This here is the 2021 update of the Nitro 5, in pretty much the beefiest configuration ever available on a Nitro so far (code name AN515-45): a Ryzen 7 5800 processor and an Nvidia RTX 3080 Laptop dGPU. Most of this article applies to all the other Nitro 5 configurations of this generation, though, including the best-value RTX 3060 variant.
The first time I heard about Acer bringing a 3080 on the Nitro 5 I was like: are they serious about this? Wasn’t the Nitro their entry-level gaming series? Well, this 2021 model still is, but is also their only lineup built on AMD 5000 hardware for the time being, so I guess they decided to no longer skimp on the GPU classes for this generation, something people complained about on the 2020 Nitros that only topped at a 1650/1660Ti on the AMD models.
That being said, I still expect the best value to be in the 3060 configurations of the Nitro 5 2021, as this is still a budget series with a mid-level power and software implementation, which means the components inside run at lower power than on Acer’s higher-tier Predator models, with an expected toll in performance. A toll that’s going to be compensated by the aggressive prices, of course, with the 3060 Nitros expected to start at around 1100 EUR/USD in Europe/US and sub-1000 GBP in the UK, and the 3080s at 2000+ EUR/USD, which is still significantly less than other 3080 notebooks.
Nonetheless, it’s important to adequately adjust your expectations to this affordable price tag when going for one of these Nitro 5s, and we’ll explain why throughout this detailed review.
So the article down below gathers my thoughts on this 2021 Acer Nitro 5 AN515-45 series, after spending the last two weeks with a review unit sent over by Acer. Keep in mind this is an early review model, so further software updates might change some things once these are available in stores.
Specs as reviewed – Acer Nitro 5 AN515-45
||Acer Nitro 5 AN515-45 2021 gaming laptop
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, 144 Hz, matte, BOE NV156FHM-N4K panel
||AMD Cezanne, Ryzen 7 5800H, 8C/16T
||AMD Radeon Vega + up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop 8GB (80W, up to 85W with Dyn Boost)
||16 GB DDR4 RAM 3200 MHz (2x 8 GB DIMMs)
||1x 1 TB SSD (WDC PC SN530), 2x M.2 slots + 2.5″ bay
||WiFi 6 (Intel AX200) with Bluetooth 5.0, Realtek Gigabit Ethernet LAN
||1x USB-A 3.2 gen2 (right), 2x USB-A 3.2 gen1 (left), 1x USB-C 3.2 gen2 – data only, HDMI 2.0b, LAN, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock
||58 Wh, 180 W power adapter
||363 mm or 14.3” (w) x 255 mm or 10” (d) x 23.9 mm or .94” (h)
||2.22 kg (4.9 lb), .58 kg (1.28 lbs) power brick, EU version
||optional RGB backlit keyboard – 4 zones, NumPad, 2x stereo speakers, HD webcam
Acer offers several variants of the Nitro 5, both with AMD Ryzen 5000 and Intel Core hardware, and in 15 and 17-inch variants. We’ll discuss some of the other options in future articles.
Update: Our detailed review of the Intel-based Nitro 5 AN515-57 is available over here.
As mentioned already, the best value is in the affordable Ryzen 7 + RTX 3060 configuration that goes for a little over 1000 USD/EUR/GBP. Follow this link for more details on the configurations available in your region.
Design and exterior
The lid design is pretty much the only thing Acer changed between the 2021 and 2020 Nitro 5 models, which is now made out of a smoother material and gets slightly different design accents.
Otherwise, this 2021 Nitro 5 is still a budget chassis, entirely made out of plastic and averagely sized. It doesn’t feel cheap or poorly made in any way, and the design is clean, with subtle branding elements and no annoying visible lights. All these make the Nitro 5 a silent sleeper that you can easily bring along to school or work, without attracting any unwanted attention. There’s still a little bit of red on the back, though, and the keyboard also lights up in red in most configurations, although ours is the optional 4-zone RGB variant.
