Acer Swift 5 Review

Acer’s Swift 5 is a featherweight champion. At just 2.2 pounds, it’s one of the lightest 14-inch laptops ever made. Heck, it’s even lighter than most of the 13-inch laptops on the market. Yet despite its size, the Acer Swift 5 delivers long battery life and a vibrant 1080p display. And for $999 for a model with a Core i7 CPU and 512GB of RAM, this remarkably lightweight machine is priced to sell. This is our Acer Swift 5 Review.

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Last updated on July 7, 2020 11:51 am

There are some kinks to iron out. While the keyboard is comfortable, it has a frustrating layout for anyone who uses the “remove” key. Acer also sells the Swift 5 with only 8GB of RAM at the moment, and the Core i7 CPU is not the fastest, so power users may want to look elsewhere. Still, the Acer Swift 5 is a great laptop when portability is a priority.

Acer Swift 5 Review: Design

Acer’s Swift 5 was one of the few laptops I reviewed last year that gave me a real “wow” moment. That rare feeling came when I lifted the laptop and felt the remarkably light chassis. Surely this was a prop – some hollowed-out prop that pretended to be an Acer laptop. And then a magic trick: I lifted the lid, and the display turned on.

Acer Swift 5 Review

The latest Swift 5 gives me the same bizarre feeling that what I’m holding cannot possibly weigh so little. If anything, the effect on the new model is enhanced because Acer has reduced the screen from 15.6 to 14 inches. As a result, this new Swift 5 has dropped in size and weight to just 12.5 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches and 2.2 pounds. That makes this featherweight laptop lighter than the 13.3-inch MacBook Air (0.6-inch, 2.8), the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 (0.6-inch, 2.9 pounds), and even the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (0.6-inch, 2.4 pounds).

If the portability of this magnesium alloy chassis doesn’t attract your attention, its seductive mother-of-pearl hue will. Acer calls it charcoal blue but thinks more indigo with a little green. If that wasn’t conspicuous enough, Acer went with a golden font on the keys; some might find the color combination a little pretentious, but it works for me.

A golden hinge and a chromed Acer logo on the lid put a bow on the elegant design. Other eye-catching elements include a fingerprint sensor on the deck and a notch to make it easier to open the lid. The port selection on the Swift 5 is decent. On the left are a Thunderbolt 3 port, USB 3.1 Type-A input, and an HDMI connection. On the right side of the laptop, there is a second USB 3.1 port, a headphone/mic jack, and a Kensington lock.

Keyboard and TouchPad

Oh, no, not again. This power-button thing has to end. I complained about it in my Asus ExpertBook B9450 review, and I’ll be happy to do it again. Placing the power button next to the delete button and giving it the same shape and size is asking people to turn off their laptop accidentally. It needs to be repaired in the next model. Let’s talk about the typing experience. Apart from the golden font, there is nothing remarkable about the keyboard. It feels suitable to type – the keys are clickable, and there is quite a bit of movement despite the slim chassis. The arrow keys are small, but all other keys are well sized and spaced correctly.

Acer Swift 5 Review

The Swift 5’s 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad is excellent. It’s not the smoothest, so my cursor sometimes felt jumpy, but I had no problem using Windows 10 gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe to browse between apps. However, the integrated left and right-click buttons are stiff and loud.

Acer Swift 5 Review: Display

The 14-inch, 1080p display on the Swift 5 is colorful and relatively bright. Some screens are either over-reflective or matte and look so washed out. The panel on Swift 5 provides a delicate balance between the two.

Wonder Woman’s fantastic armor glistened deep scarlet red while her golden whip shone in my eyes as I watched a trailer for Wonder Woman 1984. Chris Pine’s blue eyes had the same aquatint as the pristine ocean around Themyscira. It may not be a 4K panel, but the Full-HD screen was so detailed that I could see the ragged edges around Wonder Woman’s hand straps.

Based on our color gauges, the Swift 5’s screen covers 120% of the sRGB color range, making it livelier than the MacBook Air (113%) and 1080p ThinkPad X1 Carbon (109%) screens. The screens on Surface Laptop 3 (121%) and the average laptop (122%) are about as colorful as those on Swift 5.

With a peak brightness of 296 nits, the Swift 5 can easily be viewed outdoors on a clear day, although screens on competing laptops become even brighter. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon (336 nits), MacBook Air (386 nits), Surface Laptop 3 (348 nits), and the category average (356 nits) all exceed 300 nits.

