features an interesting design for the cooling system. Even when playing on Ultra settings, I rarely noticed the fans much. Then again, cooling power is usually equivalent to overall power, so on a lowish-end laptop like this you don’t need fans to be spinning as much as you do with hotter components. With a 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display, the display is about what you would expect for this type of laptop. It’s not particularly sharp or bright, with colors looking a bit muted at times, but overall the display is more than sufficient for gaming or managing some spreadsheets. Viewing angles are excellent, as expected.
…the power supply is smaller than other supplies I’ve seen.
The Nitro 5 isn’t the most portable laptop, weighing 5.95-pounds and measuring 15.35 x 10.47 x 1.05-inches. As a consolation, the power supply is smaller than other power bricks I’ve seen, so that should make up for some of the weight in a backpack. Internally, the Nitro 5 I tested comes with an Intel quad-core i5-7300HQ CPU, 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 256GB SSD, and a GTX 1050 Ti GPU. You can upgrade the RAM to 32GB, as well as install an HDD for additional storage capacity.
Acer Nitro 5 – Performance
Let’s get the bad out of the way: The Nitro 5 suffers from the same Dolby Atmos audio issue I experienced on the Acer Triton 700, only worse. As a recap, the issue is that Dolby Atmos gets disabled whenever a game is launched that offers voice chat capability. Individually I tested and encountered the problem in PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, GTA V, Fortnight, and Rise of the Tomb Raider; the last of which is a certified Dolby Atmos application. With Dolby Atmos disabled, the sound switches to what I presume is the background channel, at relatively low volume. To restore sound, I have to Alt-Tab out of the game, open Dolby Atmos and re-enable the service.
Playing PUBG on high settings saw frame rates between 50 and 60…
On the Triton 700, enabling Dolby Atmos once was all that was required. However, with the Nitro 5, I’ve found I had to alt-tab out and re-enable it after every match in PUBG. I worked with Acer over a couple of weeks to troubleshoot the issue, and ultimately was provided with the following statement: “Acer disables surround Dolby Atmos when VOIP apps are being used. This includes Skype, PUBG, and Tomb Raider. The VOIP signal does not contain Atmos data/encoding, so using it with VOIP means it’s not able to actually deliver a “surround” effect. With that said, you can re-enable Atmos and force it on, or the Triton 700 and Nitro 5 will automatically enable Atmos after the application is closed.”
It’s frustrating, and for some will surely be a deterrent. I can’t blame you. To be fair, I didn’t encounter the issue multiple times, or sometimes at all, when wearing headphones. Outside of sound issues, the performance of the Nitro 5 is right in line with what you’d expect from its budget hardware.
As you can see in the benchmark scores, the Nitro 5 produced scores that are slightly lower than laptops powered by the GTX 1060 in almost every test, as expected. Playing PUBG on high settings saw frame rates between 50 and 60 fps, with medium pushing over the 60 fps without issue. Ultra settings dropped the frame rate down to the high 30s to low 40s. This is the type of GPU and system that can play AAA titles, but not at maximum settings.
Acer Nitro 5 – Battery Life
Acer claims the Nitro 5’s battery life is a respectable seven hours. But, as is typically the case with laptop reviews, the numbers returned in my battery life test fell short of the company’s claims. My test found the Nitro 5’s battery to run out of juice at two hours and 21 minutes (141 minutes in total) with a video on repeat at 50% screen brightness and all unnecessary services disabled (keyboard backlight, location permissions, and Bluetooth). Battery life for a gaming laptop over two hours isn’t very common, so in this test the Nitro 5 did quite well.
Acer Nitro 5 – Software
One of the drawbacks of a budget-oriented laptop is they usually come with some bloatware to help the company offset the cost. That is certainly the case with the Nitro 5, and I lost count of the number of times during testing that I had to close Norton Security alerts about how my trial has expired, or asking me to subscribe to the service. What’s interesting is the much more expensive Triton 700 didn’t have this software, so in the end you really do get what you pay for. In addition to being nagged by Norton Security, Acer’s suite of programs are installed. Programs like abFiles, abPhoto, Acer Power Button, and Acer Quick Access.
Admittedly, I have yet to open many of these programs out of fear that I will ultimately regret the decision thanks to yet more popups and alerts. I understand installing core programs that provide a service, such as Acer’s Care Center that handles upgrading drivers and other necessary Acer-related software. But yet another file manager that requires me to sign up for an Acer account? No thanks.
The Acer Nitro 5 has an MSRP of $899, and it’s the same price on Amazon while being slightly less expensive on Walmart: