Acer’s Nitro 5 gaming laptop says you can have a modest budget of $800 or less and get a decent amount of horsepower for playing AAA games. While most of the Nitro 5’s parts are midrange at best, it takes things up a notch with its new Coffee Lake CPU, offering solid mobile gaming performance in an affordable, if somewhat hefty package. 

Gamers who insist on maxing out their graphics will have to settle for middling frame rates on the Acer Nitro 5, and battery life is on the short side. But even with those caveats, the Nitro 5 is a good value.

Nitro 5 specifications and price

We tested the $750 version of the Acer Nitro 5 (Model AN515-53-52FA), which comes with an Intel Core i5-8300H processor and 8GB of RAM, a 15.6-inch FHD display, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM, and a 1TB 7,200rpm SATA hard drive.

The Coffee Lake CPU that powers the Nitro 5 marks the first Core i5 chip to boast Hyper-Threading, a feature that serves up two threads per processor core. This allows the quad-core i5-8300H to deliver eight threads of processing power. While few current games take advantage of Hyper-Threading (a feature that was formerly found only in Core i7 CPUs), it’ll still come in handy for multitasking gamers who (for example) want to stream while they shoot. (Want to learn more? Check out our story on the best CPUs for laptops.)

While the Nitro 5’s Coffee Lake Core i5 CPU qualifies as cutting-edge, its GTX 1050 graphics card—while by no means a slouch—sits near the bottom of Nvidia’s GeForce 10 Series line. As we’ll see in a bit, that means crushing gamers’ dreams of silky-smooth frame rates at Ultra settings. Still, bargain hunters who can live with something closer to 30 fps can crank up their graphics settings all the way. See our story on how to choose a gaming laptop GPU to learn more about choosing this essential part.

There’s some good news if your budget can stretch a bit more, too. For about $100 more, you can step up to a model (specifically, the AN515-51-55WL) with GTX 1050 Ti graphics and a 256GB solid-state drive, plus a 2.5-inch bracket, a SATA cable, and enough screws to install a second drive. Nothing against the budget model we’ve tested, but as you’ll see in our performance section, moving up to a GTX 1050 Ti would make a noticeable difference in the Nitro 5’s gaming prowess. 


acer nitro 5 lid Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5 is all plastic, but the texture on its lid helps it rise above the ordinary.

There’s nothing small about Acer’s Nitro 5 budget gaming laptops, and this new Coffee Lake version is no exception. Measuring a fairly bulky 15.4 x 10.5 x 1 inches and tilting the scales at a hefty 5.4 pounds, the Nitro 5 barely squeezes into my 15-inch laptop backpack. It’s as heavy as it looks, too, although, to be fair, that’s more in comparison to a mainstream laptop than to a gaming laptop, where hefty is the norm. Pack in the charging cord and power brick (and yes, you’ll need them, given the Nitro 5’s relatively meager battery life), and you’ll wind up with a more than 6.5 pounds of hardware to lug around.

Hulking though it is, the Nitro 5 manages to look reasonably sleek thanks to the brushed finish on its lid, its crimson hinge and matching backlit keyboard, complete with highlighted WASD keys. While it’s quite an eye-catcher compared to business-minded laptops, the Nitro 5 is actually a bit low-key as far as gaming laptops go.

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