However, all these smooth black surfaces are highly prone to showing smudges and fingeroil, as you can tell from this picture down below, where I’ve purposely left the surfaces just the way they end-up looking after about two weeks of daily use. I’ve cleaned this up for the reminding of the photoshoot, but it’s important to acknowledge that you’ll have to rub this clean often if you care about it staying neat and tidy.
The Nitro 5 is still well made for a budget series, and despite the fact that it’s entirely plastic. There’s some flex in the screen, but little give in the keyboard deck even when pressed hard, and I haven’t noticed any creaky noises when grabbing and using this every day.
It’s not the most compact, thinnest, or the lightest 15-inch laptop though, as you can tell from the size of the bezel around the display, but it’s OK for an affordable product.
Not a big fan of the sharp front lip and pointy corners, something Acer are still reluctant to address on most of their models, especially since the left-shifted keyboard and clickpad also push the position of your hand towards the left, leaving that left wrist just over those bity corners. Not that happy with those blue status LEDs placed just under the screen either, right in the line of sight.
Otherwise, this is a practical notebook. Grippy rubber feet keep it well anchored on the desk, the screen can be easily picked up and adjusted with a single hand, the hinges are sturdy and allow the display to go back to about 160 degrees.
Acer also put a fair selection of ports on the sides, with the PSU on the back edge, out of the way. There’s still no card-reader on this series and the USB-C is data-only, so it doesn’t support charging or video. They also put the HDMI on the right, which will clutter your mouse area if you plan to connect an external monitor.
Finally, I should also mention you’re not getting any biometrics with this laptop, but there’s at least a camera at the top of the screen, flanked by microphones.
Keyboard and trackpad
Acer still offers the Nitro 5 series with either a red or a 4-zone RGB keyboard, and we have this latter variant here, reserved for the higher-tier configurations.
The LEDs get bright enough and there’s a Caps-Lock indicator, unlike on most other Acer laptops, but I still don’t like that you need to press a key to reactivate the lighting once it switches off (you can also disable the time off in Nitro Sense if you want to).
This is a standard Acer keyboard, the kind they put on most of their Nitro and Predator models. It’s a full-layout with a smaller NumPad section at the right, and full-sized, but rather cramped, arrow keys. Nothing weird about it, but it will shift your typing position towards the left of the laptop, which will take time to adjust to if you’re used to a 15-inch laptop without a NumPad section.
Layout aside, this is a very good typer, with quiet and precise strokes, and just the right feedback for my typing style, the right balance of stiffness and mushiness. I remember the keyboard feeling a little different on the older Nitros, so perhaps Acer changed the supplier or there’s just an amount of variation between the different implementations. Either way, this is a solid keyboard.
The clickpad is fine. It’s this mid-sized plastic surface with a smooth surface and Precision drivers, and handles everyday use alright. It’s also fairly sturdy and doesn’t rattle with normal taps, and the actual clicks are smooth and only averagely clunky.
As for biometrics, there aren’t any on this laptop.
Acer offers a couple of different screen options for the Nitro 5 series.
Our sample gets what’s probably a mid-level IPS FHD 144 Hz panel for this 2021 generation, the BOE NV156FHM-N4K that was previously available on some of the past Predator Triton 500 models. As far as I’m aware, Acer will also offer up to 360 Hz FHD or QHD 165 Hz panels for this series, all superior to the BOE we have here.
I’d still expect this BOE to be offered on the 3060 variants of this Nitro 5. This is a good choice for gaming (with 144 Hz refresh rate and fast response times, but without ActiveSync or FreeSync), and alright for daily use on this sort of a more affordable product, with 100% sRGB color coverage and wide viewing angles, but only around 300-nits of brightness at its highest setting and not the best contrast or blacks.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE08B3 (NV156FHM-N4K);
- Coverage: 91.4% sRGB, 65.6% AdobeRGB, 68.3% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.16;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 306.01 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 21.00 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 940:1;
- White point: 7400 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.33 cd/m2;
- PWM: No? (TBD).
- Response: ~5 ms GtG (according to Notebookcheck).
