If you’re looking for a gaming laptop for a ridiculously cheap price, look no further than the Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020). For just $669, the Nitro 5 offers class-leading battery life, a powerful AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor and a comfortable keyboard.
However, keep in mind that you’re sacrificing some cosmetics for the price. Furthermore, the Nitro 5’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU is mediocre, its 15.6-inch display is terribly dull, and its speakers are muddy at best.
But overall, if you need something that works for an affordable price, the Acer Nitro 5 is one of the best cheap gaming laptops that you can buy.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) price and configuration options
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5-4600H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz
Size: 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 5.3 pounds
The Nitro 5 that I tested costs a very affordable $669 and comes with an AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 60Hz display.
There’s an identical Intel version that comes with an Intel Core i5-9300H processor instead, but it costs $710. Meanwhile, the only upgrade from these two models is the $1,049 version, which comes with a Core i7-9750H CPU, an RTX 2060 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 144Hz display.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) design
While the Nitro 5 has improved on its design over the years, it has gone from gaudy to boring with a red flare. Its black plastic hood is surrounded by faux-aluminum accents that curve against indents in the hood. The rest of the lid is matte, home to a black glossy Acer logo. The most colorful piece on this machine is the red hinge surrounding the grill, and it's terribly dull.
The interior is just as edgy and bland, with a black deck, red keyboard with red key lighting (ugh) and red-trimmed touchpad. Another one of its many offenses is that the power button is located on the keyboard. The side bezels are appropriately narrow, but the top bezel is still pretty chunky thanks to its large webcam.
At 5.3 pounds and 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches, the Nitro 5 is pretty average for a 15-inch laptop. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (4.8 pounds, 14.1 x 9.8 x 1.0 inches), Dell G5 15 SE (5.5 pounds, 14.4 x 10 x 0.9 inches), HP Gaming Pavilion 15-dk0046nr (5 pounds, 14.2 x 10.1 x 0.9 inches) are around the same weight and size range.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) ports
The Nitro 5 offers a decent number of ports, but it would have been nice to see a Mini DisplayPort connection.
On the left side, there’s a security lock slot, a drop-jaw RJ45 Ethernet port, two USB Type-A ports and a headphone jack, while the right side holds room for an HDMI port, one USB Type-A port and one USB Type-C port. The power jack is on the back of the laptop, which is an interesting choice.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) display
If you’re in the market for a cheap gaming laptop, expect a display that’s dim, dull or both, and the Nitro 5’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz display is no exception.
In the trailer for Honest Thief, or Taken Part 15, Liam Neeson’s pale blue denim button-up looked like it was thrown in the washer one too many times. When Neeson and Kate Walsh were driving through the night, I could barely make out any details in their clothes because it was so dark. However, the display was sharp enough to spot the splotches of makeup on Jai Courtney’s face.
While saw-blading my way through Far Cry New Dawn, it was difficult to take in the colorful flowers around me as they fell flat on the Nitro 5’s dull screen. When defending a location at night, it was difficult to see where the enemies were coming from, and the only reason I managed was because of the in-game indicators. However, when in bright scenes, I saw all of the fine details around an abandoned safe.
According to our colorimeter, the Nitro 5 covered 63% of the sRGB color gamut, which isn’t very far from the budget gaming laptop average (67%). The IdeaPad Gaming 3i (58%), G5 15 (63%) and Pavilion 15 (66%) were within spitting distance of the average and the Nitro 5.
At 255 nits of brightness, the Nitro 5’s panel was slightly dimmer than the average budget gaming laptop (265 nits). While it was brighter than the G5 15 (231 nits) and the Pavillion 15 (241 nits), the IdeaPad Gaming 3i managed to hit 278 nits of brightness.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) keyboard and touchpad
For a cheap gaming laptop, the Nitro 5 has a surprisingly comfortable keyboard. Each key required a decent amount of force to click and provided meaty feedback.
I hit 78 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which matches my current average. The keys aren’t necessarily clicky, but they’re spaced out in a way that makes it feel natural to type on.
Unfortunately, the keyboard only features one color for its key lighting, which would be fine if the keys and the key lighting were a neutral color as opposed to a harsh, ugly red.
The touchpad is OK, offering a decent clicking experience, but the actual material could be softer. However, the Windows Precision drivers made it quite responsive to Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) audio
The Nitro 5’s corner-firing speakers sound as crappy as you’d expect them to on a budget gaming notebook.
I listened to Windrunner’s “Lotus,” and the vocals sounded OK, brighter than I anticipated. But then the guitar came in with enough treble and gain that soured my entire listening experience. If there was some form of bass backing the percussion, I couldn’t hear it, as each beat sounded congested as me during allergy season.
The best way to describe playing Far Cry New Dawn on the Nitro 5 is like watching a movie and hearing one of the extras playing the game in the background. Character voices are muddled, gunshots are hollow and the surrounding wildlife sounds like something I’d queue up to fall asleep to but then turn off because it delivered the opposite effect.
