The Acer Swift 3 laptop is not a flagship, but its lack of anything strange, striking, or gimmicky may work in its favor. While the Swift 3 starts at $479, most of its configurations (including our review unit) cost between $699 and $999. That puts it in line with the entry-level models of the HP Envy and Dell’s Inspiron 13 7000 series, and it makes it digestible for most consumers’ wallets.
The tech industry places a lot of value on flagship devices, but those high-end devices aren’t always what consumers are looking for—or what they’re willing to pay for. Some may also come to realize that they don’t need a flagship device if they can get exactly what they need in a more affordable, less flashy machine. The Acer Swift 3 is one of those laptops, and I tested it for a few days to see how well it could stand up against its mid-tier competition.
Look and feel
|Specs at a glance: Acer Swift 3|
|Screen||14-inch FHD (1920×1080) IPS non-touch|
|OS||Windows 10 Home, 64 bit|
|CPU||Intel Core i3-8130U||Intel Core i7-8565U||Intel Core i7-8550U|
|RAM||4GB LPDDR3||8GB LPDDR3||8GB LPDDR3|
|HDD||128GB PCIe SSD||256GB PCIe SSD||512GB PCIe SSD|
|GPU||Intel UHD 620 Graphics||Nvidia GeForce MX150 (2GB)||Intel UHD 620 Graphics|
|Networking||Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C, 1 x microSD card slot, 1 x HDMI, 1 x headphone jack, 1 x DC power|
|Size||12.16×8.43×0.63 inches (310×214×16 mm)|
|Battery||4-cell (3220 mAh)|
|Other perks||Fingerprint sensor|
Acer usually keeps it simple when designing laptops, and it continued that trend with the Swift 3. The aluminum chassis is unmarred by grooves, metallic accents, or anything that would make it stick out among the crowd of silver laptops that inevitably congregate in most meeting rooms. At 2.87 pounds and .63-inches thick, the Swift 3 also doesn’t try to be as light or thin as possible—just thin enough to tote around with you wherever you go.
However, the device does feel like a 13-inch notebook even though it carries a 14-inch 1920×1080 IPS, non-touch display. Much like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which also has a 14-inch display, Acer’s laptop doesn’t feel larger than your standard 13-inch device. You get a bit of extra screen space (albeit at a 16:9 aspect ratio) without the extra heft.
Acer also included an array of ports on the Swift 3 that should meet most users’ needs—two USB-A ports, one USB-C port, one HDMI port, one microSD card slot, one headphone jack, one lock slot, and a proprietary power port. The latter hasn’t been completely eliminated from the laptop space thanks to the introduction of USB-C, but considering that the Swift 3 can cost up to $999, Acer should have nixed the proprietary port and gone with USB-C charging. This is a complaint I’ve had with most mid-range laptops I’ve tested, including the HP Envy 13 and the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition. What really stings is that the single USB-C port on the Swift 3 doesn’t even support charging, so you’re stuck with one less-convenient option to charge the device.
The Swift 3 doesn’t include an IR camera for facial recognition, but it does have a sliver of a fingerprint sensor on the right-side palm rest. I’m not a huge fan of these narrow fingerprint readers because they can be more finicky than their wider counterparts. On the Swift 3, I had to perform the typical place-finger, remove-finger motion during setup more than I’m used to on other devices, but otherwise it recognized my fingerprint and logged me in as efficiently as devices with larger sensors.
Everything about the design of the Acer Swift 3 can be summed up with the word “adequate.” It’s good, but not great; light, but not the lightest; attractive, but in a cookie-cutter way. The build quality is average as well, with a chassis that feels solid but a lid that flexes when faced with moderate pressure.
That average-ness extends to the keyboard and trackpad as well. While I found typing on the Swift 3 to be perfectly acceptable, its keycaps will be too firm for some users. The travel is decent and the key layout is normal, but the keycaps combined with its slightly mushy feedback create a keyboard I’d expect to see on a sub-$500 Chromebook. The Acer Swift 3 gets as low as $479 (MSRP, some models may be priced lower at certain retailers), so those opting for the base configuration will get a keyboard that matches its price tag. However, those spending $699 or more can find a more refined typing experience elsewhere in the same price range.
