Acer Nitro 5 (2021) full review
The Acer Nitro 5 is the latest addition to the competitive mid-range gaming laptop market, and Acer is always a contender – the firm always builds impressive, effective machines at surprisingly low prices.
The latest Nitro is no different on paper. It combines Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor, and the UK price sits at a surprisingly low £1,149. This is the AN515-45 by model number if it has AMD or AN515-57 if it has Intel.
That’s an impressive specification at a tempting price, but it’s worth giving this laptop a closer look to see if the price has caused any compromise.
Design & Build
If you’re familiar with Acer’s laptops then the Nitro’s design will come as no surprise. The machine has an angled base, jutting lines on the lid and red air vents, so it certainly stands out – but it also looks a little dated when compared to many contemporaries.
The Nitro is made from plastic, which is understandable given the price. Build quality is acceptable, too, but this is another area where the budget bites a bit: there’s movement in the screen and the base can be flexed. It’s not ruinous and the Nitro is still strong enough to sling into a bag, but laptops towards the £1,500/US$1,500 range tend to be more robust.
You’ll get lighter and slimmer designs if you spend a bit more, too. The Acer weighs 2.7kg and is 25mm thick, which makes it heavier and thicker than most gaming notebooks.
The Nitro 5 (2021) has three full-size USB 3 ports, with one at 10Gbps. There’s a 10Gbps USB-C port, too, but it doesn’t support power delivery or DisplayPort, which makes that connector less useful. Elsewhere, there’s HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet and audio connectors, and internally there’s dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth.
A 720p webcam completes the feature set. It’s a solid selection, with enough ports and connectivity to handle mainstream gaming and computing – but the webcam doesn’t support Windows Hello, and there’s no card or fingerprint reader.
Keyboard & Trackpad
The 15.6in Acer has a full-size keyboard with a good layout, including a numberpad with slightly narrowed keys. The four-zone RGB LED lighting allows for a reasonable amount of customisation, too.
The keyboard has good performance, too. The buttons are fast, quiet and comfortable, so they can easily handle long gaming or typing sessions. Their action is a little soft, which will put off people who prefer a crisper experience, but that’s a minor complaint.
The trackpad offers no surprises. It’s not particularly big, its buttons are soft, and it’s positioned on the left of the base, so your wrist can easily trigger the pad accidentally. A USB gaming mouse will be far better.
Screen & Speakers
The 15.6in display has a 1920 x 1080 resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate. This model doesn’t have Nvidia G-Sync, so you may see some minor tearing, but it won’t be a big or common issue. Ultimately, this display is fine for mainstream gaming and eSports – you’ll only get syncing or higher refresh rates if you spend more.
The maximum brightness level of 255 nits is fine for indoor use but not strong enough for the outdoors, and that’s paired with a black level of 0.19cd/m2. That’s good, and it creates a contrast ratio of 1347:1 – an impressive result. In real-world use, those figures translate to good depth and punch.
The colours themselves are a bit limited, though. The Nitro’s display only renders 61.5% of the sRGB colour gamut, so it’s a long way short of producing every shade required by games. The Delta E of 5.96 is only mediocre, too, and means accuracy suffers.
Ultimately, the contrast and black point figures mean this display can handle mainstream gaming: at that base level it’s got the punch and depth to get the job done. But the poor colour reproduction means that everything looks pallid, with the boldest shades not done justice.
The audio kit is poor, too: the speakers are too quiet, they lack bass, and the rest of their output is tinny. Use a gaming headsetinstead.
Specs & Performance
The Acer Nitro 5 (2021) packs an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 with a peak power level of 85W, which is right in the middle of this chip’s range – it can run at any point between 60- and 115W. It’s still got its usual 6GB of memory, and it has 3,840 processing cores and reasonable Ray-tracing ability.
The Zen 3-based AMD Ryzen 7 5800H is an excellent and reliable mobile processor. It’s got eight cores, and its clock speed starts at 3.2GHz and accelerates to a peak of 4.4GHz.
