Laptop Mag Verdict
The Acer Nitro 5 is packed with an ultra-powerful CPU and a dynamite GPU, but it still has to put up one hell of a fight against its beastly rivals.
15.6-inch, 1440p 165Hz panel
Ultra-fast video transcoding
Incredible AMD performance
Good color accuracy
Atypical keyboard layout
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CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1440p, 165Hz
Size: 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 5.1 pounds
The Acer Nitro 5 (reviewed at $2,299), jam-packed with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, is like store-bought pizza. After you pop it into the oven and chow down on it, does it taste good? Sure! However, once you compare it to the cheesy, delectable slices from your local mom and pop’s pizzeria, you start questioning your new box of DiGiorno. They have the same ingredients and a similar price, but the fresh-out-of-the-brick-oven pizzas have an edge.
In the same way, the Nitro 5, on paper, is an excellent gaming laptop, but it loses its razzle and dazzle after comparing it to other heavy hitters with similar internals. It’s a decent option and you wouldn’t mind spending money on it, but there are better competitors out there that offer more pizzazz — heh-heh — for the same price.
The Nitro 5 series typically targets budget-conscious gamers, but Acer kicked it up a notch by offering some beefy internals and catering to a crowd with money to blow. Though my pizza analogy may come across as a critique of the Nitro 5, it holds up surprisingly well in the premium space. There are plenty of aspects of this Acer gaming rig that I adore and I wouldn’t rule it out as one of the best gaming laptops, but after running our in-house tests on the Nitro 5, I can’t help but feel as if the grass is greener on the other side.
Acer Nitro 5 price and configuration options
My review unit costs $2,299; it’s jam-packed with an octa-core, 3.3-GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 with 8GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel IPS display with a 165Hz refresh rate.
If that configuration is too expensive for your tastes, there’s another AMD model at almost half the price. For $1,699, you can snag a Nitro 5 with an octa-core, 3.2-GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel display.
Acer Nitro 5 design
I always enjoy the designs that Acer creates for the Nitro 5 series. It’s as if an Acer employee snuck up behind Optimus Prime, ripped a few components out of his robotic build, and sprinted back to the factory before the Autobot rips them into shreds.
The onyx-coated lid features an Acer logo and two squiggly black lines that appear to be striking the hinge like dual lightning bolts. Speaking of the hinge, you’ll spot the word “Nitro” in bold red letters on it. Keep your microfiber cloth handy because the chassis — particularly the lid — attracts fingerprints like a moth to a flame. You may notice that the chassis feels a little plasticky, and well, that’s because it is, indeed, made out of plastic. This doesn’t faze me too much. After all, plastic is less susceptible to overheating while gaming.
The side bezels are slim, but the chin and top bezel are thick. The panel’s corners have an eye-catching, beveled-edge design. Moving on to the deck, it features a keyboard with a black-and-white motif. Some keys stand out more than others because they’re defined with a thick, white outline. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the layout (I’ll dive into its hiccups in the keyboard section below).
Flip the Nitro 5 upside down and you’ll spot four rubber feet on each corner, making room for a large, edge-to-edge ventilation grill that takes up almost half of the underside.
At 5.1 pounds and 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches, the Acer Nitro 5 is heavier than the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (14.0 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches, 4.2 pounds) and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced (14 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches, 4.4 pounds), but lighter than the hefty Alienware m17 R4 (15.7 x 11.6 x 0.7-0.9 inches, 6.6 inches)
Acer Nitro 5 ports
The Acer Nitro 5 has a decent stock of ports.
On the left side, you’ll find an RJ45 Ethernet port, a USB Type-A port, a headset jack and a Kensington lock slot. On the right side, you’ll discover an HDMI 2.1 port, another USB Type-A port and a USB Type-C port. And no, the latter is not of the Thunderbolt variety, which is a limitation of AMD-equipped laptops.
Acer Nitro 5 display
The Nitro 5’s 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel display, offering a screen-to-body ratio of 80%, was a sight to behold while I watched The Suicide Squad trailer.
Margot Robbie, while shooting enemies with two guns in her hands, spun around in maniacal glee in a dazzling, eye-catching scarlet dress, showing off panel’s color reproduction prowess. I spotted the specks of lint that populated John Kinnaman’s backpack straps — a testament to the display’s ability to render sharp imagery. I even saw the intricate details of the tattoo on his arm, which featured the side profile of a woman.
