Acer’s Nitro 5 is a cheaper budget-friendly gaming laptop, but often lower prices result in compromises, so let’s find out what you’ll be missing out on in this review.
Nitro 5 Specs:
I’ve got two configurations of Nitro 5 here, Intel i5 and Ryzen 5 6 core models, both with Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics, different single-channel memory, more on that soon, and a 144Hz 1080p screen.
There are both lower and higher specced options of the Nitro 5, and you can find examples and updated prices with those links down in the description.
Design, Size & Weight:
The Intel and AMD Nitro 5 look the same with an all-black plastic build. The laptop alone weighs under 2.3kg or 5lb, then under 2.9kg or 6.3lb total with the 180-watt power brick and cables, so not too heavy.
The size is pretty standard for a modern 15” gaming laptop; it’s not super thin or anything but still portable.
Acer Nitro 5 laptops have the same 15.6” 1080p 144Hz panel. Unfortunately, there’s no MUX switch to disable Optimus, and they didn’t have FreeSync or Adaptive Sync. The colour gamut was on the lower side, so probably look elsewhere if you’re a content creator, but the contrast was good.
The brightness levels on both screens are highly similar as they’re the same panel, but at under 260 nits when maxed out, t the dimmer side. On the other hand, the Intel model Againsimilar results are expected; however, they’re on the slower side than alternatives, but the Intel model Again not as quiet as the TUF A15.
Acer Nitro 5 also has the slowest results I’ve recorded so far in terms of total system latency, the amount of time measured between mouse click, and a gunshot fire in CS: GO, and the AMD system was a little faster compared to Intel here.
The Acer website notes a 3ms response time, so I’m assuming that refers to the 165Hz 1440p panel option that I didn’t have because the 144hz screens are slow.
Backlight bleed wasn’t too bad either, both had some subtle glow patches, but I never noticed this during regular use, but this will vary between laptop and panel.
Camera / Mics:
There’s a 720p camera above the screen in the middle. Another hand’sOn the other hand, both the laptop camera and microphone seem to be the same on both the Intel and AMD models.
This is what it sounds like while typing on the keyboard, and this is what it sounds like if I set the fan to full speed, so you can still hear me alright over the fan noise.
Keyboard & Touchpad:
Both of mine had 4 zone RGB keyboards which lit up all keys and secondary functions; however, I think there are also read-only options. I thought the lighting looked decent, and there are some effects available through the Acer’s Nitro sense software, the control panel for the laptop.
It’s got 4 levels of key brightness, which can be controlled through software or with the function key plus F9 and F10 shortcut keys. It’s got 1.6mm of key travel, and I had no problems typing on it.
The precision touchpad is plastic, I thought it worked alright, but my partner also noted wrong palm rejection, but I couldn’t replicate this, so your mileage may vary.
Input & Output Ports:
The left has a Kensington lock, air exhaust vent, gigabit ethernet port, two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. The right has a USB Type-C port, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port, HDMI 2.1 output, and there’s an air exhaust on this side too.
The Type-C port on the Intel model offers Thunderbolt 4 support, which is not present in the Ryzen model. Still, one of the requirements of Thunderbolt 4 is to provide Type-C charging, but I didn’t find Type-C charging on my Intel model to work, so I’m not sure what the deal is, and Type-C charging wasn’t available on the Ryzen 5 model either.
Both Type-C ports offer DisplayPort output; however, they connect to the integrated graphics. On the dual-channel other hand, the bond connects directly to the Nvidia GPU, so connecting an external screen should bypass Optimus, and I’ll show you how much of a speed boost this gives in games later. I also want to note how annoying the ethernet port was.
It might be okay with brand new cables, but most of mine have weak or broken clips, which is fine for most laptops I test, but I often had to get the laptop sitting just right for the network to work with the Nitro 5.
The back has the power input near with more air exhaust vents out towards the corners. As with previous Acer laptops, you need to push the power plug all the can feel like it’s in, but it’s not; it’s almost like it has a second level to clip in, which is a bit annoying.
The front has no indentation for opening the lid, but I still found it easy to do. There’s some flex to the interior, which is expected from an all-plastic machine. Still, it usually it’s just not an impressive Intel model Againdual-channel felt alright when using it.
Likewise, there’s a bit of flex to the plastic lid, and at times, I found it to wobble a bit when carrying it around.
