Aug 15, 2023

Acer Nitro 16 Review: Entry

The Acer Nitro 16 is easily one of the best budget gaming laptops, offering plenty of performance, an RGB backlit keyboard, a 165 Hz screen, and even long battery life for under $1,000.

Competent gaming performance

Bright G-Sync screen

Solid battery life

Quiet fans

Lots of ports, including USB 4

Subpar webcam

Hollow speakers

Lots of bloatware

Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Every dollar counts in the best gaming laptops under $1,000, where Acer’s Nitro 16 ($999.99 as tested) stands out as one of the best values. Its AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 are a potent combo, and games really come to life on its bright 1920 x 1200, 165 Hz screen.

The Nitro 16 also doesn’t miss out on creature comforts with its four-zone RGB keyboard, USB 4 Type-C port, quiet fans, and long battery life. The few areas where it doesn’t do well, namely its tinny speakers and preloaded bloatware, aren’t as significant in the bigger picture. For under $1,000, this Acer is the real deal.

Acer’s bread-and-butter Nitro series sits below its premium Predator line. The Nitro 16 we’re looking at is a revamp of the Nitro 5, doing away with the old 16:9 screen standard for the more modern (or retro, depending on how long you’ve been paying attention to display tech) 16:10 aspect ratio.

The laptop’s all-plastic shell isn’t a surprise given its entry-level status, but it’s well made and doesn’t feel fragile. Its surfaces were resisten to flex even when I pressed hard with my fingertips.

The lid received a makeover with flashy graphics and Acer’s “N” (for Nitro) logo, which looks backlit in photos but isn’t. The N logo also found its way into the bottom screen bezel. I think the lid graphics rescue this laptop from looking boring; it would otherwise have only its backlit keyboard to catch the eye. The lines are simple and, as a Miami Vice fan, pink and blue are a perfect pairing in my eyes.

I have mixed thoughts on the Nitro logo. It’s something new since the Nitro 5 didn’t have it, so Acer is clearly making efforts to build the brand. My issue is that it didn’t immediately look like an “N”, so initially I didn’t know what it meant, and I’m still not convinced that this logo is memorable. I wonder why Acer didn’t just spell out “Nitro” in the same crystalized font.

The Nitro 16 is 14.8 x 11.02 x 1.1 inches and 5.95 pounds. The MSI Katana 15 is trimmer at 14.13 x 10.20 x 0.98 inches and 4.96 pounds, but it has a 16:9 screen. That’s also true of HP’s Victus 16 (14.53 x 10.21 x 0.90 inches and 5.15 pounds.) Pricier 16-inch 16:10 laptops, such as the Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 (14.3 x 10.25 x 1.05 inches and 5.6 pounds) tend to be trimmer as well.

The Nitro 16’s highly usable port selection starts on its left with a Killer E2600 Ethernet jack, a USB 2.0 port, a MicroSD card reader, and a 3.5 mm headphone/microphone jack.

On its right are two 10 Gbps USB-A ports, a Kensington cable lock slot, and LED status lights.

The back edge has the barrel-style power connector, an HDMI 2.1 video output, a USB 4 Type-C port, and a 10 Gbps USB-C port. The laptop also has built-in Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 wireless. The USB 4 port is quite an inclusion on an entry-level gaming laptop; there are plenty of far more expensive laptops that don't have those yet.

We’re testing an Acer Nitro 16 with an AMD Ryzen 5 7640HS processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 6GB graphics, and 16GB of RAM. The GeForce RTX 4050 is rated for an unusually high 140 watts (W) of total graphics power.

Playing Cyberpunk 2077 at 1920 x 1200 with the High detail preset and DLSS frame generation, I saw a smooth 85-95 fps from the Nitro 16 in most scenes, with a slight dip during firefights. Enabling the least-demanding Ray Tracing preset dropped framerates down to 60-70 fps or even lower in action scenes. So while the RTX 4050 is competent, it doesn’t have a lot of horsepower to spare for advanced graphics features. It’s nonetheless good to see that it has 6GB of video memory, which many modern games will use completely.

I compared the Nitro 16 to two other entry-level gamers, the HP Victus 16 (Core i7-13700H, 115W RTX 4050) and the MSI Katana 15 (Core i7-13620H, 105W RTX 4050), and I also included the Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 (Core i7-13700HX, 140W RTX 4060) to show what the next tier up offers.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider (highest settings), the Nitro 16 took second place at 1080p with 75 fps, just ahead of the Katana 15 (73 fps) but behind the Victus 16 (79 fps). None of those RTX 4050 laptops could touch the Lenovo and its RTX 4060 (107 fps). The Nitro 16 dropped a few frames to 69 fps at its native 1920 x 1200, while the Lenovo saw a more severe drop-off (to 62 fps) since it has a 2560 x 1600 native screen.

