Acer Nitro 5 2022 Review: Budget Gaming Power – WIRED

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8/10
Considering your first gaming laptop? The Nitro 5 is the easy pick. Yes, there are flashier options available, figuratively and literally, but Acer’s budget gaming machine is as dependable as they come. It isn’t much to look at, but, glass half full, that means it’s inoffensive too. 
The complete gaming package outperforms the price you pay—from sheer horsepower to a very good keyboard. There are some sacrifices, but you can’t expect perfection at this price. If you're a gaming laptop newbie or just someone with an interest in this portable form factor who doesn’t want to spend the Earth, you can’t ignore the Nitro 5.
The Acer Nitro 5 doesn’t just offer what you’d expect from its spec sheet, it often pushes beyond—a coup for such a low-cost machine. My review sample configuration featured an Intel Core i5-12500H, 16 GB RAM, a 512-GB SSD, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti graphics card. The results were mightily impressive when we put it up against key rivals from HP, Dell, and Asus. Acer closely matched rivals across the performance spectrum, topped competitors with matching specs, and even sometimes outperformed laptops with higher specs.
What you’ll get with the Nitro 5 is a 1080p 60 frames-per-second machine at around Low to Medium settings for titles that focus on graphical fidelity–like Borderlands 3 and Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. The laptop can even push to around 90 fps, but you’ll find consistent performance closer to 60. For those craving frames per second, the 144-Hz display can be maxed out on 1080p Low settings in a title like Apex Legends.
This laptop also performs in the noise department, where many gaming laptops can often come unstuck. The dual fan and quad exhaust setup stops this device from ever becoming uncomfortably warm, and, unless the fans are manually ramped up, they don't get obviously loud.
Unsurprising at this price is that the screen is not the brightest or the most colorful. Such luxuries are reserved for high-end gaming machines or devices that don’t prioritize gaming (or frames per second) at all. Nevertheless, it gets bright enough for an averagely lit room, and the colors are suitably accurate. 
When playing titles with realistic design at the forefront, you may find environmental detail a little lacking, but outside of that, you’ll have few complaints with the visuals when getting your game on. You are stuck with a 16:9 panel, which is perfectly fine for gaming, watching videos, and the like, but, in 2022, many in this category are also opting for 16:10—acknowledging the need to accommodate improved productivity as well. But, not this Acer.
The performance of the keyboard is strong, especially given the reasonable price of this machine. It offers a ton of travel and a pleasing, if minimal, level of feedback. The keypress tops devices such as the HP Victus 16 and Dell G15, but if you want something with more tactile feedback, an Asus TUF laptop would be the way to go. You’d be sacrificing some travel, though.
Acer Nitro 5
Rating: 8/10
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Most people will use a mouse for serious gaming sessions, but, nevertheless, I should mention that the trackpad is a bit wanting. It’s a good size, but there’s little travel, and it lacks a satisfying click. Previous Nitro 5 models had a disappointingly small trackpad, so it’s a big positive that this has been rectified. Those planning to use this device on a day-to-day basis for tasks outside of gaming may find it frustrating, but it’s not a deal breaker.
The design of the Acer Nitro 5 is fairly uninspiring, but it feels strongly built for a plastic machine. At 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds), it’s fairly portable, if falling just short of something you want in your bag every day, but it’s definitely doable.
The Nitro 5 has a fairly underwhelming battery life, but it’s a softer blow in a device not made for longer sessions. For productivity, you'll get around five to six hours from the Nitro 5—so, less than a full workday if you push it with multitasking and a ton of tabs.
This really is a gaming laptop made for plugging in and getting the best performance possible. Hybrid worker types who are looking for something that can game as well as work should look elsewhere—and will likely have to pay more for a device like a Razer Blade or Asus ROG Zephyrus model.
The placement of ports on the Nitro 5 is sporadic, but, handily, it keeps the HDMI, charging port, and Thunderbolt 4 on the back—shifting the cables out of the way. The overall selection is strong, with the former three alongside a headphone jack, Ethernet, and three USB-A ports. Another Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) port would have been nice, but having this standard on a cheaper device is already a welcome addition.
Budget gaming laptops have a couple of features that don’t get much love from manufacturers, and it’s no different with the Nitro 5. Yes, we're talking the speakers and the webcam. As with a gaming mouse, you’ll likely want to opt for a headset or separate speakers for the majority of things you’ll do on this machine. The webcam is also pretty poor, so you’ll want to go external if you're a frequent cam user.
Overall, the Acer Nitro 5 is a smartly focused machine and a superb value, and that’s what makes it our favorite budget gaming laptop. You won't get all the frills you’d find on a more expensive device, but if you’re looking for something that’ll provide solid, portable PC gaming above all else, there’s nothing better.
Acer Nitro 5
Rating: 8/10
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