Acer Nitro 50 Desktop Review: Budget Gaming With Compromises

The whole point of Acer’s Nitro series is that it offers gaming on the cheap. And the Nitro 50 desktop ($799.99 to start,  $1,199.99 as tested) does hit a sweet spot, including our review unit, a VR-ready desktop just over $1,000. But while the Nitro is affordable, it’s the result of a bunch of compromises, including mixed performance and a ton of bloatware. And if you’re hoping to upgrade it later, you’ll face a bit of a challenge. But it’s still cheaper than competitors, and that may be enough to swing some.

Design

The Acer Nitro 50’s case has a vaguely robotic theme. The front is mostly black, with a red, lit-up “V” near the top and below Acer’s logo. On each side of the front of the case are two red, vented accents. The front I/O ports (see: Ports and Upgradability) are located on the red area on the right. The DVD drive is vertical and runs down the middle of the case, and there’s a small “Nitro” badge on the bottom. There’s no glass or acrylic here--just some holes on the left side to let hot air escape.

At 13.8 x 13.4 x 6.4 inches, the Nitro is more compact than the Asus ROG Strix GL12 (17 x 15.7 x 7 inches) and the Dell XPS Tower (15.2 x 14 x 7 inches).

Specifications

Processor
Intel Core i7-8700
Memory8GB DDR4 2666MHz
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Storage1TB HDD, 7,200-rpm SATA HDD with 16GB Intel Optane
Optical Drive8x DVD-RW
NetworkingIntel Wireless-AC 9560 802.11ac
PortsUSB 3.1 Gen 2 (front), USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C (front), SD card slot (front)
4x USB 2.0 (rear), 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (rear)
2x PS/2 ports, 3x DisplayPort, Headphone, Microphone, Mic in, line in , HDMI, DVI, Speakers
Video Output2x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort, DVI
Power Supply500W
CaseAcer Nitro 50
CoolingCPU and GPU fans
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
ExtrasUSB Keyboard, USB Mouse
Dimensions 13.8 x 13.4 x 6.4 inches (350.5 x 340.4 x 162.6mm)
Price As Configured$1,199.99

Ports and Upgradability

Acer’s desktop isn’t hurting for ports. On the front are an SD card slot, USB 3.1 Gen 2 in both Type-A and Type-C and headphone and microphone jacks. The back of the case is where you’ll find four USB 2.0 ports and a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, as well as Ethernet, mic in, line in and speaker jacks. Additionally, there are three DisplayPort jacks, plus HDMI and DVI attached to the GTX 1060.

You need to remove two screws from the back of the Nitro to remove its side panel, which is disappointing when so many desktops can be opened without any tools at all. And when you get in, it’s pretty cramped. A small stopper holds the GPU in place and folds out. The CPU fan and GPU are immediately accessible, as is the power supply at the top of the case. Depending on the size of your hands, you may have a tight squeeze if you want to upgrade the RAM (which was disappointingly single-channel in our review unit) because the slots are between the CPU fan and a part of the motherboard blocked off by metal shielding. If you use aftermarket RAM, it’s possible it would be too tall to fit next to the squat fan unless you replace that, too.

In addition, the HDD and the optical drive are behind the shielding, so those parts are difficult to upgrade or replace.

Gaming, Graphics and VR

With a GTX 1060 and 6GB of graphics memory, the Nitro 50 is a solid performer for games at Mid-Range and High settings. I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War on Very High settings at 1920 x 1080, and it ran between 49 and 60 frames per second (fps), even while I combatted some orcs and an Olog and when I was ambushed in a cavernous fortress by Pushkrimp the Gambler.

On the Hitman benchmark (1920 x 1080, Ultra settings), the Nitro ran the game at a smooth 72 fps, just one frame behind the Strix (73 fps with the same GPU) but behind the 85-fps desktop average.

On Grand Theft Auto V (1920 x 1080, Very High), the Nitro played the game at 45 fps, slightly below the Strix (50 fps) and the 81-fps average.

