For that reason, you may have expected the company to go big or go home with its next project, a goal that it all but set out to achieve. If the Swift 7 was Acer’s flagship, the Swift 3 is, well, just a cheaper version of that.
This laptop is, through and through, intended for frugal shoppers. Making the best of a 14-inch, full HD 1080p display, a 0.71-inch thick frame and 3.53 pounds (1.6kg) of muscle mass, there’s no denying that the Acer Swift 3 is nothing short of generic at first glance.
Take a look inside, however, and you’ll find a set of burly components that feel right at home within the all-aluminum chassis of the Acer Swift 7.
Price and availability
Like most laptops, the Acer Swift 3 comes in a number of different configurations, each complete with their own unique specs and pricing.
In the US, the Acer Swift 3 starts at a modest $499, whereas a similar model can be found in the UK for £649. Stateside, the entry-level Ultrabook comprises an Intel Core i3-7100U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). This differs ever-so-slightly in the UK, where the Swift 3 starts with 8GB of DDR4 memory.
Contrarily, the top-end model will set you back $849 in the US, but caps off at £749 in the UK. 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 model we were sent for review. For $599, US readers can opt for the exact same model as the configuration we tested, i.e., one that envelopes an Intel Core i5-7200U, 8GB of SDRAM and a 256GB SSD. Bear in mind, there’s no getting away from the 1080p screen, so if you’re on the prowl for a 4K screen, search elsewhere.
It should be noted, too, that the Acer Swift 3 is not available in Australia as of this writing.
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 dons an 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 distinguish itself from the likes of the and the , aside from lacking the 2-in-1 capabilities that make those two laptops more worth your while.
Then again, what the Acer Swift 3 lacks in coffee shop appeal, it more than makes up for in comfort and practicality. The first thing we noticed when propping it up alongside a was just how roomy the trackpad is. Pair that with the just-fine screen resolution and, finally, you can control your cursor on a Windows laptop without it being a total nuisance.
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.
Among the Acer Swift 3’s most redeeming qualities is its performance. Regardless of 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 qualifies the Acer Swift 3 to be mentioned in the same breath as much more expensive machines. Performance-wise, it isn’t too far off from the $999 (£979, AU$1,499) or even the $1,049£1,199 (£1,199, AU$2,299) . Despite coming up short when it comes to screen resolution, its specs are eerily similar to both of these devices.
What’s more, while we can’t compare its benchmark scores to the Surface Laptop, the Acer Swift 7 beat out the Asus ZenBook UX310UA in every test that challenged its CPU and graphics abilities. In the DirectX 11 Sky Diver benchmark, for instance, the Acer Swift 3 achieved 1,870 points more than the 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 come on top is with its sound. We’re still not totally clear on why laptop makers continue to do this, but we can’t stress enough how counterintuitive it is to put the speakers on the bottom of the machine. Particularly 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 or over-the-ear cans.
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 a drastic difference, obviously, but it does go to show that you don’t need to shell out over a grand for sufficient performance matched with an unwavering battery life. Even more impressive, however, are the results demonstrated by the Acer Swift 3 in our own TechRadar movie test, wherein 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.
Sporting powerful components and an extensive battery life, the Acer Swift 3 doesn’t tote the slimmest profile or even standout appearances, but it’s got the specs of a laptop that costs several hundred dollars more. What’s more, a spacious trackpad, backlit keyboard and wide array of ports give even the a run for its money.
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 or the , 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.
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).