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$650 Acer Swift 3 vs. $1,800 Apple MacBook Pro: The winner will surprise you

Acer Swift 3 vs. MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future)

Pitting the $649 Acer Swift 3 against the $1,799 Apple MacBook Pro may seem like an unfair matchup à la David and Goliath. You may be saying, “Duh, the higher-priced laptop clearly has the upper hand here!” But not so fast — never underestimate the underdog.

The Acer Swift 3 model that’s facing off against the revered Apple machine has one superpower that makes it a worthy MacBook Pro competitor: a beastly AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU. When our Swift 3 review unit slayed our performance lab tests with high-flying benchmarks, our jaws dropped. Not only did this AMD-packed laptop smoke competitors within its price range, but we also discovered that it may hold its own against the MacBook Pros and the Dell XPS 13s of the world.

This face-off is a cheeky one — throwing a budget-friendly laptop into the ring against a pricey Apple MacBook Pro might sound a bit absurd, but there’s a method to our madness here. The laptop with the most muscle may surprise you. 

That being said, let’s watch the Apple MacBook Pro fight to keep its championship belt as the Acer Swift 3 gets scrappy to dethrone a fan favorite.

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Price

The Acer Swift 3 costs $649 and comes with a 14-inch, 1080p display, an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U octa-core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an AMD Radeon GPU. There is another AMD configuration on the market that will set you back $629, but it’s equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU. 

Acer Swift 3 AMD price

The Acer Swift 3 with AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU costs $649. (Image credit: Future)

As for the latest 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro, an entry-level model will set you back $1,299 and has an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 quad-core processor with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an Intel Iris Plus 645 GPU. This base model can be configured with up to an 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. For $1,799, you can get a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 quad-core processor with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and Intel Iris Plus Graphics. This can be configured with up to a 10th Gen Core i7 CPU, 32GB of RAM and a 4TB SSD.

Let’s talk about Apple’s high-priced star for a second. Perhaps someone can explain why MacBook Pro’s base model is configured with a CPU that is obsolete by two generations, but is priced at $1,300? To get a current-generation CPU, you’ll have to shell out an extra $500. And is it even worth it? Excluding GPU power, the difference in performance between a low-end 8th Gen Intel CPU and a low-end 10th Gen Intel CPU is minimal, as David Lee eloquently pointed out. I can just feel my bank account sending me death glares at the very thought of purchasing the MacBook Pro — that Apple tax is real.

MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 price

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 10th Gen CPU costs $1,799 (Image credit: Future)

The Swift 3’s pricing, on the other hand, sounds like music to my frugal ears. Snagging a powerful processor from AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series for $649 is a total steal — and you’ll see why once we get to the performance section of this face-off. 

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Design

Sporting a laptop with an Apple logo is akin to a fashionista strutting around town with a Louis Vuitton satchel. However, anyone who’s well-acquainted with me knows that I don’t buy into the “oohs” and “ahhs” luxury brand names. A popular logo doesn’t beautify a laptop.

Apple logo on 13-inch, 2020 MacBook Pro

The lid of the 13-inch, 2020 MacBook Pro. (Image credit: Future)

Let’s break down the competition by zooming in on different design elements.

Despite being a 2020 refresh, the 13-inch MacBook Pro looks dated with its thick display frame. The Acer Swift 3, on the other hand, sports super-thin, 5.5mm bezels.

In terms of material, the Acer Swift 3 notebook is made of aluminum and magnesium. There’s also some plastic material surrounding the Swift 3’s display. The MacBook Pro has an all-aluminum chassis.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro (3.1 pounds) is heavier than the 14-inch Acer Swift 3 (2.7 pounds). As a frequent traveler and commuter, I’m partial to lighter laptops.

As far as color and style, Apple and Acer bore me; both laptops sport a typical silver chassis. The MacBook Pro also comes in Space Gray, which is not that exciting.

Acer Swift 3 AMD Chassis

The Acer Swift 3 (Image credit: Future)

One design anomaly that the Swift 3 has compared to the MacBook Pro is its tapered sides, which make room for legacy ports before gradually becoming thinner. It’s also worth noting that the MacBook Pro has an intuitive (but divisive) Touch Bar above the keyboard, which helps the beloved Apple machine supersede the Swift 3 in design.

The MacBook Pro has an undeniable premium, sleek aura to it with its all-aluminum chassis that the Swift 3 cannot keep up with, but the Swift 3 is lighter and sports modern bezels. So which one has the edge? I’ve got to hand this one to the MacBook Pro.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Ports 

MacBooks are notorious for being scant on connection options. The $1,799 MacBook Pro has four Thunderbolt 3 ports plus a headset jack, so if you want to use cable types such as HDMI or USB Type-A, you’ll have to get a USB Type-C adapter. 

MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 ports

Thunderbolt 3 ports on the 2020, 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro. (Image credit: Future)

The Swift 3, on the other hand, offers variety with six ports: an HDMI port, a USB Type-C port, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, a USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack and a Kensington lock port.

Acer Swift 3 AMD ports

Ports on the Acer Swift 3 (Image credit: Future)

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Display 

Pray for the Swift 3; it’s about to get the butt-whooping of a lifetime in this category. 

Budget-friendly laptops have to sacrifice something to make ‘em affordable for consumers, and in the Swift 3’s case, the display is what takes the hit. The Swift 3’s 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel is depressingly dim with just 251 nits of brightness, but the MacBook Pro — equipped with a 13.3-inch, 2650 x 1600 display —  is the shining star at 485 nits.

