Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) review

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Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-54) specs

Price: $999
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz
Battery: 7:06
Size: 14.3 x 10 x 1 inches inches
Weight: 4.85 pounds 

The Acer Nitro 5, a budget gaming laptop under $1,000, is a carefully curated rig that makes the right concessions to attract bargain-hunting gamers. Acer wanted to offer consumers a decent graphics card at a wallet-friendly price, so it sacrificed a premium build quality and a bright, colorful display to make room for an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU.

The Nitro 5 isn’t for bougie gamers — I’m talking to you pretentious players who wouldn’t touch an all-plastic laptop with a ten-foot pole, fancy folk who believe dim displays are for peasants, and CPU snobs who only use the latest processors. These types would balk at the thought of using this gaming rig. This Acer laptop is for down-to-earth gamers who are willing to accept a few trade-offs in favor of a better discrete graphics card.

If you turn your nose up at lackluster screens, odd keyboard layouts and cheaply built gaming rigs, you may not be satisfied with the Nitro 5. However, if you’re a sucker for crimson-and-onyx motifs, impressive mid-range GPUs and decent VR performance at an affordable price, the Nitro 5 is an excellent choice. 

Acer Nitro 5 price and configuration options 

The Acer Nitro 5 starts at $829.99 and comes with a quad-core Intel Core i5-10300H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD and a 15.6-inch, 144Hz display.

My review model costs $999 and comes with the same storage and display, but swaps out the processor, graphics and memory for a hexa-core Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM, and 16GB of RAM, respectively.

Acer Nitro 5 design 

The Acer Nitro 5 looks like it’s been ripped from Optimus Prime’s robotic build and welded into a badass gaming rig with an eye-catching red-and-black motif. A glossy, but subtle Acer logo sits in the center of the onyx-coated lid. The lid features two textures: a smooth, fingerprint-attracting black center flanked by a funky hexagonal-pattern design. 

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

An attractive red hinge with the word “Nitro” connects the display to the deck. Acer adorns the Nitro 5 with red-trim accents around the keyboard keys and touchpad. The Nitro 5’s chassis is made out of plastic — and it shows. If you press down on the lid, you’ll notice some flex and a lack of sturdiness. The palm rest is more solid than the lid, but certainly still feels cheap. One of the trade-offs you’ll make with this budget gaming laptop is build quality.

Acer tries to distract you from the display’s ultra-thick bezels with visually pleasing bevel-edge corners, but there’s no ignoring the Nitro 5’s chunky frames. The gigantic chin is the largest bezel, sporting a glossy Acer logo. The Nitro 5 has four rubber feet on each corner, making room for a large, edge-to-edge ventilation grill.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

At 4.9 pounds and 14.3 x 10 x 1 inches, the Acer Nitro 5 is lighter than its three budget gaming rivals: the Asus ROG Strix G15 (5.3 pounds, 14.2 x 10.8 x 1 inches), Dell G5 15 SE (5.5 pounds, 14.4 x 10 x 0.9 inches) and the Lenovo Legion 5 (5.4 pounds, 14.3 x 10 x 0.9 inches).

Acer Nitro 5 ports 

The Acer Nitro 5 has an OK stock of ports.

On the left side, you’ll find a Kensington lock slot, an RJ45 Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a USB Type-C port and two USB Type-A ports. On the right side, you’ll discover a headset jack and another USB Type-A port. 

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

The Nitro 5 does not have Thunderbolt 3 support, a microSD card slot nor a mini DisplayPort. If you need more ports, we recommend checking out our best laptop docking stations and best USB Type-C hubs pages.

Acer Nitro 5 display 

The Nitro’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display looked surprisingly sharp and detailed as I watched The Mauritanian trailer on YouTube. I could spot every wrinkle and pore on Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. I could make out the cute, tiny freckles that populate Shailene Woodley’s cheeks. However, Jodie Foster’s striking blue eyes and red lips could have been bolder and more vivid on the Nitro 5’s display. Still, the Acer laptop offers a satisfactory visual experience.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

I played Hitman 2, navigating through a Colombian jungle to take down a drug cartel. I loved how the display accurately showed Agent 47’s  transition from the muggy wilderness — cloudy with a misty haze — to a less humid environment with muddy streets and run-down brick homes. Of course, being that the Nitro 5 is equipped with a 1080p screen, it won’t win any awards, but I was pleased with the game’s visuals on Nitro 5’s IPS display.

I hope you don’t sit near a bright window — Nitro 5 is pretty darn dim. The Acer laptop’s display emanates only 245 nits of brightness, which is dimmer than the average budget gaming laptop (271 nits). The ROG Strix G15 (251 nits), G5 15 SE (301 nits) and Legion 5 (287 nits) are all brighter than the Nitro 5, but not by much.

The Nitro 5 also covers 45% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is eight percentage points less than the 53% category average. The ROG Strix G15 covers 1% more of the DCI-P3 color space than the Nitro 5 (46%). The G5 15 SE takes the crown as having the most colorful display (77%). The Legion 5 fares the worst with an embarrassing color-coverage score of 40%. 