Getting Inside + Internals:
Getting inside requires removing 11 Phillips head screws of the same length. I found it easy to open using the tools, and here we can get a better look at where the holes are placed for airflow.
Once inside, we’ve got the battery down the front, a 2.5” drive bay to the left of that, two M.2 slots above on the left and right, a Wi-Fi 6 card above the SSD, and two memory slots in the middle.
Both laptops also came with the necessary screws and cables to install a 2.5” drive.
I also need to note that my Ryzen model came with MediaTek Wi-Fi, while the Killer Wi-Fi in the Intel model could perform 55% faster.
Not sure why the AMD model uses a slower Wi-Fi card, and it also had more trouble finding my 5GHz network
There are some significant differences between the stock memory in these two laptops that we need to discuss. I’m currently borrowing the Intel i5 model from Acer, and it comes with one 8 gigabyte stick of x16 memory, while the Ryzen 5 model. I bought it with my own money also comes with one stick, but it’s 16 gigabytes and faster x8 memory.
I’ve shown in previous videos how the memory bank difference can affect performance, so purely based on these specs, I would expect the Intel model to perform slower in games compared to Ryzen, at least with the stock memory that both of my units came with.
Now I know the Nitro series is a more budget-friendly option, so that’s probably why it came with just one memory stick in a single channel, but the fact is that performance is being left on the table by not running two posts in a dual-track.
I guess I’d be more fine seeing this in the lower cost GTX 1650 model, but seeing single-channel x16 memory in RTX 3060 laptops is a bit disappointing. I guess that’s just one of the reasons that it’s generally cheaper than others.
Speakers / Latencymon:
The two speakers are found underneath on the left and right sides towards the front. They don’t sound great, tinny with no bass, and definitely below average, but the latency on results were looking acceptable from both AMD and Intel configurations.
Both configurations have the same 57Wh battery inside; however, the Ryzen model lasted significantly longer than the Intel one.
I tested this twice to confirm and got the same results; the i5 model was one of the worst results recorded, while the Ryzen 5 model lasted 52% longer in the YouTube playback test. Both were miles behind the last-gen Nitro-5, closer to the top.
Software Performance Modes:
Let’s check out thermals next. Acer’s Nitro Sense software is fundamental.
You’ve got the option to set the fan speed to auto, which is the default. You can customize the two fans separately; press one button to select them to max speed. There aren’t any performance modes, and the power plan section is just a front end for changing the Windows power plan.
Thermals / Clock Speed / TDP:
There are lots of thermal data here; give me a moment to explain. Blue results are the Intel Nitro 5, while red is from this model. The lighter colours represent the CPU, while the darker colours show the GPU.
The idle results are down the bottom, and Ryzen was warmer than Intel. I’ve run stress tests with both the CPU and GPU loaded up to represent a worst-case, as well as playing an actual game. With the fans in their default auto speed, the RTX 3060 graphics in the AMD model was running more fantastic, as per the darker bars, and the CPU was a little warmer on Intel.
With the fans manually set to the max, though, the GPU temps are much closer together, though still an edge to the AMD model, however the processor on the Ryzen model was still thermal throttling around its 90-degree limit.
The cooling pad that I test with, linked in the description below, can get the Intel model cooler in all regards, and although the AMD CPU is still throttling in the stress test with it, this was removed in the game test.
These are the clock speeds from the same tests, and it’s worth noting the i5-11400H has an all-core turbo boost speed of 4.1GHz, which was being hit, so full performance in some cases even with the GPU under load.
The GPU clock speed on the 3060 was consistently higher on the AMD model, as shown by the darker red bars being higher than the darker blue bars; however, the CPU clock speed on Intel was always ahead of Ryzen, possibly due to the thermal throttling noted on the AMD model.
It’s possible to boost the CPU thermal throttle limit of the AMD model up to 95 degrees Celsius with the Ryzen controller software, which gives us a 100MHz or so enable in the stress test. The higher GPU clock speed on the AMD model seems to be because it’s hitting higher GPU power levels between 90 and 94 watts, even with the CPU under load.
The Intel model can run at 95 watts when the CPU is idle, but it runs slower with the active CPU. The compromise seems that the Intel model instead shifts the power over to the processor with a dynamic boost, as per the light blue bars.
CPU Power Scaling (Intel vs AMD):
I think this is probably an acceptable compromise. This graph shows Cinebench R23 multicore performance at different CPU power levels on both laptops.
