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Acer Nitro 5 review: Great gaming value with a great display

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Acer Nitro 5 review: Great gaming value with a great display

That 1440p display sure is nice.

acer nitro 5 overall

Matthew Elliott/IDG

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You’re likely accustomed to seeing models of Acer’s venerable Nitro 5 budget gaming laptop line with prices comfortably in the triple digits. The company extends the line into midrange gaming laptop territory with this configuration ($1,700 at Acer), which packs a QHD display powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics. 

Despite its many charms and strong performance, the Nitro 5 takes a close second to the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition, which remains the best gaming laptop value we’ve seen lately. The Nitro 5 has an obvious advantage in screen resolution, however: Its 15.6-inch QHD display lends a versatility to the Nitro 5 that makes it an excellent productivity machine as well. If you’re looking for a do-it-all laptop for both work and play, there’s a good argument to be made for the Nitro 5.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

Acer Nitro 5 features and specifications

This Nitro 5 model we tested (AN515-45-R7S0) is one of the higher-end configurations in the Nitro 5 line, pairing the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU with GeForce RTX 3070 graphics. Here’s the longer spec list:

  • CPU: Octa-core AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 with 8GB dedicated GDDR6 VRAM
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch, QHD (2560×1440) IPS, 165Hz refresh rate
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Right side: 1 x USB SuperSpeed 10Gbps Type-C,1 x USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A, HDMI 2.0.
  • Left side: 2 x USB SuperSpeed 10Gbps Type-A (one with power-off charging), ethernet, combo audio jack.
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Killer Gigabit ethernet E2600, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Biometrics: None
  • Battery capacity: 4-cell, 57.5 Watt-hours
  • Dimensions: 14.3 x 10 x 1.0 inches
  • Measured weight: 4.77 pounds (measured), 1.3-pound power brick

At $1,700, our test system costs significantly more than many Nitro 5 models that you can find for less than $1,000, but it’s not the priciest Nitro 5 that Acer sells. The top model in the line is more than double the price of our test system. It costs $3,798 and features the same QHD, 165Hz display powered by the Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, 32GB of RAM and RTX 3080 graphics.

Midrange components in a budget chassis

Premium parts or no, it appears that every Acer Nitro 5 uses the same bulky, plastic case as lower-cost models. I am much more accepting of such bulk and heft when priced below $1,000, less so as the price nears $2,000. The laptop is nearly all black, with only a few design touches geared toward gamers. You’ll find a piece of molded red plastic on the back edge between the laptop’s vents, and the front corners are angled to make the system appear somewhat less bulky than it really is. It already weighs 4.77 pounds, and you’ll need to lug around more than 6 pounds if you include the hefty power adapter.

The all-plastic chassis feels fairly solid and rigid. There is a hint of flex under the keys when typing, but the lid is more concerning, feeling very thin and flimsy. At this price, it’s not too much to expect a metal lid for increased rigidity behind the display. The similarly priced Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition, for example, features an aluminum lid and keyboard deck. The Nitro 5’s display bezels are also a bit on the thick side, which adds to the system’s overall hefty feel.

acer nitro 5 lid Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5’s thin, plastic lid feels flimsy.

Back to the keyboard: The keys felt soft, yet responsive. They are quiet without feeling mushy. Acer squeezes in a number pad, with a sacrifice: The right-Shift key is shortened, which might take some getting used to. While I understand full-size arrow keys are useful for a gaming laptop, I really dislike having to give up some of my right-Shift key. I constantly hit the up-arrow key by accident when attempting to press the right-Shift key—very annoying. The arrow keys and the WASD keys are outlined to guide gamers to the buttons they mash most. Acer also highlights one more key—the special ‘N’ key above the numpad that launches Acer’s NitroSense utility. 

acer nitro 5 keyboard Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5’s keyboard features four-zone RGB lighting.

