Home Reviews Acer Nitro 5 (2022) review: Great performance with some compromises. Acer nitro 5 i7
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Acer Nitro 5 (2022) review: Great performance with some compromises. Acer nitro 5 i7

A decent budget gaming notebook with a few setbacks

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Acer Nitro 5 (2022) boasts strong performance, a comfortable keyboard, and a bright panel, but conversely its display is dull and the battery life could be better.

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Cons

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Acer’s Nitro series is among the most popular best cheap gaming laptops, but not all of them are good. The latest Acer Nitro 5 (2022), however, leans toward the buy it side.

Both models we tested boast strong performance, a comfortable keyboard, and a bright 15.6-inch, 1080p display. However, both also struggle with a dull panel, tiny speakers, and battery life that could and should last longer than the competition. The 999 price for the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti model isn’t too bad, but a whopping 1,299 for the RTX 3060 is a little excessive, especially with its flaws.

The Acer Nitro 5 is one of those laptops that is a better value the cheaper it is. I’d recommend this to anyone willing to get the cheaper model and wait for a good discount.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) price and configurations

Price: 999 / 1,299 CPU: Intel Core i5-12500H GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti / 3060 RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p, 144Hz Battery: 5:33 Size: 14.2 x 10.7 x 1.02~1.06 inches Weight: 5.5 pounds

We tested two models of the Acer Nitro 5 (2022), one of which costs 999 and is outfitted with an Intel Core i5-12500H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch, 1080p, 144Hz display.

The second model we tested runs for 1,299 and is nearly identical save for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. For those with cash to blow, you can configure Acer Nitro 5 with Core i7-12700H CPU, RTX 3070 Ti GPU with 8GB of VRAM, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 15.6-inch, 1440p, 165Hz display all for a whopping 2,299.

The Nitro 5 covers a broad range of audiences, but if you’re looking for something different, check out our best gaming laptops page.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) design

Each of the Acer Nitro 5 laptops are designed a little differently, with the more expensive model boasting tantalizing blue and pink lines scattered across the deck, mimicking a techy vibe. The cheaper model features a dull black lid with red accents on the hinges. I don’t understand why one gets the nice design and the other doesn’t.

However, the interiors are both the same, each sporting a matte black deck with a four-zone RGB-lit keyboard, and a cutout for the vent just above it. The display’s bezels are relatively thin, but the panel has a floating effect off of the deck due to the gap between the hinges. I’m not a fan of this design because it only makes the chin much larger. At least the webcam is located on the top bezel.

At 5.5 pounds and 14.2 x 10.7 x 1.02~1.06 inches, the Acer Nitro 5 (2022) is a little big compared with competing devices. We’re putting it up against the MSI Katana GF66 (5.1 pounds, 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.0 inches), Dell Inspiron 16 (4.4 pounds, 14.0 x 9.7 x 0.7~0.8 inches) and HP Victus 16 (5.4 pounds, 14.6 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches).

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) ports

There’s a decent number of ports all around the Acer Nitro 5.

On the left, there’s a security lock slot, an RJ45 Ethernet port, one USB Type-A port and a headphone jack, while the right holds room for two USB Type-A ports.

The backside is where you’d find the power jack, an HDMI port, and a Thunderbolt 4 port.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) display

The Acer Nitro 5’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is a double-edged sword. On one side, you’ll be slicing your enemies with a bright panel clocked in at a 144Hz refresh rate, but on the other, you’re damaging yourself with lackluster colors.

I booted up Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and ran through the roaming fields of England, but the greens and yellows of the land looked as dull and dry as the place that Eivor tried to escape. However, it didn’t look so bad when I had to climb into dark areas, as the bright display guided me through. And the high refresh rate made combat smooth as a Kinder chocolate when I turned down the graphics.

In the trailer for Dungeons Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, I could make out some detail in the hundreds of faces staring at the lich-like being during the craned camera shot. But in the wide angle shots of the chaotic cities, lush forests, and volcanic caverns, it looked lifeless.

For those that are wondering at home — yes, both models feature the same panel.

According to our colorimeter, the Nitro 5 covered only 45.4% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which doesn’t even cover the budget gaming laptop average (52%). It was slightly more colorful than the Katana GF66 (43.9%), but the Inspiron 16 (67.9%) and HP Victus 16 (77.1%) were more lively.

At 314 nits, the Nitro 5 was surprisingly bright for a cheap gaming laptop, overtaking the 294-nit average. It even clocked the Katana GF66 (247 nits) and Inspiron 16 (301 nits), but the Victus 16 (355 nits) still took the lead.

