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Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-58) review: The best Nitro yet

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,699
inc VAT

Acer’s affordable gaming laptop has evolved into a superbly rounded package with no real weaknesses

Pros 
Strong 1080p gaming performance
Excellent keyboard
Optional HDD storage
Cons 
No per-key RGB lighting
Mediocre battery life
The most expensive Nitro 5 yet
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Acer’s Nitro 5 has long been a stalwart of the affordable gaming laptop scene, offering decent performance at tempting prices. If you had between £1,000 and £1,700 to spend on a laptop capable of running AAA titles at a decent frame rate then the Nitro lineup was one of the first places to look.

The problem was they looked and felt a bit cheap compared with some of the competition. Now we have some new Nitro 5 machines with 12th gen Intel chips and 2022 Nvidia GPUs, which would seem like the perfect time for Acer to give the Nitro 5 a tap with the quality stick.

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Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-58) review: What you need to know

This new top-of-the-line Nitro goes head-to-head with the likes of the new Asus TUF Gaming F15 and the MSI GP66 Vector (2022). That’s some stiff competition, but the Nitro acquits itself well thanks to a mild design refresh and the latest silicon in the form of a 12th Gen Core i7-12700H CPU and a GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU. That’s a combination that can deliver very impressive gaming frame rates at Full HD.

Acer has also moved the Nitro 5 up a gear in terms of build quality. While it hasn’t suddenly decided to start building the Nitro out of machined aluminium, the new model feels (and looks) less bargain-basement than previous models.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best budget gaming laptops

Acer Nitro 5 review: Price and competition

Model tested: AN515-58 – Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, 16GB RAM, 3070 Ti GPU, 1TB SSD, 165Hz 1,920 x 1,080 display, £1,699 | Buy now from Currys

At the moment there are four new Nitros on sale in the UK. The entry-level model comes with a Intel Core i5-12500H processor, an Nvidia 3050 Ti GPU and a 144Hz Full HD screen and costs £850.

The same basic machine but with an Nvidia RTX 3060 will set you back £1,099, while at the top end, you can get an Intel Core i7-12700H processor and the RTX 3070 Ti GPU and a 165Hz screen, although again this only comes with a Full HD display. This costs £1,699 and is the machine we’ve been sent for review.

Finally, there's another model with the Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an RTX 3060 GPU and a 144Hz display costing £1,399 available direct from Acer. The most expensive model comes with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD while the others make do with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Some overseas markets already have a model with a QHD display so it’s reasonable to assume that this will arrive in the UK eventually.

Before we disappear into the long grass let’s consider the alternatives: the 2022 Asus TUF Gaming F15 is a hard act to beat, offering great performance, stylish looks and military-grade toughness. Performance from the RTX 3060 and Core i7-12700H combo is good and the keyboard is physically excellent, although the backlight is rather irregular. It is excellent value at £1,900.

If all you want is raw power then the 2022 MSI GP66 Vector is worth a look. Stuffing a GeForce RTX 3080 into a £2,100 laptop has left a few rough edges: there’s no MUX switch or G-Sync VRR, the keyboard is rather cramped and the battery life shockingly bad but nothing else at the price can deliver such high QHD gaming frame rates.

If money is tight then the 2022 Lenovo Legion 5 AMD Advantage Edition is a superbly balanced package and offers the sort of quality and performance that you have no real right to expect for just £1,199. With a MUX switch, a potent AMD GPU with 8GB of vRAM that can give an RTX 3060 a run for its money and a good-quality keyboard and display, this Legion 5 is our favourite budget gamer.

Finally, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 is pretty much the state of the art when it comes to 15.6in gaming laptops at the moment and is fully tricked out with the full array of gaming touches. It has a full-body RGB light show, an optical-mechanical keyboard and a very fine 240Hz QHD display. It isn’t cheap at £2,400, however, especially given that it uses the same GPU as the Acer Nitro 5, and parts of the keyboard deck can get rather hot.

READ NEXT: Keep things running smoothly with the best laptop cooling pads

Acer Nitro 5 review: Design and build quality

Nitro laptops have traditionally been large, black, angular plastic affairs, and this latest iteration is no different. At 2.5kg it’s slightly heavier than the 2021 AN515-58 model while at 360 x 271 x 25mm it’s a wee bit narrower and deeper, but there isn’t an awful lot in it. It still feels solid and well made, despite the fact there’s no metal in evidence.

New to the Nitro 5 design is the air intake grille above the keyboard, which improves airflow through the body. Traditionally, Nitro 5 laptops were noisy when the fans were running at maximum but the new model is no louder than most of the competition, so the new ducting seems to have worked. The extra depth I mentioned comes courtesy of an extended section that now sits aft of the repositioned lid hinges and again is part of the reworked airflow system.

Other changes are more cosmetic, with the red plastic decoration around the rear vents now black with silver highlights and the contouring on the lid replaced with a smoother finish and a painted pattern. I think it looks all the better for these small changes.

Acer has also repositioned the ports on the new Nitro. On the 2021 model, only the DC power jack was tucked around the back but now it’s joined by a Thunderbolt 4 port and an HDMI 2.1 video output. On the left, you’ll find a Kensington security lock, a drop-jaw Gigabit Ethernet port and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 socket as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. On the right, there are two more USB-A ports. That’s a pretty decent selection.