This also came rather poorly calibrated out of the box, and addressing the skewed White Point takes a further toll on the maximum brightness, which drops to only around 250-nits. Once calibrated, the panel ends up fairly uniform, with a higher DeltaE variation only in the bottom-left corner.
We also haven’t noticed bad light bleeding around the edges on our sample, with only some pinches on the lower edge, but that varies between units, so no guarantee you won’t get bleeding on yours.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the Acer Nitro 5 in the 2021 AN515-45 model, with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor, 16 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM in dual channel, 1 TB of storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3080 Laptop dGPU and the AMD Vega iGPU within the AMD platform, with Optimus. There’s no MUX switch here, and the display is hooked up through the Vega iGPU.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that this is an early-review model with the software available as of early-March 2021 (BIOS v0.12, Nitro Sense 3.01.3020, GeForce Game Ready 461.72 drivers). Some aspects might change with future software updates, and we’ll explain what we think could change down below.
Spec-wise, this 2021 Acer Nitro 5 is built on the latest AMD Ryzen 5000 H and Nvidia RTX 3000 hardware available as of early 2021. We’re looking at a Ryzen 7 5800H processor, the main-stream mobile-processor meant for performance laptops this year, with 8C/16T, clock speeds of up to 4.4 GHz, and a design TDP of 45W. Acer offers a couple of power profiles in the Nitro Sense control app that allows you to juggle with the sustained power limits, thermals, and noise levels based on your needs, but as you’ll find out from this review, overall this Ryzen 7 5800H implementation runs just a little over its design TDP in sustained loads, something I was expecting on this sort of a budget chassis.
As for the GPU, the Nitro 5 series is built on 80W variants of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080/3070/3060 graphics chips, so lower-end Max-Q variants. They’re not overclocked in any way and can run at up to 85W through Dynamic Boost 2.0 in supported titles. Dynamic Boost 2.0 is a technology that shifts up to 5W of power from the CPU to the GPU when required, impacting a couple of games.
Update: In the meantime, Acer has released a BIOS update that should allow the GPUs to run at up to 100W with Dynamic Boost, so expect a 5-12% increase in scores and gaming results on top of what we got on our sample that ran on the early software limited at 85W. I will look into maybe updating this article if I can get the Nitro 5 again, but no guarantee.
The 3080 Laptop in our model is also a lower-clocked implementation with only 8 GB of vRAM, and not the full-power version you can get on the higher-tier and more expensive notebooks out there.
Nonetheless, it’s important to understand that you’re only getting base-level versions of the RTX 3000 GPUs on this Nitro 5 AN515-45 series, and not the same kinds available on higher-tier and more expensive performance models. That should definitely not be a surprise to anyone, given the affordable price tag of this series.
For the RAM and storage options, the laptop comes with two available memory DIMMs, two M.2 SSD slots, and one extra 2.5 mm bay (with the required connector included in the box). Out model gets 16 GB of dual-channel 3200 MHz RAM and a fast WDC PC SN530 drive. We haven’t noticed any thermal or performance losses with sustained file transfers, but keep in mind that the exact included SSD might differ between regions, and lower-tier models might ship with slower SSDs out of the box.
Getting inside to the components is a simple job on this laptop, you just have to pop-up the back panel, hold in place by a couple of Philips screws. Careful they’re of different sizes. Inside you’ll find the RAM and storage slots, the thermal module, the smaller 58 Wh batttery, and the tiny set of speakers.
Specs aside, this Nitro is controllable through the included Nitro Sense application, which allows access to power profiles, battery, keyboard, and audio settings. There’s also an Acer Care app that handles updates, as well as a handful of other software that comes preinstalled. Acer laptops still get a fair bit of bloatware these days, but that’s fine, as they help to keep the prices down and you can easily get rid of all of that (or reinstall a clean Windows variant):
The power profiles are Power Saver, Balance, and High-Performance. Switching between Balance and High Performance changes the fan’s behavior, while the Power Saver mode also caps the CPU’s power at ~43W. These settings might change with future software updates.
