Acer Swift 3

The Acer Swift 3 is the latest budget laptop from the Taiwanese manufacturer, whose 2017 products covered a $9,000 or £9,000 (around AU$15,120) gaming laptop to the world’s thinnest Ultrabook.

With devices like these, you’d be forgiven for expecting Acer to do the same with the Acer Swift 3. If the Acer Swift 7 is Acer’s svelte flagship, the Acer Swift 3 is a cheaper, more attainable version of that. 

If you’re on the lookout for a laptop that’s going to get the job done at a budget price, the Acer Swift 3 is one of the best laptops around right now. And, while it doesn’t leave much of a first impression, it does make full use of its 14-inch Full-HD 1080p panel, a 0.71-inch frame and 3.53 pounds of heft.

Once you dive beyond the surface, though, the Acer Swift 3 will impress with powerful components that feel right at home inside of the all-aluminum chassis.

Price and availability

Like most laptops, the Acer Swift 3 comes in a number of different variations, each complete with their own unique specifications and pricing.

In the US, beyond the many Black Friday 2018 deals that are sure to surface in the coming weeks, the Acer Swift 3 starts at a modest $499, whereas a similar model can be found in the UK for £699 and in Australia for AU$999. Stateside, the entry-level Ultrabook features an Intel Core i3-7100U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. If you’re in the UK, you’ll get a bit of a different setup, starting off with 8GB of DDR4 memory instead.

On the opposite side of the pricing spectrum, the top-end model will set you back $849 in the US, but caps off at £749 and AU$1,399 in the UK and Australia, respectively.. That’s primarily because the most powerful Acer Swift 3 in North America takes advantage of an Intel Core i7 CPU, as opposed to the UK’s Intel Core i5. The only other difference is the SSD storage, which amounts to 256GB in in the UK instead of the 512GB available to Americans.

The latter is the Acer Swift 3 we were sent for review. For $599, US readers can pick up the exact same model as the configuration we tested. Keep in mind, though, you’re stuck with the 1080p display, so if you’re on the lookout for a 4K screen, you’ll have to keep looking.

Design and features

To be frank, the Acer Swift 3’s looks are arguably its weakest point. Although it can be had in a sleeker gold or black finish in the US, or even a pink one in the UK, the unit we were sent for review appears to be the most drab of the bunch. 

Sure, it has this angled hinge embroidered by the word ‘SWIFT’ in a way that resembles the metallic badge worn by a Volvo, but the Acer Swift 3 fails to stand out from rivals like the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin and the Asus ZenBook Flip, aside from lacking the 2-in-1 capabilities that make those two laptops more worth your while.

Still, what the Acer Swift 3 lacks in those coffee shop aesthetics, it makes up for in comfort and practicality. The first thing we noticed when propping it up alongside a MacBook was just how roomy the trackpad is. Pair that with the OK screen resolution and, finally, we finally have a Windows 10 laptop that doesn’t give you a headache when controlling your cursor.

The keyboard, on the other hand, feels way better than Apple’s 12-inch clamshell of yesteryear, and is thankfully complemented by nifty backlighting (of which there are four levels, including “off”). 

You’ll notice, too, that beneath the directional keys is a pint-sized fingerprint reader, designed to be used in conjunction with Microsoft’s Windows Hello login feature. Although it didn’t work flawlessly on the first go, it’s still a worthwhile addition once you get used to how its slimline rectangular shape doesn’t quite match up with that of your digits.

One of the more commendable choices Acer made in the production of the Swift 3, though, is the inclusion of legacy ports, the most notable of which are two USB 3.0 connections and an SD card slot. Even so, laptop futurists need not be alarmed, as a single USB 3.1 Type-C port rests snugly on the left-side of the machine.

First reviewed November 2017

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Among the Acer Swift 3’s most redeeming qualities is its performance. No matter which model you go for, you’re getting full-on Intel Core U series processors, not the low-frequency Y series chips you would find in the Swift 7 and not the Core m3 you would find in an entry-level MacBook. 

This puts the Acer Swift 3 on the same playing field as much more expensive machines. Performance-wise, it isn’t too far off from the $999 (£979, AU$1,499) Surface Laptop or even the $1,049£1,199 (£1,199, AU$2,299) Asus ZenBook UX310UA. Despite coming up short when it comes to screen resolution, its specs are eerily similar to both of these devices.

And, while we can’t compare its benchmarks to the Surface Laptop, the Acer Swift 3 beats out the Asus ZenBook UX310UA in every test that challenged its CPU and graphics capabilities. In the DirectX 11 Sky Diver benchmark, for example, the Acer Swift 3 achieved 1,870 points more than the Asus ZenBook UX310UA.

Also worth noting is that the Swift 3 attained nearly double the frame rate of the ZenBook UX310UA in the Cinebench OpenGL test, claiming 42 frames per second (fps) against the ZenBook’s 21.69 fps. As such, we’re convinced that the Acer Swift 3 has a clear advantage when it comes to graphical output, making it the discernible winner for light gaming and other media-focused tasks.

Down-firing audio woes

Where the Acer Swift 3 doesn’t succeed is with its sound. We’re still not sure why laptop manufacturers continue to put speakers on the bottoms of laptops – it seems counter-intuitive to us. Especially on a standard, non-hybrid notebook like this one, there is no excuse for this.

The audio on the Acer Swift 3 is effectively muffled as a result of this decision to the point where we can’t tell if the speakers would otherwise be any good. Still, at least the headphone jack is in place as well as Bluetooth and four USB ports in case you’re keen on providing your own pair of earbuds or over-the-ear cans. 

Battery life

Even in the PCMark 8 battery life test, the Acer Swift 3 managed to beat out the Asus ZenBook UX310UA, albeit by only a handful of minutes. More specifically, the Swift 3 lasted 4 hours and 18 minutes compared to the ZenBook’s 4 hours and 13 minutes. 

That’s not really a noticeable difference, for sure, but it does go to show that you don’t need to fork over more than $1,000 for sufficient performance matched with a satisfactory battery life. Even more impressive, though, are the results demonstrated by the Acer Swift 3 in our own TechRadar movie test, where we loop the film Guardians of the Galaxy at 1080p until the machine dies.

Therein, this laptop outperformed the Asus ZenBook UX310UA by over 3 hours, having survived a total of 8 hours and 3 minutes of Chris Pratt-infused action-comedy. It even came strikingly close to the Surface Laptop, which lasted 8 hours and 47 minutes in Windows 10 S, a thin client-esque operating system known for its improved power efficiency.

We liked

With powerful components and long battery life, the Acer Swift 3 doesn’t just rock the slimmest profile or even standout appearances, but it’s got the specs of a laptop that should cost several hundred dollars more. What’s more, a spacious trackpad, backlit keyboard and wide array of ports give even the MacBook Air a run for its money. 

We disliked

It’s unfortunate that, what with all the positive things we have to say about it, the Acer Swift 3 looks every bit like a budget laptop. Not nearly as distinguished in its design as other laptops on the market, such as the HP Spectre or the Lenovo Yoga 910, it’s hard to talk about the Acer Swift 3 without mentioning how plain it is. Plus, the speaker situation doesn’t do it any justice.

Final verdict

Although it’s categorized as a budget laptop, the Acer Swift 3 packs performance and longevity that allow it to compete in a space outside its price range. The wide range of ports and top-notch keyboard and touchpad are mere icing on the cake. As long as you don’t mind its uninspired lack of style, you can’t get much better than the Acer Swift 3 for $599 (£749).

from TechRadar - Technology Reviews