The NitroSense utility lets you adjust the mode or speed of the cooling fans, select a power plan, and customize the RGB keyboard backlighting. You can set the color of the backlighting across four zones and select between static and dynamic modes. Most laptops at this price feature zone-lit keyboards, rather than per-key, so the Nitro 5 is right on trend.

The system is average in terms of fan noise. The fans kick in during games and other intensive graphics tasks and can clearly be heard, but they are rather quiet (not rarely silent) during lighter loads. I played with the fan settings in the NitroSense utility and tried out the CoolBoost setting that cranks up fan speed to optimize CPU and GPU performance, but found little change in fan noise or performance.

The touchpad looks a bit undersized, given the expanse of the keyboard deck, but it accurately recorded my mousing gestures. Its clicks felt firm with snappy feedback. No complaints here, other than believing Acer could have made the touchpad a touch wider.

Display goes to QHD

Most Nitro 5 models you’ll encounter feature a basic 1920×1080 display, but this Nitro 5 boasts a QHD (2560×1440) panel. The added pixels may not pique the interest of gamers, who likely play the majority of their games at 1080p rather than 1440p, but the higher resolution is a bonus during productivity tasks because it provides a larger workspace and a finer image. Moving a step further to a 4K resolution on a 15.6-inch display is less useful—most users won’t notice much of a difference in resolution on this size of a display, and battery life suffers the higher the resolution gets. A QHD resolution is right in the sweet spot for a 15.6-inch laptop.

The display looked fairly bright and exhibited vivid color and good contrast. I played CS:GO in a sunny room and was able to see details in dark scenes on the Ancient and Militia maps. If a friend or two wanted to watch sitting next to you while you played, they’d be able to see the action because the display is an IPS panel. IPS technology delivers a wide viewing angle, so the display doesn’t look overly dim when viewed off axis.

acer nitro 5 display Matthew Elliott/IDG

The QHD display is a highlight of the Acer Nitro 5.

The speakers provide merely average output. They have enough power to fill a small room but the sound is muddied, with little separation between high and mid tones, and little in the way of a bass response. Gamers will want to keep their headphones handy.

The 720p webcam above the display is underwhelming. Video suffered from noise and reddish skin tones. It also lacks a privacy cover.

The port offerings cover the basics (see photos of left and right sides, below). As with other AMD laptops we’ve seen, however, the USB-C port doesn’t include Thunderbolt support. And while you do get an HDMI port, you’ll need to make do without a DisplayPort connection.

acer nitro 5 left ports Matthew Elliott/IDG

acer nitro 5 right ports Matthew Elliott/IDG

Our Nitro 5 test system features a roomy 1TB SSD, and the laptop has room to add a second storage drive if you want to expand. Remove 11 screws from the bottom panel and you can get inside the laptop, where you’ll find a spot for a 2.5-inch drive. Acer thoughtfully includes in the box the cable and screws you’ll need to make such an addition. The DIMM slots are also easily accessible, but both were occupied in our test system, with an 8GB stick in each.

acer nitro 5 interior Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5 leaves room to add a 2.5-inch drive.

Acer Nitro 5 Performance

If not for the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition, a good argument could be made for this Acer Nitro 5 config as the price-for-performance champ. Still, the Nitro 5 acquitted itself almost as well in labs testing.

We compared the Acer Nitro 5 against other high-end laptops with the latest AMD and Nvidia GPUs. The Acer Predator Triton 300 features RTX 3060 graphics, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED UX582 features RTX 3070 graphics, the Razer Blade 14 features RTX 3080 graphics, and the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition features Radeon RX 6800M. The Gigabyte Aorus 17G features a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU dialed down with a lower Total Graphics Power (TGP) of 105 Watts. We also included systems with previous-generation Nvidia graphics from Alienware, MSI and XPG.

