Tech review: Budget Acer Nitro 5 offers mid-range gaming performance

Acer's Nitro 5 series of gaming laptops start at just $1,498.
Acer's Nitro 5 series of gaming laptops start at just $1,498.PHOTO: ACER

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 (available on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee) series of gaming laptops start at just $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 unusually 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 became clear to me when I saw 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 did have to cut some corners. For one, this 15-inch notebook is not much of a looker with a chunky plastic chassis that weighs around 2.3kg. The screen bezels are not as slim as more expensive models while the lid feels a tad creaky.

The keyboard only offers four lighting zones compared to 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 in 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 do 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.

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 that there won't be any screen tearing in games that reach or exceed 144fps.

Based on my testing, 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 produced around 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 lasted 4hr 13min 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 for processor-intensive tasks like 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.

FOR

Inexpensive for a gaming notebook

Capable GeForce RTX 2060 graphics

High refresh rate display

AGAINST

Creaky plastic body

Lacklustre audio

SPECS

Price: $1,798

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

RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 3.5/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 4.5/5

Battery life: 3.5/5

Overall: 4/5

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