Acer Swift 7 (2018) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Incredibly thin, attractive design; Bright, vivid display; Solid battery life; Surprisingly comfortable keyboard

The Cons

Not as fast as other ultraportables; Quiet speakers

Verdict

Acer recaptures the throne for the world's thinnest laptop while offering a vibrant display, comfortable keyboard and 4G LTE capability.

All hail the king! Acer's Swift 7 ($1,699) is officially the world's slimmest clamshell laptop, measuring just 0.35 inches thick. Somehow, Acer managed to fit a gorgeous, 14-inch display; a comfortable, full-size keyboard; and 4G LTE connectivity into that tiny frame. And despite having a thinner battery, the notebook squeezed out over 9 hours of battery life in our testing. But a few sacrifices had to be made at the altar of svelteness. For the Swift 7, it's a pair of weak speakers and a 7th Generation Intel Core processor that trails the fastest ultraportables.

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Design

Call it a weapon of slim destruction. Acer is clearly winning the fight for the thinnest notebook. Weighing 2.6 pounds and measuring 12.9 x 9.3 x 0.35 inches, the Swift 7 makes the HP Spectre 13 (2.4 pounds, 12 x 8.8 x 0.4 inches), LG Gram (2.2 pounds, 12.7 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches) and Huawei MateBook X Pro (2.9 pounds, 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches) look thick around the middle. However, when it comes to weight, the Swift 7 is a middleweight compared to its competitors.


The Swift 7's design is a marvel. Made of black CNC aluminum, the laptop is not only sleek but also surprisingly substantial. I didn't feel an innate urge to chuck it as I did with the Lenovo LaVie Z. Instead, I spent a significant amount of time admiring the exterior, with its nearly seamless construction.


Thanks to its fanless design, the notebook looks like a single piece of metal, with the exception of the rear hinges and the glittering chrome Acer logo on the lid. Speaking of those hinges, they enable the display to lie flat at a 180-degree angle.

Call it a weapon of slim destruction. Acer is clearly winning the fight for the thinnest notebook.

I particularly liked the Swift logo embossed at the back of the device and the way the bottom edges of the system thicken via an oh-so-delicate curve. Best of all, thanks to a special nano coating, the Swift 7 withstood the assault of my typically oily fingers, keeping a relatively pristine finish.


The laptop's interior is just as captivating. The deck is also made of cool-to-the-touch black aluminum. The island-style keyboard is enclosed in a modest recess toward the top of the deck and is flanked by a fingerprint scanner with a diamond-cut border.


It's a small, elegant touch that Acer employed on the touchpad and the display. My only gripe with the Swift's design is that the webcam is mounted in the bottom display bezel (more on that later).

Ports: Welcome to the dongle life

When you're working with a laptop as thin as the Swift 7, you're going to take a hit in the ports department. The Swift 7 has a pair of USB Type-C ports and a headset jack on its left side. On the right, there's a power button and the nano SIM slot.


So what does that mean for folks looking to connect a mouse or an external hard drive? Dongles, dongles and more dongles. In addition to its power cord, the Swift 7 ships with a multiuse dongle that has a USB 3.1 port, a USB Type-C port and HDMI.

Display

The Swift 7's svelteness doesn't stop at the chassis. The 14-inch IPS panel is only 0.8 inches thick, and it's topped with a 0.02-inch-thick pane of Corning Gorilla Glass. Acer has reduced the size of the top (0.38 inches) and side (0.36 inches) bezels, though they're not as thin as the Dell XPS 13's barely-there InfinityEdge bezels (0.2 inches). Still, I'm a fan of the vanishing-bezel trend.

Bezels aside, the Swift 7's 1920 x 1080 screen is bright and bursting with color. When I watched the Support the Girls trailer, Regina Hall's honey-brown skin glowed against her magenta top, while the sun played up the golden highlights in her hair. Details were crisp enough that I could make out individual strands of hair cascading in the sunlight.


The Swift 7's display can reproduce a whopping 143 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's more vivid than the 111 percent produced by the HP Spectre 13, the 128 percent from the LG Gram and the 124 percent from the Huawei MateBook X Pro , and also better than the premium-laptop average.

When we measured the Swift 7's brightness, it averaged 304 nits, which was just enough to top the 302-nit average and the Spectre 13's 247 nits. The Gram was a little brighter, at 307 nits, but the MateBook was the brightest of all, at 458 nits.


