Laptop Mag Verdict
Acer’s Swift 5 is back with the same lightweight, yet durable design and vastly more powerful internals thanks to its Intel Evo makeover.
Stellar battery life
Irritating keyboard layout
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CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1080p touchscreen
Size: 12.6 x 8.2 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.31 pounds
Picking the Acer Swift 5 up for the first time feels like there’s some kind of a magic trick being played on you as its weight simply does not align with the size of the object you are holding in your hand. You would almost think it’s hollow inside and yet, you have the remarkable new Intel Evo design, meaning this thin and light laptop is capable of delivering considerably more performance than before.
Paired with a vivid 1080p panel, up to 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM, all for $1,299 for the top-end model, the Acer Swift 5 is a remarkable achievement and a portable laptop that seems to avoid virtually every trade-off once associated with the thin-and-light laptop category.
Acer Swift 5 price and configuration options
My review model of the Acer Swift 5 is priced at $1,299 and comes with an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.
This is the top-tier configuration; the base option starts at $999 and includes an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Stepping up to $1,099 gets you an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, Intel Iris Plus graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The final configuration goes for $1,149 and offers the Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce MX250, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. All four variants are available in either Mist Green or Safari Gold.
Acer Swift 5 design
I’ll get to the overall look of the design in just a moment, but it’s impossible to not draw attention to the mystifying weight of the Acer Swift 5. It’s actually slightly heavier than Swift 5 (2020) that was released this spring, at 2.3 pounds compared to 2.2 pounds, but at 12.6 x 8.2 x 0.6 inches, it’s still smaller and lighter than most of its competitors, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2.4 pounds, 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6-inches), Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (2.9 pounds, 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches) or the new MacBook Air (2.8 pounds, 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches).
Any time you have a device that feels much lighter than it looks, your first thought is that it isn’t going to be very durable. And yet,ut the magnesium-alloy construction of the Swift 5 seems to evade this concern. Acer indicates that it offers somewhere between two to four times the strength of traditional aluminum alloys at roughly 20% to 35% of the weight. Trying to flex the Swift 5, you can feel the rigidity. Featherweight though it may be, this laptop feels like it will hold up to the riggers of travel or the occasional drop while moving it around the house or office.
The Mist Green color of my review unit reads as gray in a lot of lighting conditions, but bright light or a more careful inspection does reveal its slightly green hue and the pearlescent finish gives it a little more intrigue. Both the glossy Acer logo and the matte angular hinge at the back of the laptop feature a bronze finish that gives the Swift a little more personality than your typical monochrome device.
Opening the lid requires two hands; there’s no avoiding that lifting a reasonably sturdy hinge on a laptop that weighs this little is going to cause the whole chassis to lift with it. The interior is much of the same with a bronze/gold accent color used for the symbols on the keyboard and the logos.
The built-in fingerprint sensor is just below the cursor keys and color-matched to the chassis, but slightly recessed so it's easy to find. I have just one odd complaint about the interior of the Swift 5: there’s an “Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass” logo on the bezel at the top-left corner and it draws my eye for some reason. I’d probably get over it eventually (or I’d find a way to cover it up) but why include it at all?
The Swift 5 is a gorgeous little laptop that you can slip into a bag and barely notice it. The build quality feels fantastic and the few little extra touches really help to sell it as a premium laptop.
Acer Swift 5 ports
For those who don’t appreciate the forced migration to USB Type-C, the Acer Swift 5 is here for you with an assortment of ports that will support all of your legacy gear while also giving you a taste of what the future has to offer with its Thunderbolt 4 port.
Along its left side, you will find a DC-in charging port, HDMI 2.0, a USB Type-A port (USB 3.2 Gen 1) and the aforementioned USB Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port.
Turning to the right side, things are a little more minimal: just a Kensington lock port, another USB Type-A port (USB 3.2 Gen 1) and a combo headphone/mic jack.
I long ago made the move to USB Type-C for most things, but I still love having the option of at least one USB Type-A as it invariably is still required by some of my peripherals. However, I would definitely trade the second Type-A port for another USB Type-C at this point. Despite the bounty of ports, you may still find you need something like an RJ45 Ethernet port or a full-size SD card reader, in which case, you can leverage that Thunderbolt 4 ports power with a USB Type-C hub.
