Acer Swift 3 Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Aluminum construction; Strong, 8th-Gen Core performance

The Cons

Dim display; A ton of bloatware

Verdict

The Acer Swift 3's 8th-Gen Core CPU is impressive, but doesn't make up for a dark, bland display.

Acer is an early adopter of powerful, new technology with the Swift 3. Its $759 laptop is among the first we've reviewed with Intel's 8th-Gen Core CPUs, which are faster and more power- efficient than anything else on the market now. But beyond that, the Swift isn't a particularly special machine. Sure, it has a solid aluminum chassis, but its display is dark and bland and Acer packed the machine to the gills with bloatware. If you want 8th-Gen power now, you can get it, but there will be better machines coming down the pipeline.

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Design

If you took an encyclopedia and turned to the page for "laptop," you'd get a picture of the Acer Swift 3. It looks like a prop notebook for a TV show without a product placement deal. The silver lid and chassis are aluminum, which I appreciate, but no one is going to give this laptop a second look.

When you use the system, you'll open it to find a 15.6-inch, 1080p display, island-style keyboard, brushed aluminum deck and a fingerprint reader. The hinge is silver with the word "Swift" printed on it in capital letters.

One thing the Swift has going for it at4.4 pounds and just 0.7-inches thick, is that it's lighter and thinner than its competitors. The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 weighs 5.2 pounds and is 0.9-inches thick, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-57D4 is 5 pounds and 1.2 inches, and the Lenovo Flex 5 is 0.8-inches thick and 4.7 pounds.

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You'll get all of the ports you expect on the Swift, with an HDMI output, a USB Type-C port (that you can't charge over), a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack on the left side. On the right are an SD card slot, a USB 2.0 port and a Kensington lock slot.

Display

The Swift's display will leave you jamming on the button to increase the brightness, and the colors are just off. When I watched the trailer for Tomb Raider, the green trees in a jungle Lara Croft explores had leaves with a strange brown and yellow tint, and it was hard to see what was going on as she escaped a boat in a storm because the display was too dark. Acer's screen covers just 78 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's more vivid than the Inspiron (72 percent) but the average is higher (103 percent) and the Flex (133 percent) and Aspire (158 percent) offer more vivid hues.

The Swift 3 measured a dim 177 nits on our light meter, well below the mainstream average (258 nits) as well as the Flex (270 nits), Inspiron (213 nits) and Aspire (111 nits).

Keyboard and Touchpad

With just 1.2 millimeters of travel and 68 grams of actuation, the Swift 3's island-style keyboard feels soft. There's no punch to it at all, but the aluminum deck prevents flex. I typed at 106 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, just under my usual 107 wpm average, and I managed to maintain my usual 2 percent error rate.

The 4.2 x 3.0 inch touchpad is nice and spacious and responded to gestures, such as a three-finger tap to open Cortana, quickly and accurately.

Audio

The speakers on the Swift are nice and loud, though not precisely balanced. When I listened to Dua Lipa's "New Rules," the vocals overpowered the guitars, horns and drums, especially when I wasn't right in front of the computer.

There's no software included with the laptop to adjust the mix.

Performance

The Acer Swift 3 is the first laptop that we've tested featuring one of Intel's 8th-Gen Core processorss: a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-8250U. It also utilizes 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Like the 7th Gen before it, Intel's latest chip platform is more than enough for the average multitasker. I had 33 tabs open in Chrome, including one streaming a 1080p clip of "The Opposition with Jordan Klepper" from YouTube, without any hint of lag at all.

It notched a score of 12,755 on the Geekbench 4 synthetic performance test, beating the mainstream average (10,840) and soaring past the Flex (7,177, Core i5-7200U), Aspire (6,974, Core i5-7200U) and Inspiron (6,742, Core i5-7200U).

Thanks to its PCIe SSD, the Swift 3 copied 4.97GB of files in 11 seconds, or a blazing 462.7 megabytes per second. The average (241.3MBps) and the competition were all slower: the Flex (339 Mbps) came the closest, while the Aspire (195.7MBps) and Inspiron (83.4 MBps) fell way behind.

The Swift paired 20,000 names and numbers on the OpenOffice spreadsheet macro in 3 minutes and 51 seconds, far speedier than the average (4:24), Flex (4:40), Aspire (4:06) and Inspiron (4:03).

