Last month, we published an article about Windows laptops that don’t suck. Among those choices was the Acer Swift 3, and the company hit me up about a review shortly after. Not only does this laptop not suck, but it’s an all around killer Windows machine for the price.
For reference, I’m a longtime Chromebook devotee and have historically not been the biggest fan of Windows laptops (mostly because of the awful touchpads). That changed earlier this year when I picked up the Surface Laptop 3, which is the best Windows laptop I’ve ever used. Everything is about it is excellent. But it’s also $1800 as configured (i7, 16GB RAM, etc.).
By contrast, the Swift 3 packs a Ryzen chip and just 8GB of RAM. But even at a third of the price, this thing is about 80% as good as my Surface Laptop 3. The performance is there. The screen is good. Battery life is excellent. The keyboard and touchpad are both great. The build quality and materials aren’t quite as robust, but it’s great in nearly every way that truly matters.
Specs as Reviewed:
- Display: 14-inch 1920×1080 IPS (non-touch)
- CPU: Octa-Core AMD Ryzen 7 4700U @ 2 GHz
- RAM: 8 GB LPDDR4
- Storage: 512 GB SSD
- Ports: 1x USB-C (data + charging), 1x HDMI, 2x USB-A, headphone jack, proprietary charging, Kensington lock
- Biometrics: Fingerprint reader for Windows Hello
- Connectivity: 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0
- Dimensions: 0.71 x 8.6 x 12.7 inches
- Weight: 2.65 lbs
- MSRP: $649
Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop, 14" Full HD IPS, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Octa-Core with Radeon Graphics, 8GB LPDDR4, 512GB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6, Backlit KB, Fingerprint Reader, Alexa Built-in
Thin, light, and fast. Pick three.
Design and Build Quality: Good Enough
A laptop is a laptop, right? Unless it’s a “gaming” laptop, most of these bad boys just … look the same. The Swift 3 is an unassuming silver slab, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It has an “aluminum and magnesium-aluminum chassis” according to Acer, which … okay then. I guess I can tell that parts of it are aluminum, but the bulk of it just feels like plastic to me. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it just doesn’t have that robustness that I’ve felt with other laptops. But as long as you’re not using it to play baseball or whatever, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
The touchpad and backlit keyboard use a matching silver as the rest of the laptop, which I find to be a nice touch—it’s classy. The keyboard is actually one of the high points of this machine’s design to me because it’s a pleasure to type on. The keys have a little more travel than I’m used to with my Pixelbook and Surface Laptop 3, but a little less than the Logitech MX Keys I use at my desk. It’s a really nice middle ground that I genuinely enjoy.
The layout, on the other hand, is a little less fantastic. The arrow keys and page up/down buttons are crammed all up on each other, which is hell on muscle memory. I use keyboard shortcuts a lot—like Win+CTRL+L/R arrow to switch between virtual desktops—and found myself hitting the page up/down keys accidentally often. If you’re not an arrow key maniac, however, you might not even notice.
The Swift 3 also has a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello authentication, which is just below the keyboard on the right side. It’s easy enough to set up and use—no complaints here. It worked well for me about 90% of the time, with the occasional fluke where it couldn’t read my fingerprint on the first try. A quick lift of the finger fixed that.
The touchpad is another high point for the Swift 3. As I stated earlier, I’ve historically hated the touchpads on Windows laptops. Even after Precision Touchpad Drivers became a thing, I still didn’t have a good experience with Windows touchpads. The Surface Laptop 3 changed that for me, and I’m pleased to report that the Swift 3’s touchpad is almost as good. It’s a little undersized compared to other modern laptops, but it works well, has decent palm rejection, and doesn’t make me want to throw the laptop out of a moving car. I call that a win.
Round the outsides of this here lappy-lappy (I’m sorry), you’ll find all the ports and junk. The left side houses the proprietary charging, single USB-C, HDMI, and USB-A 3.0 ports. The right side has the headphone jack, USB-A 2.0 port, and Kensington lock. The USB-C port also serves as a quick charge port, so you can toss the proprietary charger into a drawer and live your best one-charger life, thankfully. It’s also nice to see full USB-A and HDMI support on a laptop this light and thin.
It’s also worth noting that the laptop’s vents are on the bottom. This may not be an issue for the majority of people, but I’m a huge fan of Moft laptop stands, which unfortunately will block the vents on this machine. Huge bummer.
Display and Performance: Alright Alright Alright
Looking at the Swift 3’s display specs on paper, I didn’t really expect much. A 1080p IPS panel? Yeah, nothing to write home about. And really, I was right—it’s a solid all around display, but it’s nothing exceptional. Then again, that’s really the story of this laptop, isn’t it? A great all-around machine that gets everything right for its price point. Winner-winner chicken dinner.
The display fits the machine’s modus operandi. It’s non-touch, but this is a true laptop—not a convertible like most are these days (the display does lie flat if you need that for some reason though).
Overall, it’s sharp enough. Colors look good enough. The resolution? It’s good enough, too. I tend to run 1080p displays of this size at 100% scaling, which works well for my workflow. Again, no complaints.
Since the Swift’s display is non-touch and IPS, it’s matte. I love matte displays. They lose a bit of vibrance compared to their glossy counterparts, but they also aren’t reflective. That’s a tradeoff I’d take almost any day of the week.
When it comes to performance, Acer really nailed it. The Ryzen 7 chip in the machine hasn’t left me wanting at all. I’ve been using this as a work machine for the first half of my day since I got it, which means 3-5 programs open—Slack, a photo editor, etc.—and dozens of Chrome tabs across two open windows. I’ve felt it when I start to get to the upper threshold of the RAM, but otherwise, this machine hasn’t slowed down at all.
And really, that’s what it comes down to: If I could change one thing about this laptop, I’d add an additional 8 GB of RAM (to bring it up to 16 GB). With that, it would be a great general use machine for just about anyone who doesn’t need the processing power required for extensive video editing or gaming. Unfortunately, it looks like the RAM is soldered to the board, so a user upgrade is out of the question. Bummer.
The Ryzen chip also seems to be stupid efficient on battery life—especially when idle. This is an area where the Intel chips in my Pixelbook and Surface Laptop 3 both seem to struggle, but it hasn’t been a problem for the Swift 3’s Ryzen 7. It’s a highly efficient processor.
In our battery tests—which consists of a 10+ hour YouTube video played at 50 percent brightness and audio, along with a handful of other tabs and simple background tasks (like Slack)—the Swift 3 got 8 hours and 15 minutes before suspending itself with 5 percent remaining. Not great, but far from awful. Very usable.
Conclusion: All the Right Compromises
The Acer Swift 3 gets it right where it matters. At $650, there are compromises here, but they’re all smart compromises. Between the light weight, excellent battery life, and exceptional performance for the specs, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better machine for the price (or even a couple hundred over).
If you want an excellent machine that won’t break the bank, this is it.
Here’s What We Like
- Killer value
- Peppy performance
- Solid battery life
And What We Don't
- Only 8 GB of RAM
- Cramped arrow and page keys