The Nitro series is Acer’s entry-level lineup of gaming notebooks, and the Nitro 7 is their newest model as of the first part of 2019.
Unlike the Nitros of the past, this new addition is a little different, with a more compact and much sturdier metallic build, as well as cleaner black aesthetics, and these should make it an appealing option for more than just gamers, but also for professionals and students who need a well balanced all-round notebook. Acer does expect you to pay a premium over the plastic Nitro 5 models, and whether that’s worth it is entirely up to you.
On top of the design changes, the Nitro 7 brings updated hardware, with the latest generation Core i7 processors, Nvidia Turing GTX 1650 or 1660 Ti graphics, as well as options for a 60 or 144 Hz screens.
We’ve spent time with an early production model of the Nitro 7, and gathered all our impressions below, with the strong points and the quirks you should be aware of before buying one of these.
Specs as reviewed
||Acer Nitro 7 AN715-51
||15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 px IPS 60 Hz, non-touch, matte
||Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H CPU
||Intel HD 630 + Nivida GTX 1650 4 GB GDDR5 (GeForce 417.88), with Optimus
||up to 32 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (2x DIMMs)
||2x M.2 PCI x4 slots, with RAID 0 support (2x 256 GB Kingston RBU-SNS8155P3)
+ 2.5″ bay (1 TB WD Blue WD10SPZX)
||Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL9168/8111), Wireless AC (Intel 9560), Bluetooth 5.0
||2 x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C, HDMI 2.0, LAN, mic/headphone, Kensington Lock
||58 Wh, 135 W charger
||362 mm or 14.25” (w) x 263 mm or 10.45” (d) x 19.9 mm or 0.8” (h)
||4.9 lbs (2.22 kg), 1.06 lbs (.48 kg ) for charger and cables, EU version
||red backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, stereo speakers
Design and construction
Back when announced, I was wondering if the Nitro 7 is worth the premium Acer asks for it over the Nitro 5 models, and after spending the time with it, I’d say it probably does.
This is a very sturdily built computer. It still uses a sandwiched construction, with aluminum pieces plastered on top of a plastic inner chassis, but Acer did not skimp on the quality and used some thick sheets of metal for the interior, undersized and the lid-cover. As a result, this feels solid and strong, and barely bulges when pressing on the keyboard-deck. The lid still flexes and warps a fair bit if abused, but without any noticeable ripples or other effects onto the panel, so overall this is the kind of notebook I could comfortably throw in my backpack without fearing something might press on it and break the screen.
The Nitro 7 is also one of the stealthiest laptops in its class. Black metal and plastic materials are used for the entire construction, and even the Acer branding elements are black and don’t stand out in any way. Some red accents are still present on the inside, in the keyboard and the clickpad’s framing, but otherwise, this gets a very clean design. Even the status LEDs have been pushed to the sides and the Power Button is not lit once you switch off the keyboard’s illumination, so there’s nothing interfering with your everyday experience, which is pretty much what I’d expect from any modern laptop.
There are a few side-effects of this dark all-metal build. For starters, the Nitro 7 is fairly heavy by today’s standards, despite the fact that it is much smaller than the previous Nitros, with slimmer side bezels around its 15-inch screen. At just under 5 lbs, though, and one extra for the charger, it’s still portable enough for its class, as this is not meant to compete with the high-end ultraportables out there.
Another is the fact that the front lip is sharp and exposed, not blunted in any way, and those corners are pointy as well, so your wrists won’t like them a bit. On top of that, black smooth metal catches and shows smudges and finger-oil easily, so you’ll constantly have to rub this off if you want it to look presentable. In fact, I could add that this Nitro gets one of the most sensitive to smudges finishes I’ve come across lately, something to keep in mind if you have oily and sweaty hands.
This laptop is otherwise practical. Two firm hinges keep the screen in place while allowing you to open and adjust it with a single hand, as well as push it back to about 165 degrees. Large rubber feet are placed on the belly, keeping the whole thing tightly anchored on a flat surface, there’s a spacious arm-rest inside and a fair bit of attention has been given to the ventilation, with intakes on the bottom and output grills on the back.
