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Acer Swift 7 Review: Thin, but at what cost?

Acer was quick to shout about the fact that they had the thinnest laptop back in September when the Swift 7 launched, and to its credit, it has pretty much stayed the King of slim (bar niche devices like the YogaBook). But at what cost? It’s running a fanless Y series chip from Intel, and there is more flex in the body than I’d really like at this price, but read on to find out some more.

Disclaimer: Acer have sent us this Laptop to review. We used it for over 2 weeks as much as we possibly could. Acer provided this free of charge, but in no way have compensated us for our time, they have no bearing on the editorial outcome of this review.

Swift 7 Review

Specs – Swift 7

  • 13.3” 1920x1080p IPS non-touch display.
  • Intel Core i5-7Y54 (fanless)
  • 8GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 256GB SATA-III M.2 SSD
  • 4-Cell Lithium Polymer Battery (2770mAh)
  • 1.65kg
  • 9.98mm thickness

For more specifications, hit up the Acer product page here

Hardware – Swift 7

The Swift 7 is thin, very thin, and if you like gold laptops, it’s also kinda pretty. It has a black and gold design and Acer have managed to make this as tasteful as they could. The one thing I’d like to note about the Swift 7 up front though, is that although it is thin, it is not small; those are two very different things. The Swift 7 has the dimensions much closer to a 15” laptop than a 13” one, and comes no way near to what Dell have achieved.

Swift 7 Review

The Swift 7 is a metal laptop, and for the most part it seems sturdy, all but one part that is, the screen. The screen flexed a little when opening the laptop. Let that sink in a little. The process of opening the laptop, the activity you’ll be doing daily, the lid flexed whilst doing that. Worst of all, the Swift 7 arrived to me bent, and by that I mean when closed one edge didn’t actually stay closed. You can see the problem of such a thin laptop when the use of something like Aluminium, a nice metal, just isn’t strong enough, and it’d make sense if it being super light was the priority, but it isn’t. In fact the Swift 7 is much heavier than the slender profile would suggest. At 1.65kg, it’s just a bit lighter than the 15” Macbook Pro with Touchbar at 1.83kg. That is insane considering that has everything over this model; a bigger, brighter, nicer looking screen, a better keyboard, a much nicer trackpad (more on that later) much more horsepower and more ports. It’s just a little strange to me that you’d go for thin, but not also light, like the Yogabook at it is sub 700g mass at 9mm (ish) waistline.

Opening up the Swift 7 there is likely to be one of two things that hit you first; Wow, that’s really gold or Wow, that is a super wide touchpad.

Swift 7 Review

Both are equally relevant, but for me, the trackpad situation is much more interesting. This is a strange concoction from Synaptics’ labs and it is the ultrawide monitor of trackpads. It is essentially the same dimensions as a Huawei P10, it is probably around 30-50% wider than most laptop trackpads, and I wish I could like it because it seems like it could be cool for multi handed gestures. That is until you try to do a 4 finger gesture and realise just how unnatural it feels.

Then we get on to the fact that it is pretty much garbage as a trackpad in daily use. Despite the fact it is a “precision trackpad” it’s still terrible. Tracking is slow, scrolling took me literally a week of tweaking to get it tolerable, and the click and tap gestures just felt so off and I could never figure out why. It just goes to show you that just because something is a precision trackpad, it doesn’t make it a good trackpad, because honestly, the only trackpad I like less than this is the one on the YogaBook, and I hate that one because it is too small and basically not there. I just wish this one wasn’t here also.

Now I’ve ragged on that trackpad, what about the keyboard? Well honestly, it isn’t much better. On the plus side, the layout hasn’t been messed with too much, and the font isn’t stupid like some of the former Razer laptops, but once again, that’s pretty much it. It hasn’t got any backlighting, the keys wobble, and worst of all the travel is poor and the keys are mushy. I can get used to no travel, like with the YogaBook. I can even get used to little travel with audible feedback, like Apple’s new Butterfly (gen2) switches, but this? This I couldn’t get on with. I had to stop writing this review on the Swift 7 because the error rate was far too high and I’d spend more time editing the errors than I did writing the piece.