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Acer Nitro 5 (2022) keyboard and touchpad

The Nitro 5’s keys are thick and plush, making it comfortable to type on. I even like the texture of the keys, which are matte, but soft.

I hit 63 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is slightly below my 68 words-per-minute average. I haven’t typed on a 15-inch laptop keyboard in a while, but the keys are well-spaced and there’s plenty of room on the palm rests for most people.

The keyboard lighting is split into four-zones and you can configure the lighting within the NitroSense app. The RGB lighting mixed with the bold font creates a techy vibrancy.

The 3.1 x 4.2 inch touchpad is soft and smooth, but it doesn’t feature a satisfying click. It’s OK, but the depth feels wonky and even a bit flimsy. The quality of the touchpad can say a lot about the quality of the laptop itself.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) audio

Unfortunately, blasting from the Nitro 5’s bottom-firing speakers are a serious quiet riot.

I listened to Ross Lynch’s cover of “Teenage Dirtbag,” and the entire sound was low. Even the chorus couldn’t fully encompass my small office space. Despite that, the guitar, vocals, and drums were distinguishable from one another. However, there was little to no bass to be found. The bass guitar felt like a regular guitar.

In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the wind was muffled as we sailed across the rivers, and when characters started talking to one another, I could barely hear them — I had to turn on subtitles. When I started attacking some fools, my ax didn’t sound very impactful. It was almost like I was hitting a training dummy instead of a person.

There’s some audio software onboard, but it’s not intricate at all. Within NitroSense, you can adjust to a few presets, including Shooter, RPG, Strategy, Movies, Music, Voice, and Automatic. I left it on Automatic for the testing.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) gaming, graphics and VR

The cheaper Acer Nitro 5 is packing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM while the more expensive one boasts an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. When navigating through the dangers of England in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 1080p (Ultra settings), the former clocked in at 44 frames per second while the latter managed 66 fps.

On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Acer Nitro 5 averaged 61 fps (86 fps with RTX 3060), which matched the budget gaming laptop average (61 fps). It landed in the middle of the Katana GF66’s RTX 3060 (84 fps), the Inspiron 16’s RTX 3050 (55) and the Victus 16’s RTX 3060 (78 fps).

The Nitro 5 scored 45 fps (66 fps with RTX 3060) on the Borderlands 3 benchmark (Badass, 1080p), which just slid past the category average (43fps). However, only the pricier model could beat the Katana GF66 (61 fps) and Victus 16 (59 fps).

On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p), the Nitro 5 hit 52 fps (74 fps with RTX 3060), falling short of the category average (59 fps) as well as the Katana GF66 (69 fps) and Victus 16 (67 fps).

The Nitro 5 achieved 79 fps (85 fps with RTX 3060) on the Far Cry New Dawn benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), which sped past the category average (72 fps). However, neither model could outpace the Katana GF66 (94 fps) or HP Victus 16 (93 fps).

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) performance

Powering everything is the Acer Nitro 5’s Intel Core i5-12500H processor with 16GB of RAM. It easily cruised through 40 Google Chrome tabs and five YouTube videos without so much as a hiccup.

On the Geekbench 5.4 overall performance test, the Nitro 5 scored 9,148), nearly doubling the 5,480 budget gaming laptop average. Each with an Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, the Katana GF66 (8,897) and Inspiron 16 (8,031) couldn’t keep up, but somehow the Victus 16 (9,426) excelled.

The Nitro 5 transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in just 5 minutes and 58 seconds on our HandBrake benchmark, which flew over the category average (7:06), the Katana GF66 (6:37), the Inspiron 16 (7:13), and the Victus 16 (7:12).

Acer’s 512GB SSD features a transfer speed of 1,241 megabytes per second, which outmaneuvered the 955-MBps category average. It left the SSDs in the Katana GF66 (651 MBps), Inspiron 16 (638 MBps) and Victus 16 (161 MBps) shaken in place.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) battery life

While gaming laptops are getting better with battery life, some just aren’t following the trend. The Acer Nitro 5 falls in the center, clocking in 5 hours and 33 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which is just under the category average (5:38). It outlasted the Katana GF66 (2:30) and Victus 16 (4:12), but it could have been as good as the Inspiron 16 (8:11).

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) webcam

The Nitro 5’s 720p webcam is as trashy as any other.