The same thing goes for the trackpad, which is a plastic Precision touchpad rather than a glass rectangle. While it supports all the gestures that Windows provides to Precision touchpads, it feels cheap, and you can hear the plastic give a clunky click when you physically press it.
I also noticed that the Swift 3 came with a bit more bloatware than most other laptops. It’s quite rare to see a laptop without bloatware (I don’t include manufacturer-specific programs in the bloatware category because some of them can be useful), but the Swift 3 had about three to five more random apps installed on it than I thought it would.
Our review unit came with an Intel Core i7-8550U processor, Intel Integrated UHD Graphics 620, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe SSD. It’s on the higher end of the configuration spectrum, coming in at $899 (MSRP—it can be found at third-party retailers for less). Its single-core Geekbench scores were lower than expected, while the multi-core scores were better, landing closer to those produced by devices with the same processor like the Surface Pro 6 and the Lenovo Yoga C930.
The low single-core scores might be due to inefficiencies in thermal management—the Swift 3’s main vents sit in a row underneath the chassis, and you’ll be able to feel slightly more heat when the device is performing more laborious tasks. However, the Swift 3 never got so hot that I couldn’t use it comfortably on my lap.
Acer allows you to configure the laptop with an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, which will give you a significant boost in graphics performance when compared to the standard Intel-integrated GPU. By nature, it’s not as powerful as Nvidia GTX or RTX chips, but it should support less demanding games (think ).
I’m unsure if springing for the MX GPU would be worth it on a device like the Swift 3. It could be if you want an all-in-one laptop that can serve as a work-and-play machine, or if you do a lot of photo processing or video editing. But the Swift 3 doesn’t have other perks or exceptional features that would help with those kinds of tasks—its FHD display is just decent, as is its battery life (we’ll cover that in the next section). It also has a standard cooling system, and its fans are quite loud even when running basic performance benchmarks (imagine how loud they would be while gaming). It’s great that Acer offers the MX150 GPU as an option, but it seems like a more fitting upgrade for a machine like the HP Envy 13.
Acer promises about 12 to 13 hours of battery life with the Swift 3, and it almost hit that mark in our testing. It lasted an average of 690 minutes, or 11.5 hours, on our Wi-Fi test, and an average of 523 minutes, or 8.7 hours, on our webGL test. That’s a decent battery life that puts the Swift 3 in line with similar machines including the Lenovo Yoga C930, the HP Envy 13, and the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition, but it’s surpassed by the ultrabooks that sit one tier above it in the laptop food chain. While manufacturers have succeeded in making more affordable notebooks that don’t compromise as much on performance, it seems that many don’t focus on extending battery life in devices at the $699-$899 mark as much as they do with flagship machines.
The bare minimum
After using an Acer Swift 3 that sits on the higher end of the configuration spectrum, I can say that it’s a better value at its lowest configuration or somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t provide enough value to be worth $899, especially when you consider the competition.
The Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition starts off more expensive than the Swift 3, but the standard edition with a newer CPU, almost the same port selection, Optane memory, and Thunderbolt 3 with power delivery comes in at just under $899. You won’t get the convenient and eye-catching pen-in-hinge design that the Black Edition has, but it’s still an attractive laptop that can do everything that the Swift 3 can.
Alternatively, an HP Envy 13 with similar specs to the Swift 3, a unique design, and a webcam kill switch comes in at $720, and you can upgrade to an Nvidia MX250 GPU for an additional $20. As with the Dell comparison, the HP Envy 13 comes with small sacrifices like the lack of an HDMI port, but you’re getting a more sophisticated device overall.
So while the Acer Swift 3 doesn’t have any glaring imperfections, it doesn’t provide as much value as other laptops in or near its price range. Many of the necessary features are there on paper—metal body, fingerprint sensor, USB-C along with USB-A, decent battery life, and more—but the Swift 3 doesn’t push those features quite as far as I need them to go to recommend it in the $899 configuration that I tested. When I can get more for my money, I almost always will do so, and there are other laptops that give you more for the same price.