Acer Nitro 5 review

Acer’s iconic Nitro 5 budget gaming laptop is still brilliant at the basics

Acer Nitro 5 review
(Image: © Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The Acer Nitro 5 is a budget-friendly gaming laptop that offers creative professionals the best of both worlds when it comes to work and play. While there are more powerful products available, very few offer the same performance and features at such an accessible price.

Pros

  • +

    Affordable for a gaming laptop

  • +

    Decent port selection

  • +

    Plenty of configurations available

Cons

  • -

    Disappointingly dim display

  • -

    Typical ‘gamer’ aesthetic

  • -

    No built-in SD card reader

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The Acer Nitro 5 may seem slightly out of place when marketed towards creative professionals, but gaming laptops have been a solid choice for video editors and VFX work for many years thanks to them typically being equipped with graphically capable hardware and a high-quality display. The Nitro 5 is no different, but where gaming laptops can be an eyewatering investment, it stands apart as one of the few genuinely budget-friendly options on the market, with prices starting as low as $799.

Given its palatable price tag, you won’t find many luxuries included - there’s no OLED or miniLED display option for example - but if you’re looking for a device that's brilliant at the basics, the Nitro 5 could still be considered as one of the best laptops on the market. You’re getting a full HD 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate, the latest generation of both AMD and Intel processors and an Nvidia RTX graphics card that could give some of your favorite creative apps an AI-powered boost.

Not only that, but unlike many modern ultrabooks and laptops that have sacrificed ports to slim down, this offering from Acer provides a decent selection that will allow you to plug in and use all manner of peripherals and accessories without relying on a separate dongle. Its far from perfect, but there really is a lot to love about the Acer Nitro 5.

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) specifications

(Image credit: Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

CPU: Intel Core i5-12500H

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti

RAM: 16GB DDR4

Screen: 15.6-inch IPS, 1080 x 1920, 144Hz
Touch input: No

Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD

Ports: 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x power port, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x Combo Jack, 1 x Kensington Slot

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2

Battery: 57WHr

Camera: 720p webcam

Weight: 2.3kg (5.07 lbs)

Size (W x D x H): 36 x 25 x 25 cm (14.19” x 10.67” x 1.067")

Acer Nitro 5 (2022) configurations

(Image credit: Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

There are several variations of the Acer Nitro 5 (2022) on the market, so it's pretty easy to snap up a configuration that will work best for you. Graphics cards are available from Nvidia from the humble GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, all the way up to the RTX 3080 for those who need a lot of power in their system. Processors get even more variety, with Intel offerings from the i5-11400H up to an i7-11800H, and AMD options providing a choice of either Ryzen 7 5800H or the seriously powerful Ryzen 9 5900HX.

Obviously, the more powerful the components, the higher the price tag. While prices start at $799 for a model equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage, the most powerful laptop within the series will set you back $2,299 for an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. 

This means the Nitro 5 becomes less of a ‘great deal’ if you have higher specs in mind, so if you were looking for a top-of-the-line gaming laptop then you should also consider alternative products. The Razer Blade 17 for example, not only provides even more power in the form of more RAM and beefier graphics cards, but also a better display and enough ports for the laptop to completely replace a desktop setup if you’re happy to throw stacks of cash towards buying a gaming laptop for creative applications like video editing and photography.

Key features

(Image credit: Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

Right out of the box, you can tell the Acer Nitro 5 is a gaming laptop from is design before you even switch the device on to see the fluxing rainbow of RGB lighting preset on the keyboard (you can change this thankfully). It’s a more muted look than seen in previous generations, but the overall aesthetic is still aggressively chunky and may stand out in a studio or office environment. 

Looks aside, this really is a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ and many of the features that work well for gamers might prove insufficient for creative work. One such example is the display, with our review model rocking a standard 1080p resolution and 144Hz refresh rate, which is perfectly suitable for playing the latest first-person-shooter titles such as Apex Legends or Valorant, but less than ideal for video editors hoping to render 4K footage.

Other display capabilities are just as ‘meh’, with the 15.6-inch IPS screen achieving just 67 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 digital cinema color space and 96 percent sRGB coverage - again, fantastic for gaming, but not ideal if you need to prioritize color accuracy. The Nitro 5 also has a notably low brightness, measuring at just 282 nits, which is poor even by non-creative laptop standards.

Still, this being a gaming laptop first is arguably part of the appeal. It's unlikely you can play a few rounds of your favorite games on a non-gaming laptop - at least at an enjoyable quality - and there are also models equipped with a more powerful 1440p, 165Hz IPS display if you’re happy to increase your budget.