There’s little to no detail in the hairs on my face. The Windows in the back of my office were blown out by the poor contrast. The green in my shirt was okay, but overall, it looked a bit lifeless. I wouldn’t want to play DND with this webcam let alone stream. I recommend checking out our best webcams page for something that’ll make you look as good as you should.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) heat

It gets a little spicy under the hood of these two Acer Nitro 5 laptops, especially the stronger one. After 15 minutes of gaming, the RTX 3050 Ti model hit 94 degrees Fahrenheit on the underside, sitting comfortably below our 95-degree threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad reached 96 and 73 degrees, respectively. However, it got the hottest on the rear underside, beneath the fourth vent from the right, hitting 123 degrees.

Acer nitro 5 2022 intel 12th gen i5 12500h boot up test, rapid fast

Meanwhile, the RTX 3060 model clocks in at 106 degrees (underside), 102 degrees (keyboard) and touchpad (74 degrees). Its hottest part, the same as above, climbed up to a scorching 129 degrees.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) software and warranty

The Nitro 5 has a boatload of Acer-branded apps, including Acer Product Registration and Care Center, a platform that runs system diagnostics, updates and tuneups. The NitroSense app is particularly useful for monitoring CPU and GPU temperatures; you can also adjust the speed of the fans and manage your power-plan settings.

There’s also some Windows 11 bloatware like Disney, Forge of Empires, and Spotify.

The Nitro 5 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Acer performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands rankings.

Bottom line

The Acer Nitro 5 is your bread and butter cheap gaming laptop. It primarily has its strong performance going for it, but a lot of the other features aren’t rocking so well, especially the display and the battery life.

It’s tough to recommend another laptop because you’ll ultimately pay more, but if you really want more battery life, snag the Dell Inspiron 16 for 1,199, and you’ll get 8 hours of usage.

2022 Nitro 5 | Gaming Laptop | Acer

But overall, what the Acer Nitro 5 has going for it the most is its price, so take advantage of that by looking for it to pop up among the best gaming laptop deals.

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder’s dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.

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Acer Nitro 5 review: An affordable gaming laptop with killer value

Acer’s Nitro 5 is a value gaming laptop held back by seriously short battery life.

Best Today: Acer Nitro 5 (2022)

Gamers looking for a value laptop will find many machines that bring entry-level discrete graphics at a reasonable price, but not every laptop with such hardware is ideal for gaming. Acer’s Nitro 5 proves that point with its outstanding game performance, though a few flaws will limit its appeal.

Don’t get it twisted, though. The Nitro 5 has a lot to offer. It delivers awesome graphics performance and there are plenty of port options. The audio is also punchy and the keyboard is spacious. However, as with most cheap gaming laptops, there are some compromises to be aware of. Battery life is shockingly short and the display is really nothing to write home about. That said, if you’re on a tight budget, the Nitro 5 is still a perfectly reasonable option.

Specs and features

The Acer Nitro I tested equips Intel’s Core i5-12500H processor, an entry-level variant in the H series that provides a total of 12 cores but only four performance cores. This will make for an intriguing comparison with prior gaming laptops, many of which have fewer cores in total but no efficient cores.

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-12500H
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Graphics/GPU: Nvidia RTX 3060
  • Display: 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz IPS LCD
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Connectivity: 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x USB-C 3.2, 1x USB-A 3.1, 2x USB-A 2.0, 1x 3.5mm combo audio, 1x Ethernet
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Biometrics: None
  • Battery capacity: 51 watt-hours
  • Dimensions: 14.2 inches x 10.7 x 1.06
  • Weight: 5.51 pounds
  • Price: 1,299.99

Intel’s 12th-gen processor is paired with an Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics chip, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB, which brings the MSRP to 1,299.99. The laptop, which will not be released until May 22, 2022, is selling a hair above that price on Amazon at the time of publication.

Design and build quality

The Acer Nitro 5 is a collection of plastic panels and metal facades forced into an angular and aggressive design. There’s a retro feel to the machine which, at over an inch thick, is far bulkier than the sleek high-end gaming laptops that often hog the spotlight. If you want a laptop that screams “hey, I’m new and cool!” – look elsewhere.

There is one touch I like: the lid. I get a 1980s vibe from its understated combo of matte black surfaces with pastel blue and red stripes that remind me of wire traces on a PCB.

How does it feel? Fine. The chassis and display lid are mostly plastic and allow noticeable flex when handled with modest force, but the design comes off as reasonably durable. This is thanks to its thick profile and bulky, firmly articulated display hinges.

Still, Dell’s gaming-oriented Inspiron line and Lenovo’s entry-level Legion laptops provide a more attractive look at similar pricing. Even Acer’s own Predator line is far more robust and there’s an overlap in pricing between Nitro 5 models and the Predator Helios 300 line.