The rest of the Nitro’s specification offers no surprises: there’s 16GB of dual-channel memory and a 1TB SSD with middling read and write speeds of 2,391MB/s and 659MB/s.
The RTX 3060 zipped through Far Cry New Dawn at Ultra settings with a slick framerate of 82fps, and it averaged beyond 40fps in tougher games, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077. For today’s top single-player games, that bodes well: they’ll run smoothly, and you’ll only have to make concessions if you want to chase averages at 60fps or beyond.
The RTX 3060 hit framerates beyond 100fps in easier games, too, so you’ll have no problem running the biggest eSports titles on the 144Hz display. You’ll only need a pricier laptop with an RTX 3070 if you’re chasing 240Hz performance or more future headroom.
The processor is even better. In the Geekbench multi-core test the Ryzen 7 5800H scored 8,065, which is sensational – one of the best results we’ve seen from this chip. It’s comfortably ahead of the Dell G5 15 Gaming's Intel Core i7-10750H and Dell XPS 17's i7-10875H that are still used inside loads of gaming laptops, and it’s the same sort of speed that you’ll get from Intel’s newer and rarer i7-11800H. The Nitro’s PC Mark 10 score of 6,078 is good, too: not the best we’ve seen from the 5800H but still ahead of Intel’s competition.
The impressive processor creates more possibilities on this machine. If you’re comfortable with using the underwhelming screen, or perhaps connect to a monitor while at a desk, there’s easily enough power here to handle photo-editing and Full HD video work. There are no issues with multi-tasking, either.
The Nitro 5 (2021) performs well in thermal tests, too. During gaming the noise levels are quiet and the exterior panels never become uncomfortably hot, and the Nitro was even quiet in work benchmarks.
The battery is unsurprisingly underwhelming. During a gaming test the Nitro lasted for an hour and sixteen minutes, which isn’t good at all – combine this with the cut-back performance on battery power and you’d be better off sticking to the mains while gaming.
In a work benchmark, the Acer lasted for three and a half hours, and it played video for just shy of five hours. Those are not ruinous figures, but if you’re shopping with a slightly bigger budget, you’ll get better results.
Price & Availability
The Nitro I’ve reviewed sits in the middle of Acer’s UK range. The most expensive model costs £1,299 and combines a Core i7-11800H processor with RTX 3070 graphics, which makes it one of the cheapest RTX 3070 laptops anywhere right now.
The RTX 3060 is also available in a £999 machine with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor – a great option if you want mainstream gaming pace without as much productivity power.
There’s an £899 model, too, which combines an Intel Core i5 CPU and RTX 3050 Ti graphics. That rig is best for mid-range games and eSports titles. The range is propped up by a £699 machine with GTX 1650 graphics. It’s only suitable for eSports.
Across the Atlantic, you’ll have to pay US$669 for the GTX 1650 machine and US$1,099 for the laptop with the RTX 3050 Ti and a Core i7 CPU. If you want the RTX 3060 then the machine reviewed here costs US$1,149, albeit with a Ryzen 5 5600H processor, and the machine with the Ryzen 7 5800H and RTX 3070 costs US$1,349.
The Acer Nitro 5’s price does mean that this laptop is rough around the edges. It’s a bit big and heavy, and it doesn’t have particularly good battery life or colour accuracy. The speakers are poor and it’s missing a couple of features.
There’s still plenty to like, though. The RTX 3060 is a superb GPU for mainstream games and eSports, the processor is superb, and the Acer is cool and quiet.
The keyboard is solid, and the price is right: at £1,149 or US$1,149, this laptop is cheaper than most of the rigs with this kind of hardware. And the sub-£1,000/US$1,000 model with a Ryzen 5 should still be decent for most people.
If you can cope with those faults, you’ll find an effective and affordable machine here – a mainstream gaming option that won’t break the bank.
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