When I played Dishonored 2 on the Nitro 5’s 165Hz display, I was hypnotized by the royal chambers inside a storied medieval castle. The rich cobalt blue sheets, adorned with a floral and diamond design, caught my attention as its golden trim tickled the worn-out, wooden floor. Sun rays poured into the bedroom, exposing glittering dust particles that were once invisible to the naked eye. I even took some time to marvel at a giant, creepy painting in the room that features a ghostly ship filled with pale specters and phantoms. I saw tiny crinkles in the painting and other signs that the artwork is an ancient, deteriorating masterpiece.
Unfortunately, the Acer gaming rig is a little bit on the dim side. It emanates only 284 nits of brightness, which is dimmer than the average premium gaming laptop (324 nits), the ROG Zephyrus G15 (286 nits) and the m17 R4 (316 nits), but is brighter than the Blade 15 Advanced (244 nits).
The Nitro 5 covers 82% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, but it’s up against some stiff competition. The Acer (finally) outperformed the m17 R4 (81%) and the ROG Zephyrus G15 (77%), but it’s less colorful than the average premium gaming laptop (86%) and the Blade 15 Advanced (88%).
With a Delta-E color accuracy score of 0.21 (closer to 0 is better), the Nitro 5 beat the average premium gaming laptop (0.26), the Blade 15 Advanced (0.23) and the ROG Zephyrus G15 (0.24). The Acer and the m17 R4 share the same score.
Acer Nitro 5 keyboard and touchpad
Typing on the Nitro 5 keyboard is like moving to a foreign country and needing to get accustomed to the food, culture and way of life. OK, maybe I’m being dramatic, but the point is that you’ll need to get acclimated with Nitro 5 before you can be truly comfortable. The shortened Shift key drove me up a wall. This, by the way, is an issue I addressed in 2020 laptop trends that must die.
Capitalizing words was a pain in the rear. Instead of landing on the Shift key, my finger often landed on the up arrow, which made my cursor fly into another paragraph. And next thing you know, I found myself accidentally typing between previously written sentences. Boo! It’d also be nice if the keys were springier and bouncier.
On the 10FastFingers.com test, my words-per-minute average dropped to 75, a huge drop from my typical 85 to 90-wpm average. This isn’t to say that typing on the Nitro 5 keyboard is awful — you just need to get used to the atypical layout.
On the plus side, the most oft-used keys in PC gaming (i.e. the W, A, S, D and arrow keys) are outlined with a thick, white trim to help them stand out. There’s also an “N” key located within the top-left corner of the full-sized numpad, which quick-launches the NitroSense app for fan management. The previous Nitro 5 I reviewed outlined these keys with red trim; I prefer the white by miles because white-on-black has better contrast.
If you have a preference for crimson-and-onyx color schemes, you can get this motif by turning on the red backlighting, which has four levels of brightness. Unfortunately, if you prefer customizable, per-key RGB lighting, you’ll be disappointed because you’re stuck with white-backlit keys and no fun animations. Call me a bore, but I don’t mind this; I prefer gaming without the fanfare of distracting light shows.
The 4.1 x 3.1-inch touchpad matches the width of the spacebar. Its surface has the right amount of resistance and smoothness to make cursor navigation seamless. It’s also responsive to Windows 10 gestures such as two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing.
Acer Nitro 5 audio
The Nitro 5’s speakers don’t get loud enough. I found myself straining to hear riveting tales of former criminals recounting heart-stopping stories of pulling off record-setting robberies on Netflix’s Heist. I adjusted the volume to the highest setting on the Netflix app, but the amplification bump was imperceptible. I navigated to my Windows taskbar to turn up the volume, but imagine my surprise when I saw that the volume was already at its max setting.
I moved on to testing the Nitro 5’s dual DTS: X Ultra speakers on Spotify and listened to Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby.” The amplification on Spotify was slightly better, and it did fill my medium-sized testing room, but for those who prefer loud-and-proud sound, the Nitro 5’s bottom-firing speakers may be too quiet. Lil Nas X’s voice sounded a little nasally and hollow and the speakers lacked that full, well-rounded sound that sends chills down your spine.
