In the last year we’ve taken a look at a couple AMD Ryzen APU-powered (Raven Ridge) laptops, and while these laptops have had their ups and downs in terms of battery life, one area where AMD has never shied away from is total performance. Even in a mobile form factor, the Zen architecture is fast. And in AMD’s APUs, this also gets paired with AMD’s highly capable integrated Vega iGPU.

Overall a performant combination, a single APU is still at times limited – if not by its own innate performance than by the clockspeeds and total throughput the low-TDP part can sustain. So what do you if you need more performance, particularly GPU performance? As always, you go the tried and true route: you add a discrete GPU. Acer has done just this with their Nitro 5 laptop, which in the case of the model we're looking at today, pairs up a Ryzen APU with a Radeon RX 560X GPU in order to produce a thrifty, entry-level gaming laptop.

All told, the Acer Nitro 5 is one of the least expensive ways to get into laptop gaming. Acer offers several models, with the lowest cost offering coming in at just $669.99 MSRP, while the top of this range capping out at $999.99. Regardless of the price range you are looking at, all of the Acer Nitro 5 models offer pretty reasonable feature set, with a dGPU at least 8 GB of RAM, and other than the lowest-priced tiers, SSD storage as well. There’s a lot of laptop here for the price, and Acer has options for this entire end of the market with the Nitro 5.

The Nitro 5 can be had with either AMD or Intel offerings on the CPU, and AMD and NVIDIA GPU offerings as well, which is rare to see. AMD sent us the Nitro 5 AN515-42-R5GT model, featuring an AMD Ryzen 5 2500U processor, and the AMD Radeon RX 560X GPU, coupled with 8 GB of DDR4 and a 256 GB SSD. The AN515-42 also comes in a slightly less expensive model which foregoes the SSD for a 1 TB HDD. With the size of today’s games that might be tempting, but the everyday performance benefits of the SSD mean that it should be the default choice, especially since you can add the HDD later if necessary without having to reinstall the OS.

The dGPU coupled with the Ryzen CPU is the AMD Radeon RX 560X, which launched in April 2018. AMD hasn’t had a lot of traction in the laptop gaming market, and although they’ve moved to their latest Vega architecture on the desktop and integrated with Ryzen, the RX 560X is based on Polaris 11, built on Global Foundries’ 14nm node, and offering 16 CUs / 1024 Stream Processors coupled with 4 GB of GDDR5 in the Acer Nitro 5. Despite being an older architecture than the Vega GPU integrated with the Rzyen 5 2500U, there’s far more GPU available, so it’s still a significant boost in gaming performance over the integrated model.

Acer Nitro 5 - Model Tested AN515-42-R5GT
Models AN515-42 Ryzen 5 2500U RX 560X AN515-53 i5-8300H GTX 1050 AN515-53 i5-8300H GTX 1050 Ti AN515-53 i7-8750H GTX 1050 Ti
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 2500U
4C / 8T 2.0 - 3.6 GHz
4MB Cache
15W Nominal TDP
12-25W Configurable TDP
Intel Core i5-8300H
4C / 8T 2.3 - 4.0 GHz
8MB Cache
45W Nominal TDP
35W Configurable TDP
Intel Core i5-8300H
4C / 8T 2.3 - 4.0 GHz
8MB Cache
45W Nominal TDP
35W Configurable TDP
Intel Core i7-8750H
6C / 12T 2.2 - 4.1 GHz
9MB Cache
45W Nominal TDP
35W Configurable TDP
GPU AMD Radeon RX 560X
1024 SP / 16 CU
16 ROPs
1275 MHz
4GB GDDR5 7Gbps
Polaris 11
NVIDIA GTX 1050
640 CUDA Cores
16 ROPs
1493 MHz
4GB GDDR5 7Gbps
GP107
NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti
768 CUDA Cores
32 ROPs
1620 MHz
4GB GDDR5 7Gbps
GP107
NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti
768 CUDA Cores
32 ROPs
1620 MHz
4GB GDDR5 7Gbps
GP107
RAM 8GB Single Channel
Two SO-DIMM Slots
8GB Single Channel
Two SO-DIMM Slots
8GB Single Channel
Two SO-DIMM Slots
8GB - 12GB
Two SO-DIMM Slots
Display 15.6" 1920x1080 IPS
Acer ComfyView
Storage 1 TB HDD (AN515-42-R5ED)
256 GB SATA SSD (AN515-45-R5GT)
1 TB HDD 256 GB SATA SSD 1 TB HDD + 16 GB Optane (AN515-53-70AQ)
128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD (AN515-53-7366)
Network 802.11ac 2x2:2
Gigabit Ethernet
I/O 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
1 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
HDMI
SD Reader
Headset Jack
Battery 47 Wh Li-Ion
135W AC Adapter
Dimensions 391 x 267 x 28 mm
15.4 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches
Weight 2.7 Kg / 5.95 lbs
MSRP $669.99
AN515-42-R5ED
$699.99
AN515-42-R5GT
$749.99 $849.99 $949.99
AN515-53-70AQ
$999.99
AN515-53-7366