When used as a touch screen, the Swift 7's 10-finger capacitive panel is quick and responsive, keeping pace with my scribbles and doodles.

Audio

A thin chassis doesn't typically make for big sound, and the Swift is no exception. Mounted at the bottom of the notebook, toward the back, the Swift 7's pair of speakers are weak --  so weak, in fact, that they couldn't fill my relatively small bedroom, even with the Dolby Audio software. I had to turn off my air conditioner to really hear Jazmine Sullivan's "Let It Burn."

MORE: The Best Laptops for Business and Productivity

Once I made the required adjustments, the keyboard and synths were pretty clear, with punchy percussion. Sullivan's luscious alto poured out from the speakers, and yet I still felt like I had to get closer to really hear anything. In short, make sure you have a pair of headphones or a Bluetooth speaker handy when you're listening to music or watching movies on the Swift 7.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Fingerprint Scanner

Considering that the Swift 7 is so thin, I was expecting a rather uncomfortable typing experience, but I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the keys' 1 millimeter of key travel (1.5 to 2 mm is the minimum), their 71 grams of required actuation force (we consider 60 grams the minimum) helped to create a bouncy typing experience on the island-style keyboard. I hit my usual 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test. The white backlighting made typing in the dark pretty easy, since it sufficiently illuminated the text on the keys.


The most polarizing aspect of the Swift 7 is its Precision Touchpad. The 4.8 x 2.5-inch pad is pretty big and made of Gorilla Glass. My fingers had plenty of space to perform Windows multitouch gestures such as pinch to zoom and three- and four-finger swipe, and presses on the superwide space delivered a speedy, accurate response.

Considering that the Swift 7 is so thin, I was expecting a rather uncomfortable typing experience, but I was pleasantly surprised.

But outside of the touchpad's silky-smooth feel and size, I believe many people are going to take issue with the lack of a click. That's right; attempts to click on the bottom corners of the touchpad won't deliver the expected right or left mouse button functionality. Instead, I had to adjust to double-tapping to get the desired effect, and I still haven't figured out how to drag and drop.

Positioned along the left side of the keyboard, the fingerprint scanner lets you unlock your laptop using Windows Hello. Setup takes about a minute after you create a traditional password, and consists of repeatedly placing and lifting your finger on the scanner for approximately a minute.

Performance

As modern as the Swift 7's design is, its 7th Gen 1.3-GHz Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor is a little behind the times. Intel's Y-series chips are specifically built to accommodate fanless designs, but they tend to lack the power of regular U-series chips. It's a decision that puts this ultraportable at a disadvantage compared to its peers. Still, I had no issues when streaming an episode from the second season of Luke Cage with a Twitch stream playing in one of the 17 other Google Chrome tabs I had open while running Windows Defender.


The performance deficiency showed as soon as we began running synthetic benchmark tests. On Geekbench 4, which measures overall CPU performance, the Swift 7 scored 6,011, which is far below the 10,946 premium-laptop average. Armed with their 8th Gen 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8550U processors, the HP Spectre 13, the Huawei MateBook X Pro and the LG Gram achieved 13,090, 13,018 and 11,154, respectively. The Core i5 version of the Dell XPS 13 scored 13,254.

As modern as the Swift 7's design is, its 7th Gen 1.3-GHz Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor is a little behind the times.

On our productivity test, the Swift 7 took 3 minutes and 1 second to pair 65,000 names and addresses -- far longer than the 1:35 average. The MateBook completed the task in 1:49, the Gram took 1:19 and the XPS 13 finished in 1:15.

MORE: Which Laptop CPU is Right for You?

During the File Transfer test, the Swift 7's 256GB NVMe SSD copied 4.97GB of mixed-media content in 19 seconds, for a speed of 267.9 megabytes per second.  That's somewhat short of the 280.6-MBps average but still better than the Gram's (512GB M.2 SATA drive) 169.6 MBps. However, the MateBook and its 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD was faster, with a rate of 282.7 MBps. The XPS 13 hit 339.2 MBps, nearly tying the Spectre 13's 339.3 MBps.

Armed with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 615 GPU, the Swift 7 can play older titles such as BioShock Infinite. You can even play some Overwatch, but more graphically demanding titles, like The Witcher 3, are out of the system's reach. The svelte device delivered 31 frames per second on the Dirt 3 test, which is slightly above our 30-fps playability average but a long way from the 70-fps average as well as the frame rates from the Gram, the Spectre 13 (Intel HD Graphics 620) and the MateBook (Nvidia GeForce GTX MX140), which hit 50, 57 and 117 fps, respectively.