Keyboard and trackpad

Acer stuffs a large keyboard with a numpad into the Nitro 5’s sizable frame. There’s plenty of room despite the numpad’s inclusion, so the arrow, Enter, and Backspace keys are similar in size to other laptops. The right-side Shift key is half-sized, however. I don’t like the numpad’s inclusion, as it offsets the keyboard from the touchpad, but those who need a numpad will of course welcome its inclusion.

RGB keyboard backlighting is included but works on a per-zone, not per-key basis. This is an acceptable compromise for a laptop in the Nitro 5’s price range. Backlight brightness is very high at maximum and several brightness levels are available.

Key feel is good. There’s plenty of room for long, luxurious key travel. The keys bottom out with a crisp, snappy action that provides decent feedback. The keycaps seem cheap and hollow, however, again reminding owners of the Nitro 5’s value pricing.

The touchpad is unremarkable. It’s not massive, measuring about 5 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep. It’s surrounded by pretty shallow palm rests for a machine of the Nitro 5’s size. The responsive surface but can seem cramped when using Windows’ multi-touch gestures.

Display, audio

The Acer Nitro 5 model I reviewed had a 15.6-inch 1080p non-touch screen with a refresh rate of 144Hz. This display is found on the large majority of Nitro 5 systems, though a few top-tier models upgrade to 1440p 165Hz display.

1080p resolution isn’t exciting in 2022, of course, but it’s an ideal choice for any value-oriented laptop. Because of the display’s size, pixel density is still high enough to look extremely sharp in games, and sticking to 1080p means most games deliver strong performance at the laptop’s native resolution.

Image quality is mixed. The edge-lit LCD display offers good color accuracy and a decent contrast ratio of up to 1230:1, but is limited by a narrow color gamut that displays only 66 percent of the sRGB gamut. This saps the vibrancy you’ll see in more premium gaming laptops and is most noticeable in colorful games like Overwatch or Rocket League. It’s also bad news for creators hoping the Acer Nitro 5 could be a budget-minded portable machine for both gaming and photo or video editing.

Results like this aren’t unusual to see in value gaming laptops, but do show the problems of scaling up a machine that fundamentally targets a value buyer. The Acer Nitro 5 carries an MSRP that puts it close to the entry-level versions of more premium laptops like the Alienware m15, Lenovo Legion 7, and Acer Predator. These will offer a far better display.

Audio quality is more favorable. The Nitro 5 uses a top-facing speaker system that delivers excellent volume and a clear, crisp presentation. There’s a little bass, but not much, so heavy action and thumping can muddy the sound. This is an area the Nitro 5 can match more premium gaming laptops that target a slimmer form factor, as its size provides ample space for the sound system.

Webcam, biometrics

The Acer Nitro 5 doesn’t try to offer an excellent video or audio recording experience. It has a basic 720p webcam with a dual-array microphone. Each works well enough for video conferencing in a well-lit, quiet room, but you’ll run into trouble in dark rooms or those with moderate background noise.

Biometric login is not available on this laptop.

Connectivity

A girthy profile means the Nitro 5 has space to offer a wide range of connectivity. Video output is provided by an HDMI 2.0 port and a USB-C 3.2 port / Thunderbolt 4 port with DisplayPort Alternate Mode.

The USB-C / Thunderbolt 4 port is stated to provide Power Delivery up to 65 watts, but the laptop’s battery discharged when I connected it to a monitor delivering 65 watts, so don’t expect to rely on it for charging. A 230-watt power adapter provides juice over a barrel plug connector.

Additional USB connectivity includes one USB-A 3.1 port and two USB-A 2.0 ports. There’s also an Ethernet jack and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. I would’ve liked to see more USB-A 3.1 ports available.

Wireless connectivity comes over Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. The wireless adapter is Intel’s Killer Wi-Fi AX1650i. It provides near-Gigabit performance at short range but struggled in my detached shed, which is 50 feet and a couple walls away from the router. This location is often tough for laptops, but the Nitro 5 was especially unreliable and could only achieve download speeds of around one megabyte per second.

Performance

The Acer Nitro 5 AN515-58-527S, like the rest of the newest Nitro 5 line, offers a 12th-gen Intel Core processor. My particular machine equipped the Intel Core i5-12500H, a 12-core processor with four performance cores and eight efficient cores. This was paired with 16GB of memory and a 512GB solid state drive.

We start with PCMark 10, a synthetic test with an emphasis on day-to-day use rather than demanding workloads. The Intel Core i5-12500H doesn’t do well here, falling behind every comparison machine aside from the Acer Swift 3. It’s disappointing to see the Core i5-12500H fall so far behind the HP Victus with Core i7-11800H processor. The Core i5-12500H’s slim number of performance cores seems to hold it back in this test.