Our first benchmark tests how a laptop is able to handle crushing CPU loads over a lengthy period—in this case, transcoding a 30GB MKV file to a format suitable for Android tablets using HandBrake, the free video encoding utility. The Nitro 5 bested the Intel Core i7- and i9-based competition and even edged the Ryzen 9-based Razer Blade 14. The Asus ROG Strix G15, however, took top honors.

acer nitro 5 handbrake Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5 did well in HandBrake, coming in second behind the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition.

Next up is Cinebench, another CPU-intensive test but one that renders a complex 2D scene over a short period of time. The Acer Nitro 5 again topped the Intel-based competition, but this time finished behind both Ryzen 9-based laptops. The Ryzen 9 5800HX and Ryzen 7 5800H CPUs are more similar than you might think—both feature 8 cores and 16 threads, with the Ryzen 9 5800HX offering a slight edge in base and max boost frequencies. We show multi-thread and single-thread results below.

acer nitro 5 cinebench multi thread Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5 topped all Intel-based competition in Cinebench multi-threaded testing.

acer nitro 5 cinebench single thread Matthew Elliott/IDG

Cinebench single-threaded results tend to be closer, and the Nitro 5 again followed the two Ryzen-based competitors closely.

Graphics performance

Now it’s time to see how the Nitro 5’s RTX 3070 graphics chops stack up against laptops with RTX 3080 graphics and previous-generation RTX 20-series graphics, as well as the Asus ROG Strix G15 and its Radeon RX 6800M GPU. On 3DMark, the Nitro 5 not surprisingly slotted behind a pair of laptops with RTX 3080 graphics. However it topped the other RTX 3070-based laptop (the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo) and stayed well ahead of the RTX 3060-based Acer Predator Triton 300 SE. The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition finished first, and by a healthy margin.

acer nitro 5 3dmark time spy Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5 did well in 3DMark, though the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition prevailed yet again.

Moving on to real-world games, we first run Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1920×1080 resolution set to Very High and in DX11 mode. The Nitro 5 turned in a very playable framerate of 101 fps, as we’d expect an RTX 3070-based laptop to do on an older game at these settings. We also ran the benchmark with CoolBoost enabled, and the framerate actually dropped slightly to 99 fps. 

acer nitro 5 rottr Matthew Elliott/IDG

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, the Acer Nitro 5 turned in a respectable result.

On the newer Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1920×1080 resolution, the Nitro 5 averaged 104 fps. We also ran the more demanding Metro Exodus (which might be too stiff) at 1920×1080 at the benchmark’s Extreme preset, and the Nitro 5 averaged 36 fps. It fared better at the same resolution with the Normal preset, where it achieved an average framerate of 102 fps. 

Battery life

We test laptop battery life by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies & TV app, with screen brightness set to about 250 nits and the volume dialed to 50 percent, with headphones plugged in.

It’s rare to find a gaming laptop with decent battery life, and the Nitro 5 is not an exception to this rule. It lasted less than 5.5 hours on our battery-drain test, which is a bit below average. Mind you, video rundown is much less demanding than gaming, so don’t expect to frag bots for long off AC. 

acer nitro 5 battery life Matthew Elliott/IDG

The Acer Nitro 5’s brief battery life is pretty much par for the course on a gaming laptop. 

Strong performer with QHD bonus

The Acer Nitro 5 we tested costs more than most models in the Nitro 5 line, better known for its sub-$1,000 budget offerings. It’s somewhat disappointing to be paying more for a laptop that’s still dressed in bargain-bin clothing, but if you can get past the aesthetics, this Nitro 5 model delivers outstanding midrange gaming laptop performance. With an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU and RTX 3070 graphics, it outperforms laptops that cost hundreds more. And while its QHD 1440p display may not be of interest to gamers, the bump up in resolution from the more common FHD 1080p panel provides additional value because it makes the Nitro 5 a more useful productivity machine—as long as the shortened Shift key doesn’t drive you crazy. 