For daily use, I’d keep the laptop on Balance or even Power Saver, which is the quietest of the three profiles and still provides a snappy experience. The fans are still always active, but spinning at sub 35 dB with daily chores, so only noticeable in a quiet room. Here’s what to expect in terms of performance and temperatures with everyday multitasking, browsing, and video.
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test for 15+ times in a loop, with 1-2 seconds delay between each run.
The Ryzen 7 processor stabilizes at ~52W of sustained power on the High-Performance setting, which translates in frequencies of 3.6+ GHz, temperatures in the 87-90 C, scores of ~2000 points, and the fans spinning quietly at only around 40-41 dB at head-level. We’re not seeing any performance degradation on any sort of throttling for the entire duration of the test.
Overall this implementation runs at lower power and slightly lower clocks than on other AMD Ryzen 5000 laptops that we’ve tested, but even so, the performance gap is within 5% of the beefier Ryzen 7 models and within 10% of the Ryzen 9s, so pretty much negligible.
Switching over to the Balance quiet down the fans to around 37-38 dB, which causes slightly higher temperatures and a slight drop in TDP, clocks, and scores. We’re still looking at 1900+ points with very quiet fans.
On Power Saver, the processor is capped at ~43W with still barely audible fans (sub 37 dB) and average temperatures (mid-80s C). It returns scores of around 1550 points, roughly 25% beneath those registered on the High-Performance profile.
Finally, the CPU power stabilizes at ~35 W on battery, on the High-Performance profile, with still excellent scores of 1700+ points. Details below.
To put these findings in perspective, here’s how the Ryzen 7 5800H in this Nitro 5 fares in this test against a couple of other AMD and Intel 8C/16T current processors:
- 8-10% lower scores than the Ryzen 9 5900HX in the ROG Scar 17;
- 4-5% slower than the Ryzen 7 5800H in the Asus TUF Gaming A15;
- 2-5% faster than the Ryzen 7 4800H in the 2020 TUF A15 and Lenovo Legion 5;
- ~20% faster than the Ryzen 4800HS in the 2020 Asus Zephryus G15;
- almost 100% faster than the Intel i7-10750H variant of the 2020 Nitro 5.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the more taxing Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95, on the Turbo profile. The CPU stabilizes at 52+ W in High-Performance on Cinebench R23, and fluctuates between 38 and 55 W in Prime95, with temperatures ranging from ~75 to ~90 degrees Celsius.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it fine, which suggests there are no performance losses that might be caused by thermal throttling on this laptop.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock High-Performance profile in Nitro Sense.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 18428 (Graphics – 19820, Physics – 24719, Combined – 9656);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 4472;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7521 (Graphics – 7299, CPU – 9090);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4505;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 14276;
- Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 39.48 average fps;
- PassMark 10: Rating: 5037 (CPU mark: 22186, 3D Graphics Mark: 12441, Disk Mark: 18562);
- PCMark 10: 6897 (Essentials – 10393, Productivity – 9488, Digital Content Creation – 9029);
- GeekBench 5.33.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1461, Multi-core: 7419;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 2031 cb, CPU Single Core 234 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 4679 cb, CPU Single Core 557 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 13181 cb, CPU Single Core 1429 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 29.80 s.
These are some interesting results. Again, the CPU scores are up there within 5% of the higher-tier laptops built on similar hardware that we’ve tested, both in CPU loads and in combined tasks. The GPU scores are a bit lower, though, as expected from a platform that’s highly dependent on the TDP and clock speeds. The 3080 in this Nitro 5 is a lower-power and lower-clocked Max-Q variant, so within 10-20% slower than the higher-power 3080s tested in other products.
We’ll have a follow-up article comparing the various 3080 implementations, so you’ll know what to expect when shopping for a 3080 laptop this year.
There are, however, a couple of important aspects to keep in mind here. First off, this Nitro 5 runs way quieter than any other 3080 notebooks we’ve tested so far, with the fans ramping up to only around 40-41 dB in demanding loads. Despite that, internal and external temperatures are also both excellent here, as you’ll see in a following section.
