At times PC gaming can feel like a bit of an elitist hobby. With some of the best gaming laptops costing several grand, it's easy to get that impression. The Acer Nitro 5 is the answer to that.
This 15.6-inch laptop of course doesn't match up punch for punch with the best gaming laptops that cost four times the price, but it definitely can hold its own.
If you're considering buying a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you should definitely consider the Acer Nitro 5 instead. So let's break down its strengths, weaknesses and what it's like to live with this machine...
Acer Nitro 5: Price & Availability
As I mentioned, this is definitely a gaming laptop at the cheaper end of the scale, but it's still a pretty premium purchase. The Intel Core i5 Processor and 8GB of RAM model I was sent for review costs £/$999, but you can find a more powerful Intel Core i7 option with 16GB of RAM for a similar price.
Acer Nitro 5 review: Design
Some gaming laptops can end up looking more like rocket ships or Star Trek-style technology. That's not the case with the Acer Nitro 5. Aside from the Tron-style pattern on the lid of the laptop and angular rear vents, this is a fairly standard, blocky-looking laptop.
It's not ugly by any means, just unspectacular. Some will appreciate that lower profile, although the red keyboard lighting goes some way to raising the 'gamer' alarm. It's not fully RGB though.
This 15.6-inch laptop isn't as sleek as some of the best lightweight laptops, but weighing in at 2.5kg isn't that bad and the power brick especially is much lighter than that of the MSI Raider GE 78 HX, for example. So it's not superlight but fits reasonably in a backpack.
As for build quality, there's a lot of plastic, but that's to be expected for the price, and in fairness it does feel pretty sturdy and solid.
Acer Nitro 5 review: Display
The 15.6-inch Full-HD LCD display of the Acer Nitro 5 is obviously not the best around, but it is perfectly useable and not a problem to stare at for even the longest gaming sessions. The display size is somewhat diminished, however, by the chunky bezel at the bottom of the screen.
In addition to the 1920 x 1080 resolution across the 16:9 aspect ratio, there's a 144Hz refresh rate. That's lagging behind the ultra-high 360Hz refresh rate for the likes of the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, but more than enough to achieve well over the hallowed 60fps mark and keep gaming super smooth.
Acer Nitro 5 review: Performance
I've spent a lot of time in this review caveating concessions related to the price tag, and it's going to be more of the same here. Under the hood of my machine the 12th-generation Intel Core i5 processor delivers strong, but it's not quite the latest model. There's also an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU with 8GB of DDR4 RAM.
If I had to summarise those specs in one word, it would be... fine. The 4050 GPU holds up well with most titles, but I do wish that for the money, you'd get an Intel Core i7 processor.
In action, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Playing the excellent Deathloop, a graphical powerhouse, on Ultra settings, I managed to get around 55-65fps even in the most hectic battles.
This was under the proviso that you play on Performance Mode, however, which cranks the fans up to an obnoxious volume. Without the Performance boost, I was getting between 25-35fps, which is playable but not preferable. Without being plugged into a power socket this is the kind of performance you can expect.
As well as being loud, longer gaming sessions also made the machine pretty hot to the touch, to the point where it was uncomfortable resting on my lap.
If you're looking to play the likes of Fortnite, League of Legends or Football Manager (my guilty pleasure), then there's more than enough machine to chew through them here. It must be noted that playing Starfield and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (split screen) I did experience a few crashes, but admittedly Starfield is a new release (and a Bethesda game).
If you are a keen benchmarker, on our Geekbench tests the Acer Nitro 5 registered a 1805 Single-Core score and 5801 Multi-Core score, while the GPU scored 44,773.
Acer Nitro 5 review: Features
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Row 0 - Cell 1|
|CPU:||12th Gen Intel Core i5 - 12450H|
|Graphics:||Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050|
|RAM:||8GB DDR5 SDRAM|
|Display:||15.6in, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 144Hz|
|Ports:||1x Thunderbolt 4 USB C, 3x USB A, 1x HDMI port, 1x Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm|
The Acer Nitro 5's keyboard is a strong effort that I have had no issues using with accuracy and speed, although placing the volume controls on the arrow keys is a little awkward.
In terms of ports, you're reasonably well catered for thanks to three USB-A ports, while I was pleasantly surprised to see a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 connector too.
A 512GB SSD is pretty large if you know exactly what you want to play, but if you're a game hopper then you might have to juggle installs, particularly with the size of AAA titles these days.
Acer Nitro 5 review: Battery life
Gaming laptops are not exactly endurance masters when it comes to battery life and I'm sorry to report that the Nitro 5 is pretty lacklustre even in this field. You will be lucky to hit the hour mark when gaming without it being plugged into power.
In general use, however, you can get about 5 hours of use before hitting the plug, which still doesn't really match up to other (admittedly more expensive) machines like the HP Omen 16 - which can top 7 hours.
If you're not into consoles, the Acer Nitro 5 is a brilliant gaming laptop alternative. As long as you keep it plugged in and aren't looking to go crazy with settings, you'll have no problems running the latest games and playing at a steady framerate. It's the best of PC gaming without the biggest of price tags.
If you want to run Cyberpunk 2077 at top specs this isn't the one for you, but for students looking to balance work and play, or who want to join their PC gaming friends, the Nitro 5 is not to be missed.
If you're looking to go even cheaper then the older-generation Acer Nitro 5 model offers similar specs with an even sweeter price, or you could try the Acer Chromebook 516 GE an impressive gaming-focused Chromebook.
Those with a more elastic budget should consider the HP Omen as another rung up the performance ladder, while if money is not an issue why not go all-out with the MSI Raider GE78 HX?