Cinebench R15 is a heavily threaded and demanding test that better spreads the load across many cores. This is to the Core i5-12500H’s advantage. While it does not beat the Core i7-1800H, it comes close, and delivers a win over the Ryzen 7 5800H in the Asus Vivobook Pro 15 OLED. It’s a good, though not exceptional, result for the Acer Nitro 5.

Handbrake, another heavily multithreaded test, reports more good news. While the HP Victus is not available for comparison in this test due to differences in testing conditions, we can see the Acer Nitro 5 scores a win over the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 tested with Ryzen 9 6900HS processor. The Core i5-12500H also provides a major improvement over the Core i7-1260P, a processor that will be common in thin, premium laptops.

Now we move on to the graphics benchmarks, starting with 3DMark’s Time Spy test. The Acer Nitro 5 scores a great victory here, defeating the similarly equipped HP Victus and easily outrunning the MSI GF76 with RTX 3050 Ti. In fact, the Acer Nitro outranks many recent RTX 3060 laptops and comes rather close to the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 with Radeon RX6800S.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider also produces a favorable result, averaging 98 frames per second at 1080p resolution and Highest detail settings (with ray tracing off). This is a bit higher than the HP Victus and, once again, rather close to some laptops that equip more powerful GPUs.

Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition delivers no real surprise, as once again the Acer Nitro 5 slightly out performs the HP Victus and falls only a bit behind more expensive laptops with GTX 1080 graphics. The Nitro 5 also beats the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 with Radeon RX 6800S graphics in this test.

In summary, it’s clear the Acer Nitro 5 benefits from its FOCUS on gaming, and this leads to outstanding frames-per-dollar in games. Acer’s Nitro 5 manages to nip at the heels of significantly more expensive gaming laptops.

Content and day-to-day performance is more mixed. The Core i5-12500H processor is strong in heavily multithreaded workloads but will be at a significant disadvantage to Intel Core i7 H-Series processors with more performance cores.

Battery life

The Acer Nitro 5 is a strong performer in games, but this does come at a steep penalty in battery life. It’s not unusual to see disappointing battery life in this segment, but the Nitro 5 is significantly worse than usual.

Yes, that’s right. The Acer Nitro 5 will barely last long enough to watch a movie on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco. Real-world performance in light use was better than that, coming in around three hours, but that’s nothing to brag about. It makes sense, however. The laptop has a meager 51 watt-hour battery. That’s smaller than what you’ll find in many thin-and-light machines. It’s simply overwhelmed by the power-hungry hardware.

Software

Acer ships the Nitro 5 with a slim array of bloatware. This includes Norton Security Ultra plus a variety of pre-installed apps like ExpressVPN and Forge of Empires. Though slightly annoying, the bloatware is easy to ignore or uninstall as desired. A software command center called NitroSense is used to control fan speed, keyboard backlighting, and audio features. It looks inoffensive and worked well in my time with the laptop.

Conclusion

The Acer Nitro 5 is a good value for gamers looking to maximum game performance on a slim budget. Nvidia’s RTX 3060 is given the space and power it needs to deliver strong results. For many, this alone will be enough to make the Nitro 5 a contender. However, a number of flaws hold the Nitro 5 back from its full potential.

The display isn’t great, the battery is too small, and the Core i5-12500H processor is only at its best in heavily multithreaded workloads. This narrows the Nitro 5’s FOCUS. It’s excellent for gaming, but students and content creators seeking a versatile budget powerhouse will need to keep looking.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Big screen backed by solid budget gaming performance

The 17.3-inch Acer Nitro 5 provides ample performance and screen real estate for the money if you are willing to make do with a clunky, plastic chassis.

If you have shopped for a budget gaming laptop, then you are likely familiar with Acer’s Nitro 5. Most Nitro 5 units are based on a 15.6-inch display, but this Nitro 5 AN5174-2 model bumps out the screen to an expansive 17.3 inches. It will come as no surprise when I tell you that this larger version is heftier and bulkier than the already hefty and bulky 15-inch size. And while the panel may be larger, it certainly isn’t any brighter than the dim display we’ve experienced on the smaller model.

If getting the most bang for your 3D-pixel-pushing buck, however, is more important than obtaining a sleek design with a bright display, this Nitro 5 AN512 unit delivers competitive performance for a great price. For a reasonable 1,199.99, our test system services up an octa-core Ryzen 7 CPU from AMD’s latest 6000 series and a midrange GeForce RTX 3060 GPU. This combination teams up to produce framerates usually found on costlier systems.