Unfortunately, the included audio software, Acer TrueHarmony, was basic, offering presets like Shooter, RPG and Strategy, but overall, the sound didn’t benefit from it. There was a noticeable effect between the settings, but making certain sounds a little brighter or quieter didn’t help the bass, which was nonexistent.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) gaming, graphics and VR
While the Nitro 5 is toting around the bare minimum GPU for a gaming laptop these days, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM can get some decent work done while gaming. I drove around the American wasteland in Far Cry New Dawn at a solid 53 frames per second on Ultra settings at 1080p.
On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p), the Nitro 5 hit a playable 32 fps, but fell short against the budget gaming laptop average (40 fps). With the same GPU, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (32 fps) and the Pavillion 15 (31 fps) had roughly the same score. However, the G5 15’s AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU nailed 69 fps (nice).
The Nitro 5 averaged 59 fps on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), which once again misses the mark on the 66-fps category average. Still, it managed to climb over the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (58 fps) and the Pavilion 15 (57 fps), but it was crushed by the G5 15 (88 fps).
When up against the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Nitro 5 scored 40 fps, which is a few frames off of the 45-fps budget gaming laptop average. It landed between the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (41 fps) and the Pavilion 15 (39 fps) but is a far cry from the G5 15 (62 fps).
On the Metro Exodus benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the Nitro 5 averaged 27 fps, which is just short of the playable 31-fps category average. Once again, it landed near the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (26 fps). However, it couldn’t match up against AMD, as the G5 15 nailed 45 fps.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) performance
AMD’s processors are a beast. We’ve seen it in a number of gaming laptops and it has shown up its Intel counterpart at every turn. The Nitro 5’s AMD Ryzen 5-4600H processor with 8GB of RAM has the same robustness as its siblings.
On the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance test, the Nitro 5 scored 21,332, climbing over the budget gaming laptop average (19,613). The Intel Core i7-10750H CPU in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (20,911) and the Core i7-9750H in the Pavillion 15 (21,326) couldn’t beat the Nitro 5, but the G5 15’s matching AMD CPU could, with 22,707.
The Nitro 5 took 9 minutes and 11 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark, flying by the 11:26 category average. The IdeaPad Gaming 3i (10:41) and the Pavilion 15 (10:42) couldn’t keep up, while the G5 15 excelled, completing it in 8:44.
Acer’s 256GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in 18.6 seconds, translating to a sluggish 274 megabytes per second, which is slower than the average budget gaming laptop’s SSD (369 MBps). The SSDs in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (476 MBps), G5 15 (419 MBps) and the Pavilion 15 (351 MBps) were much faster.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) battery life
AMD has impressed once again with its battery life numbers on a gaming laptop. After the Nitro 5 continuously surfed the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, its battery clocked out at a ridiculous 11 hours and 9 minutes, crushing the 6:38 budget gaming laptop average. It ran circles around the times from the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (5:40), the G5 15 (7:29) and the Pavilion 15 (5:26).
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) webcam
Acer’s 720p shooter is as bad as any laptop webcam, so it doesn’t win any Golden Raspberry awards.
My super frizzy hair was a blurred mess on my head, while the blue text on my black shirt was practically indistinguishable. The blue it did pick up was pale and drained from its glossy vibrance. The off-balanced contrast blew out half of the window behind me. If you need a webcam for streaming, check out our best webcams page.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) heat
The Nitro 5 was relatively cool under the hood thanks to its plastic chassis. After gaming for 15 minutes, the underside reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit, which is above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad hit 90 and 75 degrees, respectively. Its hottest surface was 105 degrees, which was located on the rear underside.
When it was up against a 15-minute, 1080p YouTube video, the underside measured 88 degrees, the keyboard got up to 82 degrees and the touchpad hit 75 degrees.
Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) software and warranty
Acer packs in the NitroSense software, which lets you customize the performance, battery, fans and audio. You can also monitor the temperature of your components from the app as well. Other apps include Acer Product Registration (gives you access to Acer’s deals), Acer Collection S (a semi-app store) and the Care Center (runs updates, diagnostics and tuneups for your hardware).
There’s also some Windows 10 bloatware, like Hotspot Shield, Sketchable and Candy Crush Friends.
The Acer Nitro 5 (AMD, 2020) is hard to beat with its $669 price point offering great performance, ridiculously long battery life and a comfortable keyboard. However, you have to acknowledge that at that price point, you can't be too picky about its mediocre GPU, crummy display and crappy speakers.
If you’re willing to spend $879, you can pick up the Dell G5 15 SE, which will net you a stronger GPU, but that’s about it.
You won’t find battery life like this in another cheap gaming laptop, which is why the Nitro 5 is a great buy if you need an affordable machine.