Acer Nitro 5 AN515-51-55WL Review
For a moment, we were getting accustomed to bulky gaming laptops with discrete CPUs, that rarely left the desk and cost upwards $2000.That’s not the case anymore. The release of Nvidia’s Pascal graphic cards and Intel’s Kaby lake (8th-Gen.) chips has brought desktop gaming performance to mobile systems, affordably. Now, there’s a paradigm of budget gaming laptops like the Acer Nitro 5 $679.89 at Amazon , that are easy on your pocket, impressively portable, and strong on frame rates, even at maximum settings.
Acer does make a few tradeoffs to make the system affordable, but the Acer Nitro 5 still delivers a strong showing on modern games played at full HD. Casual gamers and value hunters on a budget, here is something worth a close look.
The Acer Nitro 5 gets a clean design, but you won’t easily mistake for a business laptop, and it isn’t precisely gorgeous. With a sculptured lid exterior with an Acer logo embossed in the middle, it looks gamer. On the back, there’s are strip and a big cooling grille, though, only half of it is functional fan exhaust outlet. Overall, it has the flashy motif of a gaming laptop, but Acer didn’t go overboard with bling like the Origin PC EON15-X.
Measuring 1 by 15.4 by10.5 inches(HWD) and weighing 5.51 pounds, the Nitro 5 is in the same ballpark with most 15-inch gaming laptops. In the same ilk we have the Dell Inspiron 15 weighing 5.84 pounds, Lenovo’s Legion Y520 weighing 5.56 pounds and the Acer Predator Helios 300 weighing 5.95 pounds.
For 15-inchers, 6 pounds is perhaps the ceiling, but we have more portable options, like the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501 that weighs just over 4.8 pounds. The budget-friendly graphics card, with less demanding cooling and power requirements, in this case, it’s a GTX 1050 Ti have made it possible to have lighter mobile systems.
Display and Keyboard
The 15-inch full HD display on the Nitro 5 uses in-plane-switching (IPS) technology to deliver wider viewing angles. It also comes with a matte finish that significantly reduces screen glare, though some gamers might wish for a 4K display in this price range. The Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti does a nice job, though, it isn’t the most powerful around.
Still, it does render games at playable frame rates, making them playable at 4K resolution. If you need 4K resolution, a touchscreen and a GPU that’s VR Ready, you’ll have to spend more. The Razer Blade Pro Gaming Laptop has all these under one roof, but you’ll dig into your pocket more.
The backlit keyboard is comfortable, but it doesn’t have any customizable lights that gamers fancy on external keyboards and many high-end gaming laptops. Its either you turn on the red backlight (press F9 button), or off – no customization whatsoever.
Also, it lacks brightness adjustments, and when turned off, the fonts on the pads is quite hard to identify, if not in a brightly lit room. The only exceptions are the WASD keys that have a thicker font and surrounded by a red border, so you can easily maneuver during gaming.
Acer included both a number pad and full-sized directional arrows, rarely found on a 15-inch laptop. There’s some mild flex on the keyboard, but its negligible unless you will be mashing the keys during play. Its touchpad doesn’t come with the dedicated left and right buttons, not a deal breaker, since you can easily use an external mouse during play. The Nitro 5 has down facing speakers, audible enough to fill a small room and a clear 720p camera.
Connectivity and Storage
Port selection is excellent. Here you get two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port (with power-off charging), an HDMI port, Ethernet, and the new USB 3.1 Type-C. Others include, the AC adapter jack, a Kensington lock slot, and a headphone jack. That’s not quite as many ports as you get in rival gaming laptops, but the available I/O ports are still sufficient. For wireless connectivity, the Nitro 5 uses the fast, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Storage is quite sufficient for the most important games and files, if you need more you can always hook-up an external drive. Our review unit packs a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), which is far much better than rivals who offer 1TB mechanical hard drives.
The Acer Predator 15 (G9-591-74KN) boasts of a 1TB, 7,200RPM hard disk drive (HDD) and a 512GB solid state drive (SSD), like the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 3K, which is more than enough space for most users. If you need more space, you can do so via an HDD upgrade kit which is a 2.5” bracket with SATA and power cable. It comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed.
A system designed for gaming ought to satisfy the base threshold of everyday computing performance, and that’s, unfortunately an area the Acer Nitro 5 fails to impress with its Intel Core i5-7300Q processor. The 2.5GHz chip scores 6867 points on the proprietary CPU Mark test, which is lower than the 8904 points you’d get from the Acer Predator Helios 300’s Intel Core i5-7700HQ (2.8GHz) processor.
Nevertheless, the 2.5GHz chip paired with 8GB RAM is still sufficient for daily computing, though it will work hard to match its competitors in the same price range. Its performance is comparable with the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, with the same processor but a GTX 1050 graphics card.
Professional gamers will slam the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, but their gibe is somewhat warranted. Most modern games are resource intensive, pushing the GPU to the extremes. Also, there’s a growing ilk of titles meant for virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, that require better frame rates to deliver butter-smooth playability.
The GTX 1050 Ti card doesn’t meet the threshold for VR gaming, so if you own a VR headset, its time you spend more in getting a system powered by at least a GTX 1060, 1070 OR GTX 1080. On the other hand, if you don’t mind frame rates, the Nitro 5 is a fine choice. It makes a good showing on most titles including: FIFA 18 (188 fps), Battlefield 1 (58 fps), Overwatch (118 fps), all played at 1080p (1920 by 1080) resolutions.
As mobile gaming systems become more portable, battery life is one aspect folks make compromise. Luckily, battery life is one area of performance that the Acer Nitro 5 excels. The system lasts just over 8 hours 56 minutes, which is almost double the battery life you’d find on Asus, Lenovo and MSI competing laptops. Only the Inspiron gets better battery life, with a time of 11 hours 3 minutes. But, you won’t achieve these times if you’ll be playing demanding games, but its nice to know that it can last you over a movie on a cross-country flight.
Solid Performer, would be Better for the Price
The Acer Nitro 5 is priced to woo anyone in the market who doesn’t mind missing a few frames while playing games with intense GPU demands, or anyone not interested in VR gaming. If you’re in either of these groups, the Nitro 5 offers value that you can’t easily beat elsewhere.
And, there are two alternatives to consider as well: One is our Editors’ Choice, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop, with the same GPU and processor for a few bucks less, and the other is the Lenovo Legion Y520, which will take you back a few more dollars, but boasts a Core i7 processor and delivers more frames even at higher resolutions.
The Acer Nitro 5 AN515-51-55WL is a gaming laptop that promises smooth playability even at full HD resolution, and represents value that is simply hard to find elsewhere. It isn't the most powerful around, especially daily productivity, but it does compensate with class-leading battery life for a gaming laptop.
- Class-leading battery life
- Light and portable that most 15-inchers
- Superb graphics performance for the price
- Lackluster performance on daily computing
- Single-color keyboard
- Minor keyboard flex