Review

Acer Swift 7 review: It's insanely light at under two pounds, but there are compromises

Most laptops that are considered light come in at under two and a half pounds. Acer, however, has one that's actually two pounds. Indeed, the Swift 7 comes in at just 1.96 pounds, which is wildly light.

It's also extremely compact, with the smallest footprint I've ever seen in a 14-inch laptop. It's under 10mm thin, and it has a 92% screen-to-body ratio with bezels that are under 3mm.

Naturally, there are some compromises made, although this year's model adds touch and a clickable trackpad. It does come with a Y-series CPU, which is good for battery life and not so good for performance. Read on for our full review.

Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-8500Y processor (4MB SmartCache, 1.5 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz, LPDDR3 or DDR3L, 5W TDP)
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 615, supporting OpenGL 4.3/4.4, OpenCL 1.2/2.1, Microsoft DirectX 12
RAM 16GB of onboard LPDDR3 memory; Dual-channel LPDDR3 SDRAM support
Storage Solid state drive: 512GB, PCIe Gen3, 8 Gb/s up to 2 lanes, NVMe
Battery 32h 2770mAh 11.55 V 3-cell Li-ion battery pack Battery life: Up to 13 hours
Ports (2) Thunderbolt 3
(1) 3.5mm combo audio
Body 317.9x191.5x9.95mm (12.52x7.54x0.39in), 0.89kg (1.96lbs.)
Display 14.0" display with IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology, Full HD 1920 x1080, highbrightness (300 nits) Acer CineCrystal LED-backlit TFT LCD supporting multitouch; 16:9 aspect ratio, 100% sRGB color gamut; Wide viewing angle up to 170 degrees; Stylish and Slim design; Mercury free, environment friendly
Keyboard and trackpad Keyboard: 68-/69-/73-key full-size FineTip backlit keyboard with international language support
TouchPad: Multi-gesture touchpad, supporting two-finger scroll; pinch; gestures to open Cortana, Action Center, multitasking; application commands
  • Microsoft Precision Touchpad certification
  • Moisture resistant
Audio
  • Acer Purified. Voice technology with two built-in microphones. Features include far-field pickup, keystroke suppression, voice tracking, adaptive beam forming, voice recognition enhancement, two pre-defined modes: personal call, conference call
  • Acer TrueHarmony Gen 2 technology for lower distortion, wider frequency range, headphone-like audio and powerful sound with three surrounding sound effect modes (Music, Movie and Gaming) for internal speaker and headphone
  • Compatible with Cortana with Voice
Wireless and networking WLAN
  • Intel Wireless-AC 9260, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wireless LAN
  • Dual Band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • 2x2 MU-MIMO technology
  • PCIe interface
  • Supports Bluetooth 5.0, USB 2.0 interface
Color Black
Material Magnesium-lithium and magnesium-aluminum
OS Windows 10 Home
Price $1,699.99


There are a few configurations to choose from. One comes in white with the same specs for the same price. The other one is black, ships with Windows 10 Pro, and costs $200 more. That's seemingly the only difference for that model, so obviously, you'd be better off just buying this one and spending $99 to upgrade.

What's cool is that the specs that you see above are your only options, so you don't have the option to make bad choices.

Day one

One thing that I really appreciated is that the Acer Swift 7 actually comes with a sleeve in the box. That's always nice, since laptops can get dirty in a bag.

Design

Announced at CES this year, Acer's Swift 7 is a beauty. It's made out of a combination of magnesium-lithium and magnesium-aluminum alloys, which is why it's so incredibly light, coming in at just 1.96 pounds. It's also just 9.95mm thin, making it thinner than a lot of smartphones out there. It's just wild.

What makes this great is that it's just easy to carry around. When you throw it in a bag, it feels like there's nothing in there. While I can't speak for every laptop in the world, this is certainly the thinnest and lightest 14-inch laptop that I've ever seen, and I see a lot. It comes in a small footprint as well, something that I'll talk more about in the display section. In fact, I thought this was a 13-inch laptop at first glance, because it's just so small.

It comes in black and white colors, although the one that Acer sent me is black. The magnesium alloys used do feel slightly plasticky, something that's common in devices that use them, such as LG's gram laptops. It gets the weight down though, which was clearly Acer's goal here. I feel like the goals that the firm set were under two pounds and under 10mm thick.