The IO is pretty good as well, with several USB-A slots, a USB-C connector, LAN and HDMI. There’s no support for Thunderbolt 3 and no card-reader, though, and on top of these, the power plug and the headphone jack are inconveniently placed on the front half of the right side, which can interfere with your mouse.
All in all, though, this Nitro 7 is one of my favorite Acer machines to date. Yes, it’s still a bit harsh here and there, and yes, black metal surface show smudges easily, and yes, the IO could have been better, but let’s not forget this is part of Acer’s entry-level lineup, and after spending the last weeks with it, I can easily say this outgrows its class and its design and build area match for laptops significantly more expensive.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard looks like the one on the previous Nitro 5 lineups, but it’s actually somewhat improved.
The layout is pretty standard, with a main set of properly spaced and sized 15 x 15 mm keys and a smaller NumPad Section at its side. The arrow keys are now full-size as well, though, and the NumPad is slightly pushed towards the right as a result.
Acer went with a Black and Red theme, with the arrows and WASD keys further emphasized by a red border around each keycap. The keys are backlit, with red LEDs beneath each key and three intensity levels to choose from. At their max settings, these LEDs are very bright, but it’s worth noting that the illumination is not entirely even on our implementation, some of them being a little brighter than the others. Light also creeps out from beneath some of the keys, mostly because they’re fairly tall and offer a deep stroke.
I should also add that this keyboard lacks any sort of CapsLock and NumLock indicators, which can get frustrating at times, and the illumination cannot be activated by swiping your fingers over the clickpad, you actually have to hit a key to do it.
That leads us to the overall typing experience. This is a pretty good keyboard, tbh, with softly coated keycaps, deep travel, and firm feedback. However, I actually found them a little too stiff for my liking, being used to the softer resistance of the keyboard on my XPS, and that leads to a fair bit of misses strokes. If you’re not coming from a thin and light, but instead from a regular older laptop, I’d expect you’ll find this keyboard right down your alley.
The clickpad, on the other hand, hasn’t changed. It’s averagely sized and it’s a plastic surface with Elan hardware and Precision drivers, thus handles everyday use smoothly and reliably. The physical clicks are bit stiff, but they’re also quiet, and overall the implementation is stronger than on the older plastic-made Nitro 5s, as the surface no longer rattles when tapped firmer.
There’s no finger-sensor on the Nitro 7, or other biometric options.
As already mentioned earlier, Acer offers the Nitro 7 with either a 60 Hz or a 144 Hz screen. The latter is the obvious smarter choice in a gaming laptop, but we got the former on our test unit, which will probably make its way inside the entry-level configurations with the GTX 1650 graphics.
It’s a fair-quality panel by today standards, the Chi Mei N156HCE-EN1 we’ve seen on other laptops in the past, including the Asus ZenBook UX550 series or the Lenovo ThinkPad P52. It’s not very bright in this implementation, at a maximum of about 280 nits, but it offers good contrast, viewing angles and color reproduction, at about 74% coverage of AdobeRGB.
Here’s what we got on our unit, measured with a Spyder4 sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: Chi Mei CMN15E8 (N156HCE-EN1);
- Coverage: 96% sRGB, 71% NTSC, 74% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.4;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 278 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 750:1;
- White point: 7300 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.37 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 0.99 uncalibrated, 0.79 calibrated;
- PWM: Yes, ~25 KHz;
- Response time: ~30 ms BTW.
This is not that well calibrated out of the box, so you’ll want to use this color profile to address the white point and the gamma and gray-levels imbalances.
That aside, there was no obvious light bleeding on this sample, even if the bottom corners are dimmer than the middle and top. You’re not going to notice the differences with daily use, not even when watching a movie in a dark-room, as in this case, I doubt you’ll ever keep this at maximum brightness (unless you want to wreck your eyes).
