Acer Nitro 5 review: “A wallet-friendly portable powerhouse”

The Acer Nitro 5 laptop has seen many iterations and featured in many best gaming laptop lists, but this recent addition is certainly a solid entry. ‘Why?’, you ask? Well, it’s packing a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, perhaps the best budget graphics card on the market right now, and with a price point of $1,129, it’s certainly one of the more budget-conscious gaming laptops available at the moment.

A shiny new fifth-generation Ryzen processor and a gentle update to the external chassis makes for an appealing package on paper. Looking at the spec sheet, everything else seems to be pretty much what we’d expect from a 1080p RTX 3060 laptop. So how does the new Nitro 5 measure up? Let’s take a look.

Design

This Nitro 5’s physical design doesn’t differ much from older models; the casing is all-black plastic, which picks up fingerprint marks very easily but feels quite resilient considering that this laptop isn’t too heavy at 2.3kg. The power and charge LEDs are set into the hinge, making them easily visible whether the laptop is open or closed. The dual-fan cooling system draws in air at the sides and vents it underneath, meaning that you won’t have hot air blowing on your hand if you’re using a mouse.

Opening up the lid, we see a little more screen bezel than we’d ideally like, but not so much that it ruins the overall aesthetic of the laptop. There’s a nice big trackpad aligned with the spacebar, and the membrane keys are printed in white with thick white borders around those all-important ‘gamer keys’ (that’s WASD, the arrow keys, and the dedicated button for NitroSense, Acer’s system monitoring and tweaking software).

The keyboard on our Nitro 5 has four-zone RGB backlighting, which can be customized but naturally doesn’t allow for per-key addressing. It looks good, though; the LEDs shine brightly through the keycaps and can set to a number of dynamic presets using NitroSense. Some cheaper models of the Nitro 5 come with all-red backlighting rather than addressable RGB.

Acer Nitro 5

(Image credit: Future/Christian Guyton)

Features

Specs

Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
Memory:
16GB DDR4 RAM @ 3,200MHz
Display: 17.3-inch, 144Hz, 4ms
Resolution:
1920 x 1080
Storage:
512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Ports:
1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack, 1x HDMI, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x RJ45
Connectivity: Killer WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2
OS:
Windows 11 Home 64-bit
Weight:
2.3kg

That RTX 3060 GPU is the star of the show here given its place as a great budget entry into the best graphics card market, but it would be wise not to discount the Ryzen 5800H that serves as the central processing unit of this gaming laptop. An octa-core chip with a max boost clock of 4.4GHz, it promises solid performance in CPU-bound tasks without too much waste heat generation.

Outside the CPU and GPU, we’ve got a respectable 512GB of SSD storage (around 485GB in practice with Windows 11 installed by default) and 16GB of high-speed DDR4 RAM. The Nitro 5 has a decent selection of ports too, with three USB-A and one USB-C joined by an ethernet port and HDMI output for connecting a second display. The charge port is located on the rear edge, to keep your desk free of cable clutter.

Speaking of displays, the screen is actually where the Nitro 5 falls down for us. It’s not terrible by any means; a pretty run-of-the-mill 1080p LCD panel with a 144Hz refresh rate – much needed for esports titles, where framerate means everything – but the color reproduction is lackluster and the maximum brightness isn’t great either, making some games look a bit washed out. Realistic shooters like The Division 2 and Warzone look fine, but the vibrant color palettes of Overwatch and Valorant definitely look better on other laptops. It’s not ruinous, but we expected better.

Acer Nitro 5

(Image credit: Future/Christian Guyton)

The keyboard feels pleasant to type on and is suitably responsive for gaming, with minimal flexing in the frame on hard keypresses. There’s a decent amount of travel to these keys and accidental presses were at a minimum during our gaming tests. The trackpad is decent too, with a firm click and smooth surface. The speakers, while perfectly adequate, are not particularly impressive so we’d recommend using a PC headset for gaming.

