[In-Depth Comparison] Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) vs Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) – budget gamers better read this carefully

The budget gaming market is very interesting to follow. It is by far the most competitive, as manufacturers are always trying to one-up each other, using aggressive pricing and every dirty trick in the rulebook to come out on top. The Nitro 5 series has been the “gaming at all costs” device, sacrificing everything for the sake of performance.

This is why it uses an outdated design from the golden age of gaming laptops when the edgy combination of Black and Red was considered the Holy Grail of gaming culture. However, it does its job remarkably well, providing a good affordable gaming device. The Nitro 5 (AN515-45) is the latest model to come out, featuring AMD’s Zen 3 processors and NVIDIA’s 3000-series RTX GPUs.

The IdeaPad Gaming 3 series has also been stellar ever since its arrival in 2019. From the name itself, we can see that it uses the outer shell of the IdeaPad 3 series, giving it a more elegant appearance.

Paired with the apparent lack of branding, you get a sleeper laptop for the people who have a silent passion for gaming. It single-handedly transformed the budget gaming space, becoming the most sought-after gaming laptop when it was released. Their latest one harnesses the power of Tiger Lake and Ampere, which is a dangerous combination for both gaming and productivity.

Today we are comparing the two to see which one offers more to you, the consumer, not only when it comes to performance, but also factoring in the design, future-proofing, battery, and everything else you can think of.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) configurations:

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) configurations:

Contents


Design and construction

When it comes to the design, both laptops come with plastic for their bodies, which is the norm across the budget gaming market. However, there is a big difference in the appearance of the two notebooks. Both of them use the original design that they had when they were first released, however, they still look radically different

The Nitro 5 has the OG gaming laptop look, with red plastic accents and aggressively styled heat vents and lid. The machine is pretty strong, being able to handle its fair share of twisting, but it is by no means flex-free. Its lid opens easily with a single hand revealing decently sized bezels and an HD Webcam on top. In terms of weight and height, the laptop measures 2.30 kg and 23.9 mm, respectively.

The IdeaPad Gaming 3i looks like a standard IdeaPad 3 laptop, with its sleek black plastic exterior, which looks good to this day. The laptop is slightly thicker but lighter as well, weighing 2.25 kg and having a profile of 24.2 mm. The branding is very minimal, with only a small Lenovo badge on the corner of the lid. Its lid also opens with one hand, while also being decent in terms of durability.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Keyboard and touchpad

With a gaming laptop, a lot of attention is brought to the keyboard, which is our main way of interacting with the device. The Nitro 5 brings a unit with either a Red or a 4-zone RGB backlight, decent key travel, and clicky feedback. There is also a NitroSense button, which allows you to switch between several performance presets. The touchpad registers clicks across the entire surface, while the gliding is smooth and the accuracy is on point, especially when you pair it with a high refresh rate display.

The IdeaPad Gaming 3i brings one of the best gaming laptop keyboards that you can find, regardless of the price point. The unit comes from the Legion 5, has tons of key travel and the feedback is exceptionally clicky. One other bonus is that the Arrow keys are spaced out from the rest, which will limit the chances of accidental presses. It also comes with either a White or a 4-zone RGB backlight. Below the keyboard, you get a Mylar-covered touchpad with short click travel, which is not ideal, but at least there isn’t a dead zone.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Ports

The Acer device packs a lot of ports in its I/O, bringing a total of three USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) ports, a single USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 2) port, an Ethernet connector, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and an HDMI 2.1 connector.

On the side of the Lenovo, we have two USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) ports, one USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, an HDMI 2.0 connector, an Ethernet port, and a 3.5 mm audio jack.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)


Spec sheet


Disassembly, upgrade options

Both laptops are easily upgradeable, being held together by Phillips-head screws. The Nitro 5 has 11 of them, while the IdeaPad Gaming 3i has one more. In terms of the availability of slots, both notebooks have two SODIMM slots and two M.2 SSD slots. The Nitro 5 also includes space for a 2.5-inch drive and gives you the mounting components and connectors inside the box. The IdeaPad also has space for a 2.5-inch drive, but you will have to sacrifice one of the M.2 slots, in order to fit one.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Display quality

The Nitro 5 has three display options with two Full HD IPS panels with either 60Hz or 144Hz refresh rate, along with a QHD panel with a 165Hz refresh rate. The Lenovo notebook has only two IPS Full HD displays with either a 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rate. We tested the 144Hz IPS panel on the Acer Nitro 5 and the 120Hz IPS panel on the IdeaPad Gaming 3i. Both of them have a pixel density of 142 PPI, a pitch of 0.18 mm x 0.18 mm, and a Retina distance of 60cm.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Both displays have excellent viewing angles. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

The Nitro 5 has a max brightness of 302 nits in the middle of the screen and 277 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 14%. The contrast ratio is good – 1490:1.

The IdeaPad Gaming 3i is slightly dimmer, measuring 276 nits in the middle of the screen and 261 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 11%. It also has a lower contrast ratio of 1160:1.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Color coverage

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows the color coverage of both the Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021).

Both laptops cover around half of the sRGB color gamut, with 57% for the Nitro 5 and 51% for the IdeaPad Gaming 3i.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Color accuracy

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can check the results from the test of both laptops, with both the factory settings (left) and with our “Design and Gaming” profile applied (right).

Both displays don’t reach a dE value that could be used for professional work, both with and without our profile.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)


Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” methods from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

The Nitro 5 (AN515-45) had a faster Fall + Rise time of 21.5 ms.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Health Impact / PWM (Blue light)

PWM – Screen flickering

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

In terms of flickering both panels show no usage of PWM across any brightness levels.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Buy our profiles

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) 15.6″ FHD IPS Innolux N156HRA-EA1 (CMN1521): Buy our profiles

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) 15.6″ FHD IPS LEN156FHD (LEN9052): Buy our profiles

Battery

The Acer Nitro 5 brings a larger 57.5Wh battery, in contrast to the 42Wh unit inside the IdeaPad Gaming 3i. This allows the Nitro 5 to last for 2 and a half hours more in both the Web browsing and the video playback tests. As with all of our battery tests, we have the Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.