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It might even be able to handle very low-level gaming with its built-in UHD Graphics 620 chip. It played Dirt 3 at 60 frames per second (fps). The average is 95 fps, though that includes a bunch of laptops with discrete GPUs, like the Flex (GeForce 940MX, 75 fps). The Inspiron ran at 45 fps.

Battery Life

The Swift 3 won't quite get you through a work or school day. It lasted for 7 hours and 15 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which browses the web continuously over Wi-Fi. To be fair, that is longer than the mainstream average (6:13), the Flex (5:50) and Inspiron (a paltry 4:25), but the Aspire endured for 10:59, a whole day plus a commute in both directions.

Webcam

The 720p webcam on the Swift is dark, but sharp. In a picture I took at my desk, my navy-blue shirt appeared a deep black. I could see individual hairs on my head, but it was hard to see my beard because my face was swallowed by shadows.

 

MORE: Best Photo-Editing Software From Beginner to Pro

 

Heat

Acer's laptop stayed nice and cool during regular use. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, it measured 83 degrees Fahrenheit on both the underside of the chassis and the center of the keyboard, and the touchpad reached just 78 degrees.

Software and Warranty

Acer's unfortunate tradition of including a ton of software you don't need continues with the Swift 3. The laptop is packed with junk you'll want to scrape from your start menu, like eBay, Evernote, Priceline, Dashlane, Amazon, Netflix and WildTangent Games. Acer even had the gall to put two of them (Netflix and Priceline) in the taskbar, while eBay and Norton Security Scan have shortcuts on the desktop. Ew.

That's on top of the bloat that Microsoft includes with every installation of Windows 10, like Drawboard PDF, Keeper, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Bubble Witch 3 Saga, March of Empires: War of Lords and Plex.

MORE: How to Stream Video to Your TV From a Phone or Computer

Buried under all that is Acer's own software: abFiles and abPhoto, cloud-based solutions to transfer your files between devices.

Acer offers the Swift 3 with a one-year warranty. See how Acer did on our Best and Worst Brands ranking and Tech Support Showdown.

Configurations

The Swift 3 we reviewed costs $699.99 with a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD.

Acer still sells a variety of models with 7th-Gen processors directly and through stores (starting at $500 for a Core i3-7100U), but you likely won't see those for much longer, and you're not getting a deal for buying old tech.

Bottom Line

Sure, the Swift 3 is one of the first laptops out of the gate with an 8th-Gen Intel Core CPU. The overall performance is worth the money -- we tested it as being as much as 76 percent faster than last year's model. But that doesn't make it an instant buy.

The display is dim, the battery life is short and Acer has continually proven that it can't make a laptop without bloatware practically falling out of the display. Other laptops, like the Asus ZenBook UX330UA and Dell Inspiron 15 5000, have longer battery life and, in the case of the ZenBook, better displays.

Yet it's hard to recommend 7th-gen powered competitors, though, now that their processors are officially outdated. There are a few laptops with an 8th-Gen Core on the market now (we'll review those soon) and more will flood into stores by the end of the year. The Acer Swift 3 is a solid choice overall, but if you want the best possible performance and value, you may want to wait for other 8th-Gen laptops to come out.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag

CPU 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 8GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 256GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type M.2 PCIe 3.0 SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 1920 x 1080
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 620
Video Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model 802.11ac wireless LAN
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.2 x 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone/Mic
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) USB Type-C
Ports (excluding USB) SD card slot
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.1 with Type-C
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) USB 2.0
USB Ports
Card Slots SD memory reader
Warranty/Support 1-year limited warranty
Size 14.6 x 10 x 0.7 inches
Weight 4.4 pounds
Company Website acer.com
Add a comment
3 comments
  • SueSue Says:

    I bought one of the base models out of necessity, and you're not kidding with "The display is dim, the battery life is short and Acer has continually proven that it can't make a laptop without bloatware practically falling out of the display."


    The speakers on my base model sound tinny which is unfortunate. No matter I listen to, the speakers are not good.

    To say nothing of the bloatware (so true, the bloatware is pretty much falling out of it.)

    Battery life: 5 1/2 to just under 7 hours using Word, Excel and watching streaming tutorials and web browsing.

    On the plus side, It is solidly built, the RAM and the SSD are snappy. I use this mainly for Office 365 and light web surfing which is why I did not go with a more pricey machine.

  • Superguy Says:

    Is the memory soldered onto the motherboard, or does it have SO-DIMM socket(s)?

  • adamlee Says:

    Nice product it's really very good looking and better by other laptop.

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