Twist it, turn it, any way you want it. Convertible laptops are meant to be a cornucopia of versatility, able to transform at the drop of a hat. The Acer Nitro 5 Spin (starting at $799, reviewed at $1,099) does that to a certain extent -- delivering solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and an easily convertible design. Due to its entry-level Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, the Nitro 5 Spin isn't going to deliver the highest frame rates, but it's one of our picks for top cheap gaming laptops under $1,000.
It's all about the accents, baby! Little touches, like blazing red hinges and a glittering crimson bezel cut along the side, takes what would normally be a ho-hum notebook design into something infinitely more interesting. The 360-degree hinges combined with the glossy, dark-purple Acer emblem help the black brushed aluminum lid stand out in a crowd. The hinges also let the laptop deftly transform from clamshell into tent, stand and tablet modes.
Upon opening the laptop in clamshell mode, you get some more of those beautiful red accents along the side of the laptop as well as along the touchpad. The keys on the keyboard are also lined in red that gain a lovely glow when the backlighting is engaged. The word Nitro printed in red (of course) sits between the speaker and keyboard.
On the right side of the keyboard, you'll find a USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, a headset jack, a secure lock slot and buttons for power and volume. A pair of USB 3.0 ports reside on the left with a USB Type-C port, full HDMI and a DC jack. Instead of adding a Gigabit Ethernet port, Acer is using its ExoAmp antenna and 2x2 MU-MIMO wireless tech to ensure that the laptop is able to maintain a stable wireless signal. But I'd still like the comfort of having the missing port -- just in case.
Weighing 4.9 pounds, the 15 x 10.2 x 0.7-inch Spin is pretty light, but the HP Omen 15t (15.1 x 9.9 x 1 inches) and the MSI GL62M 7REX (15.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches) aren't exactly heavyweights. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (15.2 x 10.8 x 1 inches), however, tips the scales at a meaty 6 pounds.
For a borderline budget system, the Spin's 1920 x 1080, touch screen's not too shabby. The 15.6-inch glossy display produced rich hues and detail sharp enough that I could easily make out Lakeith Stanfield's curl pattern in the trailer for Sorry to Bother You, as well as the fine lines in his otherwise cheap suit. The brown threadbare two-piece looked even cheaper in the gilded elevator with its sumptuous red carpet.
The shiny screen proved to be a bit of a distraction as I played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, particularly during night scenes. I almost got ambushed as I made my way through a swamp during nightfall, as the reflection from my office's overhead lights let a horde of Drowners sneak up on me. Still, the Drowners sickly blue skin gleamed under the moonlight, and my fire spell leapt from my hands in a wall of reddish-orange flame.
The Spin reproduces 105 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is below the 120 percent mainstream gaming average and the 7REX's 158 percent. However, that's above our minimum 100 percent threshold, as well as the Omen 15t and the Inspiron 15.
The Nitro 5 is brighter than your budget system, averaging 296 nits on our light meter. It's several nits below the 300-nit category average, but still brighter than the Omen 15t (247), the Inspiron 15 (233) and the 7REX (198).
The touch panel is both fast and accurate, keeping up with my frantic doodles in Paint as well as as letting me effortlessly swipe through open apps and pinch-zoom.
Color me surprised. The Nitro Spin 5's top-mounted speakers deliver a sizable kick -- enough to fill my bedroom with loud, fairly balanced audio. Anderson.Paak's vocal was warm and inviting on "Am I Wrong?" The Percussion instruments, like the cowbell, were clear, and the lone subwoofer pumped out a respectable amount of bass. However, I did notice that the synthesized parts of the track sounded mildly distorted at max volume.
I evened things out using the Dolby Audio software by switching from the Music preset to Dynamic. You also have settings for Movie, Game and Voice as well as a custom setting, but if you stick to Music or Dynamic, you'll be fine in most cases.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU means you'll get some decent gaming frame rates at 1920 x 1080 -- just not at the highest settings.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Fingerprint Scanner
It doesn't have RGB customizable lighting, but the Nitro 5's island-style keyboard is still handsome with its black keys, red text and lining. The backlighting is bright enough that I didn't have to strain to see the type in a darkened room. And I appreciate that Acer managed to fit in a number pad without shrinking the other keys.
Thankfully, the keyboard feels as good as it looks. The keys are very responsive and give a slight click despite the 1.4 millimeter key travel, which is slightly below our 1.5mm minimum. I banged out my normal 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test.
The 4.2 x 3-inch touchpad is spacious enough that I never felt my fingers inadvertently brush up against the edges as I navigated web pages and documents. Windows gestures such as three-finger swipe and four-finger press quickly let me cycle through recently opened apps and summon Action Center.
The fingerprint scanner is located in the top left corner of the touchpad where it does a pretty good job of staying out of the way. It's there to help you sign into Windows Hello, if you want to add a layer of security between your games and other sensitive info and prying eyes. Setting up Windows Hello is simple: after creating a password, you'll enter your fingerprint by lifting your finger on and off the sensor several times at different angles.
To play up the notebook's versatility, Acer added pen functionality by way of the optional $49.99 Active Stylus. The AAAA battery-powered pen is solidly built and felt pretty comfortable in my hand. With only 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, it's not as sensitive as other styli on the market, but it'll get the job done in a pinch.
Placing the Nitro 5 Spin into tablet mode, I started doodling in Autodesk SketchBook and appreciated how well the pen kept up with my strokes. Pressing harder gave me a thicker line, while employing a softer touch produced a more delicate one. Even though my palm was resting on the display, it never registered on the screen due to some top-notch palm rejection.