It’s also worth adding that this is a fairly slow screen, with a BTW response time of about 30 ms, and a refresh rate of only 60Hz, thus ghosting and tearing are visible when playing fast-paced games. PWM is also used for brightness adjustment, but at a very high-frequency of around 25 KHz, and will not bother even the most flicker-sensitive among you.
We’ll further update this article with details on the 144 Hz screen option, once we get to review it, but I’d expect the LG Philips implementation available in other budget-gaming laptops like the Lenovo Legion Y740 or the Aorus 15.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Out test versions is a mid-tier configuration of the Acer Nitro 7 AN715-51, with the Core i7-8750H Coffee Lake processor, 32 GB of dual-channel 2666 MHz RAM, dual graphics and triple-storage.
This gets two M.2 SSDs hooked up in RAID0, as well as a HDD for storage, while in the graphics department, the Intel HD 630 iGPU integrated within the Core i7 processor is supplemented by an Nvidia GTX 1650 4GB dGPU.
The 1650 is Nvidia’s entry-level Turing chip and a direct follow-up for the Pascal GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti chips, while its performance gets close to GTX 1060 levels, as you’ll see below. Acer will also offer the Nitro 7 with GTX 1660 Ti graphics, as well as 9th gen processors, with the i5-9300H and i7-9750H, but based on our findings, you might be better off opting for a GTX 1650 inside this computer, and rather step-up to the Predator Helio 300 lineup for a 1660 Ti model, due to its more complex thermal implementation.
Anyway, the CPU and GPU are soldered onto the motherboard, but the RAM, storage and the WiFi module are accessible. To get to them you’ll have to remove the back panel, hold in place by a handful of Philips screws, which is a fairly simple task and gives unobstructed access to all those components, as well as the cooling solution, battery, and speakers.
Before we proceed to talk about its behavior and performance, you should know that our review unit is a pre-production model with early drivers from Nvidia (version 417.8), so you should take our findings with a lump of salt. While the GeForce 430.39 drivers were available from Nvidia at the time of this article, those were not compatible with our sample, that’s why we ran our tests on the older drivers version.
The Nitro 7 is meant to be an all-around computer, so aside from games and demanding loads, it will also have to deal with everyday activities. Our sample handles these everyday tasks easily, while running cool and quiet, even if the fans never switch off and you’ll hear them in a quiet room. The logs below show details on temperatures, performance and battery drain figures with browsing, Netflix, Youtube, and text-editing.
On to more demanding tasks, we’ll start by testing the CPU’s performance in 100% loads, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run, with the laptop on the Maximum Performance Power profile in Windows and out-of-the-box settings. Most implementations of the i7-8750H CPU return high-scores for the first Cinebench runs, and then settle a little lower as the CPU heats-up and can no longer maintain its maximum Turbo speeds for more than a few seconds.
This one performed just as expected and settled for speeds of 2.7 – 2.8 GHz, a TDP of 45 W and temperatures of only around 70 degrees Celsius, as well as scores of around 950 points. Details below.
Those are pretty low frequencies for a stock i7-8750H implementation, and that’s because Power Limit Throttling kicks in fast, according to XTU. Don’t forget that our sample is pre-production, thus retail units might perform differently.
We moved on and tried to improve the behavior by undervolting the CPU, with either Intel XTU or Throttlestop (explained here). Our sample ended up being stable at -150 mV in real use and benchmarks, and in this case, the CPU settled for scores of around 1060-1080 points, Turbo Boost speeds of 3.2 – 3.3 GHz, a TDP of 45 W and temperatures of 72-73 degrees Celsius. Details below.
Power limit throttling is still the limiting factor here, and even undervolted, the CPU still performs at 10-15% beneath its maximum potential. We were able to squeeze further performance at -180 mV, but with these settings, we encountered crashes in real-life use, that’s why we dialed back to the stable -150 mV setting for the reminding of our tests.