The 15.6-inch laptop does offer a 1920x1080 IPS display, which is great to see, since gaming laptops can tend to gravitate to TN panels. These are useful if you want a high refresh rate, but are much less useful the rest of the time. The 8 GB of DDR4 is unfortunately single-channel, but this is less of an issue on this machine because the dGPU has its own 128-bit GDDR5 memory pool. The upside is that the RAM is also upgradeable and easy to access.

Wireless in the AMD version is based on the Qualcomm Atheros 2x2 802.11ac adapter, and the laptop offers plenty of I/O with two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, and even a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port. The laptop also offers HDMI, and Ethernet.

To get to the price range, there’s definitely some corners cut, but lets take a look at the design and see how they did.

Design
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  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, February 16, 2019 - link

    Unfortunately, it looks like the ColorMunki's price has gone way up and its software may not be reliable with Windows 10. Reply
  • GreenReaper - Monday, February 18, 2019 - link

    It'll probably go on sale at some point and you can buy it then. I never even installed the software, just DisplayCal. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Saturday, February 16, 2019 - link

    You can't calibrate when the backlight won't do sRGB. There's no way to get more blue out of the light than is available. All calibration would do is lead to some pretty extensive crushing. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, February 17, 2019 - link

    I read too quickly and thought you meant the panel had excessive coverage in the blue range. I see that it's the opposite. Usually with cheap laptop screens a very low contrast ratio accompanies strong sRGB undercoverage. A ratio of over 1000 is surprising for a screen with such poor gamut.

    Some undercoverage of sRGB can still really benefit from calibration, as seen here in the greens:

    http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/viewsonic_vx24...
    http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/asus_ms246h.ht...
    http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/benq_ew2420.ht...

    However, if it is severe as this laptop's is, then it's probably not worth the trouble.
    Reply
  • GreenReaper - Monday, February 18, 2019 - link

    Our eye responds more to green light, so I guess it's one way to easily boost perceived brightness and hence contrast ratios (as long as there isn't too much leakage as well).

    Calibration makes the crappy TN screen on my Lenovo X120e look a heck of a lot better, even if it's obviously not as good as my other displays - reasonably consistency within its coverage area is key.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, February 15, 2019 - link

    Saying that one thing is "100% faster" than another means it is twice as fast. You do this repeatedly, where what you meant is "100% as fast". The two are wildly different. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Friday, February 15, 2019 - link

    Appreciate the feedback and updating the wording. Reply
  • LMonty - Saturday, February 16, 2019 - link

    I'm glad Brett is confident enough to appreciate valid corrections. :) Many tech writers ignore comments like this or even deny them. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Saturday, February 16, 2019 - link

    I wrote one thing while meaning another - I always appreciate constructive feedback! Reply
  • nathanddrews - Friday, February 15, 2019 - link

    At first glance - looks like decent budget gaming option. Looking closer:

    1. WTF is up with single-channel AMD notebooks? It literally HALVES APU performance in some games and significantly nerfs most other CPU operations. If you still have access to this laptop, please consider tossing in another stick of RAM.

    2. That IPS display *shudder*. At what point does it even matter if it's going to be of such low quality? Also, why not FreeSync?

    3. What's up with the 1060 and 1050 on the gaming charts dramatically switching positions? Are there some throttling issues at play?
    Reply

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