Removing the base to access the interior isn’t the easiest of tasks. I had to drive my prying tool into a nonexistent gap with some force to get the first corner to click open but, once you’re in, you’ll find it easy to access the two SODIMM RAM banks, two PCI-E 4 SSD bays, the Killer wireless card and (unusually) a 2.5in SATA 3 HDD bay. Acer is one of the few manufacturers still offering this facility and it’s definitely worth having if you have a massive games library. With good-quality 5TB HDDs costing only a little more than £100, it’s by far the most cost-effective way of storing massive amounts of data. All the necessary SATA3 cables come in the box, too.

The downside is that the extra space needed for the bay impinges on space for the battery, so it’s a bit on the small side, both physically and in terms of capacity at just 57.8Wh. As we shall see, however, this hasn’t had the disastrous impact on run-times you might expect. My test machine also came fitted with a 1TB Samsung SSD and boy was it quick, returning sequential read and write times of 5,432MB/sec and 4,399MB/sec respectively.

Networking comes courtesy of a Killer E2600 Gigabit Ethernet controller and an AX1650i wireless card from the same manufacturer. The wireless card supports Bluetooth 5.2 but only Wi-Fi 6 rather than 6E so it can’t handle the new 6GHz Wi-Fi wavelength.

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Acer Nitro 5 review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

I like the new Nitro 5’s membrane keyboard a lot. It’s solid and well damped and the slightly concave keys have plenty of travel with a satisfying bounce at the bottom. And it's very well laid out, complete with a full numeric keypad, dedicated media keys and a button to launch Acer’s NitroSense control panel, which is a model of simplicity compared with the likes of Asus’ rather complex Armoury Crate application.

The keyboard may lack per-key RGB lighting, but the bold white highlights that surround the WASD, NitroSense and arrow keys go a long way towards ameliorating that problem while the four-zone lighting effects mean you can still make it look pretty funky. The cherries on the cake are the bold, clear keycap graphics, bright and uniform backlight and the complete absence of reduced height or reduced-width keys.

The rest of the ergonomic package is slightly less impressive. At 105 x 78mm the plastic trackpad is rather closer to square than is usual, although it is pleasant to the touch and the click action in the corners is well damped and positive.

The 0.9MP webcam is limited in its resolution, capturing pictures or video at a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 720. Colour accuracy is poor, as is the performance in anything less than perfect light. There’s also no form of biometric security.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Display and audio

All the Nitro 5 machines I’ve reviewed to date have had rather mediocre 144Hz panels but this new model has a rather more sophisticated 165Hz unit, although the resolution is limited to 1,920 x 1,080. Technically, it performs well, with a maximum brightness of 357cd/m², a contrast ratio of 1,170:1, and it’s capable of reproducing 99.5% of the sRGB colour space. The DCI-P3 figures are a bit low at 70.5% but, on the plus side, it’s colour accurate, scoring a Delta E of 1.74. It’s the best-quality panel I’ve encountered on an Acer Nitro 5 by some margin.

Acer is also following the current trend of fitting all its 2022 gaming laptops with a multiplexer (MUX) switch so you can connect a display, internal or external, directly to the Nvidia GPU. Switching back and forth between the graphics processors involves a reboot and, without Nvidia’s G-Sync VRR tech, the only benefit you’ll get is a slightly improved frame rate, but it’s still a feature worth having.

I’d rate the Nitro 5’s stereo speaker system as good rather than great. I’d like a little more bass, but definition and separation are both more than acceptable. There’s a decent amount of volume available, too, the system producing an average of 80dB at one metre from a pink noise source and peaks of 84dB from a music source.

I like that you can use the dtsX Ultra control panel to modify the sound profiles, too. The “Shooter” setting certainly increases directional awareness when engaged so it’s a piece of software worth tinkering with.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best gaming mice available

Acer Nitro 5 review: Performance and battery life

The combination of a 14-core 12th gen Intel Core i7-12700H processor and a 150W RTX 3070 Ti GPU with 8GB of vRAM is a first here at Expert Reviews and I expected good things, despite the 16GB of dual-channel RAM being DDR4 rather than DDR5. I wasn’t disappointed.

Expert Reviews’ multimedia benchmark returned a score of 420 points, which puts the Acer a nose ahead of both the MSI GP66 Vector and Asus ROG Scar Strix 15, both laptops with more powerful CPUs or GPUs and higher price tags. The result from the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D model rendering test was the same as the ROG machine at 110fps at 1,920 x 1,080.

The good news continues with the gaming test results. The Hitman 2 benchmark returned an average frame rate of 74fps, which is very healthy, while the Shadow of the Tomb Raider test returned 101fps with all the detail levels turned up to the max, ray tracing quality at its highest and DLSS turned off. Wolfenstein: Youngblood scored 146fps under the same circumstances.

Finally, the three Metro Exodus tests scored 49fps (Extreme), 74fps (Ultra) and 90fps (High). Those are all very good results and the Nitro delivered them without getting excessively hot or making too much fan noise.

Battery life has never been a Nitro 5 strong suit but this new model performed better in our battery test than I expected, lasting 4hrs 58mins of video playback (in flight mode with the screen set to a brightness of 170cd/m²). That’s still 1hr 20mins short of the Asus TUF F15 and 2hrs 30mins shy of the ROG Scar Strix 15 but, given the Lilliputian battery capacity of 57.8Wh, it isn’t completely disastrous.

Acer Nitro 5 review: Verdict

The new Nitro 5 delivers very good 1080p gaming performance for £1,700. That alone is a reason to consider buying one, but it does have other attractive features such as an expansive and high-quality keyboard, the facility to add a 2.5in HDD to the system, a MUX switch, a Thunderbolt 4 port and a surprisingly quick SSD.

The absence of per-key RGB is a bit annoying and the battery life is short, but I’d take those shortcomings given the performance per pound on offer here.

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