The lid comes stamped with a gold-colored Acer logo, which gives it a bit of panache. I think it's a pretty device, a device that you'd probably think is a tablet at first glance.

As far as ports go, there aren't many, and that's no surprise. After all, this is probably the thinnest laptop around. On the left side, you'll only find a 3.5mm combo audio jack, along with an LED light that indicates it's charging.

On the right side, there are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and they're full Thunderbolt 3 ports that support 40Gbps data transfer speeds, DisplayPort, and everything else that comes with it. That means that you could technically plug in two 4K monitors or one 5K monitor into each one; however, I can assure you that the UHD Graphics 615 integrated graphics won't do well. You could plug in an external GPU into one and two 4K monitors into another, but I'm beginning to digress.

On the bottom of the device, you'll find that you can remove the bottom panel with six Torx screws, although you probably won't want to. Don't plan on swapping out parts on any PC that's this thin. There are also two tiny speakers down there, which we'll cover in a bit.

The key elements of the design is that this laptop is super-thin and super-light. That's what you'd be buying this for. It's ultraportable, so if that's not a necessity, it's probably not for you.

Display and audio

At 9.95mm thin, this year's Swift 7 is actually a bit thicker than last year's. One of the reasons for that is that the 14-inch 1080p display now supports touch. Obviously, it's not something that you'd use heavily on a clamshell laptop, but it's nice to have, and it was a heavily requested feature from the previous generation model.

The display is pretty good though. It's bright enough to use outdoors, at 300 nits, and the colors are vibrant. It's definitely a pretty screen, and it's even more immersive with its narrow bezels that result in a 92% screen-to-body ratio.

The side bezels are 2.57mm and the top bezel is 2.65mm, for some of the thinnest bezels around. The big chin that last year's model has been chopped down as well, which is why this PC has such a small foot print. In my unboxing video, I noted how wide the body is, and that's what you get on a PC with almost no bottom bezel below the screen.

But I don't like it, and this is a personal preference. I feel like I'm looking down at the screen too much. Writing this review, I feel like my neck is going to start hurting. A little bit of a chin below the display can be a good thing.

As far as audio goes, it's just not good. There are dual speakers on the bottom of the PC. The speakers are small, and they're not even on the edges that are curved up on the sides. They're just firing down.

Frankly, it's not the audio quality that's bad. The stereo speakers just aren't loud enough. It's OK for some light music or for making calls, but expect to rock out on this machine.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard on the Swift 7 is decent, and probably as good as it can get on a machine this thin. It's cool that Acer included a backlight for the keys though.

As you'd probably expect, the key-press is extremely shallow. It's accurate though, with proper resistance on the keys to make it as comfortable as possible. It's a full-size keyboard though, something that wasn't compromised when shrinking down the footprint. While I do prefer at least a slightly deeper keyboard, I'm definitely impressed with how good Acer did with the space it had to work with.

And then there's the trackpad, which is weirdly wide. It's a glass trackpad that uses Microsoft Precision drivers, so the performance is there and it supports the gestures that you're used to.

But let's talk about the shape of it. It's as tall as it can be with the space given, although I feel like the keyboard could have been moved up to make more room. The width of it takes some getting used to. There were many times that I went to right-click and I didn't move my hand enough to the right to do it. You have to relearn some muscle memory with this one.

To the left of the keyboard, there's a power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor is pretty good, although not good enough to make up for the lack of an IR camera. After all, with such narrow bezels and no webcam anywhere in the bezels, facial recognition isn't happening.

The fingerprint sensor should only require you to press the button once when booting up, not forcing you to scan it again at the lock screen. This rarely worked for me though. Most of the time, I had to scan my fingerprint again.

Also on the keyboard deck is the webcam, with the most awkward placement in the history of webcams. It's above the keyboard but all the way off to the left. Huawei put one between the F6 and F7 keys on the MateBook X Pro, Dell put one below the screen on its XPS PCs until this year, but not only is Acer's looking up your nostrils, but it's at an awkward angle.

Since it retracts into the keyboard, it serves as a privacy guard. For those that like to put a piece of tape over their webcam so no one can see them, this is a great tool. You only pop it up when you need to use it.