Moving on to Grand Theft Auto V (Very High preset), the Nitro 16 produced 73 fps at 1080p, the highest number among the RTX 4050 laptops, and fell just slightly to 67 fps at 1200p.

Next, the Nitro 16 saw a slight reversal in Far Cry 6 (Ultra), achieving 73 fps at 1080p, to trail the Victus 16 (77 fps) and the Katana 15 (81 fps). The Lenovo maintained its commanding lead (94 fps).

In the most demanding title we test, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Medium), the Nitro 16 managed 49 fps at 1080p, with the Victus 16 (53 fps) and the Katana 15 (52 fps) not doing much better. This is a game where the Lenovo’s RTX 4060 is more important since it was the only laptop to vault over the 60 fps mark.

Last is Borderlands 3 (“Badass” settings), where the Nitro 16’s 63 fps at 1080p was last place in the group; it fell to 59 fps at 1080p.

Overall, the Nitro 16’s gaming performance mixed in with that of the Victus 16 and Katana 15. We expected it to perform slightly better than those two because of its higher wattage RTX 4050, but the other variable is the Ryzen 5 7640HS CPU, which may not be as game-capable Intel chips in the others. Either way, the Nitro 16 seems to have plenty of oomph for today’s games at 1920 x 1200.

For thermal stress testing, we run the Metro Exodus benchmark at RTX settings 15 times to simulate half an hour of gaming. The Nitro 16 averaged 58.26 fps and deviated usually just a few tenths of an fps between runs. The Ryzen 5 7640HS had an average temperature of 76.6 degrees Celsius and an average core clock of 4,326.8 MHz. The RTX 4050’s average temperature was 75.71 degrees and its boost clock averaged 2,232.53 MHz.

The Acer Nitro 16 tested here has an AMD Ryzen 5 7640HS CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. There’s ample performance for everyday usage. The RAM and SSD are upgradeable, and a second SSD can be added. (See the Upgradeability section below.)

The Ryzen 5 7640HS is an intriguing chip in the sense it tries to maintain a lower power profile (its thermal design power is configurable from 35 to 54 watts, according to AMD) yet is rated for a 5.0 GHz boost clock.

In Geekbench 6, a synthetic CPU-focused benchmark, the Nitro 16’s 2,482 points in the single-core test blew away the others; the next closest was the Victus 16, with 1,913 points. The Ryzen 5 fell well behind in the multi-core test, though, scoring 10,221 points versus the Victus 16’s 12,024 points and the almost identical 12,017 points from the Katana 15. Meanwhile, the Lenovo’s stronger Core HX-class chip scored 14,967 multi-core points.

Our file transfer test, which copies 25GB of files, saw the Nitro 16 in last place at 763.3 MBps. The next-slowest Katana 15 easily outpaced it (1,045.33 MBps) and the others were well above it.

The relative weakness of the Nitro 16’s CPU also showed itself in our Handbrake test, where it transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 5 minutes and 48 seconds, far off the pace set by the Victus 16 (4 minutes and 40 seconds) and nowhere near the Lenovo’s 3 minutes and 39 seconds.

The 16-inch 1920 x 1200 screen on the Nitro 16 we testedn is what most Nitro 16 models come with. Easily one of this laptop’s best features, its bright, vibrant picture would be at home on a considerably more expensive machine. It also has an anti-glare surface to kill reflections.

Nvidia G-Sync is a real asset; as we saw in our gaming tests, the Nitro 16’s RTX 4050 likely won’t push close to the display’s 165 Hz refresh rate in modern titles (perhaps excepting esports with the settings dialed down), so this technology can help make the action look smoother by eliminating tearing.

Everything I put on the Nitro 16’s screen was enjoyable. In Marvel’s “The Marvels” trailer, I was able to appreciate the film’s rich colors, and the screen’s high contrast made space scenes especially immersive. The black levels were deep enough that I hardly noticed the black bars running along the top and bottom edges. I also had a grand time in Cyberpunk 2077; the screen’s high brightness made muzzle flashes and explosions almost squint-worthy. I even bought extra colorful clothing for my character to enjoy the screen’s color coverage.

For gaming, I noticed no ghosting or frame tearing, thanks to the screen’s rated 3ms response time and G-Sync support. I also didn’t notice any input lag; this laptop features Nvidia Advanced Optimus, so it can completely switch to the Nvidia GPU while gaming and to integrated graphics for less intense workloads.

