I’ve always had a soft spot for the Acer Nitro 5. While I’ve never personally owned one, the Nitro lineup has over the years truly become one of the best bang-for-buck gaming laptops you can get these days. However, they also tend to only feature entry-level to mid-range specs.
Which is why when I heard that the latest lineup of Acer Nitro 5 machines had up to an NVIDIA RTX 3080 in it, I was a little confused but impressed at the same time. Wouldn’t that cut into its more high-end Predator lineup of gaming laptops? Now unfortunately, I didn’t get my hands on a Nitro 5 with the RTX 3080 in it, but Acer did send me the next best model, which is still fairly impressive for their Nitro lineup.
Our review unit has an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, an NVIDIA RTX 3070, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD and a 15.6-inch QHD IPS display with a refresh rate of 165Hz. Again, a very solid spec sheet, but how does it actually feel like to use it?
You can play almost any game on it
In case you didn’t know, when NVIDIA launches the RTX 3000 series of laptop graphics cards, they also decided that there wouldn’t be anymore Max-Q or Max-P laptop GPUs. Instead, each manufacturer will be able to tweak the total graphics power and wattage of the GPU themselves to best fit their chassis and cooling capabilities.
As for the Nitro 5 in question, well it may be an RTX 3070 class GPU, but it’s not exactly the cream of the crop either. Acer has clocked back the RTX 3070 to a maximum of 100W, which is a little lower than the 140W you can get on higher end rivals like the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro for instance. The AMD Ryzen 7 5800H meanwhile performs mostly as expected, though it has some of its own concerns that I’ll get to in a bit. I do want to say though that despite the RTX 3070 being held back a bit here, it’s still a very solid gaming machine. In fact, it even slightly edged out my own desktop with an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 and RTX 2060 that I use for gaming at home in Time Spy.
Being a gaming laptop, of course I had to test it out in a number of different games too. Across the board, I tested out its performance at its native 2560 x 1440 resolution at maximum settings unless stated otherwise, and for the most part it’ll play nearly everything with a decent amount of frames and almost no hitches. Here’s a full list of the games tested, with the settings used (motion blur off for all games):
Cooling on the other hand was a bit of a mixed bag. The Acer Nitro 5 handled the RTX 3070 pretty well, never going above 75°C in any of the games tested—I could really feel the fans kicking out the heat via the side vents. The Ryzen 7 5800H meanwhile did run a little toasty, peaking at 91°C sometimes though there was no noticeable throttling. I also did feel the keyboard getting warm, but never to the point where it was uncomfortable.
That being said, it should be pointed out that laptop silicon is designed to run hotter than their desktop counterparts anyway, so those temps didn’t concern me that much—especially as I didn’t experience any major thermal throttling during gaming and normal tasks. However, if you’re planning to use the Nitro 5 for CPU-heavy tasks like video editing, then you may want to take that into consideration.
One weird thing I did find though was that during long sessions of gaming, especially on resource-heavy titles, the laptop seemed to be drawing more power that it was being supplied with by the 180W charger. Speaking of battery life, it’s not great. Despite an advertised 10 hour run time, I only got up to 2 hours before needing to plug in it again. It’s not like I was gaming on it either; I just had a bunch of Chrome tabs and Adobe Photoshop open with the regular stuff in the background like Spotify, Discord and Steam. I was however using it at 80% brightness with the power mode set to ‘better performance’, so your mileage may vary if you tweak the power usage options much lower.
Another quirk I noticed regarding the Nitro 5’s cooling is that the ‘Auto’ fan setting in their NitroSense tool didn’t seem to let the fans ramp up as high as it could go; all of the games tested were done with the ‘Max’ fan setting. You’ll also definitely want to have headphones on during long gaming sessions as it gets pretty loud. And it’s not like you’ll want to use the speakers on it anyway.
Average display, mediocre speakers
There are two bottom firing speakers on the Acer Nitro 5 which aren’t that great to say the least. They sound fairly flat and tinny, with little to no bass on them. I also found them quite soft, and had to adjust the volume higher than normal to actually hear the music I was playing. It’ll certainly do the job if all you want are some speakers to watch YouTube with, but audiophiles will need to lower their expectations here.
As for the 15.6-inch QHD IPS display, well I’m again a little disappointed here. It’s not a very bright display, and the contrast wasn’t great either, so the content consumption experience like YouTube and Netflix was average at best. The highlight feature of 165Hz was also a little lost on me here personally, but it might be something others would appreciate better. See, you have to remember that it’s a laptop GPU we’re talking about here, and one that’s been capped to 100W too.
