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Hands on: Acer Nitro 5 (2021) review

A gaming laptop for all?

What is a hands on review?
Acer Nitro 5 (2020)
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Acer Nitro 5 (2021) packs the latest mobile tech from AMD and Nvidia, resulting in a gaming laptop that should be able to handle modern games with ease, but without causing irreparable damage to your wallet.

For

  • AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile CPUs
  • Nvidia RTX 3000 mobile GPUs
  • Solid build
  • Good price

Against

  • Intel version is limited
  • Touchpad placement not ideal

At CES 2021, Acer announced the new Nitro 5 (2021) gaming laptop, and we’ve had a chance to have a quick play around with it.

Standing out in the highly competitive gaming laptop market is a tricky thing to do, and in the past, Acer’s Nitro 5 laptop has struggled to get the recognition it perhaps deserved. Previous models have been dependable and affordable gaming laptops that bring a decent amount of power to gamers who can’t afford the huge price tags of high-end gaming laptops.

However, it does mean the Nitro 5 can get overshadowed by more flashy alternatives. This appears to be something Acer is trying to rectify with the new Nitro 5 (2021), which now comes packing some of the very latest mobile components from Nvidia and AMD.

Acer Nitro 5 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

The Acer Nitro 5 (2021) comes with a choice between the new AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile processors, or 11th generation Intel Core processors.

The Nitro 5 with an Intel Core i5-11300H processor will start at £749 (around $1,000 / AU$1,320) for the 15-inch model, and £849 (around $1,150 / AU$1,500) for the 17-inch model.

Meanwhile, a model with an AMD Ryzen 7 Mobile Processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU and a 512 GB SSD will cost £999 (around $1,350 / AU$1,800) for the 15-inch model, and £1,049 (around $1,400 / AU$1,900) for the 17-inch model.

There will be a range of configurations for the Acer Nitro 5 (2021), so prices will vary depending on what hardware you go with.

We don’t currently know the exact release date for the new Nitro 5, but it should arrive in the first half of this year.

Acer Nitro 5 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The Acer Nitro 5 (2021) comes in two sizes – one with a 15.6-inch full HD IPS screen with 144Hz refresh rates, and one with a 17.3-inch screen. With the AMD model, which features AMD’s newly-announced at CES Ryzen 5000 series of mobile processors, the Nitro 5 has screens that can go up to 360Hz at 1080p, and there are QHD (1440p) screens that feature 165Hz refresh rates as well.

We had a chance to go hands-on with the 15.6-inch model, and while this is undeniably an Acer gaming laptop, it’s not as big or bulky as some gaming laptops tend to be, with dimensions of 363.4 x 255 x 23.9mm for the 15-inch model, and a weight of 2.3 kg.

It’s not as thin and light as Asus’ premium Zephyrus lineup, nor Acer’s own high-end Triton series, but the Nitro 5 is primarily a mid-range gaming laptop, and for the price, the 2021 model feels nicely put together, even if the outer shell feels a little bit plasticky.

Acer Nitro 5 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

It’s actually a little bit thinner and lighter than last year’s Nitro 5 model. This is thanks to some changes Acer has made to the design, most noticeably by slimming down the bezels around the screen. Acer tells us that the screen-to-body ratio is now 80%, with the bezels narrowed to 7.02mm. Not only does this allow Acer to shrink the overall size of the Nitro 5 (2021) without reducing the size of the screen, but it also makes the new Nitro 5 feel more modern and premium.

The power connector has also been moved to the back of the new Nitro 5, which allows for better placement of the exhaust fans. As with any gaming laptop with powerful components, making sure everything is kept as cool as possible is a must, and it’s clear Acer has thought hard about this.

The red-accented keyboard remains the same as the previous model, with a 4-zone RGB backlight. It feels responsive and comfortable to use. The touchpad is offset slightly to the left which may take a little getting used to, but worked well enough during our time with it in Windows 10. When playing games, however, you’ll want to plug in a standard mouse.

Acer Nitro 5 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Speaking of plugging in stuff, the Acer Nitro 5 (2021) comes with a decent selection of ports. On the left-hand side is an Ethernet (good for playing online games with a stable and dependable network connection), two USB ports and an audio jack. On the right-hand side there’s a USB-C port, another USB port and a full-size HDMI for plugging into a TV or monitor.

The overall design of the Nitro 5 (2021) definitely has nods to gamer chic, such as RGB lighting and aggressive edges, but it’s not over the top, either. Also, while it won’t be mistaken for a premium gaming laptop, it doesn’t look or feel cheap, either. The new, slimmer bezels and overall reduced footprint is very welcome, however, and could make people sit up and take note of the Nitro 5 lineup.

We didn’t get a chance to try out the faster screens in our hands-on tests, however. We’ll hopefully get a chance for a full review soon.

Acer Nitro 5 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

As this is an early hands-on, we weren’t able to test out the performance, but Windows 10 felt snappy while we used it. The included components certainly suggest that the Nitro 5 in any configuration will offer a great gaming experience, and we can’t wait to really put it through its paces.

One thing to note is that there are a lot more configurations with the AMD model compared to the Intel one, which makes us feel like the AMD one is Acer’s preferred version.

For example, with the AMD model, you can choose between a 1080p screen with huge 360Hz refresh rates, or a QHD (1440p) screen at 165Hz.

The AMD model is also the one with Nvidia’s latest RTX 3000 series GPUs.

Meanwhile, the Intel model only offers 1080p resolution at 144Hz, and the GPU sticks with the GeForce GTX 1650. Serious gamers, then will want to go with the AMD model, which offers more power. The Intel model, however, should still be a good choice for people who are on more of a budget.

Early verdict

The new Acer Nitro 5 looks like it could really redefine what we expect from a mid-range gaming laptop. If Acer nails the performance and build quality, while keeping the price (relatively) low, then it could be on to a real winner.

This may be the first Nitro 5 to really make an impression with gamers, especially ones who want a great gaming experience, but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a laptop.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to properly test out the Acer Nitro 5 (2021) in full.

Matt Hanson

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of magazines and websites, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.