Acer Nitro 5 review (AMD configuration) – absurdly cheap AMD-powered gaming laptop

Acer’s Nitro 5 lineup seems like a strange addition to the gaming family since there are already low-end gaming configurations under the Aspire VX 15 brand. In any case, the Nitro 5 has more in common with the mid-range Acer Predator Helios 300 notebooks rather than the VX 15 due to its cooling design, chassis and overall construction. And while the case looks good and appears to be more solid than the VX 15, the Nitro 5 incorporates a poorly-designed cooling solution with both cooling fans stuck on one side. We’ve seen the same done in the Helios 300 and the Lenovo Y520 and it’s needless to say we weren’t pleased with the results.

On the hardware front, Acer is shipping the Nitro 5 in various configurations and most of them include the Core i5-7300HQ and the Core i7-7700HQ CPUs paired with a GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti. However, we thought the AMD configuration will spark more interest in our readers because it’s the first AMD-powered gaming laptop in a long time and it costs just $799, yet still comes with an IPS panel. And besides, we’ve already tested several GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti configurations so performance won’t be much different. Let’s see how the new but old AMD FX-9830P CPU and the Polaris-based AMD RX 550 GPU will fare against Intel and NVIDIA’s entry-level gaming hardware.

You can find the available models here:  Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)

Contents


In 2 minutes…

We know that many of you don’t have enough time to read our in-depth tests so we made a 2-minute recap of the most important things. Enjoy!


Retail package

There’s nothing special inside the box – just the usual user manuals, AC adapter, power cord and the laptop itself.


Design and construction

Despite the usual color scheme that the Acer Nitro 5 adopts, the slightly darker tone of the red and Acer’s black logo on the back of the lid give the machine a more distinct look and appearance. Plastic is the main order of the day but the lid is now made of brushed aluminum, which is a nice change of pace compared to the VX 15 lineup. Also, it gives the Nitro 5 a more sophisticated and clean look. But when it comes to portability, the Nitro 5 doesn’t surprise us – it weighs just about what you’d expect from a 15-inch gaming laptop (2.4 kg) while measuring 27 mm in height, which is a considerable decrease in thickness compared to the VX 15.

Let’s continue with the build itself. As we already said, the lid receives the brushed-aluminum treatment with a pretty clean look and black Acer logo in the middle. Pressing the middle results in slight bending but the whole lid isn’t very resistant to torsion – our twisting attempts resulted in quite a noticeable deformation. Also, due to the hinge spacing, the lower chin of the display remains unsupported and it’s easily flexed. But in reality, this might not be such an issue for most users and given the price point of the Nitro 5, it’s mostly on par with what the competition offers. As far as the hinges go, they offer smooth and linear travel allowing the notebook to be opened with just one hand. The bottom uses the usual slightly roughened black plastic with two small service lids for the HDD and RAM upgrades while the grills provide cool air intake for the cooling system.

The sides come with the usual set of ports and are well-distributed on the left and right side. The left comes with the RJ-45, USB-C 3.1 (Gen 1), HDMI, USB-A 3.0 and an SD card reader. While the right side features only the DC charging port, the 3.5 mm audio jack and two USB 2.0 connectors. This way most of the cables won’t get in the way while gaming with your mouse on the right. And on the back, you can see quite familiar grill design (hint: Helios 300) with the only opening on the left.

The interior features the same silky-smooth plastic finish that attracts fingerprints and smudges like crazy but it definitely feels nice. It’s also fairly rigid with the exception being around the touchpad area where even small amounts of pressure result in noticeable flex. The keyboard and the touchpad compensate for that, though. The former features well-spaced keys with decent key travel, slightly concaved keycaps and tactile feedback. Typing on it is great but might not suit everyone when it comes to gaming. This is, however, what the industry offers at this price range anyway. The touchpad also feels pretty good and will most definitely get the work done on the go but we would have appreciated a bit lighter clicks.

Pretty much all the issues the Nitro 5 has with the build quality are linked to the budget nature of the laptop. Still, we can see a noticeable improvement over the VX 15 and hopefully, it won’t cause any problems in practice. It’s well-made overall.

Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options

If you need to access only the 2.5-inch drive and the RAM slots, there’s no need to remove the whole bottom – the laptop has two small service lids giving access to both. However, if you need to install an M.2 SSD, change the battery or just clean it up the cooling fans.


Storage upgrades – 2.5-inch HDD/SSD, M.2 SSD

As we’ve already mentioned, the 2.5-inch drive can be accessed by removing the small service lid. Our unit came with 1TB WD Blue HDD spinning at 5400 rpm. But if you need to install or change the M.2 SSD, you have to remove the whole bottom cover to access it.

Slot Unit Upgrade price
M.2 SSD 2280 slot Free Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
2.5-inch HDD/SSD slot 1TB WD Blue HDD @5400 rpm Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)

RAM

Both RAM slots are located under the service hatch supporting up to 32GB (16GB each) of DDR4-2400 memory.


Other components

The Wi-Fi adapter is right next to the cooling fan – Qualcomm Atheros QCNFA344A.

The battery is placed under the wrist rest area and it’s rated at 48Wh.


Cooling system

The cooling system appears to be insufficient for more powerful configurations but it did well with the current one. The reason for this is the two stuck together cooling fans and the small heat pipes that can’t disperse the heat effectively.


Display quality

The Acer Nitro 5 uses an already familiar panel – LG LP156WF6-SPK6 – a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920×1080) IPS panel also found in the Acer Predator Helios 300 (15-inch). The pixel density is 142 ppi while the pixel pitch is 0.18 x 0.18 mm. The panel can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 60 cm.

Viewing angles are good.

We’ve recorded a maximum brightness of 286 cd/m2 in the center of the screen and 269 cd/m2 as average across the surface with 12% maximum deviation. However, we’ve noticed that the panel gets pretty dim when it’s off the charger – 104 cd/m2 to be exact. This is a rather annoying problem that we hope Acer will resolve with a future update or release because we didn’t notice the Predator Helios 300 having the same issue. Anyway, color temperature on white screen at maximum brightness is almost perfect – 6510K but as we go along the grayscale, it’s usually around 6350K. You can see how values change at 142 cd/m2 or in other words – 55% brightness.

The maximum color deviation dE2000 compared to the center is 2.8, which isn’t bad as values above 4.0 are usually unwanted. The contrast ratio is excellent – 1180:1 (1090:1 after calibration).


Color reproduction

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of 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 in 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 display covers just 53% of the sRGB color space so basically half of the web-based colors and those that are used for HDTV won’t be reproduced.

Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.

The “Design and Gaming” profile is created at 140 cd/m2 brightness, D65 (6500K) white point and optimal gamma in sRGB mode.

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.

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.


Response time (Gaming capabilities)

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

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 22 ms.


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.

As expected, the display doesn’t use PWM for regulating screen brightness making it safe to use in this regard.


Blue light emissions

Installing of 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.

You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SPD) graph.


Conclusion

While this panel wasn’t a good fit for the considerably more expensive Acer Predator Helios 300, the LG-made IPS display fits well into this budget gaming category on the Acer Nitro 5. Yes, it might be color-deficient but it’s way better than a lackluster TN panel. The bonus here is the high contrast ratio, the absence of PWM and reasonable maximum brightness while plugged in. A big letdown is the maximum luminance when used off the charger.

Buy our display profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for Acer Nitro 5 configurations with 15.6″ AUO B140HAN04.2 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS screen and the laptop can be found at Amazon: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at bg.laptopmedia@gmail.com.

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Sound

The sound quality is good, there’s enough clarity in the low, mid and high frequencies.