Acer Nitro 5 specifications and features

Our test model (AN517-42-R85S) is based on the AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU and GeForce RTX 3060 graphics. It’s on sale at MicroCenter for 1,199.99, which is 330 less than its regular price of 1,529.99. Here’s the longer spec list:

  • CPU: Octa-core AMD Ryzen 7 6800H
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Display: 17.3-inch, 1920×1080, 144Hz IPS LCD
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI 2.1, ethernet, combo audio jack.
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Biometrics: None
  • Battery capacity: 96 Watt-hours
  • Dimensions: 15.77 x 11.59 x 1.1 inches
  • Measured weight: 6.6 pounds (laptop), 1.67 pounds (AC adapter)
  • Price: 1,199.99

Acer sells a number of 17.3-inch Nitro 5 AN517-42 models with the Ryzen 7 6800H CPU that range in price from 1,319.99 to 2,199.99. All are based on the Ryzen 6800H CPU and graphics options range from the RTX 3050 Ti to the RTX 3070. Two resolutions are offered for the 17.3-inch display, either 1920×1080 or 2560×1440.

Big and bulky, but quiet

The Nitro 5 AN517 is a big honkin’ laptop. It’s nearly 16 inches wide, more than 11 inches deep, over an inch thick and tips the scales at 6.75 pounds. And its huge, 280-watt power brick adds another 1.67 pounds to the total carrying weight. This is not a laptop for daily or even frequent travel.

The extra-large Nitro 5 follows the same script as the more common 15-inch models. Black molded plastic rules the day. In addition to the usual red accents that the Nitro 5 has been rocking for some time now, this model has some faint blue accents on the lid along with the subtle red accents. Open the laptop up and it’s an all-matte-black affair: black-matte display bezels, black-matte keyboard deck, and matte-black keys. Breaking up the monochrome matte-black look are the sides of the keys, which are white. That lends a bit of a contrast and visual interest to the overall look of the laptop.

In addition to the sides of the keys, nine keys feature a white border on the top surface of the keycap. Eight of these keys are known to gamers: the four arrow keys and the WASD keys. The ninth key to get the white-border treatment is the “N” key above the numpad. It launches Acer’s NitroSense utility where you can adjust the laptop’s power mode and speed of the cooling fans. You can also customize the RGB keyboard backlighting across four zones. Pricier gaming laptops offer per-key lighting, but the four-zone keyboard lighting still allows for enough options to jazz up the look of the Nitro 5.

The keys themselves offer a soft, quiet feel but they do wobble a bit if you hit them off-center. I wish the keys were a bit firmer and less mushy for a faster response. I also wish the touchpad were bigger. It looks comically small on the huge expanse that is the laptop’s wrist rest. Although undersized, the touchpad felt accurate with a firm, snappy click response.

One benefit of a larger, bulkier chassis is the laptop’s cooling fans are leaned on less to keep thermals in check than they would be on a more compact enclosure. The Nitro 5 AN517’s fans kick in during games and other intensive graphics tasks and can clearly be heard, but they operate at a whisper during general Windows use.

Dim display, lousy speakers

The Nitro 5 AN517 is based on a roomy, 17.3-inch 16:9 display. It’s available in either Full HD (1920×1080) or QHD (2560×1440) resolution. Ours features the former, which suits the RTX 3060 GPU that is best for 1080p gaming. While you are unlikely to play games at a higher resolution with the midrange RTX 3060, the 1440p panel would make the laptop more versatile as the higher resolution creates a finer image for more detailed media editing and a larger workspace for juggling multiple Windows when using the laptop for things other than gaming.

The 1080p is sufficient, however, for this size of panel, leaving the lackluster brightness as the display’s biggest flaw. It’s a rather dim display with dull colors that is best suited for gaming in a basement or other dark environment. In my office that receives some natural light, I had the display brightness set to its max at all times and often tapped the brightness-up button in a feeble attempt to increase it further.

While many laptops have made the move to a 1080p webcam that results in clearly superior video conferencing, the Nitro 5 is stuck in the past with a mediocre-at-best 720p camera. It produces a grainy image with poor balance. Details are quickly lost in the brightest and darkest parts of the image. The camera that you will not want to use with any great frequency also lacks a privacy cover, which would protect you from prying eyes during the long stretches when it’s not in use.

Despite having room to outfit the system with four speakers, the Nitro 5 serves up only a pair of substandard stereo speakers. Without subwoofers to round out the sound, the audio output is decidedly subpar. Bass was all but nonexistent and the mids and high tones sounded muddied. Gamers, keep your headphones within reach.