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

With a Delta-E score of 0.33, the Nitro 5 is less color accurate than the 0.3 score of the average budget laptop (the closer the score is to zero, the better). The Nitro 5 is also less color accurate than the G5 15 SE and Legion 5, which share a Delta-E score of 0.26, but the Acer gaming rig defeated the ROG Strix G15’s score by a hair (0.34).

Acer Nitro 5 keyboard and touchpad 

Meh! I’m not a big fan of the Nitro 5’s less-than-impressive keyboard. But admittedly, it has some positive aspects, so let’s start there. The oft-used keys in PC gaming (i.e. the W, A, S, D and arrow keys) are outlined with a thick red trim to help them stand out on the keyboard. There is one additional key outlined in red: a dedicated “N” key, located within the top-left corner of the full-sized numpad, to quick-launch the NitroSense app for fan control.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

The keyboard’s island-style, red-and-black color scheme panders to my personal tastes — I have a weakness for crimson-and-onyx motifs. I even love the red backlighting, which has four brightness tiers. Unfortunately, if you’re not a fan of red-backlit keys, you’ll be disappointed to know that the Nitro 5 doesn’t feature customizable RGB-key lighting, so you’re stuck with red. You can always turn off the red backlight, but the dark-red symbols superimposed on black keys are a tad difficult to see. 

While I love how the keyboard looks, I cannot stand how it feels. I hated typing on this laptop so much, I angrily gave up on it while typing this review in Google Docs. I scored 84 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is a slight regression from my typical 85-wpm typing speed. One of the Nitro 5’s biggest offenses is its shortened Shift key — an issue I addressed in 2020 laptop trends that must die. Capitalizing letters is a pain in the rear; instead of landing on the Shift key, I often ended up on the up-arrow key, which sent the blinking text cursor flying to another paragraph. Another gripe I have with the Nitro 5 keyboard is its poorly placed power button — I am not a fan of power buttons integrated into the keyboard, sorry.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

The Nitro 5’s 4.2 x 3.1-inch touchpad is fine, offering a satisfactory clicking experience. It’s also responsive to Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing. However, when I don’t have a gaming mouse handy, I prefer touchpads with dedicated left-and-right buttons. While playing Dishonored 2, I found myself landing on the wrong side of the touchpad, causing me to accidentally fire my pistol and alert nearby enemies of my presence. I had to run for my life — so much for stealth gameplay. 

Acer Nitro 5 audio 

The dual speakers, tuned by Waves MaxxAudio, are on the left and right corners of the bottom chassis. I played Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” on Spotify and wished the sound was slightly louder — the Christmas classic didn’t fill my large testing room.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

The holiday jingle sounded a bit flat and congested as it emanated from the oddly placed, bottom-firing speakers. There is a Waves Maxx Audio app to tweak the audio to your liking. There are several presets, including Gaming General, Gaming FPS, Gaming Sports, Movies, Music and Voice. I played around with all six profiles — none of the presets enhanced the audio, but the Gaming Sports profile sounded the worst, adding too much grit and rasp to the smooth-sounding holiday jam.

While playing Dishonored 2 on the Nitro 5, I preferred the Gaming General preset, which provided well-balanced sound for both the characters’ voices and the background music. Dishonored 2 is one of those games where you’ll need to rely on sound to detect whether an enemy is nearby, and of course, being that the Nitro 5 is a budget gaming laptop, it won’t offer a surround-sound experience. Overall, the speakers are simply OK.

Acer Nitro 5 gaming, graphics and VR

The Nitro 5’s graphics are powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 2060 GPU and 6GB of VRAM, which is a great graphical engine for a budget gaming laptop.

Cranking up the graphics settings to Ultra, I crept through a beautiful, abandoned mansion in a fantasized English city in Dishonored 2. I loved that I could make out the different textures in the mansion, from a wooden ceiling fan to the off-white marble floors. I could also spot some nifty ray-tracing details, including a soft, realistic glow from a leather chair located near a light source and a bright glare from a painting placed inside a glass frame.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p), the Nitro 5 hovered around 52 frames per second, which outpaced the budget gaming laptop average (36 fps). The ROG Strix G15, powered by an Nvidia GeForce RTX 1650 Ti GPU, fell short against the Nitro 5 (40 fps). The G5 15 SE, armed with an AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU, also fell short of the Acer gaming rig (45 fps). The Nitro 5 finally met its match with the Legion 5. Powered by a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, the Lenovo laptop offered the same score as the Acer laptop (52 fps).

The Nitro 5 averaged 67 frames per second on the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), which crushed the 48-fps category average. The ROG Strix G15 could only muster 44 fps. The G5 15 SE and the Legion 5 also failed to reach the Nitro 5’s glory with just 56 and 64 fps, respectively.

On the Metro Exodus benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the Nitro 5 climbed to 47 fps, beating the 36-fps category average. The ROG Strix G15 only offered 30 fps. The G5 15 and the Legion 5 came close to the Nitro 5 with 46 fps and 42 fps, respectively, but the Dell and the Lenovo laptops couldn’t surpass Acer.

