Acer Nitro 5
The Acer Nitro 5 is a mid-range gaming laptop that’s aiming to sate the majority of gamers.
The 15.6in screen size should be enough for most players, and its GTX 1050 graphics chip is designed to deliver smooth gaming on the panel’s 1080p resolution.
The Acer costs $999 (£950, AU$1,639) and also serves up a high-end Intel processor and an SSD – but it’s also surrounded by plenty of competition.
Price and Availability
The UK and US models of this machine are a little different when it comes to components.
In the UK, there are three models. We’ve reviewed the NH.Q2REK.002. The NH.Q2QEK.002 upgrades the graphics to a GTX 1050 Ti and doubles the SSD, and it costs £1,113. The NH.Q2REK.003 drops the SSD and keeps the basic GTX 1050 – at £799, it’s the cheapest model.
American buyers can choose from dozens of versions. Prices range from $749 to $1,099, and components are more varied: some machines have Core i5 processors, others have GTX 1050 Ti graphics, and some even have AMD Radeon RX 550 graphics chips and AMD FX processors – those are available in the cheaper models.
Australians also have a good selection of models – and prices – to choose from. For example, a Nitro 5 with Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD costs AU$1,499. Upping the RAM to 16GB and 256GB SSD comes with a price tag of AU$1,799.
No matter which model you go for, you’re getting Acer’s familiar Nitro design. The hinge is finished with a smart burnt orange tone, and the keyboard is lit with red LEDs that match the trackpad.
The keyboard is surrounded by discreet angled sections, and the lid has a normal logo. When it comes to ornamentation, that’s it – this laptop looks pleasingly subtle, and fits in with many rivals.
One such machine is the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, which has a similar mix of darker metal with red accents – along with a higher price of £1,349 in the UK and $950 in the US. The Acer’s other big rival is the Lenovo Legion Y520, which looks more extravagant. The Lenovo now costs £899 in the UK and $967 in the US.
The Acer’s rivals offer similar aesthetics, but they’re both easier to carry around. The Nitro 5 tips the scales at 2.7kg, and it’s 27mm thick – but the Dell and Lenovo machines are slimmer and lighter.
The Nitro doesn’t have brilliant build quality, despite being a little larger than both competitors. The wrist-rest has too much flex, and the base moves just as much. The screen is sturdier, but it’s not a clean bill of health.
The keyboard and trackpad aren’t perfect, either. The keyboard has a slimmed-down numberpad and a fine layout, and the base is solid. The function keys are small, but the red backlighting can’t be adjusted for brightness.
The keys have a middling amount of travel and a quiet, consistent action – they’re rapid and reassuring. That’s great for typing, but it’s not ideal for gaming, where frantic action requires more travel and a firmer response. The Dell machine suffered similarly, while the Lenovo offered more movement and is better for gaming.
The trackpad is too soft: the two buttons push down too far into a spongy base. If you’re a serious gamer, attach a USB mouse.
The Acer’s borders serve up a single USB 3 port and a USB 3.1 type-C connection, but the other two USB ports use the slower 2.0 standard. There’s an HDMI output and a card reader, but only one audio jack. The Dell and Lenovo machines are both better in this regard.
The Acer Nitro 5’s gaming power comes from an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050. It’s a mid-range chip, but its Pascal architecture, 1,354MHz clock speed and 4GB of dedicated memory means it’s able to play most games at good quality settings on this machine’s 1080p screen.
The Nitro 5 ran through Total War’s Ultra settings with an average of 34fps, which is nicely playable. It ran through Middle Earth with an average of 25fps, which is more sluggish, but that’s one of the most demanding games on the market – and its Low result of 63fps is more encouraging.
The Nitro 5 will play every game on the market at 1080p, and you’ll only have to do minor graphical tweaking to get the toughest titles running. However, both rival machines are a little quicker.
The Lenovo had a GTX 1050 Ti, which was four frames faster in Total War: Warhammer and around 1,000 points quicker in 3D Mark Fire Strike. The Dell machine, with its GTX 1060 Max-Q card, was three frames faster in Total War and further ahead in the 3D Mark tests.
The Core i7-7700HQ is a familiar bit of silicon – as it’s found in virtually every high-end laptop at the moment, and even in many mainstream models.
It’s got four Hyper-Threaded cores, which is ample for gaming and general computing, and its stock speed of 2.8GHz can dynamically improve to 3.8GHz using Turbo boost.
In the Nitro 5 it’s paired with 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD, but neither of these is impressive: the 8GB of memory is installed in a slower single-channel configuration, and the SSD’s read and write speeds of 259MB/s and 264MB/s are underwhelming. That pace is better than a hard disk, but it’s a long way behind today’s best SSDs – even at the budget end of the market.
The solid processor but underwhelming peripheral components saw the Acer score 631 points in the Cinebench test: more than 100 points beyond the Dell and its Core i5, but a similar distance behind the Lenovo machine and its better storage and memory.
The Acer Nitro 5 won’t bottleneck games and it won’t be slow when handling day-to-day tasks, but we can’t help but think that it could have been faster.
The Nitro 5 is cool and quiet during easy tasks, and during a gaming test it only produced minor fan noise – if you’re wearing a headset, you just won’t notice it. During this test the GPU ran at a good 63°C, and none of the machine’s surfaces became too hot – air is ejected from a vent at the rear.
The noise increased a little during a full-system test, but it’s still absolutely fine – with no heat making it to the outside and no clock speed issues.
Battery life is good, too. The Acer Nitro 5’s PC Mark 8 lifespan of 2hrs 50mins is better than the Lenovo, and its movie lifespan of around four hours is twice as good. The Dell offered similar longevity in that latter test.
Screen and speakers
The 1080p resolution is absolutely fine for smooth gaming with a GTX 1050, and the IPS technology is good too – this type of screens tends to offer the best balance between rapid response and high-quality colours.
The Acer Nitro 5’s brightness level of 285cd/m2 is great, and its black level of 0.29cd/m2 is fine for this class of laptop. The contrast level of 979:1 is good, too, and ensures a good range of colours across the entire range – great for gaming.
The Nitro 5’s screen isn’t as capable with colors, though. Its average Delta E of 5.37 is disappointing, and its color temperature of 7,224K is too cool. The screen only rendered 55.8% of the sRGB gamut.
It’s better than the insipid Lenovo, and the contrast means that games will look decent – but those underwhelming colours mean that games won’t pop like they do on the best notebook screens. It’s not ruinous, and you’ll have to spend four figures to get anything better.
The speakers are underwhelming, with a tinny top-end and a lack of bass, but that’s hardly a surprise. Use a headset.
The GTX 1050 is a capable mid-range graphics card that’ll handle most of today’s top titles at 1080p, and it’ll blitz through esports games. The processor is quick, and those core components are paired with a solid battery.
The Nitro 5 also looks good, has reasonable screen quality too, and the keyboard and trackpad are fine for day-to-day computing.
It’s hard to swallow the Acer Nitro 5’s price. Its two closest rivals have beefier graphics cards inside similar designs and for comparable prices. Dell’s website also offers a Core i5 machine for less cash or a more powerful CPU and GPU for only a little more – and in that system you get better memory and a larger SSD.
The single-channel memory and slow SSD are a bit galling, too, and the build quality, keyboard and trackpad are nothing special.
The Acer Nitro 5’s core components are fine for gaming and general-purpose use, and the Nitro also delivers solid battery life, reasonable screen contrast and decent design.
However, cut-back components elsewhere and rivals that offer better value mean that it’s tricky to recommend this deeply average notebook.
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