Acer Nitro 5 57.5Wh, 4-cell

For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.

Acer Nitro 5 57.5Wh, 4-cell

Performance

In terms of hardware, the Nitro 5 comes with three CPU options: the Ryzen 5 5600H, Ryzen 7 5800H, or Ryzen 9 5900HX. It also has a total of six GPU options: GeForce GTX 1650, RTX 3050 (75W), RTX 3050 Ti (75W), RTX 3060 (95W), RTX 3070 (100W), RTX 3080 (100W).

The Lenovo laptop has four Tiger Lake H35: Core i5-11300H, Core i5-11320H, Core i7-11370H, and Core i7-11390H. In terms of graphics, the laptop doesn’t offer as powerful of graphics as the Nitro 5. The list includes the RTX 1650 Ti, RTX 3050, and RTX 3050 Ti.

CPU benchmarks

Here we tested the Ryzen 5 5600H and the Core i5-11300H. The Ryzen 5 mopped the floor with its competitor in 3D Rendering, recording a lead of 49%. The CPUs were much closer in Photoshop, but the Ryzen still came on top with a lead of just 0.6 seconds.

Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)


GPU benchmarks

Here we tested the RTX 3050 (75W) and the RTX 3050 (90W). The scores here were really close, with no certain GPU coming out on top. To go into detail, the Acer was quicker in 3D Mark Fire Strike and Unigine Heaven 4.0 by 4% and 1%, respectively. The IdeaPad Gaming 3i was quicker in the Unigine Superposition benchmark, with a lead of 4%.

Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)

Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)

Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)


Gaming tests

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) – RTX 3050 (75W) 66 fps (+20%) 61 fps (+17%) 55 fps (+20%)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) – RTX 3050 (90W) 55 fps 52 fps 46 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018) Full HD, Lowest (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings)
Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) – RTX 3050 (75W) 78 fps (+30%) 66 fps (+25%) 61 fps (+39%)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) – RTX 3050 (90W) 60 fps 53 fps 44 fps

Temperatures and comfort

Both laptops come with three heat pipes, which also use the same layout. There is a single shared one between the CPU and GPU, while each of them gets one separate heat pipe.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600H (45W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) 3.57 GHz (B+8%) @ 69°C 3.47 GHz (B+5%) @ 69°C 3.56 GHz (B+8%) @ 82°C
Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 Pro (14) 3.43 GHz (B+4%) @ 78°C 3.35 GHz (B+2%) @ 88°C 3.06 GHz @ 93°C
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro (16″) 3.77 GHz (B+14%) @ 84°C 3.79 GHz (B+15%) @ 89°C 3.76 GHz (B+14%) @ 97°C

The Nitro 5 does well with its Ryzen 5 5600H, offering decent speeds and low temperatures. It’s not as fast as the Legion 5 Pro but surpasses the Yoga Slim 7 Pro.

Intel Core i5-11300H (35W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) 3.99 GHz @ 84°C @ 59W 3.99 GHz @ 92°C @ 60W 3.87 GHz @ 94°C @ 56W
Acer Swift 3 (SF316-51) 3.38 GHz @ 94°C @ 38W 3.22 GHz @ 93°C @ 35W 3.00 GHz @ 93°C @ 30W

It’s not fair to compare the two, but the IdeaPad Gaming 3i offers better clock speeds and even temperatures when put against the Acer Swift 3.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) 1795 MHz @ 64°C @ 75W 1779 MHz @ 69°C @ 75W
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) 2004 MHz @ 82°C @ 88W 1991 MHz @ 86°C @ 88W

The GPU inside the Lenovo does a better job with its clock speeds, while heating up, but not overheating, which is crucial here. At the same time, it performs worse in the gaming tests, which we will further discuss in a separate detailed article.

Gaming comfort

Both laptops were relatively cool on the outside, managing to maintain an external temperature in the low 40s°C.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)

Verdict

The laptops definitely appeal to two different consumers. The Acer Nitro 5 is flashy and bold, and white the Black + Red aesthetic is outdated, the old-school look will definitely be up to someone’s alley. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i does however bring a better keyboard and touchpad, that can square off with the best that other brands can put in their flagships. The Nitro 5 has better I/O coverage, bringing one more USB Type-A port.

Both laptops offer plenty of upgradeability with two RAM and two SSD slots. Display-wise, the panels here are pretty similar, with the Nitro 5’s panel being lightly quicker in terms of response time. The Acer laptop also has a much higher battery life, with the Zen 3 processors offering unmatched power efficiency for a 45W chip.

The CPUs that we tested were also pretty even when it came to specs and price brackets, but the Ryzen 5 5600H pulled way ahead in 3D Rendering, while also having a lead in 2D Rendering, albeit not that big of a lead. Its GPU also ran faster across most of our synthetic and real-life benchmarks. Lastly, the cooling inside the Nitro 5 was much more potent, keeping the CPU hovering around 80°C while at max load. The story was similar when it came to the GPU and outside temperatures, with Nitro 5 running cooler. It really stands to showcase that Zen 3 is fantastic both when it comes to power and efficiency, and kudos to AMD for one-upping themselves once again.

Why choose Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45)?

  • + Faster pixel-response times
  • + Longer battery life
  • + More powerful CPU and GPU options
  • + Lower temperatures

Why choose Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)?

  • + Better keyboard
  • + A sleeker design

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) configurations:

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) configurations:

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