I fired up the DTX:Ultra tuning app, which has seven presets: Auto, Music, Voice, Movies, Strategy, RPG and Shooter. None of them benefitted the audio quality.
Acer claims that the speakers feature 3D spatial soundscape, so I tested this out on one of my favorite games: Hitman 3. I knew I was going to have a bad time when the title screen loaded and the orchestral main-menu theme, which typically gets so loud that it causes jump scares, sounded too low. Lucas Grey, an ally of my character (Agent 47), tried to give me remote guidance on a plan he had to take down our enemies, but I had trouble hearing him over the Nitro 5’s steady hum.
On the plus side, the 3D spatial soundscape feature worked well. If an NPC was having a conversation off screen, I always had a good idea of where they’re located even though I couldn’t see them. You can always opt for a gaming headset, too
Acer Nitro 5 gaming, graphics and VR
In Dishonored 2, I cranked up all graphics settings to the max, but I low-key regretted it because Dishonored 2 takes place during a calamitous rat plague, and the mangy rats appeared to be more pronounced and detailed. Yuck! I can say the same for “bloodflies,” bloodthirsty, fictional insects that are more savage than mosquitos. Their nests, which look like giant, ruby-red honeycombs, triggered my trypophobia more than usual — likely because they appeared to be well-delineated and more defined. I also noticed that the pools of blood populating the Dishonored 2 world had a strangely beautiful glistening effect.
Combat felt more visceral as I sliced off enemies’ arms and heads with my sword. The details of severed heads looked a little bit too real.
Dishonored 2 takes place in a coastal city, so I was blown away by how realistic the bay looked as it ebbed and flowed near the docks. An eerie fog blanketed the area and added to the game’s spooky atmosphere. Even with all of these striking details, Dishonored 2 managed to hover around 110 and 125 frames per second during gameplay. Nice!
On the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey benchmark (Highest, 1080p), the Nitro 5 reached 64 fps, which matches the average premium gaming laptop. The Acer's trio of rivals have the same GPU, but two out of three managed to beat it. The ROG Zephyrus G15 and the m17 R4 beat the Nitro 5 by achieving 67 and 78 fps, respectively. The Blade 15 Advanced fell in fourth and last place, only reaching 58 fps.
The Nitro 5 averaged 101 fps on the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), which crushed the 95-fps category average. It also beat the ROG Zephyrus G15 by a hair (98 fps). However, the Nitro 5 couldn’t catch up with the Blade 15 Advanced and the powerful m17 R4, which output averages of 107 and 120 fps, respectively.
On the Far Cry New Dawn benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the Nitro 5 climbed to 94 fps, beating the 88-fps category average as well as the Blade 15 Advanced and the ROG Zephyrus G15, which achieved the same score (87 fps). Of course, the m17 R4 stole the show again with a killer fps average of 105.
When we ran 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra test, the Nitro 5 (6,148) smashed the category average of 5,801, but it failed to surpass the Blade 15 Advanced (6,231), the ROG Zephyrus G15 (6,528) and the m17 R4 (7,881).
Wondering whether the Nitro 5 can handle VR? You’ll be happy to know that the Acer gaming rig knocked it out of the park on the VRMark Orange Room benchmark with a score of 10,304, sailing past the average premium gaming laptop (8,782). The Nitro 5 also defeated the Blade 15 Advanced (8,341), but not the ROG Zephyrus G15 (9,874) nor the show-stopping m17 R4 (11,350).
Acer Nitro 5 performance
The Nitro 5 sports an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU and 16GB of RAM. To write this review, I already had Google Chrome flooded with 35 tabs. To really put it to the test, I added four more tabs: three Twitch streams and Netflix. The Acer laptop juggled my tabs like a talented court jester — I didn’t experience any lag nor slowdowns.
On the Geekbench 5.4 benchmark, the Nitro 5 served up a score of 8,485, which beats the category average (6,870), the Blade 15 Advanced’s Intel Core i7-10875H CPU (6,531) and the m17 R4’s Intel Core i9-10980HK CPU (8,082), but not the ROG Zephyrus G15’s AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, which output a spectacular score of 8,640.
The Nitro 5 took only 6 minutes and 17 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark, flying past the average premium gaming laptop (7:42). The ROG Zephyrus G15 shared the same time as the Nitro 5, but the Blade 15 Advanced (9:57) and m17 R4 (6:44) were slower than the Acer laptop.