Specs sheet

The current specs sheet is for this particular model and configurations may differ depending on your region


Processor AMD FX-9830P (4-core, 3.0 – 3.7 GHz, 2MB cache)
RAM 8GB (1x 8192MB) – DDR4, 2400MHz
Graphics card AMD Radeon RX 550 (4GB GDDR5)
HDD/SSD 1TB HDD @5400 rpm
Display 15.6-inch – FHD (1920×1080) IPS panel, matte
Optical drive
Connectivity LAN 10/100/1000 Мбит/сек, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Other features
  • 1x USB 3.0
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 1)
  • HDMI
  • RJ-45
  • 3.5 mm combo audio jack
  • SD card reader
  • keyboard backlight
Battery 48Wh
Thickness 27 mm (1.06″)
Weight 2.4 kg (5.29 lbs)


Software

We used the already installed Windows 10 for the writing of this review but if you wish to perform a clean install of the OS without the bloatware, we suggest downloading all of the latest drivers from Acer’s official support page.

Battery

Unfortunately, due to the problem with the maximum brightness when the notebook isn’t plugged in, we were only able to run our tests at 104 cd/m2 brightness (since this is the maximum luminance without the notebook being plugged) instead of 120 cd/m2 giving the Nitro 5 an unfair advantage over its competition. In any case, the battery life appears to be decent and the seemingly insufficient 48Wh battery unit actually does its job pretty well.

The rest of the settings like Wi-Fi being turned on and Windows battery saving feature remain.

Web browsing

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

Pretty good result on the web browsing test – 485 minutes (8 hours and 5 minutes).

Video playback

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

Keeping up with most gaming laptops at this price range – 320 minutes (5 hours and 20 minutes).

Gaming

We recently started using F1 2015’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.

Of course, the laptop isn’t made for gaming away from the power source but it’s good to know that it can handle a little over hour and a half – 101 minutes (1 hour and 41 minutes).

CPU – AMD FX-9830P

The AMD FX-9830P is a 45W TDP SoC from the 28nm Bristol Ridge generation of AMD APUs with 4 compute cores and 8 graphics cores branded Radeon R7 GPU. Although the chip was announced mid-2016, the processor gained speed in 2017. Clocked at 3.0 – 3.7 GHz, the chip should be going against Intel’s quad-core 45W TDP lineup but falls short in multi-core performance due to the lack of alternative to Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology and in addition, features just 2MB of Level 2 cache.

Still, the chip is the most powerful AMD APU and brings support for the usual I/O and dual-channel DDR4-1866 memory controller. Regarding the Radeon R7 iGPU, it sports 512 shader units clocked at up to 900 MHz and according to AMD, it should bring better graphics performance than some low-end dedicated GPUs.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53/52/51/41/31) CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53/52/51/41/31) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53/52/51/41/31) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different CPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / CPU.


GPU – AMD Radeon RX 550 (4GB GDDR5)

The Radeon RX 550 GPU is based on the Polaris 12 architecture utilizing the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. Due to the improvements in the 500-series GPUs over the 400-series, the new models allow higher clock speeds – 1100 – 1183 MHz. And although the chip features 640 shaders, the RX 550 uses only 512 of them.

The chip integrates a 128-bit memory bus, 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 7000 MHz effective clock speed. The whole TDP of the chip should be slightly lower than 50W since the desktop variant is rated at 50W. The RX 550 supports the usual features like DisplayPort 1.3 / 1.4, HDMI 2.0, AMD FreeSync, DirectX 12 and Vulkan.

Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53/52/51/41/31) GPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the GPUs that can be found in the Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53/52/51/41/31) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53/52/51/41/31) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different GPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / GPU.

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

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


Gaming tests

Far Cry Primal Full HD, Normal (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average FPS 33 fps 24 fps 18 fps

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) Full HD, Low (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average FPS 52 fps 38 fps 17 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average FPS 25 fps 23 fps 21 fps

Temperatures

As usual, we ran the stress test that we always perform, which, by the way, can’t be taken as real-life usage scenarios but it always gives us a fair estimate of how the cooling system handles heavy workloads such as games sometimes.

We started with 100% CPU usage for about an hour and the FX-9430P ran at solid 3.5 GHz with all active cores but unfortunately, the sensors weren’t able to report the operating temperature at the moment. Still, this is a good result since the chip kept its boost frequency up the whole time.

