Acer has an official gaming line—the Predator series—so I’m a bit baffled as to why they’ve outed a high-performance laptop that seems to be targeted towards the gaming community. The Nitro 5 adopts design elements from the Predators and tames them; making it look less confrontational than its cousins. Under the hood, they are not too dissimilar; although the former reins in the hardware somewhat to conform within its price point.
Speak softly, carry a big stick. You will sense echoes of the Predator DNA in the Nitro 5; albeit, less edgy. It does carry on the red-and-black motif of the gaming line though. The Nitro 5 protects its innards with a metal top lid and a plastic body shell. The same textured plastic encases the 15.6-inch screen. The top deck is of smoothly polished plastic surrounding a full-sized island type keyboard; complete with a numerical keypad. No RGB back-lighting though, just red LEDs. Inside the Nitro 5 is hardware that will make many hardware nerds drool. The laptop is driven by a 7th-generation Core i7-7700HQ processor supported by a GTX 1050Ti NVIDIA GPU; both components being optimized for mobile use. As far as I/O connections go, the Nitro 5 is outfitted with the most useful ones including USB 3 Type C, a Gbe LAN port, and an SD memory card reader. The test unit (Model AN515-51-79DZ) came with two sticks of 4GB DDR4 RAM (it supports up to 32GB), a 128GB M.2 SSD, and a standard 1TB HDD for storage. Running 64-bit Windows 10 Home, the Nitro 5 ships with the usual Acer and Microsoft pre-installs.
To game or not to game. While Acer does not explicitly market the Nitro 5 as a gaming laptop, you must admit, they do insinuate it. On that basis, I would be remiss if I did not explore that avenue. Does it game? Of course, it does! For most vanilla 3D games (like those you find on Steam) the Nitro 5 delivers generally exceptional performance; with good graphics response at medium to high settings. Playing more extremely resource demanding games does tax the laptop’s capabilities a bit, but it manages to push through. You must lower game settings though for a better experience. Incidentally, although I couldn’t test it myself, the Nitro 5 meets the minimum system requirements to run the Oculus Rift.
More than meets the eye. After you’ve dragged all your opponents, built your empires, or delivered on all your missions, you might want to do other things; like work, maybe? Outside the game arena, the Nitro 5 shines even better. The laptop cold boots into the Windows login screen in five seconds! I have yet to see one go faster. Inside the Windows shell, the primary SSD ensures fast load and access times for even the most finicky applications like Adobe Premiere Pro. Content creators and media professionals alike will find the Nitro 5 quite an experience to use. Feeling geeky? Then you’d be happy to know that this laptop delivers respectable results when used for AI deep learning; and to some extent, acceptable hash rates for solving complex equations. I wouldn’t use it for crypto mining, though, since the Nitro 5—especially the area above the keyboard—warms up considerably when the CPU and/or the GPU are heavily taxed.
It’s not a bed of roses. The Nitro 5 does have its share of let-downs. Personally, I’m not too keen on the keyboard design. With the backlight off, the keys become virtually invisible. It’s okay when you’re plugged in since you can keep the back light on constantly. On battery power, however, you’ll find yourself hunting for keys every so often when the back light turns off. While the display delivers exceptional contrast levels and crisp image quality, it isn’t bright enough for tasks like image editing. Watching movies on this screen though is a treat since it evokes a cinematic quality; and the sound quality isn’t bad either. If you stream or conduct a video conference, the built-in webcam may disappoint. It’s not as bad as others I’ve encountered but it’s far from being good; I’d say it’s just average. Considering the power that the Nitro 5 packs, don’t expect impressive battery life. It was close to impossible to achieve the promised seven-hour battery life; actual nominal usage yields closer to a three-hour range. Under heavy load, with the CPU and GPU loads at greater than 80 percent, the batteries will barely provide an hour’s worth of use. Not mentioning also that at these conditions, the fan will be quite audible.
I’m somewhat on the fence with the Nitro 5. On one hand, the laptop is equipped with serious hardware; something hard to ignore at its price point. (Actually, you can’t build a comparable machine with that budget!) It will serve both the mainstream gamer and the content creator nicely. On the other hand, I can’t get over some things that will certainly annoy if this was your daily driver; especially the keyboard issue. It is hard to argue with that price though. A bargain such as this seldom comes our way.
|Display||15.6” Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 resolution), ComfyView, IPS technology|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz quad-core|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce 1050 Ti, 4GB GDDR5 Dedicated Graphics Memory|
|Memory||8GB DDR4 (32GB maximum, 2 slots)|
|Storage||128GB SSD (M.2) + 1TB HDD|
|Connectivity & I/O Ports||Wi-Fi 802.11ac; 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type C, 1 x RJ-45 Network, HDMI output|
|Battery||4-cell 3,200mAh Li-ion|
|Dimensions & Weight||15.35 x 10.47 x 1.05″, 5.95lbs.|