The Nitro 5 is Acer’s entry-level series of gaming notebooks, built mostly on Intel Core H hardware and Nvidia dedicated graphics, with few exceptions of AMD Ryzen variants.
As of April 2018 Acer offers an updated line of Nitro 5s, code-name AN515-53, built on Intel’s latest Coffee Lake hardware, detailed in this article.
We’ve spent time with a mid-range configuration of the 2018 Nitro 5 line, with a Core i5-8300H quad-core processor, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, dual-storage and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics, and we’ve gathered all out impressions in the following article.
The 2018 update changes very little on the outside, that’s why we’ll reference our review of the 2017 Nitro 5 where required and mostly focus in this article on the parts that are influenced by the new platform: performance, thermals, acoustics and battery life.
Specs as reviewed
|Acer Nitro 5 AN515-52|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, matte|
|Processor||Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-8300HQ CPU|
|Vide0||Intel HD 630 + Nvidia GT 1050 Ti 4GB|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||512 GB SSD (M.2 NVMe) + 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD (2.5″)|
|Connectivity||Gigabit LAN, Wireless AC (Qualcomm QCA6174) , Bluetooth 4.1|
|Ports||2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type C gen 1, HDMI, LAN, SD card reader, mic/headphone, Kensington Lock|
|Size||390 mm or 15.35” (w) x 268 mm or 10.47” (d) x 27 mm or 1.05” (h)|
|Weight||5.46 lbs (2.48 kg) + 1.1 lbs (.5 kg) for the charger|
|Extras||red backlit keyboard, webcam|
Design and first look
The Nitro 5 is a 15-inch laptop laptop with a plastic-built chassis and outer-case, as well as a fairly simple design, at least in comparison to most other gaming notebooks available out there.
It still gets some red elements, but at least there are no flashing lights and obtruding logos. There is however one arguable design decision: the carbon-fiber like pattern on the interior and lid, which personally I’m not a fan of. It’s not hideous, but I would have preferred a simpler shell.
That aside though, the 2018 Nitro 5 is identical to last year’s mode in terms of construction and ports selection, and you can find our in-depth opinions about these over here.
Keyboard and trackpad
There’s nothing new about the keyboard and clickpad either, so again, head over here for the impressions.
There’s however a different panel on this 2018 version of the Nitro 5. It’s still a fairly average IPS panel, but from a different manufacturer and slightly improved over the Chi Mei model we’ve seen on our 2017 test model.
Later models of the 2017 Nitro were also equipped with this LG Philips panel, as well as the 2017 version of the Predator Helios 300.
Here’s what to expect:
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD0590 (LP156WF6-SPK6);
- Coverage: 70% sRGB, 50% NTSC, 52% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 260 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 810:1
- White point: 7000 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.32 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.49 uncalibrated, 0.99 calibrated.
You’ll notice that while this panel is fairly bright in the middle, it gets dimmer towards the edges, with a variation of 10-15% in the upper part.
The calibrated color profile is also available for download over here, in case you want to address the slight white balance and gray level imbalances available out of the box.
Hardware and performance
This is where things get interesting. The 2018 Nitro 5 is available in a few different configurations, starting with Coffee Lake quad-core processors, 8 GB of RAM and Nvidia 1050 series graphics. Our test model is a mid-level variant built on the Core i5-8300H processor with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics and dual storage, with a SATA M.2 SSD and a regular 2.5″ HDD.
The CPU is the big novelty here. As you’ll see from the results below and this dedicated article, the i5-8300H is a quad-core processor with HyperThreading and higher clocks than the older KabyLake i5-7300H, which means it’s much faster in everyday use, especially in those tasks that can benefit from the increased number or working threads. In fact, the i5-8300H is faster in most cases than last year’s i7-7700HQ, at a fraction of the cost.
That aside, this particular implementation of the Acer Nitro 5 allows the hardware to run fast, with no signs of throttling or performance losses.
CPU aside, the Coffee Lake platform also supports faster 2666 MHz DDR4 RAM, which has a minor impact on performance, but adds to the final results.
Those of you interested in numbers will want to have a look at the scores below.
- 3DMark 11: P9322 (Physics – 9416, Graphics – 9360);
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver –19241, Fire Strike – 6630, Time Spy – 2470;
- 3DMark 13 – Graphics: Sky Driver – 25134, Fire Strike – 7466, Time Spy – 2320;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 4471;
- PCMark 108: 3543;
- PassMark: 4342 (CPU – 9771, 3D Graphics – 6658);
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3740, Multi-core: 15050;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 4771, Multi-core: 14788;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 41.77 fps, CPU 7.73 pts, CPU Single Core 1.86 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 46.50 fps, CPU 801 cb, CPU Single Core 166 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 188.32 fps, Pass 2 – 51.38 fps.
