Acer Nitro 5 (2020) Gaming Laptop – Review

Another year, another gaming laptop refresh. But this year, Acer has unexpectedly given the Acer Nitro series more than an updated spec.

The affordable gaming line is edging closer to the premium Predator brand while still maintaining that all-important price point. The 2020 Acer Nitro 5 is a massive step up from last year’s offering.

Hardware

It doesn’t seem that obvious from the image renders before, but the 2020 Nitro 5 is more than a spec refresh. The whole chassis has a makeover.

For one thing, the usual gamer red trimmings have been significantly reduced. Only an outline of the touchpad, the plastic piece bridging the two functional air vents and the “Nitro” wordmark are in red.

The rest is in sleek black, making it less standing out than before- which can be a good thing for most folks who would use it as a work laptop. And as work laptop, it’s comfortable to use: the chiclet keyboards are good to type with, and the touchpad is responsive as you would expect.

Looking closer, and interestingly, there are more parts that have been hand-me-downed from the bigger Predator line. The keyboard is lifted a Predator keyboard (complete with white outlines on the keycaps). The four ventilation outlets look similar to a 2019 Predator Helios 300. There’s even those caution stickers first seen on a Predator.

Also, the new Nitro 5 throws out the faux carbon fibre texture of last year’s. Now it’s just a black plastic. A sturdy plastic, I might add- the screen part feels solid and the hinge- when it’s new like this review unit- is tight and strong.

I also like the LED indicator lights for battery power is placed. Either with the screen closed or open, viewed from the front or back, if the lights are on it’s visible which I find handy.

Only the charging port is at the back, sitting between the two working vents. All the I/O ports (1 USB Type C port, 3 USB ports, HDMI port, headphone jack and Kensington lock) are all on either sides.

Here’s the specs for the review unit, the Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-55-79CU)

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD (+1 empty M.2 slot, +1 upgradable HDD slot with upgrade kit)
  • Display: 15.6″ 144Hz 1080p IPS
  • Price: RM4,899

Software

Software-side, it’s the usual deal for the most part. There’s the Nitrosense app (a reskinned Predatorsense app) that lets you monitor internal temperature, change performance and fan speed and more. The dedicated key on the keyboard will bring it up, like past Nitro 5s.

But unlike past Nitro 5s, the 2020 version gets RGB customisation too. We now have RGB lighting on keyboards. The preset animations are a bit jittery- not as smoothly animated as other brands may have, and it’s a 4-zone RGB (you can’t colour the keys individually), but it’s there. At least if you don’t like red, you can put in any other colour you want now.

Gaming Performance

The 2020 Acer Nitro 5, in this price range of gaming laptop, is close to perfection, performance-wise.

The 10th-gen Intel Core CPU is solid and so is the GTX 1660Ti GPU. However, I can’t tell any major performance difference compared to a 9th-gen Intel Core CPU.

Our CPU benchmark, AI benchmark for Civilization VI, shows insignificant differences 10th-gen and 9th-gen Core i7s- only milliseconds of turn time difference. We don’t do tests like video rendering, though most likely that’s where the difference may be more pronounced. Not in gaming, however.

That being said, the Nitro 5 glides through our usual array of benchmark games. Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Division 2 can run at 60fps (the former in “balanced” settings, the latter on “high). Chuck in any new game released right now and the laptop should have no problem running it.

That 144Hz refresh rate monitor is only good for esports titles, where that high of a framerate is attainable.

Its weak point here is its 8GB of RAM. An acceptable amount, but with next-gen looming in, the Nitro 5 will need a RAM upgrade if you plan to play the latest games comfortably and have RAM-gobbling apps like Google Chrome running in the background.

Plus, the RAM limit means that the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti isn’t being pushed to its maximum. Our benchmark reads have the GPU not running at its full power. There’s potential here for it to reach a hard-lock 60fps or more when gaming should you plan to add more RAM.

Make no mistake, the Nitro 5 is great at running games. Framerates fluctuate between the low 50s and 60fps for AAA games, but definitely playable and nice to look at.

Thermal wise, it’s quite good. Internal temperatures at full load do float around the 80-90 degrees Celcius range, but it shouldn’t be a problem. The four ventilation outlets (two big exhaust vents at the back, one on each side near the back) performed well to keep the surface area relatively cool. The numpad area can get hot, but resting your fingers on the WASD keys for long hours should be comfortable.

Value

The 2020 Acer Nitro 5 retains its sub-RM5,000 pricing, which is the ideal entry point we recommend for PC gamers that prefer gaming laptops. The AN515-55-79CU here is good as you can get in this price range. It can almost go toe-to-toe with a RM6,000+ gaming laptop that runs AAA games at 60fps on high settings. But you pay at least RM1K less.

If you’re not using the CPU as much for heavy-duty work like video rendering- and can live with playing games not on high settings, there is the Core i5 variant with a GTX 1650Ti priced at RM3,799. Quite an attractive price.

You will still probably need to add an extra HDD and RAM (around RM400 worth, give or take) to get it properly running AAA games at high comfortably. As always, there is already an HDD cable included should you want to add a hard disk later.

Oddly, there are no easy-access panels on the bottom in the Nitro 5. You’ll have to remove the whole bottom panel to upgrade your HDD and RAM. Not ideal, if it means breaking the warranty seal.

Verdict

I didn’t expect the Acer Nitro 5 to be this big of a step up on paper. But Acer did it. And it’s mostly thanks to them bringing down parts from the premium Predator line to a more affordable price range.

The sleek, subtle design and good gaming and thermal performance makes this the ideal sub-RM5,000 gaming laptop. One of the best in its class.

Review unit provided by Acer Malaysia

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