After an hour had passed, we turned on the GPU stress test as well. The CPU’s frequency fell down to a more comfortable 3.2 GHz – but still within the boost frequency range (3.0 – 3.7 GHz) – but the exceeded its maximum operating frequency – 1275 MHz. We’ve noted, however, that the RX 550 ran a little bit warm – 79 °C. The most important thing, however, is that neither the CPU or the GPU throttled at any point.

Fortunately, the inner temperatures didn’t result in high outer temperatures and the palm rest area remained cool throughout the whole test.


Verdict

Gaming on a budget? As always, AMD configurations are one of the most lucrative ones in the lower-end spectrum of the market and the Acer Nitro 5 proves it. It’s really hard to come across a capable gaming machine with for just $799, however, a quick search on Acer’s website shows an Intel/NVIDIA build that costs just as much with Core i5-7300HQ and GTX 1050. So the real question is, which one is better?

Although the AMD Radeon RX 550 gets close to the GTX 1050 in terms of gaming performance, the AMD FX-9830P falls short even to the Core i5-7300HQ, let alone the fact that the CPU has been released over a year ago. This means that opting for the Intel/NVIDIA configuration is actually the smarter choice due to the considerably better compute power of the Core i5-7300HQ CPU. Also, we’ve had our fair share of compatibility issues with the AMD drivers and the GTA V greet us with a warning saying that the CPU’s performance might not be enough for running the game smoothly.

But despite all the usual AMD-related issues you might have, there are some key selling points that the Nitro 5 has in general. For example, the Full HD IPS panel is rarely found in this price range and will satisfy the needs of every casual gamer and should do just fine for multimedia consumption on the go, especially when you consider the absence of PWM. But be aware of the brightness issue we’ve encountered – the display is really dim without being plugged to a power source. The build quality is better than average and the input devices are comfortable to use on the go.

Finally, the cooling system seemed to have done its job pretty well even during our long and heavy stress test – neither the CPU or the GPU throttled while the latter was running surprisingly cool. We are not sure, however, if the Intel/NVIDIA version will do just as well with the same cooling design, which, by the way, proved to be quite bad in numerous other cases – Acer Predator Helios 300, Lenovo Legion Y520, etc.

You can find the available models here: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)

Pros

  • Decent build
  • A slightly more simplistic design approach with less flashy appearance
  • Fairly comfortable input devices
  • Full HD IPS display
  • The panel doesn’t use PWM for regulating screen brightness
  • Reliable cooling solution (at least for the AMD configuration)


Cons

  • The display becomes really dim (just 104 cd/m2) when the notebook isn’t plugged in
  • The CPU is less powerful than its competitors and too old to be included in a 2017 build
  • The Radeon RX 550 can’t beat the GTX 1050 in the same price range

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Otto Knabe
Otto Knabe
4 years ago

Thanks for the probably only in detail test about this laptop in the net.
We have a A12 9700 laptop and I always wondered how the thirstiest cpu of Bristol Ridge fares against the competition. Happily Ryzen is now here 😀

Tafadzwa
Tafadzwa
4 years ago

hello guys , how many RAM channels does the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-41-F6UH have?

jim
jim
4 years ago
Reply to  Tafadzwa

2

Helscythe Derpson
Helscythe Derpson
4 years ago

Hi, I want to buy a gaming laptop that can run new games on high to ultra high settings although my budget is between 700-800$ and I may go a little over 800. Is there any mode you recommend

Allan Palacioz
Allan Palacioz
4 years ago

Hi, I have the model AN515-41 and I added an M.2 XPG SX8000 but it does not detect it, what could be the problem? Thanks

Abdulaziz
Abdulaziz
3 years ago
Reply to  Allan Palacioz

Hi, acer released bis 1.22 to fix your problem.

Vlad Vladovich
4 years ago

Goodlaptop on amd with rx550

Bennet
Bennet
3 years ago

Hi,
There’s a new model of the Nitro 5 with i7-8750H CPU and Geforce 1050Ti GPU. Any plans to review it?
I’m trying to decide whether to buy it or a Dell G5 with similar specs. Any advise?
Thanks!

Ryan
Ryan
3 years ago

Hi can it support 2600Mhz RAM?

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