If it weren’t for that pesky Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition, the Acer Nitro 5 would be a greater value. Still, it’s one of the better (if not the best) deals out there, and well worth considering.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

  • The Acer Nitro 5’s design is decidedly budget-class, but it still offers outstanding value among midrange gaming laptops.

    Pros

    • Crisp QHD display
    • Competitive performance for the price
    • Roomy 1TB SSD with room to add second drive

    Cons

    • Heavy and bulky case
    • Flimsy display lid
    • Shortened Shift key is annoying

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

Here’s what leaked retailer pricing tells us about the performance of Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake S CPUs.

6core vs 8core cpus

Intel / AMD / janniwet / Shutterstock

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Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

Before you jump to any conclusions, we want to point out that as reliable as a leaked retail price might seem, they can very unreliable too. Often times stores prep for impending launches by using placeholder prices and specs. Those listings are then updated when the stores receive the final information.

The leaked info itself from Provantage would indicate it’s not quite baked yet. For example, we know the top-end Alder Lake S chip will feature 8 performance cores and 8 efficient cores (Intel’s Alder Lake chips feature a radical new mixture of big and little cores), yet the listing at Provantage lists the top-end chip as an 8-core design. 

alder lake provantage Provantage via Hothardware.com

Hothardware.com snapped this image of Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs at retailer Provantage. that has since been removed.

Still, both combined retail leaks reinforce what we’ve already come to conclude so far: Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake S will at least suit up with the intent to take on AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

That’s a marked change from the $550 8-core 11th gen Rocket Lake CPU, which lost badly to AMD’s $550 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X chip. With the 11th-gen desktop chips, Intel didn’t even try to field a CPU against AMD’s $750 Ryzen 9 5950X.

With its increased core efficiency, newer manufacturing process, and physically more cores than previous Intel consumer desktop CPUs, it’s entirely possible Intel’s 12th Core i9 will actually end up being somewhere between $604 and $705 when it comes out.

intel alder lake performance core benchmark Intel

Intel is touting a marked increase in core efficiency with its 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs.

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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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The best Windows backup software

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The best Windows backup software

Updated

The best programs for keeping your data and Windows safely backed up.

Rob Schultz/IDG

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Table of Contents

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We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with worthy alternatives, and while none are quite as slick or transparent as Time Machine, some come darn close—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

Updated on 9/15/21 to include our review of the newest version of Aomei Backupper 6. It remains our favorite free backup software for Windows because it provides a near-total backup solution, with a generous number of features. As a paid program, however, there are better options. Read more about it below. And scroll to the bottom of this article to see links to all our backup software reviews.

Best overall backup software

There’s a reason True Image is renowned in the world of backup software. It’s capable, flexible, and rock-solid reliable. Indeed, it’s easily the most comprehensive data safety package on the planet.

Besides offering unparalleled backup functionality that’s both robust and easy to navigate, True Image integrates security apps as well, which protect against malware, malicious websites, and other threats using real-time monitoring. Read our full review.

Best free backup software

Among the free programs we tested, Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). This was the case with Backupper 4, and the latest version has only added more options, making it a surprisingly well-rounded free offering. We hit a few performance snags with less-conventional system setups, but for the average user, it should perform as expected.

What to look for in backup software

As with most things—don’t over-buy. Features you don’t need add complexity and may slow down your system. Additionally, if you intend to back up to a newly purchased external hard drive, check out the software that ships with it. Seagate, WD, and others provide backup utilities that are adequate for the average user.

File backup: If you want to back up only your data (operating systems and programs can be reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and effort-consuming), a program that backs up just the files you select is a major time-saver. Some programs automatically select the appropriate files if you use the Windows library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos, etc.).

Image backup/Imaging: Images are byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard drive (normally without the empty sectors) or partition, and can be used to restore both the operating system and data. Imaging is the most convenient to restore in case of a system crash, and also ensures you don’t miss anything important.