Our sample performed fairly well on battery, averaging 900 points in Cinebench, a TDP of 25 W and frequencies of 3 GHz, as you can see below. It’s worth noting that while on battery, the CPU runs at a constant TDP of 25W, and does not reach higher frequencies in the first part of each loop, as it does when plugged in.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers. We ran some of them on the Standard profile first, with out-of-the-box settings and Maximum Performance mode in Windows. Here’s what we got:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 8130 (Graphics – 9191, Physics – 14329);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 3664 (Graphics – 3438, CPU – 5849);
- PassMark: Rating: 6061, CPU mark: 13580, 3D Graphics Mark: 8482;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5142, Multi-core: 19749;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 107.44 fps, CPU 957 cb, CPU Single Core 173 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 191.56 fps, Pass 2 – 58.96 fps.
We also ran a few more tests on the -150 mV undervolted CPU profile, but we also looked into squeezing more out of the GPU. We were able to stably overclock the GPU (with Asus GPU TWeak or MSI Afterburner) at +180 MHz Core and +400 MHz Memory, and here’s what we got:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 8932 (Graphics – 10047, Physics – 16368);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 4001 (Graphics – 3739, CPU – 6654);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 1948;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 7101;
- PCMark 10: 5271;
- PassMark: Rating: 6125, CPU mark: 14692, 3D Graphics Mark: 8672;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 4166 Multi-core: 22822;
- GeekBench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 5174, Multi-core: 22201;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 103.97 fps, CPU 1153 cb, CPU Single Core 172 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 205.23 fps, Pass 2 – 76.22 fps.
The Tweaked profile leads to some significant CPU performance gains, mostly due to the fact that the undervolt allows the CPU to run closer to its potential. The GPU scores increase by about 7-10% as well, which is in line with the frequency boost (1395 Mhz default >> 1575 Mhz OC, with Turbo in both cases). It’s worth noting that Overclocking does not only impact the Base Clock frequency, but also the Turbo-Max frequency by a similar amount. We’ll get to that in a bit.
It’s also important to add the Tweaked profile does not lead to a significant increase in CPU and GPU temperatures in demanding loads, as you can see in the following 3Dmark logs, as well as down below, in the gaming performance section.
Let’s look at some gaming results first. We ran a couple of games representative for DX11, DX12 and Vulkan architectures, both on the Standard and the Tweaked profiles. Here’s what we got:
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the in-game benchmarking tools.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds in Farcry 5 and Witcher 3 on the Standard profile, with the fans on Auto, the only available option on this laptop (they’re pushed to maximum speeds quickly, which translates in noise levels of around 45-46 dB at head level).
And here’s how undervolting the CPU impacts the performance/temperatures in Witcher 3.
And here’s what happens when unplugging the laptop: the GPU runs fairly well, but the CPU throttles to an average of 2000 GHz, with spikes down to 1600 MHz, which is enough to run most games smoothly, but occasionally bottlenecks the performance in some of the more demanding titles.
Lastly, these pictures show what happens on the Tweaked profile, with the undervolted CPU, overclocked GPU, and the fans still on Auto.
If you don’t want to dig through the logs, this is what we got in Witcher 3:
- Standard profile (default CPU/ GPU settings): CPU: ~3.82 GHz, 75 C; GPU: ~1.6 GHz, 68 C;
- Standard profile (-150 mV undervolted CPU, default GPU): CPU: ~3.9 GHz, 77 C; GPU: ~1.64 GHz, 69 C;
- Tweaked profile (-150 mV undervolted CPU, +180 MHz Clock GPU / +400 MHz Memory GPU): CPU: ~3.9 GHz, 78 C; GPU: ~1.8 GHz, 72 C.
Overall, tweaking this laptop leads to 7-12% improved CPU and GPU performance, with only a limited impact over their temperatures, of around 2-3 degrees Celsius in sustained loads.
The final step in your research should be to further look into how this tweaked GTX 1650 GPU compares to the available 1660 Ti options, as well as the older Pascal 1060 implementations, which you can most likely find with excellent discounts these days. That, however, is a subject for another article, and we’ll update with our findings once we get to test a few more fo these new GTX 1650 and 1660 Ti laptops.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The Nitro 7 gets a fairly basic thermal implementation, with a design we’ve previously seen on many other Acer laptops. Two high-cfm Aeroblade fans are used, as well as three thin heatpipes that cover both the CPU and the GPU. As shown in the previous section, this does a good job at keeping the components in check, allowing them to run at around 70 degrees Celsius in demanding loads.
