In November 2018, we reviewed an under-$700, AMD Ryzen 5-powered version of Acer’s 15.6-inch Nitro 5 budget gaming laptop. Today, we’re carrying it out again. What’s changed, apart from the new Nitro being $30 cheaper ($669.99 at Best Buy for our test model)? Well, the 2018 rig had a quad-core Ryzen 5 2500U processor and barely managed 30 fps (fps) in 1080p gaming. That one has AMD’s new Ryzen 5 4600H-a six-core chip that’s priced as an Intel Core i5 but slugs it out with Core i7 CPUs-and approaches 60fps in top titles. It creates compromises for its good deal, but if you cannot afford our $999 Editors’ Choice, the MSI Bravo 15, you will see it a good value.
Undercutting the Under-$1,000 Set
While both Nitro 5 and Bravo 15 reap the benefits of AMD’s new “Renoir” CPU architecture, there’s only so much Acer can do with a $330 cheap. Besides packing a six-core Ryzen 5 versus an eight-core Ryzen 7, the Nitro 5 has 8GB of memory versus 16GB and a 256GB instead of 512GB NVMe solid-state drive. Small SSD may be the biggest practical cut for some folks; it’ll make it tough to set up many games. But unscrewing underneath panel reveals welcome room for expansion: another M.2 slot for another SSD, and also a 2.5-inch drive bay for a 2TB hard disk drive. There’s a drive cable in the box.
Graphics are powered by a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, therefore the Acer naturally falls short of gaming laptops with the GTX 1660 Ti. Because you won’t see frame rates much more than 60fps, the IPS screen sticks to the generic 60Hz refresh rate rather than offering a 120Hz or faster panel.
At 0.94 by 14.3 by 10 inches and 5.5 pounds, the Nitro 5 is averagely hefty for a 15.6-inch gaming laptop; it’s an almost actual match for the Dell G5 15 SE. It isn’t ponderous, but you will get lighter competitors-the MSI GL65 9SC is 5.1 pounds, for example.
Less garish than many rivals, the Nitro is clad in black plastic with a red rear panel. Despite my complaints in past reviews of the machine, the red-on-black keyboard lettering remains so lower in contrast concerning be illegible-unless you’re in sunlight or a pitch-black room with the red keyboard backlight on full, you need to be a touch typist and will only guess at the function key shortcuts.
On the laptop’s left flank, you will discover two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, a Killer Ethernet port, an audio tracks jack, and a security lock slot. Another Type-A port joins a USB-C 3.2 port and HDMI video output on the proper. The AC adapter plugs in at the trunk. Acer forgot an Sdcard slot. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth handle wireless communications. (The Wi-Fi 6 support is a good surprise in a budget machine such as this one.)
Everything But Biometrics
The Nitro 5 has neither a face recognition webcam nor a fingerprint reader to enable you to skip passwords with Windows Hello. The 720p webcam is an average notebook computer economy model that captures soft-focus, noisy shots. Audio doesn’t get very loud-it’ll fill a tiny room-but isn’t bad, short on bass but clear and mellow. DTS:X Ultra software enables you to choose among music, movie, voice, strategy, RPG, and shooter presets or play with an equalizer.
Medium-thin bezels surround the entire HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) screen, which pushes average brightness with good contrast. Fine details are sharp rather than pixelated. White backgrounds are simply a touch off-white, but colors, while they don’t really pop, are reasonably vivid and well saturated.
The keyboard includes a shallow, snappy typing feel; it’s quiet and comfortable. There are small but dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys above the numeric keypad; the Delete key isn’t in its usual corner position but sandwiched between PrtSc and Home. The buttonless touchpad taps and glides smoothly and clicks stiffly.
A special key near to the keypad launches a NitroSense utility, which displays CPU and GPU temperature, usage, and fan speed and the existing power plan. In addition, it provides usage of the sound presets and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience utility. You can manually switch the fans to a not-too-noisy max mode or click a CoolBoost button to improve fan speed in auto mode.
Other software on the Windows 10 Home system tilts toward bloatware, with Dropbox, Norton Security Ultra, and ExpressVPN trials and game advertisings in the notification tab. An Acer Care Center utility centralizes tuneup and update functions.
Performance Testing: A Productivity and Gaming Ace for the Bucks
I compared the Nitro 5’s performance compared to that of four other gaming laptops. Each is among the less expensive we’ve tested lately, but it is important to remember that only the MSI GL65 9SC is down in the Acer’s cost range: The MSI Bravo 15 and Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i are about $1,000 each, as the Dell G5 15 SE is in the $1,200 ballpark. You can view their (mostly superior) specs in the table below.
The more costly rigs bested the Nitro 5 generally in most benchmarks, however the Acer overall became such an excellent gamer that you will quickly go out of room on its skimpy SSD. It is also a fantastic choice as a daily driver, with exceptional battery life. (Observe how we test laptops.)
Productivity and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites produced by the PC benchmark professionnals at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We make utilization of it to determine overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as for example word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, includes a storage subtest that people use to determine the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
Though it trailed the Ryzen 7 systems, the Nitro 5 easily cleared the 4,000-point mark that people look at a winning score in PCMark 10. The quintet’s speedy SSDs made mincemeat of PCMark 8’s storage test.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to employ all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU instead of the GPU to render a complex image. The effect is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is normally an excellent predictor of our Handbrake video editing benchmark, where we put a stopwatch on systems because they transcode a short movie from 4K resolution right down to 1080p. It, too, is a hardcore test for multi-core, multi-threaded CPUs; lower times are better.
Again, the eight-core Ryzen 7’s prevailed, however the Nitro’s six-core Ryzen 5 proved a lot more than capable, dominating the Core i5 in the MSI GL65.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early on 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a number of 10 complex filters and effects to a typical JPEG test image. We time each procedure and add up the full total (lower times are better). The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, nonetheless it can also take good thing about most GPUs to increase the procedure of applying filters.
Typically, the Acer took another or two longer to execute each Photoshop operation, joining the GL65 behind the pack.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suitable for laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and lets high-end PCs and gaming rigs strut their stuff.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time around from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through an in depth 3D scene, that one rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine for another judgment on the machine’s graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets and reported in fps (fps), indicating how smooth the scene looks in motion. For lower-end systems, maintaining at least 30fps may be the realistic target, while better computers should ideally attain at least 60fps at the test resolution.
The Bravo 15 and G5 15 SE won again-as you’d expect, given that they cost $330 and $530 more respectively-but the Nitro 5 performed ably in these gaming simulations.
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are ideal for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video gaming for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern AAA titles with built-in benchmark routines. We run these tests at 1080p resolution using both moderate and maximum graphics-quality presets-Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5 under DirectX 11, Medium and incredibly High for Rise of the Tomb Raider under DirectX 12.
The Acer flirted with the magic 60fps mark at the games’ finest quality settings. It’s clear from these games’ charts which three laptops are employing the GeForce GTX 1650, and which two are employing the stepped-up Radeon RX 5500M and 5600M GPUs.
You might want to shift to the second-best settings according to the overall game, but that is an admirable performance for an under-$700 gaming rig, the one which makes some $1,000 machines (themselves budget models, as gaming laptops go) look overpriced.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we create the device in power-save mode (instead of balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make additional battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the notebook computer into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video-a locally placed 720p file of the Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel-with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at completely before system quits.