Boot media:  Should your system crash completely, you need an alternate way to boot and run the recovery software. Any backup program should be able to create a bootable optical disc or USB thumb drive. Some will also create a restore partition on your hard drive, which can be used instead if the hard drive is still operational.

Scheduling: If you’re going to back up effectively, you need to do it on a regular basis. Any backup program worth its salt allows you to schedule backups.

Versioning: If you’re overwriting previous files, that’s not backup, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. Any backup program you use should allow you to retain several previous backups, or with file backup, previous versions of the file. The better software will retain and cull older backups according to criteria you establish.

Optical support: Every backup program supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as they may seem, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are great archive media. If you’re worried about optical media’s reliability, M-Disc claims its discs are reliable for a thousand years, claims that are backed up by Department of Defense testing.

Online support: An offsite copy of your data is a hedge against physical disasters such as flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage services are a great way to maintain an offsite copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and the like is a nice feature to have.

FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other computers or NAS boxes on your network or in remote locations (say, your parent’s house) is another way of physically safeguarding your data with an offsite, or at least physically discrete copy. FTP can be used for offsite, while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on your local network.

Real time: Real-time backup means that files are backed up whenever they change, usually upon creation or save. It’s also called mirroring and is handy for keeping an immediately available copy of rapidly changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain on system resources. Instead, scheduling should be used.

Continuous backup: In this case, ‘continuous’ simply means backing up on a tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use continuous backup for rapidly changing data sets where transfer rates are too slow, or computing power is too precious for real-time backup.

Performance: Most backups proceed in the background or during dead time, so performance isn’t a huge issue in the consumer space. However, if you’re backing up multiple machines or to multiple destinations, or dealing with very large data sets, speed is a consideration.

How we test

We run each program through the various types of backups it’s capable of. This is largely to test reliability and hardware compatibility, but we time two: an approximately 115GB system image (two partitions), and a roughly 50GB image created from a set of smaller files and folders. We then mount the images and test their integrity via the program’s restore functions. We also test the USB boot drives created by the programs.

All of our reviews

If you’d like to learn more about our top picks as well as other options, you can find links below to all of our backup software reviews. We’ll keep evaluating new programs and re-evaluating existing software on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for our current impressions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Jon is a Juilliard-trained musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time (late 70s) computer enthusiast living in the San Francisco bay area. [email protected]

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

Or maybe they’re yoga pants for your thumbs?

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Razer has never been afraid to take a shot on products that seem unusual at first glance. Witness its RGB-infused N95 mask, the now-defunct Razer Game Store with its own zVault currency, or the first-gen Firefly mousepad, which has evolved into something special but originally prompted us to review it against a ripped-up piece of cardboard. The company’s latest offering might just take the cake though. This week, Razer introduced gamer thimbles.

Yes, thimbles. You know, like the Monopoly piece (or the sewing accessory for more worldly folks out there). Seriously.

Well, not quite. If you simply can’t abide sweaty palms and greasy fingerprints interfering with your marathon mobile Fortnite sessions, the new Razer gaming finger sleeve may be up your alley. “Slip on and never slip up with Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve that will seal your mobile victory,” Razer’s site breathlessly boasts.  “Woven with high-sensitivity silver fiber for enhanced aim and control, our breathable sleeves keep your fingers deadly cool in the heat of battle, so you’ll always have a grip on the game.”

Razer says the 0.8mm-thick sleeves are sweat absorbent, and that they’re made from nylon and spandex. So maybe they’re more like gamer yoga pants? But you know, for your fingers?

Either way it’s ludicrous. And unlike most of Razer’s gear, the gamer thimbles understandably (yet sadly) lack RGB lighting. But if you want to wear your dedication to the Cult of Razer on your slee…thumb, or maybe just look snazzier when you’re passing Go and collecting $200, you can pick up a pair of Razer gaming finger sleeves on the company’s website for $10. The truly dedicated can double down to look especially gamer:

razer gamer thimbles 2 Razer

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