That aside, temperatures and performance remain in check with demanding loads, as you can see below.
Of course, the same can be said when running daily activities like browsing, editing documents and watching video content, which this Nitro 5 handles flawlessly, while running cool and fairly quiet as well.
We also tested a few games, and you can find the results below, again compared to what we got on last year’s Nitro 5 with the i7-7700HQ processor and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics.
|i5-8300H – FHD Ultra||i7-7700HQ – FHD Ultra|
|Shadow of Mordor||60 fps||56 fps|
|Grid Autosport||90 fps||90 fps|
|Tomb Raider||63 fps||63 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||75 fps||74 fps|
|FarCry 4||63 fps||61 fps|
The i5-8350H should have no impact in gaming performance when compared to an i7-7700HQ configuration, but will help in some titles when compared to an i5-7300HQ variant, given its extra multi-core performance capabilities.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The cooling solution on the 2018 Nitro 5 hasn’t changed from last year’s implementation. It uses two fans grouped together and two heatpipes that spread on top of the CPU and GPU.
This works well for daily use and basic tasks like browsing and watching multimedia content, as the fans are mostly inactive and barely audible even in the rare occasions they do kick on.
It doesn’t work as well with more demanding tasks and gaming. We didn’t notice any performance quirks, so the cooling can keep the i5 CPU and the GTX 1050 Ti GPU at bay, but they reach pretty high temperatures (90 C for the CPU, 70+ for the GPU). At the same time, the fans can get fairly noisy, peaking at 50-51 dB at head-level, which means you’re going to need headphones to cover them up.
The outer case doesn’t get very hot, with the exception of the top-left corner, where the components are placed, which once more suggests what I’ve concluded in last year’s review: this implementation with the fans grouped on one side isn’t necessarily the best in terms of either thermal or acoustic performance.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing FarCry 4 for 30 minutes
As far as connectivity goes, there’s Gigabit LAN, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 on this laptop. We mostly used it on wireless and we can conclude that the included Qualcomm QCA6174 wireless module is a solid performer, both near the router and at longer distances.
The speakers on this laptop are identical to the ones on the Aspire 7, Aspire 5 and Predator Helios 300 and are just average. We measured about 77 dB max volume at head level, and the sound coming out of them is decent, but rather tinny and with very little low end.
As for the webcam placed on top of the screen, it’s somewhat washed out, but will do fine for Skype calls. I do suggest getting a proper external webcam if you plan to stream from this laptop though.
Acer puts a 48 Wh battery on the Nitro 5, which is on the lower-end of the class, but also similar to what most other alternatives withing the price-range offer.
We set the screen’s brightness to about 120 nits (50% brightness) and here’s what you should expect:
- 10.3 W (~4 h 35 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.7 W (~6 h 20 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.2 W (~8 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.2 W (~6 h 40 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11.8 W (~4 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 40.0 W (~1h 10 min of use) – gaming, High Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON.
Our model came with a 135 Wh power brick and a full charge took around 2 hours. The Power brick is pretty standard and weighs about 1.1 lbs (500 g), including the attached power cable.
Price and availability
The 2018 Acer Nitro 5 AN515-52 starts at $699 in the US.
That kind of money will get you the i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics and a 1 TB HDD.
$849 on the other hand will get you the 20-30% faster GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip, as well as a 256 GB SSD instead of that HDD, which makes a big difference in everyday use. That’s in fact the configuration I’d opt for, and later add a HDD if I’d need more storage space.
Follow this link for more details and updated prices at the time you’re reading this post.
Not much has changed on the 2018 update of the Acer Nitro 5 over last year’s generation.
The hardware update is the main selling point, but all the alternatives will benefit from it in the near future. The slightly brighter screen and faster wireless implementation are nice additions as well, but they’re not going to have a major impact in the acquisition process.
The pricing will, and the Nitro 5 is very aggressively priced in most regions, able to tackle rivals like the Lenovo Legion Y520, Asus TUF FX504 and Acer Aspire 7, and out-pricing the Dell Inspiron Gaming or the Asus ROG GL553 variants with similar configurations, albeit these two are overall nicer laptops with better screens, better builds, quieter fans and larger batteries.
So at the end of the day, if you’re on a budget and want the best hardware specs money can buy in a mid-range gaming laptop, paired with a decent screen and good keyboard in a fairly nice shell, the Nitro 5 should be on your list. Just be aware of its quirks and make sure you can live with them before taking the plunge.
That’s about it for this review of the 2018 version of the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-52. Let me know what you think about it and get in touch if you have anything to add or any questions.