Thick bezels on 2020, 13-inch MacBook Pro

Thick bezels on the 2020, 13-inch MacBook Pro (Image credit: Future)

The Acer Swift 3 covered a puny 62% of the sRGB color gamut while the Apple MacBook Pro killed it with a color-coverage score of 114%.

The MacBook Pro boasts a Retina display, which means higher pixel density compared with other non-Retina panels. It also sports a True Tone option, which is a feature that automatically optimizes brightness and color based on your surroundings -- the Swift 3 could never!

Despite the Swift 3’s dim display and not-so-great sRGB color gamut coverage, the display wasn’t as bad as you may think. During my real-world testing, I observed Jared Leto in the Moribus movie trailer; I could make out the yellowish undertones and pinkish hues on his skin. On an older actor, I was impressed by the rich details I could detect on his aging face. 

Acer Swift 3 AMD display

The Acer Swift 3's display (Image credit: Future)

I should also point out that the Swift 3’s screen has a better Delta-E color-accuracy score of 0.22 (0 is ideal); the MacBook Pro’s Delta-E score is 0.24.

However, the Swift 3’s display pales in comparison to the brilliance of the MacBook Pro’s high-end panel.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Keyboard 

The MacBook Pro has the biggest keyboard improvement compared with its predecessor — Apple shooed away the controversial Butterfly keyboard in favor of the preferred scissor-switch Magic keyboard, which delivers 1mm of key travel. The new MacBook Pro also features new rubber dome keycaps, which provides satisfying feedback with every key press. I also love the MacBook Pro’s massive trackpad and the engaging Touch Bar situated above the keyboard is another awesome feature.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch keyboard

The Magic keyboard on the 13-inch, 2020 MacBook Pro (Image credit: Future)

However, I am partial to the Swift 3’s keyboard. It’s got that gritty metal feel on its keycaps that is tactually pleasing. With the whole keyboard deck — even the keycaps — sporting a steel gray color, it emanates a frosty, chromatic vibe that the MacBook Pro doesn’t offer. Typing on this machine is wondrous — it’s springy, comfortable and rhythmic. My only gripe with the Swift 3’s keyboard is the low contrast between the gray letters and silver keycaps, which may make the characters difficult to see for some, but as a touch typist, this doesn’t bother me.

Acer Swift 3 AMD keyboard

The Acer Swift 3's keyboard (Image credit: Future)

Both laptops have biometric authentication that would please security-minded users; the Swift 3 has a fingerprint scanner beneath the arrow keys and the MacBook Pro features Touch ID, which is located on the upper-right corner of the keyboard.

So who gets the W? Well, no shade to Apple, but the Swift 3 doesn’t have an embarrassing history of shipping laptops with stiff, flat keyboards.

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Performance 

The MacBook Pro, packed with a 10th Gen Core i5 CPU, scored 4,399 on the Geekbench 5.0 overall performance benchmark. This is pretty impressive since the Apple machine smoked the performance score of the average mainstream laptop, which is 3,370. However, the AMD-packed Acer Swift 3, equipped with a Ryzen 7 4700U, crushed the MacBook Pro on performance with a score of 4,862.

MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 display

The 2020, 13-inch MacBook Pro (Image credit: Future)

We also ran the Handbrake video transcoding benchmark, which tests how long a laptop takes to convert 4K video into 1080p resolution.The MacBook Pro took 12 minutes and 43 seconds, which is much better than the 22-minute duration of the average mainstream laptop. However, the Acer Swift 3 bested the MacBook Pro by only taking 11 minutes flat.

With integrated GPUs, the Acer Swift 3 (AMD Radeon graphics) and the Apple MacBook Pro (Intel Iris Plus) aren’t ideal for running graphics-intensive games, but we thought it’d be interesting to reveal the frame rates per second (fps) both units achieved on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm. 

The Acer Swift 3 AMD Ryzen 7 4700U

The Acer Swift 3 (Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Pro could only muster 18 fps. On the plus side, this defeated the 13 fps of the category average. But with the Swift 3’s 27 frames per second, this Acer laptop just told its Apple rival to eat its dust!

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3 vs. Apple MacBook Pro: Battery life 

If the Swift 3 and the MacBook Pro were athletes in an Olympic race, Apple’s fan favorite would tap out quicker than its Acer rival.

The Acer Swift 3 excels at endurance; it lasted 11 hours and 9 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The MacBook Pro tapped out after 10 hours and 21 minutes.

Winner: Acer Swift 3

Overall Winner: Acer Swift 3 

I can feel the Apple loyalists fuming; I can sense the steam just bursting out of their reddening ears. “Well, I didn’t get the Apple MacBook Pro for top-notch performance, anyway. I like its premium build quality!”

Acer Swift 3

The Acer Swift 3 is the winner (Image credit: Future)

Hey, no skin off my back if you truly believe that the extra $1,150 you’d pay for the MacBook Pro is worth it — it’s not coming from my bank account. Some people, understandably, can’t fathom dealing with Acer Swift 3’s dim display and the Apple logo takes one’s “coolness points” up a notch. If you’re an on-the-go audio engineer or a digital illustrator, I totally get it — the MacBook Pro has superior speakers and a better display. Not to mention that macOS has benefits over Windows 10.

But come on, if you’re the average consumer, how could you pass up the Swift 3 over the MacBook Pro? The Acer Swift 3 has beastly overall performance, longer battery life, a sweet keyboard, better frame rates ideal for light gaming, a greater variety of ports, modern bezels and an all-metal, aluminum-magnesium chassis (save for a tinge of plastic around the display) —  all for just $649.

The Acer Swift 3 offers so much bang for one’s buck; I’m shocked to say it, but in most cases, the Swift 3 has the edge over the MacBook Pro.