Acer Nitro 5 review: Is this seriously affordable gaming laptop powerful enough?

Acer Nitro 5
Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Acer's Nitro line provides gamers budget options for desktop PCs, accessories, and laptops like the Nitro 5, which I've been using for a little more than a week. For internal performance hardware, there are plenty of Intel and NVIDIA options available, though fans of AMD can instead opt for something like the review model I have here, with a Ryzen 5 2500U processor (CPU) and Radeon RX 560X discrete graphics (GPU). At just $640 the promise of 1080p gaming might be enough to sway you to buy this laptop, and while it does fulfill its role, there are certainly some cut corners that you should be aware of.

Acer Nitro 5 technical specifications

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CategorySpec
OSWindows 10 Home
ProcessorAMD Ryzen 5 2500U
Up to 3.6 GHz
Four cores
RAM8 GB DDR4
Storage1 TB SATA 7,200 RPM
Travelstar HDD
Display15.6 inch IPS
FHD (1,920 x 1,080)
60 Hz refresh rate
GraphicsAMD Radeon RX 560X
4 GB GDDR5 VRAM
PortsTwo USB-A 2.0
One USB-A 3.0
One USB-C 3.1
HDMI 2.0
RJ45 Ethernet
3.5 mm audio
SD card reader
AudioDual stereo speakers
Dolby Audio Premium
Acer TrueHarmony
WirelessQualcomm Atheros QCA61x4A
802.11ac (2 x 2)
MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 4.2
CameraFront-facing 720p
KeyboardBacklit with numpad
TouchpadPrecision
BatteryFour-cell Li-ion
Dimensions15.35 inches x 10.47 inches x 1.05 inches
(389.89 mm x 265.94 mm x 26.67 mm)
Weight5.51 pounds
(2.5 kg)

Acer Nitro 5 design and features

The Nitro 5 weighs in at 5.51 pounds and is just more than an inch thick, with a chassis made primarily from black plastic. The design isn't as in your face as a lot of gaming laptops, sticking with a relatively normal — if slightly bulky — body. It has a thick row of vents along one half of the back edge (the other half looks the same though is not vented), and the lid has a brushed-metal look that gives it some distinction. Word of warning to anyone who likes a clean device, this laptop constantly picks up fingerprints and smudges. The single wide hinge is red for some accent to match the red lining around the touchpad, and though it's not as impressive on a laptop that weighs this much, the lid can be opened with one hand.

There's a lot of room for ports on a laptop this size, and Acer has taken full advantage. On the left is Ethernet, USB-C 3.1, HDMI 2.0, USB-A 3.0, and an SD card reader, and on the right are two USB-A 2.0, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and a barrel-style charging port. Altogether this is a decent selection of ports that will let you connect all your peripherals without getting too jammed up, and it's especially nice to see USB-C on a laptop this price.

The bottom of the laptop can be removed entirely after taking out 15 screws, but Acer has a couple of easy-access panels overtop of the dual RAM slots and 2.5-inch storage bay. The review unit's hard-disk drive (HDD) takes up the bay here, but there is a slot for an M.2 SATA solid-state drive (SSD) if you take off the larger cover for later upgrades. Also on the bottom are two down-firing speakers that aren't bad if you find yourself without a headset, but for best effect, you'll want an alternative.

Overall I don't mind the design of the Nitro 5, even if it does look a bit dated compared to, say, Lenovo's Legion Y530. The angled front corners don't do much for me, especially when they clip off the edges of the lid's bezel, but there are certainly far bulkier and aggressive gaming laptops out there that you'd pay a lot more for. If you prefer something in the middle of subdued and aggressive, I think the Nitro 5 will please.

Acer Nitro 5 display

A killer display isn't really expected in a laptop this price, but it still has to live up to a certain standard that gamers demand. The 15.6-inch non-touch display here has an IPS panel for wide viewing angles, a 60 Hz refresh rate (which essentially matches what the Nitro 5's hardware can put out for modern games), and decent color that doesn't immediately seem washed out upon opening the lid. It could be a lot brighter, and if you're frequently gaming in well-lit rooms, you might wish you could crank up the backlight further than it allows.

I tested color reproduction and got back 69 percent sRGB and 52 percent AdobeRGB. For a budget display, these numbers are pretty much what's expected. While gaming I didn't notice the color as much as the chunky bezel, which hits about an inch on all sides. After using it for a few gaming sessions, I don't think this display in a $640 laptop poses a problem. It's not going to really wow you, but it's perfectly functional.

Acer Nitro 5 keyboard and touchpad

The Nitro 5's keyboard has a red backlight to match the other red accents, as well as WASD keys that have a red border to better standout when backlit or dark. There's enough room for a full number pad on the right side, and all keys have adequate, comfortable spacing. Key presses are soft and comfortable, especially if you plan on using this laptop for a bit of productivity during the day. While gaming, though, they might be a bit too soft for some people's taste, as they don't provide much feedback as to when activation happens.

The Precision touchpad is big enough to match the rest of the laptop and provide plenty of space for gestures. It has a satisfying click and tracks well, but its off-center placement is a pain. With a left hand on the usual WASD keys, your palm is going to constantly rub against the touchpad and the depression it sits in. Most, if not all, gamers are going to disable the touchpad in lieu of an external mouse anyway, but that's not going to fix the annoyance of feeling it under your hand at all times.

Acer Nitro 5 gaming and VR

A gaming laptop's worth ultimately comes down to how much performance it can put out compared to the asking price. While the AMD Ryzen 5 2500U CPU and Radeon RX 560X GPU likely wouldn't be prime choices for hardcore gamers looking for the best possible performance, they are affordable options that are nevertheless capable of delivering a 1080p experience.

Despite having the right ports, this laptop isn't cut out for VR unless all you're interested in is regular Windows Mixed Reality. It's much better suited to playing popular esports titles or modern AAA games on lowered settings, hitting between 30 and 60 frames-per-second (FPS). I played Dying Light and Path of Exile to see how well the Nitro 5 holds up during regular play; the former averaged 34 FPS on "Best Performance" settings, while the latter averaged 69 FPS with a mix of Low and Medium settings.

While gaming, the battery is going to drop fast, so you'll want to carry the bulky power adapter with you. You'll get at most about 1.5 hours while gaming, and between four and five hours when going about regular tasks.

Inside, the laptop has a dual-fan cooling system that uses heat pipes to pull hot air out and away from the GPU and CPU, and it seems to work well enough. When under heavy load you will probably experience some thermal throttling and some hot spots on the chassis, but it wasn't anything we haven't seen, even from laptops that cost much more. Acer has included NitroSense software that gives you some control over power and fan speeds, as well as providing CPU and GPU temperature readouts.

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PCGPUScore
Acer Nitro 5Radeon RX 560X1,959
Lenovo Legion Y730GTX 1050 Ti2,568
Dell G7 15 7588GTX 10603,792
Lenovo Legion Y530GTX 1050 Ti2,330
Acer Predator Triton 700GTX 10805,809
ASUS ROG ZephyrusGTX 10805,551

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