With its slim profile and featherweight form factor, the Acer Swift 3 deftly balances size, power, functionality and price. Retailing for $700 and weighing in at about two and a half pounds, the Swift 3 is an enticingly affordable quad-core laptop. While its Ice Lake performance is decidedly middle of the road, it stands toe-to-toe with its competitors without the usual roar of cooling fans. The inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port is a nice bonus given the Swift 3’s price range, although the IPS display is on the dim side.

Configuration

Acer offers a wide variety of Swift 3 laptops in 15.6-inch, 14-inch, and 13.3-inch configurations, along with Core i3, i5, and i7 models ranging from 8th-gen Kaby Lake all the way to 10th-gen Ice Lake (not to mention a single AMD Ryzen 5 version). At the lower end of the Swift 3 spectrum you’ll find a 14-inch Core i3 Kaby Lake configuration with a stingy 4GB of RAM and 128GB of solid-state storage for $480. On the upper end sits a 14-inch Core i7 Whiskey Lake system with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics for $1,000.

The $700 (or $650 at your local MicroCenter) Ice Lake model we’re reviewing sits in the upper third of the Swift 3 range:

  • CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5-1035G1U Ice Lake processor
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics G1
  • Display: 14-inch 1920×1080 full-HP IPS non-touch
  • Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with 2×2 MU-MIMO
  • Dimensions: 12.58 x 8.54 x 0.63 inches
  • Weight: 2.51 pounds (without power brick), 3.46 pounds (with power brick)

This looks like a solid configuration at first glance, with that bright and shiny 10th-gen Ice Lake CPU certainly getting our attention. We’re also enticed by the roomy solid-state drive, while the Wi-Fi 6 radio means that this Swift 3 will be ready the moment you upgrade to a speedier, cutting-edge wireless router. The 8GB of low-power DDR4 RAM is fairly standard for a laptop in this price range (although 16GB would have been a nice bonus). The integrated UHD Graphics G1 core represents (as we’ll soon see) a substantial step up from Whiskey Lake’s integrated UHD 620 graphics, while still falling short of full-on discrete graphics performance.

As far as the Swift 3’s Ice Lake processor goes, you’ll have to temper your expectations. In our initial Ice Lake tests, we saw the CPU scoring high marks when it came to video encoding and other CPU-intensive tasks, but that’ll only happen if the manufacturer gives the chip free rein. A relatively thin, light, and inexpensive laptop like the Swift 3 won’t have the same cooling prowess as, say, a $1,500 or $2,000 laptop, so we’d expect Acer to dial down the performance of the Swift’s Ice Lake chip somewhat as a heat-management measure.

Design

As far as looks go, our steel-gray Swift 3 review unit is, well, a bit on the dull side, with a perfectly flat and featureless aluminum lid (save for the Acer logo in the middle), a sturdy hinge with the “Swift” brand engraved in the middle (subtle but stylish), and a pair of rear vents that are only exposed when the lid is open. In other words, nothing about the Swift 3 would particularly stand out on the shelf of your favorite big-box store.

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acer swift 3 sf314 57 57bn shell Ben Patterson/IDG

The Acer Swift 3’s design might be on the pedestrian side, but there’s no arguing with its pleasingly slim and light design.

That said, you’ll probably forgive the Swift 3’s pedestrian design once you pick it up and feel how light it is. Weighing just a hair over two and a half pounds (or nearly three and a half pounds if you count the power brick) and measuring a svelte 0.63 inches thick, the Swift 3 felt great in my hands. Toting it around in my pack for the day didn’t throw my back out of joint.

Beyond that, the only other design element of the Swift 3 worth mentioning (besides its display bezels, which we’ll cover momentarily) is the wide notch on the front edge of the laptop, which makes the lid a little easier to pry open.



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