Mushy keys are hard to deal with, because you aren’t sure whether you’ve actuated a key or not because the feel of bottoming out just doesn’t feel the same, add in the short amount of travel and the fact there is almost no sound from it, it made it really hard to type on, and when I am more accurate with a keyboard that literally isn’t there and isn’t giving me any feedback (I turned off sounds and haptics on the YogaBook) compared to your keyboard that is, there is a problem there.

Swift 7 Review

Well how about we look sideways and check out the I/O. This’ll be fast, don’t worry. There are 2 USB-C ports, both of which can charge, only one of the two is able to transmit video though. There’s also a 3.5mm audio socket. That is it. The USB-C ports are awesome, and I don’t actually mind the lack of a Type-A port, as not only do Acer give you an A-to-C adaptor in the box, I already have a couple myself peppered around my bag, my work and my home, but if you didn’t have those, it might be a tad harder than for me. The Swift 7 is meant to come with a Type-C to HDMI adaptor, mine did not, but luckily I can’t remember the last time I had to use such a thing. If you do on a regular basis, it might be worth investing in a dongle or a Type-C cable with an HDMI jack on the other end.

USB-C really is great, fact. The fact that up to 100w of power can be transmitted via compatible cables means that if, like me, you have a USB-C enabled phone, you can head out with your phone and laptop, but only bring a single charger (I tend to bring the most powerful one as lower power ones can’t always charge a laptop, even slowly) and this is awesome. It can also be adapted to pretty much everything, so if you need HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-A, MicroUSB, MiniUSB, Ethernet etc. If you need it, there is likely a cable, and adaptor or a hub for it. Sure, whilst you’re making the transition the #DongleLife might not be the most convenient, but you’d be surprised how quickly that Type-C will take over even if you only have one device that needs it, because it is usually the main device, and once you buy the adaptor or cable or hub once, you already have it, and then you’re set. It’s a slight inconvenience at the start, but you’d be surprised at how quick you get over it.

Performance – Swift 7

This is probably not what Intel or Acer want to hear, but in my 2-3 weeks of testing, I honestly could barely tell a difference between my Intel Atom powered YogaBook that cost £500 or the Core M (sorry, “Core i5”) of the Swift 7 that cost over £1000. Let me put that into more perspective for you.

The YogaBook has a quad-Core Atom X5 Z8550, 4GB of RAM and 64gb of eMMC storage, notable for it’s slow responsiveness for an SSD and remarkably close to a mechanical drive in some cases. The Atom X5 Z8550 in the YogaBook costs roughly $27 according to Intel, But the “Core i5” 7Y54 in the Swift 7 costs a whopping $281.00 each! And they feel near identical for 90% of what I did on them.

The Problem is that the TDP of the 7Y54 is configurable, starting at 4.5w, it can go up to 7w or down to 3.5w, this means that the performance of the “Core i5” 7Y54 is very bursty, it can go remarkably fast, but only for a short amount of time, then in order to stay in its thermal envelope it’ll throttle itself down to a lower speed, until it is temperature cools down to a place where it can burst up once again. If you only do bursty workloads instead of sustained workloads the Swift 7 will feel mighty fast to you, the problem is, that Atom machine, that also feels plenty fast 90% of the time. The only time I felt a difference between them was when I tried to edit video on them, which isn’t going to happen often, because it was a terrible experience on both.

Well how about the SSD. The Swift 7 has an SSD, always a good start, and it’s an M.2 SSD, even better, sadly where it falls down is that it is a SATA-III SSD instead of a PCIe NVMe or even a PCIe AHCI SSD. SATA-III SSDs are still okay, but when you’re paying over £1000 for a laptop, you kind of expect the fastest storage you can buy, and there are laptops that are cheaper that have PCIe NVMe SSDs. I’ll throw in some benchmarks of the SSD below, but once again when you’ve got faster storage than the Yogabook, and I can still barely tell the difference, experience wise, something is up.

 

One thing I would like to touch on though is the impressiveness of the video decoding blocks in current Intel chips like Kaby Lake, and how well they work with parts of Windows 10. For example, the “Core i5” 7Y54 in the Swift 7 was able to play back 8K video from YouTube, without dropping a single frame. Granted I had to use Edge to do it, but the fact that this 7w maximum CPU can play 8K YouTube without dropping a single frame out of thousands is mightily impressive.