Acer Swift 5 display
The Swift 5's 14-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display produced a sharp and vibrant image. While it doesn’t deliver 4K or a high refresh rate, it has a solid 1080p experience that won’t disappoint. The bezels aren’t the slimmest we’ve seen, but pretty thin along the edges and what remains at the top and bottom certainly doesn’t make the Swift 5 look dated. While the Swift 5 isn’t a 2-in-1, it does feature a touchscreen display that is excellently responsive.
Watching the trailer for the upcoming Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Iron Mask, the Swift 5 display captured every exquisite detail as you jump from the deep red of the British uniforms, to the colorful robes of the Chinese nobility and the almost crystalline blue structure of the dragon’s eye.
Our colorimeter wasn’t quite as impressed by the Swift 5 display, showing that the panel covers 75% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. That’s not a bad result by any means, but it is behind the Surface Laptop 3 (85.9%), the MacBook Air (80.9%), and the category average of 80.8%. My take is that, viewed by itself, it is still a vibrant display, but when held up to others, you can see some of the punch is lacking.
Brightness isn’t a massive strength for the Acer Swift 5, which peaks at 350 nits, but that’s a solid result and puts it on even footing with its competitors. The MacBook Air (366 nits) has a slight edge, while the Surface Laptop 3 (348 nits) is nearly identical and the category average slightly eclipses all of them at 386 nits.
Acer Swift 5 keyboard and touchpad
Typing on the Swift 5 keyboard feels great. Given its thinness, you don’t have an abundance of key travel, but it offers just enough and the keys are springy and responsive. However, the layout on the Swift 5 drove me nuts for a few reasons and while I’m certain I would get used to it over time, there might be a bit of a learning curve with some of the key placements.
By far, the most irritating for me is the cursor cluster; the frequency with which I found myself accidentally hitting page up or page down rather than my intended cursor key was maddening. I’m also not a fan of the inline power button, which is surrounded by the delete and backspace key.
In terms of actual typing speed, I averaged 80 words per minute with 96% accuracy on the 10fastfingers.com typing test with the Acer Swift 5, which is a little slower than my current average of 86 wpm. I think within another week or so I’d be up to speed with it; the slightly reduced size versus my typical keyboard is possible the source of my slowdown.
On a more aesthetic note, the gold lettering does really pop on the dark keys, so if you aren’t a touch typist, never fear, you’ll be able to pick everything out easily. The backlighting is fine, although on the diminutive function row keys you get a fair amount of light bleed.
Turning to the touchpad, the 4.1 x 2.6-inch surface is sufficiently large to execute any of the Windows 10 gestures. I didn’t have any issues with responsiveness when it came to either gestures or basic navigation and,if you prefer, you always have the touchscreen to fall back on. My lone complaint regarding the touchpad on the Swift 5 is that it’s a bit more recessed than I would like, I feel like it might be prone to catching material in it over time, but that’s largely a personal preference and not a real problem.
Acer Swift 5 audio
The Acer Swift 5 uses a pair of bottom-firing speakers and while I’ll credit them with avoiding distortion throughout the range, they are incapable of producing even a hint of bass. The output isn’t stellar either, but it was able to fill my 18 x 12-foot testing space reasonably when pushed to 100% volume.
I listened to “The Adults Are Talking” by The Strokes and this proved to be just about the right pairing for what the Acer Swift 5’s speakers can reproduce. It handles the vocals and guitar riffs without issue, so depending on your musical preferences, you might be fine. Alternatively, plan to hook the Swift 5 up to a good Bluetooth speaker or wireless headphones when you want quality audio.
Acer Swift 5 performance
The Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor paired with 16GB of RAM and Intel Iris Xe Graphics absolutely tore through all of the normal challenges I throw at a laptop. Firing up over two dozen Google Chrome tabs, including two YouTube videos running at 1080p and a pair of Twitch streams didn’t cause a stutter or dropped frame. Despite Intel’s assertions about its Iris Xe Graphics, which are absolutely impressive, I still wouldn’t tell you to go out and buy the Swift 5 for its gaming performance.