The odd game out was Rise of the Tomb Raider. The Nitro played it at just 39 frames per second, which is less than the Strix (74 fps) and XPS (64 fps, Nvidia GTX 1070), as well as the 68-fps average. This could be chalked up to a few factors, including the fact that the high-performing Strix used an overclocked processor (the Intel Core i7-8700K). 

On the SteamVR performance test, it earned a score of 8, beating the Strix (7.1) and making it VR-ready for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

To stress test the Nitro, I ran the Metro: Last Light benchmark 10 times to simulate roughly half an hour of gaming. It ran at an average of 44.9 fps and stayed between 43 and 48 fps throughout all 10 runs. The CPU, meanwhile, ran at an average of 4.3 GHz and an average  of 70.9 degrees Celsius (159.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The GPU hit an average of 76.6 degrees Celsius (169.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

Performance

The Nitro packs an Intel Core i7-8700K CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB, 7,200-rpm HDD paired with 16GB of Intel Optane memory, which is more than enough for most productivity tasks. Browsing with more than 20 tabs open, including streaming video from Twitch was no problem.

On Geekbench 4, the Nitro earned a score of 19,179, just shy of the Strix (Core i7-8700K) and behind the XPS Tower (Core i7-8700). The gaming desktop average is 18,694.

It took the Nitro a painful one minute and 23 seconds to copy 4.97 GB of RAM, a rate of  61.3 MBps. This is far behind the Strix (231.3 MBps) and the average (337.8 MBps).

The Nitro completed our Excel macro test, which pairs 65,000 names and addresses, in 36 seconds, just behind the Strix and a second faster than the average.

On our Handbrake video editing test, the Nitro took 10 minutes and 20 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. That’s slower than both the Strix (9:16) and average (7:39).

Keyboard and Mouse

The USB mouse and keyboard included in the package are good enough to set the machine up, but you’ll want to replace them when it comes time to actually playing games. The mouse has just two click buttons and a scroll wheel and feels like cheap plastic (because it is).

The keyboard also feels substandard. The black plastic is slippery, and the letters and numbers appear to be stickers applied to the keys. I was able to hit my usual 107 words per minute with a 2 percent error rate, but the keys were stiff.

Software and Warranty

Acer really packs its machines with bloatware, and it’s own software isn’t terribly useful.

The only notable software from Acer we found in our review unit was Care Center, which runs hardware checkups and offers support resources. Other than that, the Acer Collection is just a list of additional partner apps that are of limited utility.

The bloat Acer added includes Amazon for Windows 10, Firefox (better than Edge, but with some pre-installed extensions you may not want), Booking.com, eBay, Netflix, Dashlane, Evernote, a couple of card games, Stagelight and PowerDirector and PhotoDirector.

Of course, there’s also the junk preinstalled in Windows 10, like Candy Crush Soda Saga, Disney Magic Kingdoms, Hidden City: Hidden Object Adventure and Drawboard PDF.

Configurations

Our Acer Nitro 50 review unit cost $1,199.99 with an Intel Core i7-8700 CPU, 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 memory and a 1TB, 7,200-rpm HDD paired with 16GB of Intel Optane memory.

The entry-level Nitro 50 is $799.99 with a Core i5-8400, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB) and no Optane memory.

The most expensive entry is a $1,386.99 configuration, which is similar to our review unit but has 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD (sans Optane).

Bottom Line

I’ll give Acer this--it made an affordable gaming desktop that is cheaper than competitors. And while its gaming performance is solid, its productivity performance is mixed, including slow hard drive speeds. And while you can open it, many of the components are difficult to reach and upgrade. Plus, Acer drowns Windows 10 in bloatware, which is just unpleasant.

Asus’ ROG Strix GL12 offers better design, strong consistent performance and an innovative hot-swappable SSD bay. However, with its overclocked processor and eSports branding, you’ll have to pay more ($1,449 for similar specs), and there’s still a bunch of bloatware.

If you don’t want to build a PC and need something affordable, the Acer Nitro 50 will get you gaming. But if you save up, you can get something faster.

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  • kyzarvs
    VR ready? I guess, but with only 2 USB3 ports on the rear if you want to set up a Rift at best detection you will need one sensor or the headset running on one of the front ports - messy.