The Acer Nitro 5 is a mid-range contender for the list of the best gaming laptops on the market at the moment. In particular, it brings with it ray tracing capabilities (a key measure of modern graphics power) to a more-affordable-than-normal price point.
To reach that price point, Acer has had to make some compromises here, but we'll explain them all to you in our comprehensive Nitro 5 review. By the time you've finished reading, you should be able to work out whether or not this is the right gaming laptop for you.
From battery life to benchmark scores, we'll explain everything you need to know about the Acer Nitro 5. When you've finished reading up on this laptop, you might want to check out our guides to the best gaming mice and best gaming keyboards available right now.
Acer Nitro 5 review: design and screen
The Acer Nitro 5 brings with it quite a chunky, angular design – if you like black plastic with distinctive edges, then this could be the gaming laptop for you. The laptop has a certain amount of style to it, but there are certainly better-looking models around, whether that's in terms of the design of the lid (which here has a very simple Acer logo on the back) or the available lighting options (you do get four zones of keyboard lighting to play around with, but nothing besides that).
With dimensions of 255 mm x 363 mm x 2.4 mm (that's 10 inches x 14.3 inches x 0.1 inches) and a weight of 3.6 kg (nearly 8 pounds), the laptop is reasonably portable and won't weigh a bag down too much. The power connector is around the back, and then you've also got an Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.1 port, three USB-A ports (supporting up to USB 3.2 Gen 2) and a Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) port. It's a decent selection of ports, and we should also mention that the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard is supported. You also get a webcam embedded just above the display.
You can pick up the Acer Nitro 5 with either a 15.6-inch or a 17.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel IPS LCD display, and we were sent the smaller version for testing. It's a clear and crisp screen that works fine for movies and web browsing as well as games – though there's no danger of it being confused with the very best display panels on the laptop market at the moment. It's not great in terms of vibrancy and brightness, and the surrounding bezels are rather thick for modern laptops, but it does a job.
The keyboard experience is fine too, and we were able to get through a serious amount of work using the Acer Nitro 5 when we weren't gaming – there's even room for a full number pad, and the laptop keyboard features plenty of integrated shortcuts as well. The trackpad underneath is less impressive, as it's rather small and unresponsive, and seems to be another area where Acer has tried to keep costs down.
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Acer Nitro 5 review: performance and features
You can get the Acer Nitro 5 in several configurations. Our review unit came fitted with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU and 1TB of internal storage. More powerful CPUs and GPUs are available with this laptop, but the model we had strikes a good balance between price and performance: the laptop managed to achieve a 3DMark Time Spy score of 7,369 when we ran the benchmark, between the averages for a standard gaming laptop (5,730) and a gaming PC (9,216).
At a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, we were getting frame rates of 40-60 frames per second on Red Dead Redemption 2 at medium ("balanced") graphics quality, 110-120 fps on Grand Theft Auto V at medium graphics quality, and 40-50 fps on the newer and more demanding Cyberpunk 2077 at a good ("ray-tracing medium") graphics quality. In other words, you can play all the latest and greatest games on the Acer Nitro 5, but you might have to make some compromises in terms of graphics settings.
What's more, the noise and the heat the laptop made in these scenarios wasn't too much, although both the volume level of the fans and the warmth of the chassis were definitely noticeable. The cooling technology called CoolBoost that Acer has deployed here – two main fans intended to adapt efficiently to heavy loads – seems to do a good job of pushing out warm air from the back of the chassis.
When it comes to battery life, when it comes to basic video streaming over the web, with the display set to maximum brightness and the volume at a low level, we saw drops in the battery level of 18 percent or so per hour. Having a gaming laptop that can do 5-6 hours of video between charges is relatively impressive, although doing anything more demanding (like actually running games) is obviously going to drain the battery more quickly.
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Acer Nitro 5 review: price and verdict
There are no real surprises with the Acer Nitro 5: it's a budget-to-mid-range gaming laptop that offers budget-to-mid-range gaming performance at a budget-to-mid-range price. That's a formula that's likely to appeal to a large swathe of users – people who don't need (or want to pay for) the very highest resolutions or frame rates, but still want to be able to play all the latest PC titles comfortably on a computer that they can pick up and take with them, and get ray tracing thrown into the mix as well.
This laptop isn't going to win any awards for its performance levels, or indeed for its design aesthetics, but then it'll cost you a lot less than some of its rivals. Check the widgets on this page for the latest Acer Nitro 5 prices on the web, but at the time of writing the model we reviewed here will set you back around £1,200 in the UK – and you can spend more or less than that depending on your chosen configuration. For a laptop that's able to play the top titles of the moment, that's not bad at all.
You can see where Acer has cut some corners to keep the price down, with lots of improvement possible when it comes to the screen and the trackpad for example. Performance is good but not great, and you don't get as many lighting customisation options as you do on some of the rivals to the Nitro 5. Overall though, we think the compromises that this computer makes are compromises that plenty of users are going to be content with.
When it comes to the business of actual gaming, the Acer Nitro 5 scores highly, and so we can't complain too much about anything else. Be sure you check out the various configurations and their corresponding prices, but if you want a value-for-money machine that's going to be able to cope with just about every game out there at the moment, this is a laptop that deserves a place on your shortlist.
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