And of course, you probably won't be using it much. That's actually what Dell used to tell me when I'd give them a hard time about the webcam placement on XPS laptops. Ask yourself how often you actually use the webcam. Many people just use their smartphones for video calls these days.

Performance and battery life

Once again, Acer went with Intel's Y-series chips for this year's model. The 2019 Swift 7 includes a Core i7-8500Y, a 5W dual-core chip with four threads from the Amber Lake family. Unfortunately, this means a big performance hit from the usual 15W quad-core U-series chips that we see in ultrabooks.

But this is what Y-series is made for. Formerly called Core m7, these CPUs are designed for fanless, thin and light laptops just like this one. Performance is better than last year though, as the seventh-generation 'Kaby Lake' chips were 4.5W.

It's worth noting that next year's model should get a solid performance boost. Intel recently announced its 10nm 'Ice Lake' processors, and the Y-series Core i7 will have four cores and a 9W TDP.

Even with the 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD that the Swift 7 provides, you'll notice some lag with most tasks. If you're looking for the thinnest and the lightest, then that compromise is probably worth it. After all, for regular productivity tasks like using Microsoft Office or working through the browser, it will be fine most of the time and the performance issues are negligible. Don't even try to run Adobe CC apps on here.

And with 16GB RAM, multitasking is pretty good. Performance won't get worse if you have a bunch of tabs running in the browser, or if you have other apps open. 16GB is plenty for what you'll be able to do with this machine.

As for battery life, it's decent. If you turn the battery meter to 'Best performance' on Windows 10 and brightness jacked all of the way up, you'll get about four hours with general usage, and by general usage, I mean working in Chrome with some other apps open like OneNote and Skype. If you turn down the battery meter and dim the screen a bit, you'll obviously get a lot more battery life out of it.

This PC comes with a 45W USB Type-C charger, which is fine. You really don't need a 65W charger for something with a 5W CPU.

One thing that's particularly annoying is that Acer includes a lot of bloatware on its PCs. Aside from Norton antivirus software (all consumer laptops come with antivirus, for some reason), it also comes with things like Firefox and Evernote, competing apps to stuff that's pre-installed on Windows 10. There are also a few app stores, like Acer Collection S, which just redirects you to the Microsoft Store anyway. I just uninstall all of this stuff on day one.

For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8 and PCMark 10. PCMark 8 provides three tests: Home, Creative, and Work. First up is the Home test, which checks common tasks like web browsing, video chat, and more.

You can compare this to the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s that I recently reviewed, which scored 3,229 on this test with a Core i5-8265U. Next up is the Creative test, which checks GPU-intensive tasks like video editing and mainstream gaming.

You can probably ignore the Creative test, since you probably won't be using the Swift 7 for any of those things. Finally, the Work test checks productivity-related tasks like writing and spreadsheets.

This test does a little bit better, although it's still not close to the 3,445 score that the ThinkBook 13s got.

I also ran the all-in-one test in PCMark 10 for those that like to keep score.

Conclusion

There's a lot that's good about the Acer Swift 7, and there's some that's bad. Let's start with a recap of the bad. Performance isn't great with the Y-series processor, and the audio volume is too low. These are my biggest complaints. The webcam placement is awkward, and there's no IR camera, but I couldn't care less about these things. And while I do hate bloatware in a world of Signature PCs, it's easy to uninstall.

I do enjoy Windows Hello, but I only log in once per session. Once I've typed my PIN, I don't miss it. And I almost never use the webcam.

The rest of the bad is all a result of what's really good about the Swift 7. It's ridiculously thin and light, with an impossibly small footprint. So yes, that means that it's going to have a Y-series processor (there's no way out of that), speaker quality will be compromised with small speakers, and there's no room for a webcam in the bezels.

But the Swift 7 is insanely compact. It's the most comfortable PC to carry around with me that I've ever used, and it doesn't compromise on display size or quality. The 14-inch Full HD screen is fantastic. The backlit keyboard is pretty good as well, despite how shallow it is.

And of course, I do appreciate the fact that the display now supports touch and that the trackpad is clickable. If the trackpad wasn't clickable - like it wasn't last year - than that would be one too many compromises for me.

This is a laptop that I've fallen in love with. If you want something that's compact, thin, and light, I think that the Swift 7 compromises in just the right areas.

 

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