So while it may have a higher refresh rate of 165Hz, because it’s also running a higher resolution of 2560 x 1440p, you might be tweaking and lowering the graphics settings here and there unless you’re willing to not actually hit the 165 fps to make full use of the fast display. Of course, that’s just me talking—I know plenty of competitive gamers would much rather lower their settings if it means getting that extra 30fps in games like CS:GO.
Meanwhile, the keyboard felt decent enough to use both for work and play. There isn’t too much in terms of keycap wobble, and the travel was fine. The same goes for the touchpad too; it’s not the best, but it’s also perfectly decent for most users out there. But if you were thinking of picking the Nitro 5 up as a cheap entry into the world of streaming on Twitch, you’ll probably not want to use the built-in 720p webcam as it’s honestly quite bad.
There’s so much bloatware preinstalled
While the Acer Nitro 5 has some very good hardware on the inside, on the outside things are little different. The build quality on this laptop isn’t the best to say the least. The keyboard might be fine to use, but the keyboard’s deck flex is definitely there, and the screen is a tad wobbly though nothing here is a huge dealbreaker for me. You’ll also definitely find your fingerprints all over the chassis after just a few days of use.
Design-wise, it’s certainly much better than previous generations. The awful gamer aesthetic of the older Nitro 5 laptops have been toned down a bit here, with a sleeker ‘Shale Black’ colourway. I probably won’t be bringing it to a board meeting still, but it won’t look too out of place in an office anymore. It’s also somewhat portable now, weighing in at just 2.3kg and 255mm thick.
But perhaps one of the most annoying things I found with the Acer Nitro 5 was the bloatware that came with it, specifically the Norton Antivirus software. Not only did it keep sending notifications about subscribing to its antivirus service, but it also opened up a new window every hour or so prompting me to subscribe. There’s also other bloatware like VPN and cloud storage apps too.
While I knew how to uninstall them, someone else without much technical knowledge might have trouble with it. Worse still, it was hogging up resources unnecessarily. If you were going to get the Nitro 5, I would very much ask that you do a clean reinstall of Windows 10, and redownload just the Acer NitroSense software as it helps check the laptop temps and fan speeds.
What I really appreciated with the Nitro 5 though is the upgradability. Acer have very kindly provided a SATA cable and some screws in the box, so if you want to add some extra storage via a 2.5-inch HDD or SATA SSD. It also uses standard SODIMM slots, so you could in theory upgrade the RAM down the line too. You won’t be voiding the warranty too, unless of course you damage other parts during installation.
The Acer Nitro 5 also has a very generous set of ports on hand. I like that both sides had full-fat USB-A ports, and having the Ethernet and 3.5mm audio jack on the left was a solid design choice too as it meant nothing in the way of my mouse movement when gaming. There’s also a HDMI port for those who want to use a secondary display too.
A good enough laptop at a great price
Let me first make it clear that the model I received and reviewed is not the model I would recommend. I would instead suggest that you opt for the Nitro 5 with an FHD, 144Hz display because it’s RM800 cheaper and otherwise still has the same specs as the model I reviewed. It may be at a lower resolution than the QHD display I have here, but being a 15.6-inch display it’s likely something you won’t miss. Besides, with an FHD screen there’s no doubt that you’ll also be able to play most of your games with high/ultra presets with solid framerates at native resolution.
At that price, it’s incredible value for the hardware and performance you’re getting. Yes, it’s not exactly the most powerful RTX 3070 out there. Yes, there’s definitely some compromises and some cut corners with the laptop. But if all you want to do is get the best value-for-money gaming laptop, it’s hard to argue against the Acer Nitro 5. If for example you’re heading off to college and want to still be able to play games in your dorm room, the Nitro 5 is a standout choice.
There are of course a number of alternatives out there. The Asus TUF Gaming A15 for example also features an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD and a 15.6-inch FHD 240Hz display, but the RTX 3070 in it has even less power at just 95W. It also costs more than the Nitro 5, retailing at RM6,699 which again goes to show that the incredible value that the Acer Nitro 5 is offering.
Overall, I think any gamer on budget searching for a machine with the best price to performance ratio would appreciate the Acer Nitro 5. You’ll just want to be prepared to live with the odd quirks and compromises that come with it.