Good keyboard and trackpad
Short battery life
About the Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
- Memory: 32GB RAM
- Storage: 1TB SSD
- Display: 15.6-inch UHD 2560 x 1440p resolution at 165Hz and 3ms latency
- Ports: 1x Ethernet port, 2x USB-A 3.1 ports, 1x USB-A 2.0 port, 1x USB-C port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack,
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 with 8GB VRAM, capped at 95W
- Wireless: WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
- Battery: 57 Whr Li-Ion battery
- Weight: 5.07 lb
- Dimensions: 14.3 x 10.1 x 0.9 inches
- Warranty: One-year limited warranty
The Acer Nitro 5 is Acer’s budget gaming laptop line, available in configurations starting with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 and an Intel Core i5 up to the model we reviewed. Inside, the Nitro 5 has two M.2 SSD slots (one comes with an SSD pre-installed) and an HDD SATA bay.
What we like
There isn’t anything it can’t do with this much power
With an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card and an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, the Acer Nitro 5 is about as good as it gets for laptop performance. Even the most demanding games, like Cyberpunk 2077, run over 45 frames per second at maxed-out 1080p graphics settings with ray tracing. Whether you need a laptop for the best big-budget cinematic games or strenuous 3D modeling, the Nitro 5 will fit the bill.
The Nitro 5’s top-line CPU, GPU, and 32GB of RAM are excellent for demanding real-world tasks like 3D rendering and film production. When we encoded a 13-minute 4K film to 1080p in Handbrake, it only took six minutes 17 seconds. Meanwhile, rendering a 3D image in Blender took three minutes 26 seconds with the CPU and six minutes 15 seconds with the GPU. Compared similarly configured laptops like the Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition, which has the same CPU and an AMD Radeon 6800M GPU, and the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro, which has a Ryzen 7 CPU and an RTX 3070 GPU, it keeps pace—only a few seconds slower in each Blender test, but up to 60 seconds faster in the Handbrake test.
This laptop's gaming performance is unsurprisingly stellar, too. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a fairly demanding game, runs at 108 fps at 1080p on the highest graphics preset. By comparison, the base Acer Nitro 5, which packs an Nvidia GTX 1650 and AMD Ryzen 5 4600H, runs Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 45 fps.
But compared to some of its competitors, the Nitro 5 is a tad slower. The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro—despite its technically weaker hardware—ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 110 fps; the MSI GE76 Raider, which has an Intel Core i9-11980HK processor and another RTX 3080 graphics card, pushed Shadow of the Tomb Raider to 119 fps. On the other hand, the Nitro 5 runs Control at 108 fps on the 1080p high graphics preset while the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro runs at 86 fps and the Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage runs at 96 fps.
Lower-specced laptops like the Legion 5 Pro have near equivalent performance to this Nitro 5 in most games because Acer implemented a power cap of 95 watts on the GPU. Compared to the full-powered RTX 3080, a lower-powered version needs less cooling and is less taxing on the laptop’s battery, but its performance is slower.
Function before aesthetics
Even though this is the highest-end Nitro 5 available, it looks more like a budget laptop. The design is no-nonsense, with an all-plastic black and red exterior that’s stiff and sturdy. The red accents are glittery yet subtle, and the logo blends in with the lid. It’s not the sleekest laptop design, but it feels like it can withstand any wear and tear for several years.
The Nitro 5 has a bulky chassis due to Acer’s utilitarian approach, but the extra bulk serves a purpose. The chassis stays cool even when running near max load, around 35-37.7 degrees Celsius (95-100 degrees Fahrenheit), which is about skin temperature. The internal fans and heat sinks are also quite big, which somewhat helps keep the noise down. The benefits aren’t huge compared to the clever cooling solutions in thinner gaming laptops, but they work.
Accessing some of the laptop’s internals is really simple, too. If you remove the screwed-on bottom cover on the underside of the laptop, there’s an empty slot for a 2.5-inch HDD, support for a second M.2 SSD, and two RAM modules (they’re not soldered down, but the motherboard can’t handle more than 32GB of RAM anyway). The components are all fairly modular, which makes it easy to upgrade your storage or RAM down the line.
The keyboard and trackpad aren’t half-bad
The Nitro 5’s keyboard doesn’t rival a business-first laptop like the Dell XPS 13’s, but it’s serviceable for regular use. It’s a full-sized keyboard, with keys that are a little mushy but ultimately easy on the fingers thanks to their low actuation force and large size. I quickly became accustomed to the fairly standard keyboard layout, although the NitroSense button near the number pad, which brings up the Acer control panel, threw me off occasionally because I would sometimes accidentally press it.
Meanwhile, the trackpad is large, responsive, and easy to glide on. Browsing the web and writing documents was a breeze. Gesture recognition worked smoothly, as well. It is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but it’s otherwise as good as a trackpad gets.
