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Acer Swift 5 (2020) review

A featherweight laptop that packs a serious punch

Acer Swift 5 (2020)
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

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

For

  • Colorful 14-inch display
  • Featherweight design
  • Great looks
  • Good battery life
  • Priced to sell

Against

  • Frustrating keyboard layout
  • Only 8GB of RAM (for now)
  • Weak speakers
Acer Swift 5 (2020) specs

Price: $999
CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7
GPU: Intel Iris Plus
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 14 inches, 1080p
Battery: 9:07
Size:  12.5 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds

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

There are some kinks to iron out. The keyboard, while comfortable, has a frustrating layout for anyone who uses the "delete" key. Also, Acer sells the Swift 5 with only 8GB of RAM right now and its Core i7 CPU isn't the fastest, so power users might want to look elsewhere. Still, the Swift 5 is a fantastic laptop if portability is a priority.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) price and configuration options

Only a pair of Swift 5 configurations are available as I write this review. For $899, you can get the base version with a Core i5-1035G1 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Our $999 upgrades the processor to a Core i7-1065G7 but keeps everything else the same.

But this isn't the full story. Acer looks prepared 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 unit when they arrive.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) design

Acer's Swift 5 was one of few laptops I reviewed last year that gave me a genuine "wow" moment. That rare feeling happened when I lifted the laptop and felt its remarkably lightweight chassis. Surely, this was a prop — some hollowed-out gag posing as an Acer laptop. Then a magic trick: I lifted the lid and the display turned on. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

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

If the portability of this magnesium-alloy chassis doesn't grab your attention, its alluring pearlescent hue will. Acer calls it charcoal blue, but think more indigo with a dab of green. If that wasn't eye-catching enough, Acer went with a gold font on the keys; Some might find the color combo to be a tad garish but it works for me.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

A gold hinge and chrome Acer logo on the lid puts a bow on the elegant design. Other notable elements include a fingerprint sensor on the deck and a notch to make the lid easier to open.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) ports

Port selection on the Swift 5 is decent. On the left side is a Thunderbolt 3 port, USB 3.1 Type-A input and an HDMI connection.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the right side of the laptop is a second USB 3.1 port, a headphone/mic jack and a Kensington lock.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Acer Swift 5 (2020) display

The 14-inch, 1080p display on the Swift 5 is colorful and relatively bright. Some screens are either overly reflective or matte to the point of looking washed out. The panel on the Swift 5 strikes a nice balance between the two.

Wonder Woman's awesome armor glistened a deep scarlet red while her golden whip beamed into my eyes when I watched a trailer for Wonder Woman 1984. Chris Pine's blue eyes were the same aqua hue as the pristine ocean around Themyscira. It might not be a 4K panel but the Full-HD screen was so detailed that I could see the tattered edges around Wonder Woman's hand bandages. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Based on our colorimeter readings, the Swift 5's display covers 120% of the sRGB color gamut, making it more vivid than screens on the MacBook Air (113%) and the 1080p ThinkPad X1 Carbon (109%). The displays on the Surface Laptop 3 (121%) and the average laptop (122%) are about as colorful as the Swift 5's.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

With a peak brightness of 296 nits, the Swift 5 can be easily viewed outside on a bright day, although the screens on competing laptops get even brighter. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon (336 nits), the MacBook Air (386 nits), the Surface Laptop 3 (348 nits) and the category average (356 ntis) all breached the 300-nit mark.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) keyboard and touchpad

Oh, no, not again. This power button thing needs to end. I complained about it in my Asus ExpertBook B9450 review, and I'll happily do it again. Placing the power button next to the delete key and making it the same shape and size is asking for people to inadvertently power off their laptop. It needs to be fixed in the next model.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the typing experience. Gold font aside, there isn't anything particularly noteworthy about the keyboard. It feels good to type on — the keys are clicky and there is a decent amount of travel despite the slim chassis. The arrow keys are small, but all the other keys are a good size and appropriately spaced out.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I typed at a zippy 121 words per minute with an accuracy of 96% on the 10FastFingers.com typing test. That outpaces my usual 119-wpm and with fewer errors.