With that said the Swift 5 managed to impress again with its Geekbench 5.2 overall performance test, with a multi-core score of 5,895. This was just behind the MacBook Air (5,962), but well above the Surface Laptop 3 (4,791) and the category average (4,178).
Our Handbrake video transcoding test, which requires the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution, was also well ahead of the curve for the Swift 5, finishing in 13 minutes and 55 seconds. While the MacBook Air (9:15) trounced this result, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (18:29) and the Surface Laptop 3 (24:55) put it back in perspective.
The Acer Swift 5’s 1TB SSD is no slouch either, managing a 1,141 MBps transfer rate in our 5GB file transfer test. Again, Apple wrecks the curve for the class with the MacBook Air (2,897.8 MBps), while the Surface Laptop 3 (541.4 MBps), the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (997.9 MBps) and the category average (780.9 MBps) all reveal that the Swift 5 lives up to its name when it comes to SSD speed.
Acer Swift 5 graphics
The Intel Iris Xe in the Swift 5 isn’t up for playing demanding games at high settings, but it’s vastly more capable than its predecessor in this regard, and holds up well in its category. If you are dead set on gaming, you aren’t going to find anything this thin and light, but some of the best gaming laptops in this price range are reasonably portable and will deliver much better gaming performance.
The Acer Swift 5 managed only 33 frames per second on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (1080p, Medium), just crossing our 30-fps playability threshold. This was narrowly behind the MacBook Air (37 fps), but miles beyond the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8 fps) and ahead of the 28 fps category average.
Acer Swift 5 battery life
If the incredibly low weight is its brilliant opening, the battery life on Acer Swift 5 is the encore that will bring thunderous applause. Depending on your usage, the Acer Swift 5 could get you through at least one and possibly two days on a single charge.
It lasted 13 hours and 37 minutes in our official battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. This puts it well ahead of the Surface Laptop 3 13-inch (9:17) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (10:45), coming in behind only the new MacBook Air (M1, 2020) (14:41), but that’s certainly good company to keep.
Acer Swift 5 camera
Despite its thin bezels, the Acer Swift 5 gives you a top bezel webcam and that’s about the only positive thing I have to say about it. It will serve you just fine if you have no other option, but it is completely incapable of handling anything without bright light and, even then, you are going to see a fair amount of visual noise.
This should just serve as a reminder that if you need to do a lot of video conferencing or video chat via your laptop, pick up an external webcam. No one builds a webcam into a laptop that is the equal of even a relatively inexpensive external option.
Acer Swift 5 heat
I rarely heard the fans on the Acer Swift 5 come on; the five exhaust panels at the bottom and two large exhaust panels that are concealed behind the rotating hinge in the back all do their job incredibly well. During my time with the Swift 5, I never noticed it feel anything more than slightly warm to the touch.
Our testing, which involves playing a 15-minute, 1080p video and then taking temperature readings on various parts of the laptop, confirmed my anecdotal experience. On the Swift 5, the touchpad remained at a reasonable 78 degrees Fahrenheit; the keyboard was just slightly hotter at 81 degrees and the underside was the toastiest at 87 degrees. All were well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Acer Swift 5 software and warranty
The Acer Swift 5 ships with Windows 10 Home and a somewhat unfortunate amount of bloatware. While I realize that this is how manufacturers manage to keep prices down on laptops, it is always a bit irritating to start fresh with a brand new laptop and have to spend some time emptying out the clutter.
The Acer Swift 5 is a joy to use. While it starts with the tremendous portability, the remarkable performance and flexibility with its touchscreen make it just a wonderful all-purpose laptop. The battery life is really just the icing on the cake; even when I left it away from the charger for a day, I had plenty of juice to spare.
The keyboard is probably my biggest complaint with the Swift 5; I just don’t like the condensed layout as it’s too prone to causing typing errors, which isn't acceptable given my line of work. However, I suspect I could adjust to it over time, and for many, it may not be an issue at all. If you are looking in this roughly $1,000 price range and value portability, the Swift 5 deserves to be near the top of your list.
Acer Swift 5 (2020) Specs
|Size||12.5 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches|
|Display||14 inches, 1080p|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-1065G7|
|GPU||Intel Iris Plus|
Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.