The Nitro 16’s display has the best brightness and color coverage in this group, and not by small margins. Its 91% coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut (the colorspace typically used in motion pictures) is outstanding and puts the Katana 15’s 49% to shame. Even the pricier Lenovo couldn’t match it (82.8%). Its 371-nit brightness also beat the next-brightest Lenovo (349 nits). The Katana 15’s screen registered just 250 nits.

The Nitro 16 comes with a four-zone RGB backlit keyboard with a number pad. The white key symbols in Acer’s familiar gaming-centric font starkly contrast with the black keycaps. The backlighting is plenty visible in the daytime, and I like that Acer highlighted the WASD key cluster with an extra thick border.

I hit 118 words per minute with 99% accuracy in the Monkeytype typing test, which is excellent for me. The keys’ short throw helped me reach that speed, though I was disappointed by the lack of tactile feel; these keys simply don’t feel like much to press down. At least the keyboard deck shows little flex.

Acer just managed to squeeze in the number pad using two-thirds-size keys. The arrow keys are full-size but unfortunately aren’t separated out, so the right Shift and number pad ‘0’ key are truncated. The power button is at the top right of the number pad; next to it are convenient media playback controls. There’s also a button to launch the Nitro Sense app. (See the Software section.)

Meanwhile, the Nitro 16’s touchpad works well, offering plenty of space and quiet physical clicks. It can be disabled (or re-enabled) with the keyboard shortcut Fn + F10.

The Nitro 16’s built-in speakers aren’t one of its assets. I noticed a near-complete lack of bass listening to Kacey Musgraves’ “Lonely Weekend”; having the Bass Booster feature enabled (or any of the other EQ presets) in the DTS:X Ultra app didn’t improve things. The vocals also seemed like the treble was turned up too high, but it seems to be the nature of these speakers. Everything sounded hollow. Games are playable with them – I survived many firefights in Cyberpunk 2077 – but the absence of bass translates to a less-than-immersive experience. Grenades and heavy-caliber guns don’t have much of an impact.

The other included audio app is DTS Sound Unbound, which seems to be geared towards headphones. It’s also used to activate the included DTS:X Headphone license.

The Nitro 16’s bottom panel comes off after undoing 11 same-length Phillips screws and enduring a little frustration. Like on most laptops, the panel is still held on by clips after the screws are out. But finding a spot where I could wedge in my plastic trim tool was a challenge. The palm rest corner where I ended up making my entry required more force than I wanted to use.

Upgrade possibilities include the battery, two DDR5-5600 SO-DIMM slots, two M.2 2280 Gen 4 SSD slots, and the M.2 2230 wireless card. Having a second storage drive slot is always a bonus, as games keep getting bigger.

Our battery life test consists of web browsing, video streaming, and OpenGL graphics tests at 150 nits of screen brightness. The Nitro 16 lasted an impressive 8 hours and 24 minutes here, easily outrunning the HP Victus 16’s 7 hours and 3 minutes. The MSI Katana 15 eked out just 2 hours and 39 minutes.

We take gaming laptop surface temperature measurements while running the Metro Exodus stress test. During the test, the center of the Nitro 16’s keyboard reached 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.4 degrees Celsius) between the G and H keys and hit a cooler 83 F (28.3 C) on the touchpad. The maximum temperature on the bottom of the laptop was 139 F (59.4 C) towards center-back, around the heat exhaust vents. Using this laptop on a solid surface while gaming will be important for airflow. Overall, though, the surfaces where you’d place your hands while gaming weren’t too far off room temperature.

The fans ramped up quickly while gaming, but I was pleasantly surprised at their quietness and lack of whine and motor noise.

Centered over the screen, the Nitro 16’s webcam sits tall enough that I could almost look at it at eye level. Unfortunately, its lowball 720p resolution lets it down, with obviously pixelated image quality and a lack of sharpness. It also tends to blow out highlights like most small-sensor cams, though colors come through without looking washed out.

The webcam also doesn’t have a privacy shutter or electronic means of disabling it. Check out our best webcams if you intend to look your best.

The Nitro 16’s most useful included app is NitroSense, which lets you set performance modes. Balanced is the default; Quiet keeps the fans lower at the expense of performance, while Performance and Turbo modes aim to boost performance at the expense of fan noise.

I ran the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark to test Turbo. Using the Highest settings at a 1920 x 1200 resolution, I saw 69 fps without Turbo and 72 fps with Turbo, a small gain that, to me, certainly isn’t worth the much louder fans.