Build and handling

(Image credit: Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

As mentioned, the Acer Nitro 5 has persistent ‘gamer’ themes within its design such as an RGB-underlit keyboard, though this can thankfully be switched off or customized to a more tasteful and consistent shade. The keyboard itself also has red and black theming with a chunky border around both the arrow keys and WASD keys to help them stand out as these are the most commonly used keys within video games. The vents at the rear of the laptop also have a matching surround in the same shade which can look a tad garish.

The chassis itself is also something of a fingerprint magnet so you might want to keep a microfiber cloth nearby if you like to keep your devices looking their best. Otherwise, despite being made mostly from plastic, the Nitro 5 feels well built and doesn’t flex too much when pressure is applied around areas like the lid or the keyboard area, and while you’ll either love or hate its style, both the keyboard and touchpad are responsive and pleasant to use.

The laptop measures in at 360 x 250 x 250 mm and weighs 2.3kg, making it more compact and portable than other Acer offerings like the Predator Helios 300 (opens in new tab) (measuring 398 mm x 275.3 mm x 26.55 mm and weighing in at 2.90 kg), and most of its downsides are typical of gaming laptops in general rather than faults with this specific model - the fans can get loud when running under load for example, and things can get a little bit toasty during extended use.

While port selection is admirable, the lack of a built-in SD card reader will be a pain for photo editors on the go who don’t want to mess around with a separate dongle, but you do at least get a HDMI port and plenty of USB-A and USB-C variety for a remote workstation setup.

Performance

(Image credit: Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

The Acer Nitro 5 is an admirable workhorse for the price. Our review unit only came equipped with the base model RTTX 3050 Ti GPU, but that was plenty powerful enough to load up titles like Minecraft and some of the aforementioned FPS-titles, all of which achieved decent frame rates running at 1080p. This will get restrictive when you try and play more demanding AAA releases though, so a more capable graphics card will be needed if you enjoy playing games like Cyberpunk 2077. 

In our tests the Nitro 5 achieved an overall score in PCMark 10 of 5,557, with a breakdown of 8,963 on Essentials, 7,892 on Productivity, and 6,913 on Digital Content Creation. This falls just under the capabilities of the previously mentioned Predator Helios 300, but still scores well for general laptop performance. In a 3DMark Time Spy test, the Nitro 5 scored just 5,274 which is under the gaming laptop average of 5,730, but this shouldn’t be surprising as the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti is the entry-level GPU of the series, and models equipped with more capable hardware such as the slightly more powerful RTX 3060 will fair better. 

It’s worth remembering that this isn’t going to be the laptop of choice for those who want to run several applications alongside demanding games - its intended as an affordable and accessible way to jump into the world of PC gaming, and on that front, it does an admirable job.

Battery life is a pleasant surprise for a gaming laptop. In a looped video test it shut down after six hours and 17 minutes, and in a simulation of day-to-day activities using PCMark 10 it trundled along for five hours and 43 minutes. For a standard laptop that could be considered tragic, but gaming devices are notoriously power hungry which means the Nitro 5 actually outlasts more premium devices such as the Razer Blade 17 (opens in new tab) and can recharge to full capacity in around two hours.

Verdict

(Image credit: Jessican Weatherbed/Digital Camera World)

The Acer Nitro 5 isn’t the most glamorous laptop, nor the most powerful, but it offers genuine value for money in a saturated market full of similarly specc’d, but considerably more expensive hardware. Where pricier offerings are marketed towards those looking for a luxury product, the Nitro 5 offers a stripped-back experience for people who need a laptop for graphically demanding work (or entertainment) on a tight budget.

There are a few complaints - the lack of built-in SD card reader is a nuisance for creative professionals, and the option to include a better display would be nice - but these are issues we encountered from reviewing the device from the perspective of photographers, video editors and other creative professionals, none of which the Nitro 5 has claimed to be the demographic for.

The battery life could be considered disappointing even though it’s decent for its class as gaming laptops eat through a lot of power to run components like discrete GPUs and powerful cooling systems, and while the edgy ‘gamer’ aesthetic is less aggressive than on previous models, its appearance isn’t going to appeal to everyone, especially if you wanted a sleek, professional looking device.

Despite that, it has plenty to offer. Nvidia RTX graphics card technology offers a useful AI-powered boost across various Adobe applications and having been designed to run the latest games, it comes equipped with some pretty beefy components, which can speed up tasks like video rendering. It’s not an ideal choice for creatives who don’t play games, but for those who do, you’ll find it hard to beat for the price.

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Jess writes about computing at Techradar (opens in new tab), where she covers all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. While she loves all areas of computing tech, broadcasting and gaming-related hardware such as webcams, USB microphones, VR headsets and mechanical keyboards are certainly a special interest subject. You find her bylines at Creative Bloq and Space.com, and she has previously been interviewed by the BBC as an industry expert.