I’ve never been a big fan of gaming laptops. I’ve always found them to be too big, too heavy, too garnished with LEDs, too showing-off. Don’t get me wrong though, because I can understand their appeal. They’re nearly as capable as a desktop PC at a portable package.
But I can never imagine pulling one out at a library or at a coffee house without drawing too much attention to myself. Such a big, bright and oddly-shaped laptop would stick out like a sore thumb amidst a sea of ultrabooks and thin & lights. It’s a shame because I am, at my very core, a gamer. But this gamer has classes to attend and presentations to give which require the absolute focus and attention of peers and profs alike to not be on his gaming laptop.
For those of us who want to be in the bleeding-edge, but not the “bling-ing” edge, of portable performance, is there a solution? There might just be. Enter the Acer Nitro 5: A discreet gaming laptop at a decent price.
Let’s talk quickly about the Nitro 5’s specs:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2500 Quadcore 2.00 GHz – 3.60 GHz
- RAM: 4 GB DDR4
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 560X 4 GB VRAM
- Screen: 15.6” FullHD IPS @60Hz
- Storage: 1TB HDD
- Right-side ports: 2x USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack
- Left-side ports: RJ45 LAN port, USB Type-C, HDMI, 1x USB 3.0, SD card slot
- Weight: Approx. 6 lbs.
This base configuration, priced at Php 40,000, is quite capable and a bit left-field, considering it utilizes AMD hardware as opposed to the usual Intel-Nvidia combination. This AMD CPU and GPU has around the same TDPs as their closest Intel and Nvidia counter-parts, so any difference in power consumption should be negligible.
Featuring a mid-range CPU and GPU, it should have no problem running competitive e-sports titles like DOTA 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at 60 fps. If you skip on using any anti-aliasing (and on a 15.6″ screen @1080p, there’s probably no need to) you should even be able to comfortable run games like GTA V at 40-60 fps at medium settings.
But best of all, despite being marketed by Acer as a gaming laptop, the Nitro 5 has a rather restrained look. The shape has minimal angles, giving it a sharp outline without overdoing it. The faux carbon fiber lid looks clean and should resist finger print stains well. The Acer logo is even plain, glossy black and blends in with the carbon fiber finish. It’s a very discreet look that will attract only the glances of seatmates, not the glares of lecturers.
The only clear sign that this is a gaming-oriented laptop is the red hinge engraved with “NITRO” and red accented trackpad and keyboard. If you ever need a reminder, the highlighted WASD keys should help you remember your gamer roots. The whole keyboard is backlit with just a single color of red. Which is plenty for someone trying to lay low. No need for RGB, just a single-color light that can be turned on or off should be plenty.
The Acer Nitro 5 then is not the brash and outlandish Lamborghini of gaming laptops. It’s more of a Subaru Impreza or Mitsubishi Evo: practical, fast, inconspicuous, but with just enough styling cues to remind you of its raci-*ehem* gaming pedigree.
But what if the Nitro 5 doesn’t quite meet your requirements? Fear not, because there are alternatives. Actually, it turns out, there are many alternatives.
If you wish for more a little bit more CPU horsepower, you can fork in another Php 5,000 to spec your Nitro 5 with an Intel Core i5-8300H and a GTX 1050. While the GTX 1050 is about on par with the RX 560X, the 45W i5-8300H is faster than the 15W Ryzen 5 2500U, but you’ll trade-in some battery life.
There’s also a Lenovo and Dell option. Both models are also equipped with the i5-8300H and GTX 1050 for about the same price, but with totally understated aesthetics.
Is the Nitro 5 too heavy? Or are you looking for something in-between the plain-looking Lenovo/Dell and funky-looking Acer? ASUS’s Vivobook X560UD at Php 45,000 has a 15W Core i5-8250U with a GTX 1050. You lose keyboard backlighting and it’s equipped with a smaller battery, so it will probably achieve around the same battery life as the Nitro 5. As a result, the Vivobook is about a pound lighter than the Nitro 5 and has a more traditional and rectangular shape. With a subdued look and teal accents, you’ll have no problem blending-in without sacrificing style.
It seems then that for us, who wish to be taken seriously both in class and in-game, we’re spoilt for choice. For the diligent buyers among us, it will be easy to nit-pick between the small details such as weight, aesthetics, or battery life.
But if you ask me, take my advice, the alternatives are Php 3,000 – Php 5,000 more expensive than the base model Nitro 5 and you’ll barely notice any difference in performance. Just take that extra money and invest in something that will definitely improve performance (hint: SSD boot drive).
Or, you know, just spend the money on expanding your Steam library.
[Note: Prices and specs quoted are based on mall prices and online price lists. Prices and configurations may change from the time of writing.]