The 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad on the Swift 5 is fine. It's not the smoothest, so my cursor felt jumpy at times but I had no issues using Windows 10 gestures, like pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe to flip between apps. The integrated left- and right-click buttons, however, are stiff and loud.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) audio

Make sure to add a good Bluetooth speaker or wireless earbuds to your online shopping cart when you buy the Swift 5. The bottom-firing 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 piercing and the drums had so little depth it sounded like someone hitting a wood block. Glass Animals' "Your Love (Déjà Vu)" lacked bass and didn't get loud enough to fill my small apartment.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) performance

Armed with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Swift 5 delivered enough power for me to write this review with no fewer than 16 Google Chrome at any given time. I didn't notice any stuttering, even when I launched a handful of 1080p YouTube videos and a Twitch stream. That said, power users might want to wait for a model with 16GB of RAM, especially since memory isn't upgradable. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Our benchmark tests yielded mixed results. The Swift 5 crushed the MacBook Air (2,738, Core i5-1030NG7) on the Geekbench 5 test but was decimated by the Surface Laptop 3 (4,801, Core i7-1065G7) by about the same margin. The Acer also fell short of the category average (4,231) and couldn't top the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (15,648, Core i5-8265U) on the Geekbench 4.1 test, landing a score of 15,097. 

Intel's 10th Gen Ice Lake chips really struggle on our video-transcoding test, and the Swift 5 suffers for it. The laptop needed 20 minutes and 5 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution, which is longer than it took 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 of which are equipped with Ice Lake CPUs, needed even more time. 

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

Acer Swift 5 (2020) graphics

You won't be playing AAA games at high graphics settings until the MX350 GPU arrives but the Intel Iris Plus graphics in the current model do a decent job.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

To that point, the laptop clocked a 106,849 on the 3DMark IceStorm Unlimited test, crushing the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (81,350) and the premium average (104,237). 

On our real-world test, the Acer played Dirt 3 at 51 frames per second (fps), which revs past the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (31 fps) and the Surface Laptop 3 (47 fps) but falls short short of the category average (60 fps), which is buoyed by gaming laptops with discrete GPUs.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) battery life

I wasn't expecting the Swift 5 to last very long in our battery test given its size. Once again, the laptop proved me wrong by enduring for 9 hours and 7 minutes while web surfing with the screen set to 150 nits.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

That great result tops the category average (8:42) and is in the same ballpark as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (9:30), the MacBook Air (9:31) and the Surface Laptop 3 (9:17).

Acer Swift 5 (2020) webcam

I commend Acer for fitting the webcam on the top bezel, even if the picture quality is mediocre. My rosy face was a pumpkin-orange color in a selfie I snapped in my apartment and there was a lot of visual noise. It will do in a pinch, no doubt, but an external webcam delivers much better image quality for video conferencing.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) heat

The Swift 5 kept its cool in our heat testing, peaking at 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or a slight breeze below our 95-degree comfort threshold. Parts of the laptop you'll actually touch, like the keyboard (89 degrees) and the touchpad (84 degrees), were even more temperate.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) software and warranty

In typical Acer fashion, the Swift 5 is pre-loaded with a bunch of unnecessary apps. If there is one you should keep, it's Acer Care Center. This one-stop shop app shows you system information and gives you quick links to update the latest drivers or tune up your laptop's performance. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I just wish other Acer apps — Product Registration and Documents — were incorporated into the Care Center app. Other Acer-branded apps include PhotoDirector for Acer and PowerDirector for Acer, a pair of basic video- and photo-editing programs. 

Microsoft also did its part taking away valuable storage space. You'll find a handful of Windows 10 Home apps, including Candy Crush Friends, Farm Heroes Saga and Microsoft Solitaire Collection. Third-party apps — arguably the worst of the bunch — include Amazon, Booking, Evernote, ExpressVPN, Norton Security and Hearts Deluxe. 

The Swift 5 ships with a one-year hardware warranty. See how Acer fared on our Best and worst brands and Tech support showdown special reports.

Bottom line

There are several laptops and tablets lying around my apartment but I found myself grabbing the Swift 5 over the others. That's because the Swift 5's staggeringly lightweight chassis required little effort to carry around and I could reliably count on there being enough battery life remaining. I also really enjoyed watching content on the 14-inch, 1080p display, which is plenty vivid and blocks reflections. 

If Acer can redesign the keyboard layout with a new power button and tweak the touchpad, then the Swift 5 could be a serious contender to pricier machines, like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 13. Until then, the Swift 5 is an excellent value for anyone on a strict $1,000 budget for a portable laptop. Although, some might want to wait for upcoming configurations with an MX350 GPU and 16GB of RAM.

Acer Swift 5 (2020) Specs

Size12.5 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches
Display14 inches, 1080p
CPUIntel Core i7-1065G7
Price$999
GPUIntel Iris Plus
Battery9:07
Weight2.2 pounds
Storage512GB
RAM8GB
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