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6 Months With An Acer Nitro 5: The Not So Good

After several months of using it as my main computer, putting it through its paces, here are my gripes with the laptop.

Table Of Contents


  1. Intro
  2. Specs
  3. Keyboard
  4. Thermals
  5. Dust
  6. Ethernet
  7. USB Type C Port

Published: Mar 28, 2019

Several months ago, I obtained an Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-53) gaming laptop. After several months of using it as my main computer, putting it through its paces, here are my gripes with the laptop.

I want to preface this post to say that this is a good laptop! All of these points are not deal breakers. Instead I feel these are things that didn't have to be issues if Acer had made a few small differences when they designed the thing. For the price ($700 at BestBuy at the time this laptop was purchased), it is a wonderful laptop with great performance.

Specs

CPU: Intel i5-8300H
RAM: 8GB (Upgraded to 16GB)
GPU: Nvidia GeForce 1050ti 4GB
SSD: Intel 600p 256GB

Keyboard

After several months of using this laptop I can safely say that this keyboard isn't that great. It's cramped, the key lettering is hard to see even when the keyboard backlight is on, and the keys don't feel that great.

For a gaming laptop, the FN key should have been placed to the right of the spacebar, not on the left. Because of its placement on the left, the CTRL key smaller than it should be. This makes its uncomfortable to hold the CTRL key in games where you need to hold the key down to crouch for extended periods of time.

The home key and delete keys should be swapped. Better yet, put the delete key where the NUMLOCK key is, next to backspace.

Putting the power button as a key on the keyboard is terrible decision. I disabled the power button in windows almost immediately after getting the laptop.

The keyboard is a bit cramped. Partly because Acer squeezed in a number pad (that said, I'd rather have it than not). Partly because the keyboard is not edge to edge. Instead the keyboard has an inch of unused space on either side that could have been used to give the keys more breathing room.

Acer Nitro 5 next to Toshiba Satellite A665D

The Acer Nitro 5 next to my venerable (and dead) Toshiba A665D. Despite both laptops being the same width, the Toshiba's keyboard is considerably less cramped by way of its edge to edge keyboard.

Key feel isn't that great. Personally, the keys take a bit too much force to actuate, making typing for extended amounts of time tiring. I wouldn't call them mushy, just heavy.

The glossy plastic of the keyboard/palm rest/touchpad attracts fingerprints like no tomorrow. Expect to wipe it off often.

Thermals

The laptop uses two side by side fans to cool the CPU and GPU.

At stock CPU voltages and stock thermal paste, expect some thermal throttling (not reaching maximum boost clocks). At stock with CPU and GPU going full tilt, expect temperatures north of 90c (and throttling).

I recommend replacing the stock thermal "paste". It's more like thermal crust…

After repasting with Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste and undervolting with ThrottleStop, I have managed to mostly eliminate CPU thermal throttling. In certain CPU heavy workloads such as [email protected] the CPU will still get quite hot. However, in normal workloads and gaming, temps stay in the area of 70c. This also has the added benefit of reducing fan ramp up, resulting in a quieter laptop.

Using ThrottleStop, I managed to achieve a -135mV undervolt on the CPU core/cache and -70mV on the intel iGPU.

I also used MSI Afterburner to modify voltage curves on the Nvidia 1050ti GPU. With some tweaking, I managed to increase max boost frequency of the GPU to 1800mhz, putting it in desktop 1050ti territory.

By modifying the GPU voltage curves in afterburner, the GPU is able to reach higher frequencies given the same voltage. This allows the GPU to boost to higher frequencies while staying in the thermal/power limits. Pink line is modified curve, green is stock.

Dust

Expect to need to clean dust out of the fans/heatsink every 3-4months, depending on how dusty your environment is and how hard/often you push the laptop. I would recommend getting a laptop stand or a dock that tilts the laptop off the surface its sitting on. This will allow greater airflow under the laptop and through the heatsinks, reducing temps and allowing the fans to run at a slower speed. This in turn will reduce the speed at which dust builds up on the heatsink.

Ethernet

The Ethernet port design is terrible. It uses a slim port with a flap that folds to allow the ethernet plug to fit. The problem with this design is that unlike a normal ethernet port, it does not hold the plug securely in the slot. The plug is able to wiggle around and if you move the laptop, it may even pop out of the port. Damage may occur to the port if this happens. I have already damaged the port due to this, requiring me to disassemble the laptop and unbend one of the pins in the ethernet port.

Unless you can guarantee that an ethernet cable plugged into the port will be left undisturbed, I recommend that you buy a dock with its own ethernet port or a USB to Ethernet adapter.

The slim ethernet port uses a spring loaded flap to allow an ethernet plug to fit. Ethernet cables plugged into this port are not snug because of this.

USB Type C Port

It is a regular USB 3.0 port with no alternate mode capabilities. No HDMI or DisplayPort signals are available through this port. Speed caps out at normal USB 3.0 speeds of 5gbps. My issue with this is that this limits the docks that can be used. Type-C docks that passively break out HDMI will not work with this laptop. Instead you will need a USB 3.0 dock that contains its own display processor, such as DisplayLink docks like the Dell D3000.

On a side note, it's 2019 and somehow mid range and high end laptops are still shipping with USB 2.0 ports (on this laptop two are USB 2.0 and two are USB 3.0). I highly doubt it costs manufacturers more than a couple pennies to implement 4 USB 3.0 at this point. This laptop's chipset, the HM370, has 8 (!!!) USB 3.0 ports built into it! There's no reason for it.

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