When we ran the 3DMark IceStorm Unlimited test, the Swift 7 obtained 55,870. That's not enough to match the Spectre 13 (75,114), the Gram (67,989), the category average (84,885) or the MateBook (116,359). The XPS 13 also scored higher than the Swift 7, at 77,584.

4G LTE

Ever been on a business trip when you needed to shoot off an important email, and the internet connection was incredibly spotty or nonexistent? Acer hopes to alleviate that pain point by adding a nano SIM slot so that the Swift 7 can have 4G LTE. And if you don't have a nano SIM card handy, you can use the laptop's embedded eSIM technology to get service via software.


In case you want to take the Swift 7 for a spin before you invest in another SIM card, Acer has teamed with mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Transatel for global cellular service. The laptop includes  a one-month free trial of up to 1GB, so you can get a taste of the out-of-the-box connectivity.

Battery Life

Because of the Swift 7's tiny dimensions, I wasn't expecting it to have good battery life, especially once I learned that the two-cell lithium-ion battery is 23-percent slimmer than standard laptop batteries. But the system lasted 9 hours and 4 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

The Acer outlasted the 8:41 premium-laptop average and the HP Spectre 13's 5:16, but both the Huawei MateBook X Pro and the LG Gram lasted longer, with runtimes of 9:55 and 10:46, respectively The Core i5-powered Dell XPS 13 lasted 12:37 with its 1080p nontouch screen and 8:53 with its 4K display and Core i7 CPU.

Heat

No fan, no problem. Thanks to Intel's ultra-low-power processor, the Swift 7 doesn't get particularly hot. In fact, after 15 minutes of streaming a full-screen HD video, the laptop was well within our 95-degree-Fahrenheit comfort threshold. The touchpad measured 79 degrees, while the middle of the keyboard and bottom registered 80 and 84 degrees, respectively.

Webcam

I can't even call the Swift 7's 720p integrated webcam a "nose cam," since it lacks the strategic angling of webcams on similarly skinny systems like the Dell XPS 13. Rather, the Swift has a torso cam, which cut my face out of the picture when I was sitting down but was positioned perfectly when I was lying down and typing in bed.


As for the actual photos, the color accuracy was on point, capturing the exact shade of blue of my bedroom walls and the varied gradients of wood in my headboard. The pictures were full of visual noise, which obscured fine details like the white flowers on my dress.

Software and Warranty

Acer preinstalled its usual suite of branded software, including Care Center, which lets you check system diagnostics and create and manage backups. You also get Quick Access, where you can enable or disable Bluelight Shield, which reduces blue light to protect your eyes, and Color Intelligence, which automatically optimizes the image quality based on what's displayed.

Thanks to Windows 10, there is a bit of bloatware on board here, such as Drawboard PDF, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Bubble Witch 3 Saga, Hidden City: Hidden Object Adventure and Dolby Access, which can enhance your headphone listening experience.

Bottom Line

In the battle for slim laptop supremacy, Acer has the industry's number. The Swift 7 offers a stunning touch-screen display, a comfortable typing experience and over 9 hours of battery life in a shockingly thin design that's lovely to behold and hold. However, for $1,699, I wish Acer had offered more performance oomph, as Intel's ultra-low-power Core i7-7Y75 CPU isn't as swift as the latest 8th Gen Kaby Lake processors.

For $1,499, you can get the Huawei MateBook X Pro, which offers better performance, a brighter display and longer battery life. However, that system is heavier and 42-percent thicker than Acer's slice of tech. Overall, mobile professionals searching for the absolute slimmest notebook in the land should definitely snatch up the Acer Swift 7.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Author Bio
Sherri L. Smith
Sherri L. Smith,
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.
Sherri L. Smith, on
CPU 1.3-GHz Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 8GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 256GB
Hard Drive Speed n/a
Hard Drive Type PCIe NVMe SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 14
Highest Available Resolution 1920 x 1280
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive None
Optical Drive Speed n/a
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 615
Video Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1
Mobile Broadband 4G LTE
Touchpad Size 4.8 x 2.5 inches
Ports (excluding USB) USB Type-C
Ports (excluding USB) Headset
Ports (excluding USB) Fingerprint Scanner
USB Ports 2
Card Slots nanoSIM
Warranty/Support 1 year limited warranty
Size 12.9 x 9.3 x 0.35 inches
Weight 2.6 pounds
Company Website www.acer.com
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