It’s no surprise that budget PCs tend to be best-sellers. But it might surprise you that this remains true even for people looking for gaming power. Hey, just because you’re a PC gamer doesn’t mean you’re rolling in Benjamins, or that you’re inclined to spend every last one on a top-of-the-line machine. That being the case, Gordon Ung decided to check out the most popular gaming laptop on Amazon: the $750 Acer Nitro 5. You can see what he thought over on the PCWorld YouTube channel.
This version of the Nitro 5 is equipped with a 10th-gen Core i5 processor and a relatively tame RTX 3050 graphics card. The rest of the specs won’t wow you, either: it’s rocking just 8GB of DDR4 RAM (the bare minimum for usable Windows 11), 256GB of SSD storage, and a 15-inch 1080p screen that can thankfully handle 144Hz.
If you’re familiar with the gaming laptop market, you can probably make a pretty good guess of where this older, less expensive laptop falls in terms of performance. While it does fine on multi-core CPU testing, its single-core and GPU power puts it at the bottom of all of our regular tests. That isn’t to say that it’s bad, because it’s competing with laptops at two or three times the price, or even higher. Dollar-for-dollar, as Gordon says, it’s “perfectly acceptable.” The Nitro 5 even does fairly well in terms of battery, getting around the middle of the pack and competing very well against more expensive machines.
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
But benchmarks are all theoretical. What about actual game performance? The long and the short of it is that you can play older, less intense games just fine, some of which can even hit the triple-digit framerates that look best on that high-refresh screen. Esports-focused games like Rainbow Six and CounterStrike perform great on the RTX 3050, and even older high-end games like GTAV can break the 100 FPS mark. For anything newer and more intense, like Horizon Zero Dawn or Cyberpunk 2077, it struggles to hit 60 frames per second. You’re going to want to take advantage of Nvidia’s image-enhancing DLSS technology wherever it’s available.
This version of the Nitro 5 is pretty barebones, but it shares core parts like the motherboard with much more expensive variations of the same laptop. You know what that means: there’s room for upgrades! Because the Nitro 5 uses a single DDR4 RAM stick, it’s easy to take off the bottom of the machine and slot in a matching DIMM to double the memory. And because of the way dual channel memory works, that’s going to give you a huge amount of extra performance, much more than merely doubling the RAM on a machine with two DIMM slots already filled. The best part: this extra 8GB of 3200mhz DDR4 laptop memory only costs about $30 to $40.
Gordon Mah Ung/IDG
Typically a boost in RAM won’t translate to a huge boost for in-game performance, since most games care more about the GPU than other factors. But the Nitro 5 base model is limited enough that this small, easy upgrade translates to an enormous improvement in some games. Just as an example, GTAV jumped from 110 frames per second to 150, now fully capable of taking advantage of the 144Hz screen! (And that wasn’t even using the fastest possible memory.)
In the video Gordon shows you how to disassemble and upgrade the Acer Nitro 5 — it’s about as easy as any laptop upgrade could be, complete with multiple M.2 bays and even room for a 2.5-inch SATA drive. If you’re interested in these kind of nerdy reviews, testing, and guides, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.