However, much of this heat is transferred onto the metal outershell, which makes this laptop uncomfortable hot. The interior area above the keyboard hits temperatures in the high 40s, with the WASD keys reaching around 46-47 degrees Celsius, while the bottom panel hits mid-50s above the components, which is significantly hotter than the GTX 1050 Ti Nitro 5 of the previous generation. In fact, I’d expect the updated plastic-made 20189 Nitr0 5s to run cooler, as the thick metal pieces are much more susceptible to heating up than plastic surfaces.
The fans spin quietly though, peaking at only 45-46 dB at head-level in games. There’s no fan control on our sample, and no way to take them out of Auto. The fans keep spinning with standard daily use (movies, browsing, text editing), but are pretty much inaudible even in a quiet room
It’s also worth adding that we haven’t noticed any sort of coil whine or electronic creaking on our sample, but that’s not a guarantee you won’t get some with yours, so make sure to look for it once you receive the laptop.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix on EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes
For connectivity, there’s a 2×2 Intel 9560 wireless implementation inside this laptop, with Bluetooth 5.0, as well as Gigabit Lan through a Realtek RTL8168/8111 module. We’ve mostly used our sample on wireless, and it performed flawlessly both near the router and at 30+ feet away, with obstacles in between.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through cuts on the lateral sides of the underbelly, and they’re average at best. We measured maximum volumes of about 76-78 dB at head-level, without any distortions, but the sound is harsh at maximum volumes, lacking in the mids and the lows. In fact, the bass was only being noticeable from around 115 Hz, and peaking inside the laptop, that’s not a surprise, judging by the size of those speaker chambers.
There’s also a 720p webcam on the Nitro 7, placed at the top of the screen and flanked by microphones. It’s grainy and rather washed out, but actually a bit better than what most other OEMs put on their mid-tier laptops these days.
There’s only a 58 Wh battery inside the Nitro 7, and here’s where this shows its budget condition for the first time. Paired with the powerful hardware, the 60 Hz screen and Optimus, that still translates in rather short battery life by today’s standards.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~40 brightness).
- 11 W (~5+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10.5 W (~5+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.2 W (~6 h 15 min of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 20 W (~3 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 49 W (~1 h 10 min of use) – Gaming – Shadow of Mordor, Max Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON, fps limit of 40.
Expect poorer battery life on the configurations with the 144 Hz screen.
Acer bundles the Nitro with a compact 135 W power-brick, adequately sized for the hardware inside. There’s no quick charging, so the battery fills up in about 2 hours. This laptop only charges via the proprietary barrel plug charger, and not through USB-C.
Price and availability
The Nitro 7 is expected in stores in the weeks to come, starting at $999 in the US and 1199 EUR in Europe.
We’ll update this section once we know more, and in the meantime, you can follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region, at the time you’re reading the article.
This Nitro 7 is a great mid-range laptop.
Its build and finishing quality rivals that of notebooks much more expensive, it’s compact and fairly portable, performs well once tweaked and includes a good keyboard and screen.
Of course, it lacks some of the features that you’d get with higher tier laptops. There’s no Thunderbolt 3, no RGB keyboard, small and rather poor speakers, as well as only a 58 Wh battery, so this might not be the obvious choice for everyone.
Its success is going to depend on the pricing, though. From what we know so far, Acer asks a $200 premium for these Nitro 7s over the 2019 Nitro 5s, which are pretty much the same, but with plastic builds and a few more red design accents, that’s why there might be better value in the 5s. In the end, the Nitro 7s are excellently crafted and that is worth paying extra for, but how much extra, well, that’s a decision you’ll have to make.
This wraps up our review of the Acer Nitro 7 AN715-51, but the comments section below is open for your feedback and questions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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