The display lets you have it all
A lot of gaming laptops make you choose between resolution, refresh rate, and color accuracy on the display. The Nitro 5 strikes in the middle with a crisp 2560 x 1440p QHD high-refresh screen that’s reasonably color accurate and vibrant. While the screen covers the sRGB color gamut, it doesn’t meet the full gamut for HDR viewing.
It’s a little dim at 305 nits, but it otherwise looks great for games, movies, and work. If you’re mostly concerned about the monitor’s gaming aptitude, it delivers a 165Hz refresh rate which makes games look fluid and play smoothly.
With the RTX 3080 graphics card and Ryzen 9 processor, even games like Cyberpunk 2077 can play above 60Hz with ray tracing enabled. If you’re an esports gamer, get ready for 165 fps on maxed-out graphics settings on games like Apex: Legends, Final Fantasy XIV and Fortnite.
What we don’t like
Traveling with it is a hassle
This laptop is hard to fit in a backpack thanks to its enormous 0.94 x 14.3 x 10-inch proportions and 5.1-pound weight, but there are more reasons to keep it at home. It doesn’t have the worst battery life we’ve seen in a gaming laptop, but with barely over four hours of battery life to go on, the Nitro 5 won’t make it through the day if you can’t recharge in the middle. When some gaming laptops get up to nine hours of battery life out of them—like the Asus ROG Strix AMD Advantage—it stings to settle for so little.
Performance is capped
This top-line Nitro 5 is very, very expensive (over $2,000) and quite bulky. Normally, big, powerful, and expensive laptops like this wouldn’t have GPU performance capped, but Acer did just by limiting how much power the GPU gets—which makes our eyes wander elsewhere. There are pros to limiting power consumption, as we mentioned above, but limiting the graphics card’s max power only helps extend the battery life if you’re gaming on the go, which most users won’t, especially with the battery life so short on this particular laptop.
It also helps keep chassis and internal temps down, but the GPU in this Nitro 5 can take a bit more heat and so can the chassis: it barely goes above skin temperature on the outside, and the RTX 3080 maxes out at about 87 degrees Celsius. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to limit the RTX 3080’s power consumption unless an extra 10W of power does indeed raise temperatures outside of the ideal threshold.
No bells or whistles
The Nitro 5 is a budget laptop at heart, and while we liked some aspects of its minimalist design, gaming laptops in this price range often have per-key customizable RGB keyboards, adjustable fan and CPU speeds, high-speed ports like Thunderbolt 4, and all-metal construction. The Nitro 5 has none of that. You get a red-backlit keyboard, a fan speed monitor, and an okay collection of ports (3 USB-A ports, one USB-C port, an ethernet port, and an HDMI 2.1 port). On a laptop this powerful, a Thunderbolt port or a faster USB-C port would have been awesome to have to connect more monitors, external SSD storage, or a docking station.
Meanwhile, the chassis design works but isn’t particularly special. Chunky laptops have fallen out of favor as processors run more efficiently and cooling solutions become more compact, but the Nitro 5 is almost an inch thick and weighs over five pounds. The chunkiness does make it easier to keep the thermals down, but the bezels around the screen are also thick and old-fashioned—almost an inch at the bottom and about a quarter inch on the sides—whereas other gaming laptops in the same class have slimmer, modern bezels.
Also, if you hoped the Nitro 5 would at least make an awesome work-from-home laptop, you will be sorely disappointed with its grainy and poorly-processed 720p webcam.
Should you buy it?
No, you can get another laptop as good for less
If the only thing you care about is getting a laptop with a high-end CPU and GPU, then this Nitro 5 is the cheapest option on the market at $2,299.99. It is a good laptop where it matters: it can run basically anything, its display is fast and crisp, its keyboard is comfortable, and the chassis can withstand a bit of roughhousing. However, there are better value gaming laptops that can perform as or almost as well as this Nitro 5.
The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition, which packs the same Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and an AMD Radeon RX 6800M only costs $1,649. The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro, which has a lower-tier Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics card, costs $1,529.00. They cost over half a grand less, but they trade blows with the Nitro 5 in gaming, 3D rendering, and film encoding—all three performed virtually the same in our benchmarks. As if that weren’t enough, they’re also thinner, come with more premium features (like customizable RGB lighting), and have better battery life.
The Nitro 5 is among the best gaming laptops in terms of raw performance. However, performance isn’t everything, and the Nitro 5 offers neither the best value nor the best features for the money. It’s the cheapest laptop with an RTX 3080, but as we already mentioned there are other gaming laptops that perform as well or slightly better than the Nitro 5 and cost hundreds of dollars less. Some also have other features like fully programmable RGB keyboards, all-metal construction, or a thinner profile. Unless you need a laptop with an RTX 3080 at the cheapest price possible, you have better options than the Acer Nitro 5.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Adrien is a staff writer for Reviewed, mainly focused on reviewing laptops and other consumer tech. During his free time, he's usually wandering around Hyrule.
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