The port selection is heavy on USB Type-A ports and light on the Type-C variety, but at minimum it offers at least one of each type. There is a pair of USB-A ports on the right side and another on the left. Flanking the USB-A port on the left side is a headphone/mic jack and an Ethernet port.

Where might the USB-C port be, you ask? Why, it’s on the back edge next to an HDMI port and the power connector. The USB-C port, however, does not include Thunderbolt support.

The laptop’s 1TB SSD provides ample room to store your favorite games locally, and there’s a free M.2 slot should you want to expand your local storage with a second SSD. The system also features two DIMM slots, both of which are filled with 8GB sticks on our test system.

Performance

To put the Nitro 5 AN517’s performance into perspective, we pitted it against other gaming laptops with midrange RTX graphics, all of which feature Intel CPUs. The Acer Predator Triton 300 SE, Dell XPS 17 9720, and HP Victus 16 feature RTX 3060 graphics. Just below in the RTX pecking order is the RTX 3050 Ti-based MSI Katana GF76 while the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is one notch above with RTX 3070.

Before we get to the good stuff, we first run PCMark 10, which measures performance on everyday computing work including office productivity tasks, web browsing, and video chats. The Nitro 5 was unable to keep pace with its Intel competition, all of which crested the 7,000 mark. That said, all of the systems here — the Nitro 5 included — are overqualified for general Windows use. Anecdotally, the Nitro 5 felt peppy during a variety of multitasking scenarios with dozens and dozens of open Chrome tabs.

Our HandBrake benchmark tests how a laptop is able to handle crushing CPU loads over a lengthy period—in this case, transcoding a 30GB MKV file to a format suitable for Android tablets using HandBrake, the free video encoding utility. The Nitro 5 did better on HandBrake than PCMark, finishing in the middle of the pack and edging the Dell XPS 17, which features Intel’s high-powered Core i7-12700H and the same RTX 3060 GPU.

Next up is Cinebench, another CPU-intensive test but one that renders a complex 2D scene over a short period of time. The Nitro 5 was less competitive on Cinebench but did manage to stay out of last place.

Graphics performance

After assessing the machine’s application and multimedia performance, we have arrived at the good stuff — gaming performance. Before we get to the game themselves, we ran 3DMark’s Time Spy and Port Royal tests. The Nitro 5 did well on both tests, finishing first among the RTX 3060 systems and trailing only the RTX 3070-based Lenovo Legion 5 Pro.

Moving on to real-world games, we first run Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1920×1080 resolution set to Very High and in DX11 mode. The Nitro 5 turned in a very playable framerate of 107 fps and was again at the head of the RTX 3060 pack. On the newer Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1920×1080 resolution, the Nitro 5 averaged an impressive 106fps, which was again first among the RTX 3060 laptops. Finally, on the more demanding Metro Exodus at 1920×1080 at the benchmark’s Extreme preset, the Nitro 5 averaged 31fps, which was right in line with the other RTX 3060 laptops and behind the 50 fps of the RTX 3070-based Lenovo Legion 5 Pro.

To test a laptop’s battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 11’s Movies TV app, with the laptop set to Airplane mode and earbuds plugged in. We set the screen brightness at a relatively bright 250 nits to 260 nits, which is a good brightness for watching a movie in an office with the lights on. The Nitro 5’s huge 96 watt-hour battery lasted 8 hours and change on our battery rundown test, an impressive result for such a large-screened laptop.

Capable budget gamer

As you have just read (unless you skipped to the end), the Acer Nitro 5 AN517 is not without its faults. But every budget laptop makes a few missteps and none of our issues with this 17.3-inch Nitro 5 are deal breakers. Sure, the plastic chassis is clunky, the display isn’t the brightest, the keyboard is only so-so, the touchpad is tiny, and the webcam is terrible. These design drawbacks are what you must tolerate for the bang that this Nitro 5 provides for your gaming buck. At its core, the Nitro 5’s CPU-GPU pairing of the Ryzen 7 6800H and RTX 3060 graphics allow it to hang with pricier gaming laptops. For budget-conscious buyers, this 1,200 Nitro 5 configuration delivers strong 3D performance for the price while also providing a roomy display, quiet operation, and adequate battery life.

Acer Nitro 5 Review: Pushing the Boundaries of Budget Gaming

With the right config, the Acer Nitro 5 line satisfies as a budget gaming workhorse.

Dan Ackerman leads CNET’s coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he’s also a regular TV talking head and the author of “The Tetris Effect” (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. “Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth. the story shines.”.- The New York Times

Expertise I’ve been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook. ever. Credentials Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings

Everything is more expensive these days, that’s a given. With inflation, shipping congestion, chip shortages and whatever else is happening in the world, you can expect to pay more for things, including gaming laptops.

