AAA gaming-ready hardware
Respectable battery life
Heavy and thick
Small keys and trackpad
For years, the Acer Nitro 5 has been the go-to laptop for gamers on a budget. It sings at 1080p, rarely dipping below 60 frames per second even on many AAA games. However, the Nitro 5 makes some sacrifices to keep the cost under $700, ranging from a poor screen to a mediocre keyboard.
There are a few budget gaming laptops with 120Hz displays and beefier hardware, but they will cost you hundreds of dollars more than the Nitro 5. If you want better ergonomics and a better display, you will again have to look at pricier gaming laptops that have the budget to play with these features. However, the Nitro 5 is still a major step above laptops without discrete GPUs, making it well worth consideration.
About the Acer Nitro 5 laptop
Here are the laptop's base specs:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5-4600H (Intel Core i5 also available)
- Memory: 8GB RAM
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- Display: 15.6-inch 1080p resolution at 60Hz
- Ports: 1x Ethernet port, 3x USB-A 3 ports, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x HDMI port, 1x USB-C port
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 (GTX 1650Ti and RTX 2060 also available)
- Wireless: WiFi 6, Bluetooth
- Battery: 57 Whr battery
- Charger: 135W, 19.5V at 6.92A
- Weight: 5.29 lb
- Dimensions: 14.3 x 10 x 0.94 inches
- Warranty: One-year limited warranty
When it comes to budget gaming laptops, there are a lot of factors to consider: Price, display quality, battery life, ergonomics, cooling, and performance are in a constant battle. The Acer Nitro 5 chooses to emphasize price and performance, and settles for decent battery life and cooling. Pricier competitors, like the Lenovo Legion 5 or the Asus TUF A15, may offer slightly smaller bodies or better keyboards and displays, but the Nitro 5 gets the job done.
For a price starting at $669, Acer's latest Nitro 5 is one stout machine. The base model brings a current-gen AMD Ryzen 5 processor, a slightly older (but still capable) Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Some may feel constrained by the RAM and storage, but the graphics card will only be an issue for those looking for ray-tracing or 4K gaming. Upgrading to a model with a GTX 1660Ti or RTX 2060 will cost you $300 or more, and the only way to get more RAM or storage space is to get a model with a pricier graphics card or processor.
What we Like
It can hold high frame rates in a bunch of AAA games
While there are a lot of traditional and ultrabook laptops with optional discrete graphics, they’re rarely optimized for gaming. The Acer Nitro 5 is built for gaming first and foremost, with everyday laptop tasks designed around that principle. Its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card is one of Nvidia’s cheapest consumer cards available, but the Nitro 5 pushes it like a much more expensive card.
We ran a lot of different games on the Acer 5, from esports to AAA cinematic adventures. No matter the graphics, the laptop pushed out plenty of frames per second. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a hefty AAA game, the Nitro 5 ran at an average of 45 frames per second on the Ultra graphics preset and 1080p resolution. For a picturesque exploration, that’s not bad.
If you turn the graphics down to Medium, you’ll see 60 frames per second without much visual fidelity loss. Poorly optimized games, like Cyberpunk 2077 or The Medium may have trouble reaching 60 frames per second on the Nitro 5 for now, but they should be able to reach 30 frames per second until patches purge inefficient code.
If you’re more concerned about esports and other fast-paced games, the Nitro 5 is fantastic. The laptop makes full use of its 60Hz panel in games like Overwatch and Genshin Impact, rarely dropping below 60 frames per second even on the highest graphics settings. Fortnite, CS:GO, World of Warcraft, and Valorant should all play without a hitch, with a visual experience that far exceeds anything you’d get out of a laptop with integrated graphics.
It can handle many tasks at once
When you’re not channeling all the juice to graphical glory, you’ll find the Nitro 5’s AMD Ryzen 5 processor is a beast when it comes to central processing. Despite its low power consumption, the Ryzen 5 can effortlessly handle just about any task you throw at it, from a 40-tab Chrome page to a 30-layer Photoshop file. Lag is not in the Nitro 5’s vocabulary. Even on startup, the laptop takes at most fifteen seconds before it’s ready to go.
This kind of CPU performance isn’t unique to the sub-thousand laptop market, but there aren’t a lot of laptops with such a powerful CPU/GPU combo. Some laptops, like the HP Pavilion gaming edition or the Asus TUF A15, encroach on the Nitro 5’s budget gaming crown, but ultimately their higher price tags come from upgraded design features, not performance improvements.
The Nitro 5 gives you options
Unlike so many modern laptops, you won't be starved for ports with the Nitro 5. This laptop packs 3 USB slots, a USB-C slot, an HDMI port, and an ethernet port so you can hook up whichever peripherals you need. If you’re not much of an ethernet or wires person, the Nitro 5’s WiFi 6 and Bluetooth make sure that connections are blazing fast. Its 720p webcam is decent, though you’ll want to use your own mic if you can.