The Intel processor needs more power to perform. At the same time, Ryzen can better with lower power levels, so allowing Intel to use more influence on the CPU than the GPU in workloads like games might be more beneficial comparethanng the GPU and keeping the CPU low.
CPU Performance – Cinebench:
Here’s how both laptops compare against others in Cinebench R23, a CPU-only workload with the GPU now idle. As shown by the blue bar, the Intel model was ahead of both single and multicore performance. Things change when running on battery power, though.
Again in the blue bar, the Intel model loses a fair bit of its single and multicore performance now, while the Ryzen model hardly changes comparatively. Hence, AMD seems to perform better on battery power.
Both laptops felt cool to the touch when sitting there idle, though the Intel model was a few degrees cooler.
They’re pretty similar with the stress tests running, and neither ever actually felt hot to the touch, just a little warm worst case, in the center. Then with the fans manually set to maximum, it’s possible to lower temperatures further, but at the expense of more fan noise, let’s have a listen.
Both fans were audible when idling, but the Intel one sounded a little more annoying to me.
They’re similar when under a stress test, slightly louder on AMD with auto fan speed, probably because of the warmer CPU, and they can get quite loud maxed out, but at least we’ve got fan control to get it how you prefer.
Game Performance Comparison:
Now let’s find out how well these configurations of Acer’s Nitro 5 perform in games and compare them against other laptops. I’ve tested both laptops with their stock memory to show what they’re like in games as if you’d bought the same configurations. Still, I’ve also tried both with two 8 gig sticks of x8 memory in dual channel, linked in the description below, and this is to show what they can do with better memory.
Cyberpunk 2077 was tested in little China with the street kid life path on all laptops. I’ve got the AMD Nitro 5 highlighted by the red bars and the Intel Nitro 5 highlighted by the blue bars. There are two results for each, with stock single-channel memory and my upgraded dual-channel memory.
There’s a bit to unpack here. I suspect the Intel model with the stock RAM is significantly behind the other results because of its lower capacity at 8 gigabytes and slower x16 memory. Upgrading to dual-channel with double the capacity and x8 sticks boosts Intel’s average FPS by almost 24%.
There’s not much difference to the AMD machine in terms of average FPS, however upgrading the memory boosted the 1% dual-channel 20%, so a much more stable experience with the dual-channel memory.
Technically, AMD was ahead of Intel with the same memory here, but it’s close and honestly not a difference you’d be likely to notice. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested with the game’s benchmark, and this time, Intel was in the lead here with the memory upgrade. However, the difference is slight, with just a 1 FPS lead over Ryzen.
We are upgrading the memory on the Ryzen model only improved average FPS a bit, as per the red bars. Still, the difference to Intel is vast in the blue bars dual-channelficant 35% improvement to average FPS by going to dual-channel and x8 memory.
Again the difference is more significant for Intel because my review unit came with just 8 gigs of slow memory, whereas my AMD one came with 16 gigs of faster memory already. Although two memory sticks are better than one as you get the dual-channel, this generally makes a more significant difference at lower setting presets.
Control was tested running through the same part of the game on all laptops. Ascompetitions this is a GPU heavy game, the memory difference is making the minor change out of all games so far, to the point where for some reason, the upgraded AMD system was slightly behind the stock configuration, so it just goes to show it’s less important here.
At the end of the day, though, with the same memory kit installed once more, the difference is only a couple of FPS, so again probably not a big difference is that both have 3060 graphics. The processor difference would matter more at lower setting levels, though.
It’s depressing seeing older GTX 1660 Ti laptops beat the RTX 3060 in the Intel model due to its slower x16 memory. It just goes to show why it’s essential to check these things.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to boost gaming performance on both Nitro 5 by connecting an external screen to the HDMI port, as this connects directly to the Nvidia GPU, bypassing the integrated graphics and Optimus.
As was the case before adding the external screen, AMD is just one FPS ahead of Intel in the Nitro 5, and both are now closer to the Lenovo legion 5 and MSI GS76, which are two other RTX 3060 laptops that I’ve tested that aren’t limited by Optimus as they have a MUX switch built-in.
Either way, the performance boost wasn’t that big compared to not using the external screen, just a 5 FPS gain, which equates to about a 5% boost. However, they’re still an easy way to improve, and other games that can hit higher FPS like esports titles will see more significant gains.