On top of that, the GPU only runs at stock clocks on the High-Performance profile, while most of the other RTX 3080 laptops tested came pre-overclocked on their top performance profiles. We also overclocked this Nitro with MSI Afterburner, ending up stable at +150 MHz Core and +300 MHz Memory, and we’re going to use this OC profile for some of our other benchmarks and gaming tests further down.
Here are some scores with the OC 3080 GPU. keep in mind these are with the original BIOS that limited the GPU at 85W, and not the updated BIOS that lifted the Dyn Boost limit to 100W, which results in higher GPU scores.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 19198 (Graphics – 20898, Physics – 24042, Combined – 10041);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 4472;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7583 (Graphics – 7383, CPU – 8963);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4651;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 14872;
- PCMark 10: 6897 (Essentials – 10205, Productivity – 9173, Digital Content Creation – 8907);
We’re looking at a slight bump in GPU scores of within 3-5%, and a slight decrease in CPU scores in combined loads. That’s because we can’t change the GPU’s TDP, so this 3080 laptop cannot fully benefit from this +150 MHz increase in clocks in sustained loads.
Finally, we also ran some Workstation related loads on this Ryzen 7 + RTX 3080 configuration, on the High-Performance profile:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 3m 29s (High-Performance);
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 50s (CUDA), 20s (Optix);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 8m 59s (High-Performance);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 3m 16s (CUDA), 1m 22s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: -;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 161.4 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 133.47 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 155.63 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 17.88 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 197.81 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 56.84 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 95.46 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 20.61 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 94.24 (High-Performance).
And the newer SPECviewperf 2020 test:
- SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 75.11 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 52.83 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 79.63 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 18.12 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 215.44 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 26.58 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 20.38 (High-Performance);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 149.12 (High-Performance).
Solid CPU scores, while the GPU scores take a dive of up to 25% compared to the beefier full-power 3080 models out there. Again, no surprise here.
With these out of the way, let’s look at some games.
We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the stock High-Performance and the High-Performance OC (with the overclocked GPU) profiles, on FHD (internal and external screen) and QHD (external monitor) resolutions.
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
+ RTX 3080 Laptop 80+W
|FHD High Perf
||FHD OC External
||QHD OC external
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|102 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
||108 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
||112 fps (70 fps – 1% low)
||81 fps (63 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|49 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||52 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
||54 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
(DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
|115 fps (86 fps – 1% low)
||-112 fps (77 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
|101 fps (79 fps – 1% low)
||100 fps (75 fps – 1% low)
||108 fps (64 fps – 1% low)
||78 fps (44 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|53 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||53 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||40 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
(DX 11, Ultra Preset)
|145 fps (104 fps – 1% low)
||153 fps (109 fps – 1% low)
||160 fps (112 fps – 1% low)
||111 fps (88 fps – 1% low)
|Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
|78 fps (53 fps – 1% low)
||80 fps (55 fps – 1% low)
||86 fps (54 fps – 1% low)
||63 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)
|106 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||108 fps (61 fps – 1% low)
||119 fps (57 fps – 1% low)
||80 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
|86 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||91 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||94 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
(Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
|140 fps (107 fps – 1% low)
||146 fps (112 fps – 1% low)
||147 fps (116 fps – 1% low)
||98 fps (81 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
|95 fps (74 fps – 1% low)
||94 fps (71 fps – 1% low)
||102 fps (73 fps – 1% low)
||67 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
Those above are rasterization-only tests, and here are some results for RTX titles.
|MD Ryzen 7 5800H
+ RTX 3080 Laptop 80+W
|FHD High Perf
|| FHD OC
||FHD OC External
||QHD OC External
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF)
|70 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||72 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||76 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||52 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS Quality)
|42 fps (35 fps – 1% low)
||44 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||45 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||32 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA, RTX Ultra)
|60 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||61 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||42 fps (26 fps – 1% low)
Much like in the synthetic GPU tests, we’re looking at roughly 80-90% of the gaming performance of higher-power RTX 3080 Laptop implementations we’ve tested before.
Most titles are running perfectly fine at FHD resolution and Ultra settings, while with the more demanding titles you’ll have to cut on those graphics details for 60+ fps. Overclocking the GPU helps to a little extent, and connecting the laptop to an external monitor helps even further, as it bypasses the toll taken by Optimus, especially in high fps titles.