Acer’s built-in software, NitroSense, lets you fidget with your processors’ fan speeds to find a balance between quiet fans and cool processors. You can monitor and adjust your CPU and GPU fan speeds, while also tracking your CPU and GPU temperatures and load over time, too. While NitroSense may not offer the raw data and customizability of some other software, like AMD Ryzen Master or Intel Extreme Tooling Utility, it’s incredibly easy to use.
The battery life can get you through
Should you find yourself far away from a power outlet, you can use the Nitro 5 for up to five hours while surfing the web. It’s less than half the time you’ll get from an ultrabook like the M1 MacBook Air, but it’s in line with pricier gaming laptops, like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 or even the $3,000 Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
What we Don’t Like
The design is clunky and basic
As processors have become more efficient, many gaming laptops have slimmed down since their processors don’t need as much room to breathe to stay under critical temperatures. However, the budget-conscious Nitro 5 keeps it simple and features a thick, airy chassis that is overkill for its components. At 0.9 inches thick and 5.5 pounds, it is one of the clunkiest gaming laptops we have tested in a while. This is not a laptop meant for daily travel.
The Nitro 5’s red-on-black color scheme screams gamer, a trend many other gaming laptops are moving away from. I think it can be a fun color scheme, but the plasticky red backplate and keyboard betray the laptop’s price tag.
The built-in speakers sound bad
A lot of us use headphones when we want to focus on a game or movie, but it’s nice to take them off and enjoy speakers on occasion. When the Nitro 5 powers up a game, its fans whir too loudly to hear its quiet speakers, which barely make it over a normal conversation-level of sound.
Not that you’d want to hear these speakers. They’re exceptionally tinny, killing any mids and muddling any bass that could have lived in the audio. Beautiful soundtracks turn into soulless mush, all-but necessitating an internal speaker for such applications. Even a cheap Bluetooth speaker will be a massive upgrade over the laptop’s out-of-box sound.
The display is dim and muddy
Cheap gaming laptops are stereotyped to have bad battery life and worse displays. Unfortunately, the Nitro 5 follows the latter trend, with a matte display that reproduces muddy colors at low brightness. Contrast isn’t great either, with the blacks appearing lit when the display is at max brightness. On the other hand, the display is easy on the eyes, allowing you to game for hours on end. If you find the Nitro 5’s screen isn’t accurate enough to meet your needs, you’ll either have to give up the graphics card or spend more money to get a better screen on a competing laptop.
At home, of course, you can also utilize the Nitro 5's handy HDMI port to plug into a purpose-built gaming monitor.
The keyboard and trackpad are only mediocre
Neither the trackpad or keyboard are bad enough to be considered dealbreakers, but they’re not great. If you have large hands, you may feel constricted on the Nitro 5’s small trackpad and smaller keys. The red backlighting makes it difficult to read the keys, and touch typists may struggle to adjust to the awkwardly spaced keyboard. If the laptop got rid of its numpad and extended its trackpad by an inch, it would make a huge difference.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. If you’ve been looking for a gaming laptop that won’t bankrupt you, the Acer Nitro 5 gets the job done.
It can be extremely difficult to find a decent laptop under a grand that can also handle the load of a AAA game. The Acer Nitro 5 will fill that niche for many people, offering a respectably powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card and AMD Ryzen 5-4600U processor for well under $800. If you need to use it away from an outlet, you’ll get five hours of power surfing the web. It is one of the cheapest gaming laptops on the market at its $669.99 base price, but its performance trades blows with laptops that are two, three, even four hundred dollars more expensive.
While the Nitro 5’s chassis does a good job of keeping the insides cool, it’s not for everyone. This 15.6-inch laptop is an inch thick and weighs 5.5 pounds, so it’s hard to lug around if you’re commuting often. While its display is fine for gaming, the poor color accuracy will hamper any visual work you may aspire to do. The small keys on the keyboard and the small trackpad may be difficult to get used to for some, but it offers reliable tracking and actuation that’s a cut above other budget laptops.
You won’t find a cheaper gaming laptop with the Nitro 5’s raw performance, but other affordable gaming laptops will give you a different balance of price, performance, and features to consider. The base Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 offers a great screen, svelte form factor, and a great ergonomic experience while still packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card and a more powerful AMD Ryzen 7-4800HS processor for just over a thousand dollars. Meanwhile, the $700 HP Pavilion gaming laptop offers almost the same specs as the Nitro 5, so it should theoretically perform about as well as the Nitro 5, but we haven't had the chance to test it yet.
If you’re sick of the horrible framerates often seen on laptops with integrated graphics, the Acer Nitro 5 will breathe new life into your gaming sessions. It’s a clear step above ultrabooks in this regard, but you will have to make some sacrifices for this powerful and affordable laptop. If you don’t mind a cumbersome body or a mediocre display, you and your wallet will be very happy with the under-$700 Acer Nitro 5.
Meet the tester
Emily is a staff writer for Reviewed, mainly focused on reviewing laptops and other consumer tech. During her free time, she lives in Hyrule and draws about her adventures.
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