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Acer Nitro 5 review: It's what's inside that counts

Good performance and a low price will help you ignore its few flaws.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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4 min read

Just a couple years ago, spending less than $800 on a gaming laptop didn't get you very far. Sure, you could get discrete graphics, but the laptop would still be underpowered to the point where you couldn't really enjoy playing the latest games. Acer's Nitro 5 is proof those days are in the rear-view. 

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7.9

Acer Nitro 5

The Good

The Acer Nitro 5 is an understated gaming laptop that's well configured for the money. You can easily add more memory and storage. It has an ample port assortment, including USB 3.1 Type-C.

The Bad

The laptop's build quality isn't the best, and some might be disappointed by the display's color performance.

The Bottom Line

Pure and simple, the Acer Nitro 5 is just a good deal with excellent mobile gaming performance for its wallet-friendly price.

Although you can certainly do better by spending more money, the Nitro 5 can be had at wallet-friendly prices, currently as low as $600, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1050Ti graphics that are strong enough to play current games at medium to high detail settings at the laptop display's full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. That's a lot of performance for not much money (as gaming laptops go, anyway) and while there are a few cut corners, you still come out ahead overall. 

The 15.6-inch laptop debuted a little more than a year ago, but Acer continues to keep it fresh with new processors from Intel and AMD. You can still find configurations with Intel's seventh-generation processors inside, but you can also find it with an eighth-gen Intel Core i5-8300H or AMD FX-9830P processors starting at $750 in the US or £900 in the UK. It's available in Australia with the new Intel hexacore Core i7-8750H processor starting at $2,000 (though that CPU pushes it out of "bargain" territory). 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53-55G9)

Price as reviewed $680
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display
CPU 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H
Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit)

The Nitro 5's looks are a bit understated for a gaming laptop -- there are no big emblems or multicolor LEDs -- but its stylized cooling vents and red glowing keyboard are just enough that it won't be confused for a stodgy business laptop. The keyboard is spacious with a satisfying feel and, along with the single-brightness red backlight, the WASD keys are boldly outlined in red. There's a small number pad, too.

The touchpad gets the job done: It's smooth, responsive and supports all of the multitouch Windows 10 gestures. However, it's a clickpad, so there are no discrete left and right mouse buttons and there's a lot of body flex in and around it, which makes the whole thing feel shoddy. The same goes for the display casing and hinge design, which is just a little too easy to twist, bend and flex. It's nothing that affects performance, but if you tend to be careless with your electronics, it's something to keep in mind. 

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Plentiful ports for turning this laptop into a desktop replacement. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

At 1.1-inch thick (28 mm) and about 6 pounds (2.7 kg), the Nitro 5 is not exactly travel-friendly, but at least you have the option. If you're considering this as a desktop replacement, you should be pretty happy about its port assortment.

  • USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen 1)
  • Two USB 2.0 Type-A 
  • One USB 3.0 Type-A
  • SD card slot
  • HDMI out
  • Headphone/mic combo jack
  • Gigabit Ethernet 

There is no built-in optical drive, but with the connection options here, you can easily hook up an external one along with a keyboard, mouse and external display. The Acer's full HD IPS-type panel offers good off-angle viewing, though its colors look somewhat muted. Given the system's price, it's forgivable, but keep in mind, it's the same display whether you're paying for $600 or $800 or more depending on the components inside.  

The speakers in the Nitro 5 are particularly good. While you'll have a better experience with external speakers or a good headset, these don't sound thin or tinny. Gunshots and explosions sound full with a fair amount of bass and dialogue is clear. 

Acer's Nitro 5 is an understated gaming laptop for less

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Choose your weapons

Acer offers multiple configurations of the Nitro 5, with list prices ranging from $750 to $1,100. Frankly, the configuration I tested is the best you'll get for the money, which lists for $800, but at the time of this review was $680. The more expensive configurations drop back to a seventh-gen Intel i7-7700HQ processor and adds more memory and/or storage. Regardless of the Intel processor used, you'll find a choice of either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1050Ti graphics chip. Acer also sells a $750 AMD config with Radeon RX 550 graphics.

There aren't vast differences in the performance of the 1050 and 1050Ti, but the latter will give you a bit more headroom for future games. As for the memory and storage, you have access to both through the bottom. You can easily add a 2.5-inch hard drive or another stick of RAM (the former seems immediately necessarily so you have room on the SSD for games). The M.2 SSD is accessible, too, you just have to take the entire bottom cover off to get to it. 

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Both memory and storage can be added through bottom panels. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Set to its full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and settings on high, older games like BioShock Infinite and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ran smoothly, though the latter was predictably more enjoyable dialed back to medium. The same goes for Battlefield 1, which taxed the system and its cooling set to high. The component combo is enough to run an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive and any of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Sessions of PUBG and Fortnite were fast and fun, too, so if you're just looking for a cheapish PC to do battle on breaks in your work or school day, this Acer may be perfect. 

You can't stray too far from an outlet, though. In our streaming video test it ran for 5 hours and 33 minutes, which is pretty good for a gaming laptop, but not great for general use. And actually gaming on the battery alone won't get you beyond the 2-hour mark.  

No-frills gaming thrills

The Acer Nitro 5 should be a delight to bargain hunters. With lots of connection options, you can easily hook up a keyboard, mouse, speakers and an external display and use it as a desktop, but still have good mobile gaming performance when you want it. Its fit and finish might not be top notch, but not everyone cares about that, especially if it's destined to spend 90 percent of the time sitting on a desk in your home or office. It's just a good deal, pure and simple. 

Video playback battery drain test (streaming minutes)

Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 406HP Spectre x360 Convertible 374Acer Nitro 5 333Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 300Digital Storm Equinox 247
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

Geekbench 4 (Multi-Core)

Digital Storm Equinox 19725HP Spectre x360 Convertible 15425Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 14810Acer Nitro 5 14220Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 11548
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

Cinebench R15 CPU (multi core)

Digital Storm Equinox 1021Acer Nitro 5 851HP Spectre x360 Convertible 783Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 691Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 599
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Digital Storm Equinox 3413Acer Nitro 5 1873Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 1627HP Spectre x360 Convertible 1614Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 758
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite (fps)

Digital Storm Equinox 171.67Acer Nitro 5 98.51Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 82.92Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 76.36HP Spectre x360 Convertible 76.28
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Digital Storm Equinox 72.4Acer Nitro 5 37.7Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 31.2Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 28.3HP Spectre x360 Convertible 28.2
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance.

System configurations

Acer Nitro 5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti Graphics; 256GB SSD
Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Graphics; 1TB HDD
Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 Convertible Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD
Digital Storm Equinox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 500GB SSD
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7.9

Acer Nitro 5

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 6