Audio

Make sure you add a good Bluetooth speaker or wireless earphones to your online shopping cart when you buy the Swift 5. The bottom speakers on this laptop sounded tinny and thin when I listened to John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” Mayer’s voice was penetrating, and the drums had so little depth that it sounded like someone was hitting a log. Glass Animals’ “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” had no bass and wasn’t loud enough to fill my little apartment.

Graphics

You don’t play AAA games with high graphics settings until the MX350 GPU arrives, but the Intel Iris Plus graphics in the current model are doing a good job. To date, the laptop has clocked a 106,849 on the 3DMark IceStorm Unlimited test, crushing the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (81,350) and the premium average (104,237). In our real-world test, the Acer Dirt 3 played at 51 frames per second (fps), passing the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (31 fps) and Surface Laptop 3 (47 fps), but falling short of the category average (60 fps) supported by gaming laptops with discreet GPUs.

Acer Swift 5 Review: Performance

Armed with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU and 8GB RAM, the Swift 5 delivered enough power to write this review with as much as 16 Google Chrome at any time. I didn’t notice a stutter even when I launched a handful of 1080p YouTube videos and a Twitch stream. However, power users might want to wait for a model with 16GB of RAM, especially since the memory cannot be upgraded.

Acer Swift 5 Review

Our benchmark tests yielded mixed results. The Acer Swift 5 crushed the MacBook Air (2,738, Core i5-1030NG7) on the Geekbench 5 test, but was decimated by Surface Laptop 3 (4,801, Core i7-1065G7) by about the same margin. The Acer also lagged behind the category average (4,231) and was unable to beat the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (15,648, Core i5-8265U) on the Geekbench 4.1 test, resulting in a score of 15,097.

Intel’s 10th Gen Ice Lake chips are struggling with our video transcoding test, and the Swift 5 suffers. The laptop took 20 minutes and 5 seconds to convert a 4K video to a 1080p resolution, which is longer than the category average (19:47) or the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (16:52). The MacBook Air (27:10) and the Surface Laptop 3 (24:55), both equipped with Ice Lake CPUs, needed even more time.

The 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD in the Swift 5 delivers slightly slower speeds than average. It took the laptop 10 seconds to duplicate 4.97 GB of multimedia files for a transfer rate of 494.1 megabytes per second. By comparison, the storage drives in Surface Laptop 3 (541.4 MBps), MacBook Air (1,302 MBps), and the premium laptop average (615.6 MBps) are much faster.

Acer Swift 5 Review: Battery Life

I didn’t expect the Swift 5 to last long in our battery test, given its size. Again, the laptop proved me wrong by continuing to surf the web for 9 hours and 7 minutes with the screen set to 150 nits. That great result is at the top of the category average (8:42) and is in the same straitjacket as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (9:30), the MacBook Air (9:31) and the Surface Laptop 3 (9:17).

Heat

The Swift 5 kept it cool in our heat tests, with a peak of 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or a slight breeze below our comfort threshold of 95 degrees. Parts of the laptop you touch, such as the keyboard (89 degrees) and touchpad (84 degrees), were even more moderate.

Price and Configuration Options

Only a few Swift 5 configurations are available while I write this review. For $899, you can get the basic version with a Core i5-1035G1 CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Our $999 upgrade the processor to a Core i7-1065G7 but keeps everything else the same. But this is not the full story. Acer looks ready to release another version with Nvidia’s new MX350 discrete GPU. We’d love it if a 2.2-pound laptop could play modern AAA games, so we’ll see if Acer will send us a device when they arrive.

Acer Swift 5 Review: Conclusion

There are several laptops and tablets around my apartment, but I took the Swift 5 over the others. That’s because the disconcertingly light chassis of the Swift 5 didn’t make much effort to carry, and I could reliably count on there still being enough batteries left. I also enjoyed looking at the contents on the 14-inch, 1080p display, which offers a lot of liveliness and blocks reflections. If Acer can redesign the keyboard layout with a new power button and pinch the touchpad, Swift 5 could be a severe contender for more expensive machines like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 13.

Until then, the Acer Swift 5 is an excellent value for anyone with a strict $1,000 budget for a portable laptop, although some may want to wait for upcoming configurations with an MX350 GPU and 16GB RAM.

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

Acer's Swift 5 delivers a vibrant 14-inch display and long battery life in an impossibly lightweight chassis.

PROS
  • Colorful 14-inch display
  • Featherweight design
  • Great looks
  • Good battery life
  • Priced to sell
CONS
  • Frustrating keyboard layout
  • Only 8GB of RAM (for now)
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