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Acer Nitro 5 (AMD Ryzen) – Review

Solid entry level choice, and cooler than expected

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In the current gaming laptop market these days in Malaysia, the usual CPU+GPU combo is an Intel Core and an Nvidia GeForce. Those are definitely good choices but what about the other competitor, AMD?

Last year, AMD brought in the new Ryzen Mobile APUs to Malaysia for use in PCs and laptops. These are primed for entry-level gaming, or esports titles, however. But it’s also supposed to offer good performance on the cheap.

We’ve put the Acer Nitro 5 packed with AMD innards to the test. This is definitely an entry-level gaming laptop but as an entry-level laptop, it delivers.

Hardware

The specific review model here is the Acer Nitro 5  (AN515-42-R8SH). In Malaysia, this is one of two Acer Nitro 5s powered by AMD, this being the cheaper one. Just look at the specs sheet:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2500U
  • GPU: AMD Radeon RX 560X 4GB GDDR5
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Storage: 128GB SSD, 1TB 5400rpm HDD

For those not familiar with AMD’s naming conventions, the Ryzen 5 here is comparable to the Intel Core i5 whereas the Radeon RX 560X sits in the middle between the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050Ti.

The Acer Nitro 5 has a solid build quality. A bit bulky by today’s standards though, laptops are moving towards bezel-less displays. The black carbon-esque pattern and gamer red accents that adorn the body are nicely subtle and looks classy. Just enough hint that this baby can play video games. Not all, but we’ll get there in a bit.

Plus, the 1080p IPS display here is of acceptable quality. Bright, wide view angles that work well for gaming and general use. Ports are all on the left and right and it has all the usual suspects. 3 USB ports, one USB 3.1 (Type-C) port, a LAN socket, Kensington lock, and an SD card slot.

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The keyboard is big, with large keys that is okay to type with. The spacebar is a bit mushy for my liking but it’s serviceable.

One last thing, the power adapter has a pretty snug plug where the wire angles 90 degrees from the socket. So it’s less prone to damage should you accidentally bump the side of the laptop while plugged in.

Software

As far as bundled software goes, there’s the Norton Anti-Virus and Acer’s Nitrosense app. The latter is essentially the Predator Sense app but with fewer features. You can monitor the laptop temperature and current load for CPU and GPU, plus adjust the fan speeds. It’s not much, but still useful.

Now, in an earlier draft of this review, there is a long rant about how odd that AMD has yet to issue driver support to AMD APUs. Pre-installed drivers, version 17.7, dated back from 2017. But official support for the latest drivers has arrived while the review was being worked on. Such timing.

The updated Radeon drivers, the Adrenalin Edition, should provide more extra bells and whistles like the Radeon Overlay. But it seems like Radeon Overlay is not included in this driver package, yet. So you’ll get some game performance boosts only for now.

Performance

We start the performance by dispelling one old issue of past AMD CPUs. Back in the early days of 2010, there were many AMD CPUs that is powerful enough to run games but have issues with heating. Personally, I had a Compaq laptop died on me twice due to overheating because I played too much Borderlands 2. This stigma of AMD chips being prone to overheating has stuck for quite some time.

Thankfully, the new Ryzen APUs in the Nitro 5 has sorted such issues.

The laptop idles at around 50 degrees Celcius and can go up to 70 degrees at maximum usage. Interestingly, there’s not much noticeable heat on the WASD keys. As in, no, my fingers did not get scalded after a 4-hour gaming session.

The heat is concentrated near the main exhaust and seeps a bit on the furthest top-right part of the laptop surface. How cool it runs is better than expected. We have a crew member here that uses the Intel-powered Nitro 5 as his daily driver. Based on his daily uses, that laptop gets noticeably hot on the WASD keys side of the laptop surface.

When everything is running fine, the AMD innards delivers. I’ve used and reviewed various laptops with the Intel Core i7/Nvidia GeForce 1050Ti combo, the best combo for AAA gaming on a budget right now, and performance-wise, the Ryzen + Radeon combo is comparable. The fact that it has better thermal management gives it an extra edge.

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On that note, AMD claims that its APU is more energy efficient and should have longer battery life. Our stress tests of playing a 720p video on YouTube full screen managed to go up to around 4-5 hours, which is pretty good all things considered.

The bottleneck here is on the RAM, as expected. As we have said before, 4GB RAM is not enough to run modern AAA games.

For Honor can run well enough but there are warnings of low RAM each time you boot it up. Forza Horizon 4 demo straight up refuses to launch into gameplay due to the low specs. Warframe runs fine, but in the open world areas, the transition between the hub and the open world is RAM dependent. The game just chugs really hard while loading here. Loading a fully built-up city with all milestones unlock and more than 100,000 population in Cities: Skylines took way, way too long..

At least the laptop has SSD, so Windows 10 runs like a breeze thankfully.

For esports titles, no problems whatsoever. Dota 2, CS:GO and Overwatch can hit 60 fps without problems. Older games like The Witcher 3 can easily reach 60fps with medium settings. But by 2016, games like Hitman will struggle for 60fps, but can settle at around 30fps.

For games that it can hit 60, you can crank a few of the graphical settings up. The RX 560X GPU is closer to the performance of a GeForce 1050Ti and if it wasn’t for the RAM, it can possibly even run newer AAA games.

So if you mostly play games with low spec requirements and sometimes play a few older games released 2015 and earlier, the Acer Nitro 5 is decent.

Consider a RAM upgrade, it’s easy to do- only one screw away to access the slots.

Price

This specific model of the Acer Nitro 5 retails at RM3,299. So the performance does match what we expect from this price range. This is not the cheapest of the Nitro 5, there’s another one fro RM2,999 with an Intel Core i5 and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050.

However, the extra RM300 for the AMD spec is worth it, just because it includes an SSD.

Also, note that the RX 560X GPU is pretty comparable to the GTX 1050Ti performance wise. The Nitro 5 with a GTX 1050Ti (and a Core i7) is RM700 more than this variant here.

We would love to see specs included in this Nitro 5, with the SSD, can retail under RM3,000, which is the limit of the mainstream users would likely to spend for a laptop. For now, it’s still good on the value-for-money scale.

Verdict

The Acer Nitro 5 is a fine piece of entry-level gaming laptop suitable for college students, or those that are always on the go and needs to bring a PC. It’s not the choice to run games at the highest setting, or play the latest AAA games on PC, but if you mostly play esports games or games released in 2015 and earlier, the Acer Nitro 5 is great at that.

The lowest spec available in Malaysia running AMD Ryzen is a good choice for a cheap entry-level choice and the one we would recommend easily over the below RM3,000 variant. The included SSD is essential if you want a smooth experience in games or general use.

Plus, the AMD Ryzen + Radeon combo is on par with the competition in terms of performance. And it runs pretty cool, cooler than you would expect.

Just add another stick of RAM and the Acer Nitro 5 is a solid entry-level gaming laptop.


Review unit provided by AMD Malaysia

8

Acer Nitro 5 (AMD Ryzen)

Just add another stick of RAM and it's a solid entry-level gaming laptop.

  • Hardware 85%
  • Software 80%
  • Performance 70%
  • Value 85%