My idea of a budget gaming laptop used to be 1,000 or less. Right now, I’ve reassessed and around 1,200 seems like the right cutoff between budget and midrange. Acer’s Nitro line of gaming laptops used to start at around 800, but the least-expensive current model is 999, and with a 12th-gen Intel processor, the entry level price goes up to 1,049. The specific Acer Nitro 5 I’ve tested here is 1,299, which really pushes the limit of what you’d call a budget gaming laptop. But even at that price, it’s a good combination of specs and design, with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an Nvidia 3060 GPU.

Acer Nitro 5

Like

  • Generous RAM/SSD, even in least-expensive config
  • Nitro Sense control software is easy to use
  • Big, game-friendly keys

Don’t Like

There are a lot of different Nitro 5 configurations floating around, and this one has an Intel 12th-gen Core i5-12500H CPU. The least-expensive model in the current lineup is 999 and has an 11th-gen Core i5 and an Nvidia 3050 GPU, but the same 16GB RAM’512GB storage, so I wouldn’t exclude it from your consideration.

The display is a standard 15.6-inch 1,920×1,090 one, but with a decent 144Hz refresh rate (reflecting the number of times per second the screen image can refresh) and a matte screen. That nonglossy top surface could be why the display felt muted, but I’m a fan of matte displays in general. I was slightly annoyed, however, that the “144Hz” sticker right below the screen was crooked. It shows a lack of quality control at some point in the manufacturing process.

In the thick of it

I’ve always liked the Nitro line because it works as a basic gaming laptop and as an everyday 15-inch productivity laptop. Acer makes more specialized gaming systems, like the Predator-branded Helios and Triton lines, but the Nitro leans more toward the mainstream side. I could compare it to Dells’ G-series mainstream gaming laptops versus the specialized Alienware Dell also offers.

I recently used this side by side with a Dell G15 featuring similar specs, and frankly it’s a bit of a tossup between them. The Dell has a more mainstream look and would fit into an office or airport lounge better. But I liked the chunkier, deeper keyboard keys on the Nitro 5 and its bold, bright backlighting that makes the keys stand out.

Still, it’s 5.1 pounds and just over 1 inch thick. I lugged it back and forth from the office to home several times, power brick included, and that was a pain.

It’s also got more USB-A ports than I’ve seen in a while (one on the left side, two on the right), but only one USB-C/Thunderbolt 4. That’s on the rear edge, along with an HDMI output and a port for the barrel connecter power cable. Gaming laptops are among the last laptops without a more universal USB-C-based power connection, because of the power needed to run the discrete GPU.

A surplus of software

I did notice a return of the excessive bloatware that used to be much more common in budget laptops: Dropbox, Planet9 (a gaming social media network), ExpressVPN and a few others have adware or offerware preloaded on the Nitro 5. Usually, PC makers earn money for including these links and apps. Are those savings passed on to you in the price of the system? It’s hard to say. The silver lining is that with a big 512GB SSD, it doesn’t eat a lot of storage space.

What I do like, however, is Acer’s Nitro Sense software for controlling the system’s gaming features. Unlike some other PC maker settings software on gaming laptops, it’s simple enough for casual users to understand and doesn’t clutter up the interface with more than basic fan speed controls, temperature monitoring, keyboard backlight settings and a few other things. While the fans could crank up sometimes, the system never got too hot, and it’s nice to have easy-to-access controls.

Standard behavior

This is a mainstream-priced gaming laptop with a current-gen Core i5 CPU and an Nvidia 3060 GPU. That means you pretty much have a good idea of how it’s going to perform before even opening the box. In some tests, the system suffers compared to other Nvidia 3060 laptops we’ve tested by going with an i5 vs. an i7, but every game benchmark we ran (like Guardians of the Galaxy at high detail settings) was better than 60 frames per second.

I had been using the Valve Steam Deck as my main gaming PC recently, so it was a nice change of pace to switch back to a big screen and actual keyboard and mouse setup. New games, like my current guilty pleasure, Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate. Daemonhunters, ran great, and playing near a window made me especially appreciative of the glare-free matte screen.

But battery life was on the short side, at 4:37. Note: that’s just for streaming video, not even playing a game. Many of the gaming laptops we’ve tested recently, like the similar HP Victus. ran for longer. As a gaming laptop, that’s not a deal-breaker, but it keeps the Nitro 5 from being as useful a crossover productivity laptop as it could be.

Author

Goltilar

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