Gaming and Graphics
The Nitro Nitro 5 Spin has a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, the entry-level option for the company's Pascal-series graphics card. That means you will be able to get some decent frame rates at 1920 x 1080 -- just not at the highest settings.
Against my better judgment, I started playing Witcher 3 on high at 1080. I was surprised that the Nitro 5 Spin managed to put out an average 28 frames per second (fps). However, there were moments were the game sputtered along. Things got a bit better when I dropped down to medium and got an average frame rate of 33 fps. But the game ran the smoothest when I switched over to low, where I notched 56 fps. Still, the textures were pretty muddy.
The Nitro 5 Spin struggled on the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Very High, 1080p), posting a stuttering 17 fps, which is half the 34 fps mainstream gaming average. The 7REX and its GTX 1050 Ti GPU did slightly better at 22 fps, while the Inspiron 15's GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU surpassed our 30-frame playability threshold at 31 fps.
When we ran the Hitman benchmark, the Nitro 5 Spin performed much better, scoring 31 fps. That wasn't enough to match the 67 fps average, but it was on a par with the HP Omen 15t (GTX 1050), which hit 32 fps. The 7REX and Inspiron 15 achieved 46 and 55 fps, respectively.
During the Grand Theft Auto V test, the Nitro 5 Spin obtained 24 fps, missing the 34 fps average. The 7REX and Inspiron 15 scored higher with 31 and 44 fps, respectively.
When you're not saving the world, rebuilding it or causing mayhem, the Nitro 5 Spin will switch over to its integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU for less-intensive tasks.
Powered by an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U processor with 8GB or RAM, the Nitro 5 Spin can handle its fair share of multitasking. I streamed an episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix with 18 open tabs in Google Chrome while running Windows Defender without experiencing any slowdown.
The system continued to hold its own during our synthetic test with Geekbench 4, where it notched 14,974, topping the 13,798 mainstream gaming average. Armed with their last-gen CPUs, the Inspiron 15 (Core i5-7300U), the 7REX and the Omen 15t (Core i7-7700HQ) didn't stand a chance, posting scores of 10,535, 11,817 and 11,769 respectively.
During the Excel Macro Test, which tasks the notebook with matching 65,000 names and addresses, the Nitro 5 Spin took 1 minute and 25 seconds. It's slower than the 0:59 average and the 7REX 1:00, but somewhat faster than the Inspiron 15's 1:29.
On our Handbrake video benchmark, which tests how long it takes to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, the Nitro 5 Spin took 20 minutes and 12 seconds to finish. It's slower than the 14:44 average as well as the 14:11 and the 19:06 posted by the 7REX and the Inspiron 15.
The Nitro 5 Spin's 256GB PCIe SSD took 49 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of multimedia files for a transfer rate of 103 megabytes per second, which is below the 340.4 MBps average. It's better than the Omen 15t's (1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive) 42.4MBps, but nowhere near as fast as the 7REX (128GB mSATA SSD) and the Inspiron 15 (256GB SSD), which delivered 141.4 and 339 MBps, respectively.
One place where the Nitro 5 Spin shines is battery life. The notebook lasted 7 hours and 8 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), beating the 3:11 mainstream gaming average and the 7REX's 3:13. However, the Inspiron 15 lasted a bit longer at 7:15.
Aluminum is lovely to look at and to touch, usually. But all that went out the window after I spent 15 minutes playing Witcher 3. The center of the keyboard and the bottom vents hit 104 and 101 degrees, respectively, which is above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad measured 88 degrees.
We let the laptop cool down and spent 15 minutes playing HD video. Then we measured again and found the touchpad, middle and bottom of the system registered 85, 88 and 91 degrees
The 720p integrated webcam captures blurry images with washed-out color. A test shot I took in my bedroom was full of visual noise, which made it hard to make out the finer details in my selfie. My rich, royal blue wall looked periwinkle, and I couldn't make out any of the purple in my hair.
Software and Warranty
Acer loaded the Nitro Spin 5 with its catalog of productivity and multimedia apps. For example, abFiles and abPhotos allow you to easily access documents and images stored on your phone. There's also Acer Care Center, which lets you run diagnostic checks on the battery and storage and install any recent system updates.
This laptop came with a lot of bloatware, including Netflix, Drawboard PDF, Stagelight, Autodesk Sketchbook, Mozilla Firefox, Evernote and shortcuts for Amazon, eBay, and Booking.com. Regarding gaming, there's Nvidia GeForce Experience, a suite of gamer-centric apps like Battery Optimization and ShadowPlay, which is a free streaming service.
Price and Configurations
I reviewed the $1,099 version of the Acer Nitro 5 Spin, which has an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCie SSD with a 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GTX GPU with 4GB of VRAM and an Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU. The $799 base model basically has the same specs but swaps out the Core i7 CPU in favor of a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-8250U CPU.
Not quite a gaming laptop, but not totally a work machine, the Acer Nitro Spin 5 tries its best to be a Jack- of-all-trades. But sometimes your best is not good enough. For $1,099, you get a system that can turn from laptop to tablet, which makes it extremely versatile -- especially when you throw in the optional Active Stylus. And the discrete graphics, comfortable keyboard and surprisingly good audio bolster the Nitro 5 Spin's case.
However, outside of multitasking, the Nitro 5 Spin just isn't that powerful. Not when there are laptops like the VR-capable Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming on the market. Starting at $999, you get an unadulterated powerhouse (for a budget system) that has better overall and graphics performance as well as longer battery life.
However, if you're looking for a system that can transition from a laptop to a tablet to a presentation mode that happens to play games, then the Acer Nitro 5 Spin is a good candidate.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag