Not everyone has a ton of money to invest in a gaming notebook. Starting at $899.99, the Acer Nitro 5 is a budget gaming laptop that can play most games, although not always at the highest settings.
This year's design is a bit more plain than some of years' past, focusing less on the stereotypical red and black gaming aesthetic for a more toned down look that can pass just about anywhere. (Many of the gaming laptops in recent years have gone a bit more plain, and I appreciate the change.)
If only Acer didn't put so much bloatware on this machine. It may be subsidizing the cost a bit, but all those extras make the laptop feel cheaper than it is. But if you're willing to do some uninstalling, the Acer Nitro 5 delivers a strong value that puts it on our list of best gaming laptops under $1,500 and best gaming laptops under $1,000.
Design of the Acer Nitro 5
Reader, I'm surprised to tell you, but after many years of red and black gaudiness, Acer has refined the Nitro 5. It's still a budget offering, and still one made from plastic, but it's not ostentatious. The entire lid is black plastic, with Acer's logo reflecting off the top. (This is a Best Buy exclusive design. At other retailers, there are some red and teal lines that zag along the top.)
That's not to say there's no gamer red. There's a hint of it on the venting at that back, but nothing ostentatious.
The 15.6-inch, 1080p screen is surrounded by a moderate bezel, with a chunky bit on the bottom. Whenever Acer updates this design, I hope it considers a more contemporary 16:10 aspect ratio with less of a chin under the display.
The palm rest and deck are more black plastic. The keyboard adds four pops of color with distinct, separated lighting zones along the keyboard.
There's no shortage of ports here. On the back, there's a Thunderbolt 4 port and an HDMI port, as well as the power jack. The left side has a lock slot, an Ethernet jack (with a drop-jaw hinge), a USB Type-A port and a headphone jack. Two more USB Type-A ports are on the right side of the notebook.
The Nitro 5 weighs in at 5.51 pounds and measures 1.06 inches thick, which is noticeable in a backpack but not crazy for a 15-inch gaming notebook. It's lighter than the Asus TUF Gaming F17, which is 5.73 pounds and measures 0.99-inches thick, but also has a larger, 17-inch screen. The MSI Pulse GL66 is lighter at 4.63 pounds and is 0.94 inches thick, making it the smallest of the bunch.
Acer Nitro 5 Specifications
|CPU||Intel Core i5-12500H|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB GDDR6, 95W max graphics power, Max-Q, 1,485 MHz boost clock)|
|Storage||512GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD|
|Display||15.6-inch, 1920 x1080, 144Hz|
|Networking||Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650i 160 MHz|
|Ports||Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.1, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, Ethernet, 3.5 headphone jack|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Home|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||14.19 x 10.67 x 1.06 inches / 360.43 x 271.02 x 26.92 mm|
|Weight||5.51 pounds / 2.5 kg|
|Price (as configured)||$899.99|
Gaming and Graphics on the Acer Nitro 5
With its Intel Core i5-12500H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, the Nitro 5 isn't the most powerful gaming laptop out there. But that's one of the sacrifices you make when you fall below $1,000. Still, you should be able to play most games well, though you'll have to turn down some settings to get high frame rates.
I often go to Control to test gaming laptops, because it's still a challenging game (and still one of my favorites in recent memory). In order to play it on the RTX 3050 Ti, I ran the game in DX11, which the developer recommends for most people and doesn't support ray tracing. On the medium preset at 1080p, the game typically ran between 62 and 70 frames per second, including during combat.
On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark's highest settings, the Nitro 5 ran at 52 fps, falling behind the Pulse and its RTX 3060 (68 fps). This game didn't run on the TUF Gaming F17 when we tested it.
Grand Theft Auto V (very high) wasn't a challenge for any of the systems. The Nitro 5 ran it at 61 fps, coming ahead of the TUF Gaming F17 with an RTX 3050 Ti, but again losing to the Pulse and its GL66.
On Far Cry New Dawn, the most CPU-dependent of these tests, the Nitro notched 79 fps, just a few frames behind the Pulse, and perhaps the closest gap between those two laptops.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an example of the type of game you need to ratchet down to play on the Nitro 5. At medium settings, it ran the game at 39 fps, falling behind both the TUF and the Pulse.
The Nitro 5 ran the Borderlands 3 benchmark at "badass" settings at 45 fps, surpassing the TUF but trailing the Pulse's 52 fps.
We also ran a stress test on the Nitro 5, cycling through 15 runs of Metro Exodus benchmark on the "normal" preset. The laptop averaged 70.42 fps and was consistent within a few decimal points.
The CPU's performance cores ran at 3.83 GHz and the efficiency cores clocked 2.93 GHz. The average temperature for the processor was 74.16 degrees Celsius. The graphics card ran at an average speed of 1,489.93 MHz and measured 68.85 degrees Celsius.
Productivity Performance on the Acer Nitro 5
Any gaming laptop worth its salt should also have some productivity chops. The Acer Nitro 5 has an Intel Core i5-12500H, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, which should be more than enough for getting a bit of work done when you're not gaming.
On Geekbench 5, an overall performance test leaning heavily on the CPU, the Nitro 5 earned a single-core score of 1,652 and a multi-core score of 9,148. That's a handy improvement over the TUF Gaming F17 (Core i5-11260H), with a multi-core score of 5,045. It also made handy gains over the MSI Pulse GL66, which used a last-generation Core i7-11800H.
Acer's laptop copied 25GB of files at a rate of 1,240.65 MBps, outpacing the TUF Gaming F17 and MSI Pulse GL66.
On our Handbrake video transcoding test, in which we have laptops convert a 4K video to 1080p, it took 5 minutes and 58 seconds for the Nitro 5 to complete the task, outpacing both the Pulse (8:30) and the TUF Gaming F17 (10:36).
Display on the Acer Nitro 5
The Nitro 5's 15.6-inch, 1080p display isn't particularly vivid, but at least it gets nice and bright relative to the competition.
I used the Nitro 5 to watch the trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder, and found that while a bright orange sunrise looked OK on the Nitro 5, it didn't come close to how good it looked on other monitors I've watched it on. Cooler colors, like the blue in Thor's new suit, were more eye-popping.
When I played Control, it looked decent enough. I played the game without ray tracing on at a faster frame rate, and this is a game that just looks better with ray tacing. The many red overtones throughout the game looked OK, but not as eye-popping as on more expensive laptops. Still, it was bright enough to see in the darkest corners of the Oldest House without mucking around in the game's brightness settings too much.
According to our colorimeter, the Nitro 5's screen reproduces 64% of the sRGB color gamut and 45.4% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. This is in line with the panel on the Asus TUF Gaming F17, and slightly better than what you get on the MSI Pulse GL66.
But where the Nitro won out was brightness. It measured 314 nits on our light meter, beating the TUF Gaming F17 (284 nits) and the MSI Pulse (246 nits).
Keyboard and Touchpad on the Acer Nitro 5
Acer's keyboard features pudding-style keycaps that feel a bit shallow to press, but not overly so. On the Monkeytype test, I hit 115 words per minute with 95% accuracy rate, which is pretty standard for me on a laptop keyboard.
Our review unit has four-zone lighting that can be customized in the included NitroSense software, though some configurations have just one backlighting zone for the entire keyboard.
The keyboard layout, which goes almost edge-to-edge across the chassis, is a bit busy. It includes a number pad, but the arrow keys are jammed between the two sections and the right shift key is a little short.
The 3.1 x 4.2-inch touchpad is the type of plastic that sticks to your fingers no matter how clean they are. While it was receptive to even the most complicated gestures in Windows 11, my fingertips dragged against it when two-finger scrolling or using four fingers to minimize apps to my taskbar.
Audio on the Acer Nitro 5
The Nitro 5 gets nice and loud, though if you care deeply about audio quality, you might want to take your savings from the laptop and invest in some good headphones.
The Nitro 5's speakers played Soccer Mommy's "Shotgun" with hollow vocals and synths, but the drums sounded nice and snappy. The song filled my one-room apartment way before hitting max volume.
The preinstalled DTS:X Ultra app has some presets for sound. The default Music profile is fine, but I found that, oddly enough, the Voice preset meant for calls actually delivered more consistent sound for music.
When I played Control, the speakers were serviceable but not ideal. Vocals and gunshots rang out, but the game's ambient environmental noise didn't stand out. Some gamers will opt to use headsets instead, which would make for a better experience.
Upgradeability on the Acer Nitro 5
Making upgrades or repairs to the Acer Nitro 5 isn't too bad. There are 12 Phillips head screws, which is a lot, but at least they're all the same length. You can pull off the top cover (I found gripping it by the red vents made for a good start, while a prying tool helped with the rest).
The SSD, Wi-Fi card, socketed RAM and battery are all easily accessible. The RAM is behind a small shield that you can pull up without any tools. Here's how to upgrade RAM on a laptop.
Our unit had a single PCIe NVMe SSD, but there's room for a second on the motherboard. In addition, there's room for a 2.5-inch HDD or SSD, and a cable to connect it to the motherboard is included in the box. While that extra expandability is nice, I think some users would prefer a larger battery instead.
The only real issue I ran into is that the drop-jaw hinge for the Ethernet jack has a small spring attached. That fell off when I took the cover off, and I needed some patience and tweezers to get it back on.
Battery Life on the Acer Nitro 5
Gaming laptops don't have a fantastic reputation for holding a charge, but the Nitro 5 did better than its competition. Acer's laptop ran for 5 hours and 33 minutes on our test, which consists of web browsing, light graphics work and video streaming, all while connected to Wi-Fi with the display set to 150 nits of brightness.
The MSI Pulse GL66 ran for 3:14, and the Asus TUF Gaming for a measly 1:47.
Heat on the Acer Nitro 5
We measured skin temperatures while the Acer Nitro 5 was running our Metro Exodus stress test to get an idea how hot this laptop gets to the touch while gaming.
The center of the keyboard, between the G and H keys, reached 34.7 degrees Celsius (94.46 degrees Fahrenheit), while the touchpad stayed cool at 24.6 degrees Celsius (76.28 degrees Fahrenheit).
The hottest point on the bottom of the laptop measured 46 .9 degrees Celsius (116.42 degrees Fahrenheit).
Webcam on the Acer Nitro 5
As much as I push for every laptop manufacturer to switch to a 1080p webcam, I'm not shocked that Acer stuck with a lackluster 720p lens. After all, this is a budget gaming notebook.
In great light, the webcam is totally usable. It caught my bright red shirt with excellent accuracy, even if my hairs kind of blurred together. In dimmer situations, there's too much pixelation and graininess to use it as a daily driver. And if you're using this for streaming, you should consider buying one of the best webcams.
Software and Warranty on the Acer Nitro 5
Acer puts too much bloatware on its laptops. That's not to say there's nothing useful, but there's plenty to uninstall.
As soon as you get to the desktop, there are extras pinned to the taskbar, including Firefox, Dropbox and an installer for Planet 9, a gamer-focused app with chat tools and a League of Legends coach.
Acer has some documentation in an Acer folder in the Start Menu, and the Acer Jumpstart app links to the company website. Software like App Explorer links to partner software you may not need, and Aura Privacy appears to do a "risk assessment." on your personal information, which sketched me out a bit. There's also a trial for Norton Security Ultra.
The only piece of software that's actually worth it is Acer NitroSense, a hub app that also has CPU and GPU temperatures, fan control option, control over the RGB lighting on the keyboard and a series of audio profiles.
On top of all that, there's the bloat that comes with Windows 11, including ExpressVPN, Forge of Empires and Disney Plus.
Acer sells the Nitro 5 with a 1-year warranty.
Acer Nitro 5 Configurations
We tested the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-58-5046, which is exclusive to Best Buy. This $899.99 configuration has an Intel Core i5-12500H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 15.6-inch, 1080p screen with a 144 Hz refresh rate. This version also has the clean, Best Buy-exclusive top cover. It should start showing up in stores in June.
For $1,049.99, you can get the same CPU, display and storage, but bump down to an RTX 3050 and 8GB of RAM and single-zone lighting for $1,049.99 direct from Acer. This seems like a bad deal considering you're getting less for more money.
At $1,299.99, you can bump up to an RTX 3060 GPU and get an added MUX switch, but the rest of the specs are the same as our review units. Acer tops the Nitro 5 out at $2,299.99 with an Intel Core i7-12700H, RTX 3070 Ti, a 1440p, 165Hz display, 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD.
While many people buying gaming laptops dream of the most expensive systems out there, Acer has delivered for those whose budgets are a bit more restricted. The Acer Nitro 5 continues to serve as a solid, entry-level offering for those who want to get into gaming on a PC.
Sure, the display and speakers aren't as great as more expensive options, but they're competitive with other budget and mid-range laptops. The Nitro's new styling is far more conservative than some past models, even if it is largely plastic.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the amount of software Acer has jam-packed on here. Some of it's useful, but in general, it's bloatware that people who buy this won't have asked for, and may spend time uninstalling.
But if you're looking for a gaming laptop under $1,000, look no further. The Acer Nitro 5 might not play all games on the highest settings, but for the price, it's a winner.