When we ran the file transfer test, the Nitro 5’s 1TB SSD duplicated 25GB of multimedia files in 36 seconds at a transfer rate of 741.65 megabytes per second. This is slower than the category average (851.29 MBps) and the Blade 15 Advanced’s 1TB SSD (890.2 MBps), but speedier than the dual 1TB SSDs inside the m17 R4 (448.5 MBps) and the 1TB SSD packed in the ROG Zephyrus G15.
Acer Nitro 5 battery life
Gaming laptops are typically stuffed with power-hungry internals, so I didn’t expect a lot of battery endurance from the Nitro 5 — and my assessment was correct.
The Acer gaming rig lasted 4 hours and 33 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness), which outlasted the average premium gaming laptop by seven minutes (4:26). The Nitro 5 also has more endurance than the m17 R4 (2:05), but less than the Blade 15 Advanced (5:14) and the ROG Zephyrus G15 (8:06).
Acer Nitro 5 camera
The 720p camera found on the Nitro 5’s top bezel is nothing to write home about. Just like most laptops on the market, this one has plenty of visual noise and lacks definition. One positive is that it reproduces color well, perfectly capturing the bold and gold letters on my graphic tee and the peach-painted wall behind me.
However, don’t expect to become a successful Twitch streamer with this camera. Although the beads in my braids have a striking design, the webcam didn’t capture it; you won’t get sharpness, clarity nor detail. Check out our best webcams page to get a camera with better video quality.
Acer Nitro 5 heat
After testing out a few games on the Nitro 5, I noticed that the chassis got a little too toasty. Sometimes, OEMs find a way to engineer gaming rigs so heat generation concentrates in untouched locations, but unfortunately, I found that the middle of the keyboard got pretty hot. That being said, I was curious to see the temperature results from our thermal tests.
On our gaming heat test, the Nitro 5’s center-keyboard region climbed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five degrees hotter than our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad hit 77 degrees and the underside was the hottest location, reaching a sizzling 126 degrees.
After playing a 15-minute, 1080p YouTube video, the Nitro 5 remained relatively cool. The Acer laptop’s center (88 degrees), touchpad (79 degrees) and underside (94 degrees) all hovered below the 95-degree comfort threshold. Again, the hottest location was the underside.
Acer Nitro 5 software and warranty
The Nitro 5 has a cornucopia of pre-installed Acer-branded apps, including Acer Product Registration and Care Center, a platform that runs system diagnostics, updates and tuneups. The NitroSense app is particularly useful for monitoring CPU and GPU temperatures; you can also adjust the speed of the fans and manage your power-plan settings.
Content creators may take interest in Cyberlink’s PhotoDirector and PowerDirector apps; the former is a photo-editing app and the latter is a video-editing program.
The Acer Nitro 5 has got a lot going for it: a rival-crushing AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, an impressive Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU and a color-accurate, visually satisfying display. Plus, it nailed our video-transcoding and Geekbench tests.
The Nitro 5 is an excellent laptop, but its competitors put up a very good fight, especially the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15. It’s only $100 more than the Nitro 5 ($2,499) and packs a Ryzen 5000-series CPU and an RTX 3080 GPU, too. The Asus gaming rig lasts more than 8 hours on a charge (longer than the Acer’s 4-hour runtime), it defeated the Nitro 5 on most gaming benchmarks, and the speakers aren’t as quiet. As such, I’d recommend the ROG Zephyrus G15 over the Nitro 5.
However, if you’re a professional video or photo editor, I’d lean toward the Nitro 5. Its video-transcoding speed is lightning fast, and we all know that time is money. Also, the display is also more color accurate than those on competitors. To sum it all up, the Nitro 5 is a decent laptop, but it struggles to stand out as one of the best in a sea of premium greats.
Acer Nitro 5 Specs
|CPU||Intel Core i5 8300H|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti|
|Hard Drive Size||256GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||PCIe SSD|
|Highest Available Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI, Headphone/Mic, Kensington Lock, USB 3.1 with Type-C, SD card slot, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet|
|RAM Upgradable to||32GB|
|Size||15.4 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches|
|Touchpad Size||4.1 x 3.0 inches|
|Warranty/Support||1-year limited warranty|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Wireless-AC 9560 2x2 802.11ac|
Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!