The noise levels and CPU/GPU temperatures, on the other hand, are excellent on this Nitro 5, with the CPU ranging between mid-60s and low-80s Celsius in most titles, while the GPU averaging between 60-67 C. Far Cry is once more the exception that doesn’t play well with Dynamic Boost, so in this case, the CPU goes up to 90C, but the GPU still runs beneath 70 degrees C. Furthermore, keep in mind these excellent temperatures are paired with quiet fans at 40-41 dB at head-level, which the speakers can easily cover up.
Here are some performance logs of the stock High-Performance profile.
Lifting up the laptop from the desk in order to better facilitate air intake into the fans helps a fair bit here, dropping CPU temperatures by as much as 8 degrees in some titles, and the GPU temperatures by as much as 5 degrees.
Here are the same logs for the overclocked GPU profile. As mentioned already, the GPU runs at 2-5% higher clocks on this mode, despite the 10% Clock increase, as the sustained performance is still limited by the capped TDP of 85W in most titles.
The fan profile also provides a Max-Fans setting, but given the already excellent temperatures, you should never use this here.
You can also drop to the Balance and Power Saver profiles, with even quieter fans and a toll on performance, especially on Power Saver (CPU runs at <10W and the GPU at around 50W). I don’t see why you’d want to run games on these profiles either. I will add that there’s no Whisper Mode 2.0 support on the Nitro, so no optimized settings for the Power Saver profile.
These aside, the performance and temperatures remain excellent when hooking the laptop to an external monitor. Since the HDMI port is plugged straight into the Nvidia GPU, this bypasses Optimus and its performance limitations. Here are some performance logs of the laptop in this external monitor mode, on the OC profile, and sitting on the desk.
And here’s what happens if you close the lid and put this laptop in a vertical stand. We’re looking at even better temperatures in this mode, as the air can easier get into the fans.
All in all, while the performance of this lower-power RTX 3080 Laptop chip in the Nitro 5 is not a match for the more powerful 3080 alternatives out there, I feel this implementation balances things out very well with the excellent thermals and noise levels. Pricing is still going to matter a lot, but since I expect this to sell for a lot less than the other 3080 notebooks out there, it might make sense to get this 3080 Nitro 5 configuration after all.
Furthermore, Acer might even decide to raise the GPU’s clocks and power with a future BIOS update, given the consistent GPU thermal headroom on this sample. They could also push-up the fans a little faster and still keep everything at bay, with faster performance.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The thermal design is simple, yet efficient, here, with two fans and a few thick heatpipes that connect to the components and VRMs through thick metal plates.
Air is sucked in through the open cuts on the underbelly and expelled through the back, out the way, but because Acer put slim rubber feet on this laptop, the intakes are slightly choked up, that’s why raising the laptop or placing it in a vertical stand has such a significant impact on the temperatures.
But don’t get me wrong, the components’ temperatures are excellent on any of the available profiles, with only taxing CPU-loads and rogue games such as FarCry 5 pushing the CPU to higher temperatures in the 90s C. These temperatures are also paired with some of the quietest fan profiles I’ve experienced in a gaming laptop in years, at only 40-41 dB at head-level on the High-Performance profile, and quieter on Balance and Power Saver.
I wouldn’t use those for gaming, instead, those are meant for everyday multitasking. The fans never completely shut off on this Nitro, not even at idle, but they spin under 35 dB with light use, both with the laptop plugged in and on battery. They do have this low-pitched hum that’s fairly noticeable in a quiet room, and I would have sure preferred a passive cooling setting here, especially since the excellent CPU/GPU temperatures would allow for it.
As far as outer shell temperatures go, this Nitro runs cooly with daily use and averagely warm with gaming. I measured temperatures in the low-40s around the arrow keys, mid-30s around WASD keys, and high-40s in the hottest part of the laptop, in the middle around the Alt key.
