Expensive gaming desktops draw most of the attention, with features and components as flashy as their case lighting. But the reality? Most shoppers are looking for something a bit more reasonably priced. The Acer Nitro 50 (starts at $ 846.99; $ 1,199.99 as tested) is one of those more modest options, a small tower that falls somewhere between the desktop entry level and midrange in terms of cost and power. With Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a snappy Intel Core i7-8700 CPU, the Nitro 50 is a reliable HD gaming machine with few real drawbacks. Its design and feature set don’t particularly thrill, though, and the Editors’ Choice Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop (5680) offers almost identical features and components for $ 999, maintaining its top spot in this price range.
Small, Affordable, and Configurable
The Nitro 50’s compact size is one of its best features. The chassis is a slim little box that has just enough room to pack in some gaming firepower. It measures 13.4 by 6.4 by 13.8 inches (HWD), for a trim footprint. Typically, only more expensive machines (such as the Falcon Northwest Tiki) pack much power at this size, and less expensive options often can’t take upgrades (see the MSI Trident 3). The Inspiron Gaming Desktop I mentioned is on the relatively compact side, but it’s still closer to a midtower than a compact at 18 by 8.5 by 17.23 inches. The Nitro 50 is downright small in comparison.
The red-and-black aesthetic may not be to everyone’s taste—it is, after all, the now-stereotypical “gamer” color scheme—but Acer dropped on only a few red accents, and the physical design is rather tame. It’s similar in style to the Lenovo Legion Y520 Tower, and compared to some of the gaudier efforts like the MSI Aegis Ti3 or the Acer Predator Orion 5000, pretty sedate. Even if not much is going on with the design in general, at least it’s unlikely to offend, which I’ll take ahead of an over-designed alternative. The front panel is plastic, but the side panels and frame are metal, a nice touch for the price.
Speaking of the side panels, it’s easy to remove the left one for interior access. This door has a grille to see in to the interior, but you can’t see much through it. The access job isn’t tool-free—you’ll have to remove two rear screws with a screwdriver—but you simply pull the door away after.
The case’s compact size does have its downsides, as the interior is pretty cramped. You’ll spot a small open space over the motherboard if you want to quickly dust or switch out RAM, but the rest of the components are obscured. A metal bracket, onto which the hard drive is installed, runs vertically up the right-hand side, and you have to unscrew it to work around. Even with that out, it’s a little cramped, fit for mostly routine maintenance and smaller upgrades, though you can make more wholesale changes if you want. Like the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop, given the price and power level, it’s meant for a plug-and-play shopper.
As for what occupies that limited space, the test model I have on hand (the exact SKU is N50-600-UR14) is equipped with a 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-8700 processor, 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive with 16GB of Intel Optane memory for SSD-like load speeds, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. Optane Memory is a relatively new solution for spinning hard drives that caches frequently accessed data to improve load times. It’s more likely to be found in pre-built desktops like this one, and does successfully decrease load times in lieu of a pricey SSD.
While the processor is very quick and that’s a decent dollop of storage, the configuration is middle of the road, on the whole. The GeForce GTX 1060 is a moderate-power card, just above the entry-level GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti, and 8GB of RAM will be disappointing to some users, but fine for most games.
This is meant to be an entry-to-mid-level desktop, after all, and that’s reflected in these configuration options. The starting price for this system is $ 846.99, which gets you a Core i5-8400 processor, a GeForce GTX 1050, 8GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive. In fact, our relatively modest unit is the second-most-expensive configuration Acer offers for the Nitro 50, behind only a $ 1,385.99 model that upgrades the 8GB of memory to 16GB and swaps the 1TB hard drive for a 256GB SSD. The GTX 1060 is the most powerful card available in any of the 11 models, which all scale down from there to various combinations of a GeForce GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti alongside a Core i5 processor and different combinations of storage. You can also switch over to the AMD side via a Ryzen 5 2500X processor and a Radeon RX 580 graphics card for $ 899.99.
A boatload of ports is packed into this tiny desktop. On the front face, in a recess on the right side, you’ll spot a USB 3.1 Type-A port, another in USB Type-C garb, and an SD card reader. Also on the front is a DVD burner, should you still have a use for one. Around back are two more USB 3.1 ports and four USB 2.0 ports (all USB Type-A), plus three DisplayPorts, one HDMI out, and a DVI connection. The last three are all part of the port panel on the GTX 1060 card. (An extra HDMI, situated on the I/O plate, is for use with the Intel integrated graphics on the CPU, in the event you were to remove the GTX 1060 card.) For wireless connectivity, the Nitro 50 offers dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.
Just Enough Nitro for 1080p Play
While the Nitro 50 isn’t billed as a powerhouse machine, the Core i7-8700 is a great performer regardless of its companion components. On the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, the Nitro 50 bettered the Inspiron Gaming Tower despite sharing the same chip, edged out the HP Omen Desktop, and trounced the Core i5-bearing Lenovo Legion Y520 Tower.
The head-to-head multimedia test scores are a bit less decisive. The Nitro 50 was slower than the Dell Inspiron and HP Omen on both the Handbrake and Photoshop tests, and it landed just behind the Dell on the Cinebench test. This is all to say that, while the Nitro 50 can easily do general day-to-day work with ease and is quite up to the odd media task, you wouldn’t want to rely on it for professional media creation duties where time is money.
I’ll cut to the chase on gaming, since we know what to expect from a typical GeForce GTX 1060 card by now. If you’re planning to play on a Full HD (1080p, or 1,920-by-1,080-pixel) monitor, this rig’s a solid fit. This graphics card isn’t equipped for maxed-out 1440p or much in the way of 4K play by any stretch, but it’s a reliable 60-frame-per-second (fps) performer at 1080p. The Unigine Heaven and Valley tests demonstrated this, as the Nitro 50 averaged 74fps and 79fps on them at maximum settings, even offering a little headroom for more demanding titles.
You can see Nvidia’s hierarchy performing here as it should, with the HP Omen Desktop’s GeForce GTX 1070 delivering another step above on these tests, averaging over 100fps. While the GTX 1070 can provide extra frames for the most demanding titles and future-proof you better, you really only need that grade of card if you’re playing recent games at 1440p and high detail settings. As it stands, to keep the price in check, the Nitro 50 and its GeForce GTX 1060 are a fine combination. Just don’t expect to max out every game—while the tests averaged above 70fps, more frantic moments in demanding games can dip to 60fps or lower, so you may be better served dialing a few effects down to keep things running smoothly.
No-Fuss, Affordable Gaming
The Acer Nitro 50 is a fine gaming desktop for mainstream shoppers, occupying a space just below midrange and, in our test configuration, above true entry-level pricing. Performance is on-point and reliable for 1080p gaming and quick enough for general tasks and light multimedia jobs.
On a component level, however, we didn’t note too much that distinguishes it from the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop, however, essentially filling the same role at a higher price. Despite being less expensive, Dell’s tower, as we tested it, offers more storage via a combination of speedy SSD and roomy hard drive, and it has a nicer design, while all else remains even. As such, the Inspiron Gaming Desktop retains our Editors’ Choice award. But if you like the Nitro 50’s design, you prefer the space savings, or one of the other Nitro 50 configurations fits your needs, it’s a solid alternative.