When we ran 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra, the Nitro 5 (3,696) crushed the category average (2,919), the ROG Strix G15 (2,197) and the Legion 5 (3,180), but the G5 15 SE killed the Acer’s winning streak with a knock-out score of 4,360. 

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

If you’re wondering whether the Nitro 5 can handle VR, you’ll be happy to know that the Acer gaming rig slew the VRMark Orange Room benchmark with a score of 7,116, sailing past the average budget gaming laptop (5,415). The Nitro 5 also defeated the ROG Strix G15 (5,259), the G5 15 SE (7,237) and the Legion 5 (5,013).

Acer Nitro 5 performance 

The Nitro 5 packs 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i7-9750H CPU (a mid-tier processor that is a generation behind as of this writing). The Acer laptop managed to juggle 45 Google Chrome tabs and three YouTube videos without a hitch.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

Despite its obsolete CPU, the Nitro 5 served up a score of 5,435, which beats the category average (4,696) and the Core i7-10750H processors inside both the ROG Strix G15 (5,168) and the Legion 5 (5,325). However, the Nitro 5 couldn’t keep up with G5 15 SE’s AMD Ryzen R7 4800H CPU, which outputted a spectacular score of 7,715.

The Nitro 5 took 11 minutes and 41 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark, failing to surpass the category average (11:25). The ROG Strix G15 (10:28), G5 15 SE (6:43) and Legion 5 (10:05) were quicker than the Acer gaming rig.

When we ran the file transfer test, the Nitro 5’s 256GB SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 18 seconds at a transfer rate of 301 megabytes per second. This is a tinge faster than the category average (285 MBps). The Nitro 5 also beat the 512GB SSDs inside the ROG Strix G15 (129 MBps) and the Legion 5 (200 MBps). However, the Acer laptop couldn’t keep up with the G5 15 SE (452 MBps), which also sports a 512GB SSD. 

Acer Nitro 5 battery life 

The Nitro 5 has decent battery life for a budget gaming laptop. 

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

The Acer gaming rig lasted 7 hours and 6 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness), which outlasted the average budget gaming laptop (6:56). The Nitro 5 also has more endurance than the ROG Strix G15 (5:11). The G5 15 SE (7:14) and the Legion 5 (7:13) lasted 8 minutes and 7 minutes longer than the Nitro 5, respectively. 

Acer Nitro 5 camera 

On the top bezel of the Nitro 5 is a 1280 x 720-pixel camera that is as grainy as an ‘80s homemade video.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

This camera looks like a visual sprite, displaying fizz via its overwhelming video noise. The webcam could not capture the individual strands of my frizzy hair that was pulled up into a bun, looking like a messy blob. My brown complexion appeared to have odd green undertones. If you plan on broadcasting your gameplay on Twitch or YouTube, this webcam will stifle your streaming career. Check out our best webcams page for cameras with better video quality. 

Acer Nitro 5 heat 

After gaming for 15 minutes, the Nitro 5’s underside reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad hit 107 and 77 degrees, respectively. The hottest location of the laptop is the underside, near the vents, which climbed to 119 degrees.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

After playing a 15-minute, 1080p YouTube video, the Nitro 5 remained relatively cool under the hood, showing off the advantage of its plastic chassis. The Acer laptop’s center (88 degrees), touchpad (76 degrees) and underside (87 degrees) all hovered below the 95-degree comfort threshold. Again, the hottest location was the underside (near the vents), reaching 91 degrees.

Acer Nitro 5 software and warranty

The Nitro 5 features the NitroSense app, which allows you to monitor and manage the laptop’s performance, battery and fans.

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Future)

You’ll also find Acer properties such as Acer Product Registration, which offers discounts and exclusive offers, Acer Collection S, an app store, and Acer Care Center, a platform that runs system updates, tuneups and diagnostics.

You’ll discover some typical Windows 10 bloatware apps, including Candy Crush Friends and Farm Heroes Saga.

The Nitro 5 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Acer performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Laptop Brands. 

Bottom line 

The Acer Nitro 5 is a solid budget gaming laptop with competition-beating frame rates and VR score. However, there is one laptop that consistently kept outperforming the Nitro 5 during our testing: the Dell G5 15 SE.

The $829 G5 15 SE kicked the $999 Nitro 5’s butt. The AMD-equipped Dell gaming rig sports a punchier display, more storage, zippier file-transfer and video-editing rates, and better overall performance.

On the plus side, the Nitro 5 crushed the G5 15 SE — and its other rivals —  when it comes to gaming frame rates, offering an average of nine more frames than the Dell laptop. It also surpassed all of its competitors on the VRMark Orange Room benchmark.

If decent VR performance and higher frame rates appeal to you, get the Nitro 5, but if you prefer a better display, a blisteringly fast CPU and more storage at a sub-$1,000 price tag, the G5 15 SE is the better option.



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About the Author: Chris Jenny

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