NitroSense’s other claim to fame is control over the four-zone keyboard backlighting. Colors can be changed, and there are limited animations available, such as breathing and wave. Some effects, such as meteor, illuminate one zone of the keyboard at a time. All the app’s settings can be saved to profiles and, in a feature I especially like, can be automatically enabled depending on the scenario. The App Center section in the app lets you add programs and bind them to profiles; every time you open PowerPoint, for instance, the Quiet performance profile could be enabled. Games can also be bound to their own profiles.

I already mentioned the DTS:X Ultra app for sound settings and DTS Sound Unbound for accessing the DTS:X Headphone license. (The two apps really ought to be combined.) There’s also Acer Purified Voice Console, which’s supposed to help reduce microphone background noise, and an Acer Care app for system updates and maintenance utilities.

As the Nitro 16 has both a Killer Ethernet jack and Wi-Fi 6E, it includes the Killer Intelligence Center app. It automatically prioritizes game traffic but also provides manual controls. It furthermore supports Killer Doubleshot Pro for simultaneous network connections; game traffic goes over Ethernet while Wi-Fi is for everything else. This is another impressive feature for a budget gaming laptop.

Unfortunately, Acer committed a cardinal sin by preloading the Nitro 16 with plenty of junk apps. The usual Windows 11 freebies are there, such as Spotify and TikTok, but there’s also an ExpressVPN trial, Forge of Empires, and an annoying Dropbox Promotion. Some of Acer’s apps also appear to be almost without value, such as the Acer Product Registration which merely opens a link to Acer’s website. The worst one is Acer Jumpstart, which seems to do nothing but produce ads in the form of Windows notifications. These are all easily uninstalled, but ideally, they wouldn’t have been there at all.

The Nitro 16 has a standard one-year warranty, like most budget gaming laptops.

We tested the Acer Nitro 16 model AN16-41-R3ZV, with an AMD Ryzen 5 7640HS processor, Nvidia RTX 4050 6GB graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It retails for $1,199.99 in the Acer Store, but it was discounted to $999.99 at the time of this review.

Our configuration is a step up from the $999.99 base model (AN16-41-R148), which has a Ryzen 5 7535HS CPU and 8GB of RAM. There’s also a step-up $1,399.99 model (AN16-41-R4CY) with a Ryzen 7 7840HS, an RTX 4060 graphics card, and a 1TB SSD. There’s even a $1,799.99 version (AN16-41-R5KC) with a Ryzen 9 7940HS, an RTX 4070, and a 2560 x 1600 screen. All the other models I saw, including ours, used a 1920 x 1200 screen.

Acer’s Nitro exemplifies what a 16-inch budget gaming laptop should be like. This laptop delivers the gaming performance we expect in this class, with ample extras, including a four-zone RGB keyboard, G-Sync, and lots of ports. Its outstanding screen and long battery life elevate its appeal over the HP Victus 16 and the MSI Katana 15.

Areas where the Nitro 16 could improve include its speakers, webcam (though 720p is still the norm in this class), and by including less preloaded bloatware. It’s also noteworthy that its Ryzen 5 HS-class processor isn’t as strong as Intel’s Core i7 H-class chips we had in our test pool, though it was still competitive in our gaming tests.

Overall, the Nitro 16 is among our top picks for a budget gaming laptop and is a great buy at around $1,000.

MORE: How to Buy a Gaming Laptop

MORE: Best Gaming PCs

MORE: Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops

Charles Jefferies is a freelance reviewer for Tom’s Hardware US. He covers laptop PCs, especially gaming models.


Intel Details 144-Core Sierra Forest, Granite Rapids Architecture, and Xeon Roadmap

Best Gaming Monitors 2023: Budget, Curved, G-Sync and More

By Joe StanganelliAugust 24, 2023

By Zhiye LiuAugust 23, 2023

By Sarah Jacobsson PurewalAugust 23, 2023

By Andrew E. FreedmanAugust 22, 2023

By Christian EberleAugust 22, 2023

By Denise BertacchiAugust 21, 2023

By Shane DowningAugust 20, 2023

By Brandon HillAugust 19, 2023

By Jarred WaltonAugust 18, 2023

By Shane DowningAugust 18, 2023

By Joe StanganelliAugust 17, 2023

CPUGraphicsMemoryStorageDisplayNetworkingPortsCameraBatteryPower AdapterOperating SystemDimensions (WxDxH)WeightPrice (as configured)MORE: How to Buy a Gaming LaptopMORE: Best Gaming PCsMORE: Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops