It does not cost a fortune to play the latest, most graphically demanding computer games on a gaming notebook.
Case in point: Acer's Nitro 5 series of gaming laptops start at $1,498, albeit with last year's AMD Ryzen processor.
My Nitro 5 review set (AN515-55-56AF), though, comes with Intel's latest 10th-generation Core processor. But unusual for a gaming laptop, Acer has gone with a mid-tier Core i5-10300H chip instead of the higher-end Core i7-10750H variant.
Acer's reasoning becomes clear to me when I see that the Nitro 5 has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics chip. It is practically unheard of to find this capable graphics chip, which supports Nvidia's ray-tracing technology for more realistic lighting effects, in a notebook at this price.
In addition, the Nitro 5 has a 1TB solid-state drive and supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology.
But Acer had to cut some corners. For one thing, the 15-inch notebook is not much of a looker with a chunky plastic chassis that weighs 2.3kg. The screen bezels are not as slim as more expensive models while the lid feels a tad creaky.
The keyboard offers only four lighting zones compared with the per-key RGB backlighting schemes offered by premium gaming notebooks. The colour of the backlight can be customised using the preloaded Nitrosense app, which also lets you adjust the fan speed and monitor the laptop's internal temperature.
The speakers are lacking in volume and depth. They are almost drowned out by the noise from the cooling fans when the latter are running at full speed during games.
The lacklustre audio is not an issue for me as I usually wear a headset, but it could be a downside for those intending to watch movies on the Nitro 5.
On the bright side, the fans keep the keyboard and palm rest comfortably cool even after hours of gaming.
The display is also not as vibrant as I would have liked. Colours appear slightly washed out at the maximum screen brightness setting.
• Inexpensive for a gaming notebook
• Capable GeForce RTX 2060 graphics chip
• High refresh rate display
• Creaky plastic body
• Lacklustre audio
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-10300H (2.5GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GDDR6 6GB
RAM: 8GB DDR4
SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI, Ethernet port, headphone jack
BATTERY: 57.5 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5
BATTERY LIFE: 3.5/5
As expected of a mainstream gaming notebook, the display does not support Nvidia's G-Sync technology, which synchronises the display's refresh rate with the game's frame rates (fps) to eliminate screen tearing and stuttering.
But it has a fast 144Hz refresh rate, which means there will not be any screen tearing in games that reach or exceed 144fps.
Based on my test, the Nitro 5 can easily achieve 144fps in games like the battle royale title Apex Legends.
In a more graphically demanding game like Metro Exodus, the laptop produces about 55fps at High setting. This is similar to the 53fps achieved by the Gigabyte Aorus 5 ($2,199), which has a slightly slower GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics chip, but a faster Core i7-10750H processor.
Its battery life is typical for a gaming notebook. The Nitro 5 lasts four hours and 13 minutes in The Straits Times' video-loop test.
Acer offers a different configuration of the Nitro 5 (AN515-55-71TR) with the Core i7-10750H and the GeForce GTX 1650 at the same $1,798 price as my review set.
This seems like an acknowledgement that both hardware configurations - Core i5 with RTX 2060 or Core i7 with GTX 1650 - are fairly similar, with the former slightly ahead in gaming and the latter more suited to processor-intensive tasks such as spreadsheets and video rendering.
Whichever version you pick will serve you well in games and everyday computing tasks as long as you accept its few minor flaws.