Surprisingly, though, the bottom screen bezel is the hottest part of our sample, and that doesn’t make much sense to me, as the exhausts throw out the hot air on the back, away from that part. I’d reckon that’s where Acer put the screen controller, and I remember similar findings on the past Nitro 5s. I’m not seeing any significant impact on the screen, though, so this should be fine.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Balance Profile, fans at <37 dB
*Gaming – High Performance – Auto fans – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 40-41 dB
For connectivity, there’s Gigabit Lan and Wireless 6 + Bluetooth through Realtek/Intel chips on this unit. We’ve mostly used the laptop on wireless, and it performed well in all our tests, both near the router and at 30+ feet away with obstacles in between.
The speakers fire through cuts on the underbelly and are not much. We measured volumes of around 73-75 dB at head-level, and experienced average sound quality, with little at the lower end (on the Music profile in Nitro Sense). You’ll most likely want to hook up some headphones with this if you care about the audio quality.
Finally, the camera is placed on top of the screen, flanked by microphones. It’s OK for occasional calls.
There’s still only a 58Wh battery inside the Acer Nitro 5 series, as the rest of the space is occupied by the 2.5″ storage drive. This is smaller than what the competition offers these days.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 13 W (~4-5 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Power Saver Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.5 W (~4-5 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Power Saver Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11 W (~5+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Power Saver Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 15 W (~3-4 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
The AMD platform is more efficient than the Intel options we’ve tested in the past, and that helps the runtimes. However, the screen runs at 144 Hz on battery and does not switch to 60 Hz the same way as on other gaming laptops, so you can manually switch it over to further increase the runtimes.
This Nitro 5 configuration comes with a compact 180W power brick. The battery fills up in about 2 hours and USB-C charging is not supported.
Price and availability- Acer Nitro 5
The 2021 Nitro 5 is available in stores in most regions in this AMD variant.
The RTX 3060 model is the most widespread and also the one that makes the most sense in this chassis, starting at $1149 MSRP in the US, around 1200 EUR here in Europe, and just under 1000 GBP in the UK.
The RTX 3080 model is still not widely available and will go for as high as 2200 EUR, with some cheaper variants. No word on the screen options for those variants.
We’ll update once we know more, and in the meantime, follow this link for the latest updated prices and configurations available in your region.
Final thoughts- 2021 AMD Acer Nitro 5 review
For the last years, the Nitro 5 series has been among the most popular budget gaming laptops, delivering excellent performance and value in an affordable package.
Acer cleaned up the design over time, updated the thermal module, the keyboard, and the screen options, and now they’ve put some surprisingly powerful hardware in this 2021 Nitro 5 update. I never expected an 80 class GPU on a Nitro 5, but this can be specced now up to a 3080 Laptop graphics chip and a Ryzen 7 5800 octa-core processor, with plenty of RAM and storage options, and also some of the better screens you can get on a gaming notebook at this time.
Despite all these, the Nitro 5 hasn’t moved away from its budget roots, so it’s still a plastic-made mid-sized laptop that lacks some of the fancy features available on higher-tier computers, such as biometrics, USB-C charging, good audio, or premium materials. But it’s supposed to compensate for these lacks and its quirks with a more affordable price tag, which, judging by past experience, most other OEMs won’t be able to match for similar specs.
At the same time, you should get this with the right expectations in terms of performance, as Acer went with a lower-power implementation of the AMD and Nvidia chips, and there’s a performance gap between this and other higher-power RTX 3080 notebooks that we’ve tested so far. A gap that shouldn’t come as a surprise on a more affordable product, and that’s also heavily balanced out by the excellent temperatures and noise levels we registered with our sample. I don’t know how Acer did it, but this Nitro 5 is one of the coolest and quietest gaming machines I’ve tested in years, and that alone might be worth a 10-20% dip in gaming framerates. And perhaps not necessarily on the 3080 models, but surely on the cheaper 3060 configurations.
That wraps up our review of the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-45, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, so get in touch down below. Are you willing to sacrifice on performance and the other features mentioned throughout the article for the cheaper price and excellent noise/thermals, which is the value proposition Acer offers with this 2021 Nitro 5? I for one might be.
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