Your midrange laptop doesn't need to be junky plastic. The Acer Swift 3 ($499.99 to start, $649.99 as tested) proves that with its sleek aluminum chassis. But this affordable laptop is more than just another shiny face -- it also offers solid performance. It's not all premium, though: It still screams "budget," thanks to its dim display, its shallow keyboard and a mess of bloatware. That leaves the Swift 3 hanging between two worlds with the display and keyboard of a cheap notebook but the looks and performance of a premium one.
With its light-gray, brushed finish, the Swift 3 is about as generic-looking as a laptop gets. It's not ugly, just plain. On the bright side, it's made of aluminum, but the overall look has been done quite often. Acer's logo adorns the lid in silver. With the lid open, the 14-inch display is surrounded by a thick, black bezel. You'll also find an island-style keyboard, an aluminum deck and a fingerprint reader.
At 3.6 pounds and 13.3 x 9.2 x 0.7 inches, the Swift 3 is the average size and weight for an ultraportable. It's slightly larger than the 13-inch Asus ZenBook UX330UA (2.7 pounds, 12.7 x 8.7 x 0.5 inches) and the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 (3.6 pounds, 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.8 inches), but smaller than the 15-inch Acer Aspire E 15 (5 pounds, 15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches).
The 14-inch, 1080p screen on the Swift 3 isn't as bright or as vivid as we'd like. It averaged 244 nits, which isn't as luminous as the average for ultraportables (280 nits) or the ZenBook (286 nits). However, it's brighter than the Inspiron (223 nits) and the Aspire (211 nits). When I watched the trailer for Marvel's Inhumans, Medusa's red hair appeared orange, but I could make out all of Lockjaw's fur. I was disappointed when I tried to increase the brightness, only to find I had already maxed it out.
The panel covers just 81 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is below the 99 percent average for ultraportables, the ZenBook (106 percent) and the Aspire (158 percent). But it still shows off more hues than the Inspiron (71 percent).
Those colors aren't all that precise, though. It has a Delta-E color accuracy score of 5.6 (0 is ideal), which is far worse than the average (2.7), the Inspiron (1.3), the ZenBook (1.1) and the Aspire (0.2).
Keyboard and Touchpad
With just 1.2 millimeters of travel, the Swift 3's keys feel shallow. When you combine that with the 69 grams of pressure required to actuate the keys, they felt bouncy. This led me to make more typos than usual, even if I didn't slow down at all. I hit my usual 107 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, but with a 5 percent error rate instead of my usual 2 percent.
The 4.1 x 3.1-inch touchpad is smooth and accurate, but it felt mushy when I used it to click. Still, it was responsive to gestures such as swiping up three fingers to create a new desktop or tapping four fingers to reveal the Action Center.
The Swift 3's speakers are a truly mixed bag. For starters, they're just barely loud enough, hardly filling up a midsize conference room when I listened to Linkin Park's "Leave Out All The Rest." There was a good mix of guitar, keys, drums and vocals. However, as on many midrange laptops, the bass was almost nonexistent. On some of the louder hooks, though, especially during screamier vocals, the sound had a few echoes.
The Swift 3 is packed with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. That's enough for some simple multitasking. I had 30 tabs open in Chrome, one of which was streaming a 1080p trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, and I didn't notice any lag.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Swift 3 earned a score of 7,242. That surpassed not only the ultraportable average (6,652) but the ZenBook (7,182), the Aspire (6,974) and the Inspiron (6,759), all of which were tested with the same Core i5-7200U CPU.
The Swift 3 took 31 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of mixed media files, for a rate of 164 megabytes per second. That's slower than the average (214.9 MBps) and the Aspire (195.7 MBps), but speedier than the ZenBook (159 MBps) and the Inspiron (a paltry 32.4 MBps).
It took 4 minutes and 2 seconds for the Swift 3 to pair 20,000 names and numbers in our OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, beating the average of 6:01. The Inspiron was a second faster (4:01), and both the ZenBook (4:03) and the Aspire (4:06) were just a bit slower.
While you won't be playing intense games such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on the Swift 3, its integrated graphics aren't half bad. It played Dirt 3 at 54 frames per second, beating the average (39 fps), the ZenBook (33 fps) and the Inspiron (20 fps). (We consider anything under 30 fps unplayable.)
The Swift 3 will get you through a day of work or school without issue. It lasted 8 hours and 31 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which continuously browses the web over Wi-Fi. That's just a few minutes over the 8:23 ultraportable average and longer than the Inspiron's runtime (6:09). But both the ZenBook (10:17) and the Aspire (10:59) endured far longer.
The Swift 3's 720p webcam is pretty average for a midrange notebook. The colors were accurate, catching the royal blue and white stripes on my navy-blue shirt, but the picture was on the dark side. And although some details (like my hair) were sharp, others (like my shirt's fabric) were not.
The Swift 3 stayed nice and cool after streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube. It measured 92 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 90 degrees at the center of the keyboard and 82 degrees on the touchpad. All of those temperatures fall below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
Unfortunately, the Swift 3 is part of a long line of Acer laptops that are filled with unnecessary bloatware. The task bar and app drawer include sponsored links to Priceline, eBay, Amazon, Mozilla Firefox, Netflix, Kindle, Keeper password manager, Dashlane (another password manager), WildTangent Games, Phototastic Collage and Music Maker Jam.
Acer also includes a few of its own useful programs, including abFiles and abPhotos to access your content from any connected device via the cloud, and Quick Access to activate features such as Bluelight Shield for nighttime work.
Beyond that, there's the bloat that comes with every Windows 10 machine, like Candy Crush Soda Saga, March of Empires: War of Lords, Twitter and Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition. Acer sells the Swift 3 with a one-year warranty. See how Acer performed in our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.
The Acer Swift 3 we reviewed costs $649 and comes with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
The $499 base model uses a Core i3-7100U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, while the $799 top-shelf configuration has a Core i7-7500U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Acer offers a variety of configurations between the two extremes.
The Acer Swift 3 is a decent midrange laptop with solid construction and strong performance. But its keyboard is shallow, and its display is dim and bland. On top of that, Acer's giant pile of bloatware evokes an experience usually only found on bargain-bin laptops.
For $49 less, the Asus ZenBook UX330UA offers a bright, colorful display and an hour and 46 minutes more battery life. Unfortunately, that notebook also has way too much bloatware.
However, if you're looking for an affordable laptop with solid performance and more than 8 hours of battery life, the Swift 3 should definitely be on your radar.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/ Laptop Mag