As mentioned earlier, the Nitro 5 comes pre-loaded with NitroSense, which is less bloatware-y than many manufacturers’ proprietary software. It lets you keep an eye on your component temperatures and adjust fan speed profiles, as well as tweak the RGB lighting and audio presets. It’s simple but easy to use, so it gets a thumbs up from us.

Performance

Benchmarks

We put the Acer Nitro 5 to the test on some well-known benchmarking exercises, and here’s how it matched up: 

Firestrike: 17,524
TimeSpy: 7,456
Cinebench CPU: Multi (Index): 2,017
CrystalDiskMark: 2369MB/s read; 652MB/s write
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Ultra at 1080p: 77fps; High at 1080p: 86fps
Metro Exodus: Ultra (RTX) at 1080p: 39fps: High at 1080p: 79fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Highest at 1080p: 107fps: High at 1080p: 118fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms: Ultra at 1080p: 58fps; High at 1080p: 81fps

When it comes to 1080p gaming, this Nitro 5 does a solid job. All but the most demanding games should run comfortably above 60fps at maximum graphical settings, and those that don’t can still achieve it with only a minor reduction in graphics. The RTX 3060 is also ray-tracing-enabled, though great performance with ray-tracing turned on is still largely the domain of the RTX 3070 laptops and RTX 3080 laptops in the portable world, truth be told. Notably, the 3060 demonstrated extremely consistent framerates in all of our game benchmarks, with a bit less performance variation than we’ve seen in other GPUs.

The Ryzen CPU is no slouch either, with solid performance in both single-core and multi-core workloads. CPU-bound games such as real-time strategy titles run reasonably well (see our Total War: Three Kingdoms benchmark scores) and the Nitro 5 exceeded our expectations in the Cinebench test. Startup times are incredibly quick, and we didn’t experience any lag in Windows 11 even with two dozen Chrome tabs open.

Unfortunately, SSD performance wasn’t quite up to snuff. This is a PCIe 3.0 system, so we weren’t expecting staggeringly fast drive speeds, but the sequential write speed of this SSD was surprisingly slow, only just scraping above 0.6GB/s. This almost SATA-level of transfer speeds is thankfully offset by a relatively quick read speed just shy of 2.5GB/s and theoretically shouldn’t cause any issues loading games. It’s something to be mindful of if you’re planning on routinely moving large files around on your laptop or between external drives.

The battery life of the Nitro 5 is also bordering on dismal, with the ‘balanced’ power preset offering less than two hours of gaming on battery power. In Acer’s defence, gaming laptops are hardly renowned for their incredible battery life, but the Nitro 5’s does feel particularly unimpressive. If you’re only planning on using this laptop plugged in – or you can tolerate the reduced performance of eco-mode when on the go – it shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Acer Nitro 5

(Image credit: Future/Christian Guyton)

Should you buy the Acer Nitro 5?

As a starter gaming laptop, or cheap gaming laptop, the Nitro 5 is a solid choice. Looking at the performance of our review unit, we’d probably advise against getting one of the cheaper RTX 3050-equipped models, but any version with a 3060 or better should be quite future-proofed for the next few years of game releases.

There are a few pitfalls here that we’d have liked Acer to avoid, but nothing that ultimately destroys the viability of the Nitro 5 as a desktop-replacement gaming machine. It’s also a reasonable choice for productivity, provided you’re not aiming to edit photos or video on that screen, which combined with the fair asking price makes it a good pick for university students or working gamers on a budget. All in all, one of the better iterations of Acer’s default gaming laptop, and a wallet-friendly portable powerhouse.

We’re also rounding up all the best Razer laptops and best Alienware gaming laptops on the market right now if you’re looking for more portable powerhouses.

Or if you prefer your gaming machines static, then check out the best gaming PC guide. And to ensure your setup is as comfortable as possible, check out the best gaming desks and the best gaming chairs too. 

The Verdict

3.5

3.5 out of 5

Acer Nitro 5

An affordable gaming laptop that somewhat fails to excite but ultimately gets the job done well.

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