Swift 7 Review

Screen – Swift 7

The screen is somewhere that the Swift 7 doesn’t have an issue with. The Swift is a 13.3” 1920x1080p IPS non-touch display, and it’s pretty awesome. It’s not too high-resolution, and the viewing angles are okay. I wished the brightness was a little better and it got a little  brighter, but honestly I could live with it. The reflectivity was a bit higher than I’d like, but with a glossy screen, there is only so much you can mitigate.

13.3” though is on the upper end of what I personally am able to use without feeling burdened by. 15.6” is too big, even with the razor-thin bezels of the XPS 15 It feels too big and the 14” Razer Blade is about where I draw the line, but size wise, the screen is great, even if the body is not.

I do not have the tools to check the accuracy of the screen (though those are being considered, the Screen itself seems okay for somewhat colour accurate work, would I use this out of box if my job depended on it? Not, but there is no laptop I would use out of box if my life depended on it. Colours looks fine if slightly under saturated, and as I stated the brightness is a tad low, but the screen is not egregious, but at £1050, it really shouldn’t be.

weirdly, the glass covering the screen seems very happy to pick up finger oils from the edges of the trackpad and keys, meaning that whenever the screen is closed, the impressions find themselves back up on the screen rather easily, paired with how happy the screen is to flex, let’s just hope you’re not committing any major crimes whilst using this laptop.

Battery – Swift 7

Battery life is an area that once again didn’t come up to scratch compared to what Acer was touting. 9 hours of battery was more like 6 for me, and whilst that isn’t terrible, it’s still a third less than what they claim (though not quite as egregious as LGs 24 hour claim with the new Grams)

The battery life is likely helped by the use of a Y series SKU from intel (formerly known as Core M) but as I was saying earlier, this could have been helped by a different silicon choice, whether it be the Atom line up or the Celerons and Pentiums, but a fully fledged Y series SKU using actual Kaby Lake cores is not always the best choice.

I could very easily see a future version of the Swift 7 using a Snapdragon 835 processor, ARM chips like the 835 require even less power than the Core M i5 in the Swift 7, require less complex PCBs and less elaborate cooling, meaning more of the space can be used for actual batteries. Of course this product will be easily a year old by then and that would be a downgrade in theoretical performance as well, so Acer is unlikely to do that.

At least charging is nice and simple, using a USB-C charger that I believe is A USB-C Power Delivery charger, the Swift 7 chargers nice and swiftly (pun sort of intended) the 45w Type-C charger is using the different, higher voltage Type-C mode meaning normal USB-C Chargers can’t actually charge the swift 7, but the Swift 7 has undervolt etc to make itself charge things like Phones and tablets, which is a nice touch, so if you’re going out and can only bring one, bring the Swift 7 charger. Recharge times are relatively quick too, in the sub 2 hour mark but a little north of 90 minutes. Acer don’t advertise this as a type of rapid charging, but I would.

Conclusion – Swift 7

So would I buy the swift 7? Personally, no, and I’d have a very hard time recommending you do either unless you absolutely want the thinnest machine out there with a Core processor from Intel. It’s an expensive machine that flexes a lot, has a pretty crappy keyboard, battery life that is just okay, a horrendous webcam and has very little I/O out of the box (though you do get adaptors).

Swift 7 Review

Maybe at the £600-700 mark I’d consider recommending the Swift 7, as a competitor to the late and great UX305 from Asus, but at over £1000, I really cannot recommend anyone buy this machine.

Acer Swift 7

£936.45
Acer Swift 7
8

Build quality

8/10

    Screen

    9/10

      Battery Life

      9/10

        Performance

        9/10

          Value

          6/10

            Pros

            • Great Screen
            • Good performance
            • Type-C Charger

            Cons

            • Expensive for performance
            • Very flimsy
            • Horrendous keyboard and trackpad
            • SATA-III SSD is too slow for £1000
            • Y Series CPU was a poor choice

            About Domenico Lamberti

            Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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