The Ryzen model was ahead in most 3DMark tests, which makes sense as it seems to run the GPU at higher TDP when the CPU is active, but it’s pretty close either; way and What tested this with stock RAM.
Now for some creator tests. Adobe Premiere was tested with the Puget Systems benchmark; again, the Intel Nitro 5 is highlighted in blue while the AMD model is red. The Ryzen model was scoring slightly higher with the stock default RAM, but this flips around when both have the same memory. The Intel i5 is ahead when they’re not bottlenecked by single-channel memory.
The Ryzen model had a significant advantage with the stock memory in Adobe Photoshop. Still, again this is only because the Intel Nitro-5 I was sent has half the capacity and slower memory. When both were tested with the same memory, the Intel-based Nitro 5 took the lead.
DaVinci Resolve is a little different; at stock this time, Intel was ahead of AMD, which didn’t change with the better memory. This test generally depends more on GPU performance, and although both get more than a 100 point boost just by upgrading the RAM, the margins between our two Nitros don’t change much.
I’ve also tested SPECviewperf wh, ich tests out various professional 3D workloads. This was done with stock RAM, so that might be why the Intel results were a little lower in some tests, but again the AMD model can also sustain higher GPU power levels.
The 512GB, it’s just not impressive NVMe M.2 SSD in the Intel model, was decent for both reads and wrote, and although the read speed on the AMD model was similar, the write speed was pretty bad comparatively.
It’s not clear if the Intel model supports faster PCIe 4 storage, Acer’s product page is honestly terrible for finding out detailed specs, and I don’t have a quicker SSD to test with.
BIOS & Linux Support:
There’s not too much going on in the BIOS, and I found that I had to manually enable the F12 boot key if I wanted to use it; for some reason, the boot menu key wasn’t helped by default.
Once that was sorted, I booted an Ubuntu 21 live CD to test Linux support. The touchpad, keyboard, speakers, ethernet, and the camera worked, though the touchpad on the Intel model was slow and choppy for some reason.
Keyboard shortcuts for screen brightness, keyboard brightness, and volume worked, but there’s no way of customizing the RGB without software, so it stays red by default.
Wi-Fi worked on the Intel model but not on AMD, and I suspect its MediaTek card needs additional drivers.
Pricing & Availability:
Let’s discuss pricing and availability next. At this time, the Nitro 5 with RTX 3060 that I’ve tested here is about $1150 for the Ryzen model.
Unfortunately, I can’t find the i5 plus 3060 model right now. Still, if we look at the cheaper entry-level GTX 1650 model, we can see that it’s $30 more affordable than the Intel i5 model, so Intel is just 4% more money in this example.
That’s not to say the Ryzen model is that far behind; both still offer excellent performance, but yeah, in general, Intel was better unless, of course, we’re talking about battery life where Ryzen was ahead, and that also extends to performance on battery power, and given these are designed to be portable machines if you are running on battery power you’ll probably get an edge with the AMD configuration.
Personally, I think it’s worth paying a little extra to get the Intel model in most cases. You get better performance in most cases, and you also get the advantages of Thunderbolt 4 plus the better Wi-Fi, granted you could upgrade the Wi-Fi in the AMD model for less than $20.
I get that the Nitro 5 is meant to be a budget-friendly option, but this is the first laptop I’ve seen in over a year with a 2.5” drive bay. Given it’s got two M.2 slots and you can indeed find cheaper M.2 drives these days, I’d like to see a bigger battery instead, or at least offer a larger battery for those that want it.
Even if I want to upgrade the 57Wh battery right now, I can’t do it, and there are no other options that I can get. The price for the 3060 model is quite competitive relative to other RTX 3060 gaming laptops out there. The Nitro series is generally one of the cheaper gaming laptops out there, but as we’ve seen, this does come with some compromises.
The main one is the single-channel memory and potentially slower x16 memory too, but at least you can upgrade that if you’re willing to spend more money. The 144Hz screen isn’t great, and 1080p 144Hz sounds nice on a speed sheet, but with a lower 17ms response time, low colour gamut, and low brightness, it’s just not impressive.
I guess that’s not too surprising, though, as memory and screen are two areas where companies cheap out on first when making a budget laptop. So yeah, all things considered, I don’t think the Nitro 5 is terrible; you’re just getting an all-plastic build with some flex, a worse screen, and suboptimal memory to hit the lower price point.