Acer Swift 5 review: A decent ultrabook at an affordable price

acer-swift-5-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $768.08

Pros

  • Competitive price
  • Lightweight, slimline design
  • Full HD display (1,920 x 1,080)
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Plastic casing
  • Display contrast could be better
  • Weak speakers

Given the distinctly MacBook-like look and feel of many Windows ultraportables, we were pleased to see that Acer's new Swift 5 manages to make a more individual design statement -- while still keeping its prices attractively competitive.

Even better is the fact that the Swift 5 pulls off the difficult balancing act of delivering affordable ultrabook functionality -- including good performance and portability -- without making too many compromises.

acer-swift-5-main.jpg

Acer's 14-inch Swift 5 weighs about the same as a 13-inch MacBook Air, but doesn't channel Apple's industrial design.

Images: Acer

Bigger on the inside

Acer's boast is that the Swift 5 manages to squeeze a 14-inch screen into a 13-inch laptop, and it has certainly done a good job of streamlining the laptop's design. Eschewing the tear-drop profile that manufacturers often borrow from Apple, the Swift 5 is a uniform 14.6mm thick from front to back, while its width of 330mm and depth of 228mm are virtually identical to my own 13-inch MacBook Air. The weight is similar too, at just 1.36kg, and it's no trouble at all to pick up the Swift 5 in one hand and carry it around like a notepad.

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The Core i5-based Swift 5 offers two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C connector and an HDMI port.

Images: Acer

Build quality is good for a laptop costing barely £700. Admittedly, the matte-black casing of our review unit was made of plastic, which simply doesn't feel as classy as aluminium, but it's still solid enough to cope with life in a briefcase or backpack. Our only minor complaint is that the screen panel -- just 4mm thick -- flexes a little more than we might have liked. Acer's website actually states that the Swift 5 has 'a stylish metal cover' -- but with sneaky small print that states 'specifications may vary depending on region', and it seems that the UK just gets the plastic version.

That's our only criticism, though, and we found the keyboard firm and comfortable when typing, while the trackpad makes a nice, satisfying click when you press down on it. Low-cost laptops will often compromise on screen resolution and quality, but the 14-inch IPS screen of the Swift 5 provides full HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (157.35ppi), with a bright, clear image and good viewing angles that will work well if you need to give an impromptu presentation when you're travelling. Some of the colours can appear a little harsh at times, suggesting that the contrast levels could be fine-tuned a bit, but the display is still very respectable for a laptop in this price range.

acer-swift-5-keyboard.jpg

The Swift 5's backlit keyboard and trackpad are both beyond reproach.

Image: Acer

Connectivity is also good for an ultraportable, with two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C, HDMI for an external display, a 3.5mm headphone socket and SD card slot. Acer's website does contain a number of inaccuracies, though (or should we call them 'alternative facts'?), so it's worth double-checking the specification and pricing of the various models before buying.

Swift by name

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Prices for the Swift 5 range start at just £699.99 (inc. VAT) for the model reviewed here (£583.32 ex. VAT, or $749.99 in the US), which includes a dual-core Core i5-7200U processor running at 2.5GHz (up to 3.1GHz with TurboBoost), along with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage. Acer doesn't go out of its way to provide many build-to-order options, so the next step up is simply to pay an extra £100 for a 2.7GHz Core i7 processor, while a further £100 will double the storage to 512GB as well.

There is another model called the Swift 7 coming soon, but that's a premium ultrabook with a 13-inch display and price tag closer to £1000 (inc. VAT; £833.33 ex. VAT, or $1,100). Alternatively, if you're on a really tight budget, then Acer reverts back to Apple mode for the budget-price Swift 3, which is a Core i3-based MacBook Air clone starting at a very modest £450 (inc. VAT; £375 ex. VAT, or $550 in the US).

Performance for this Core i5 model is good though, and more than adequate for running Microsoft Office and other business applications. The Swift 5 achieved single and multi-processor scores of 3,760 and 7,200 when running the Geekbench 4 benchmark -- just a few points adrift of the Core i7 processor used in the more expensive ASUS ZenBook UX330UA. In fact, the Swift 5 benefits from Intel's integrated HD 620 graphics and actually outguns the HD 520 of the ZenBook on graphics performance, hitting a very respectable 43.6fps when running Cinebench R15, compared to 38.3fps for the ZenBook. It'll certainly be able to handle simple graphics and video-editing for presentations, and maybe even a spot of casual, off-duty gaming too. The speakers sound rather thin and tinny, though, so a set of headphones or external speakers will come in handy for both presentations and entertainment.

If there's a weak spot here it lies in the Swift's solid-state drive, which is relatively modest by SSD standards, achieving read and write speeds of 559MB/s and 512MB/s when running the ATTO disk benchmarks. Even so, that's still much faster than a conventional hard drive, and the Swift 5 boots into Windows 10 and is ready to start work in just 10 seconds.

You'll have no trouble getting a full day's work out of the Swift 5 either. Admittedly, Acer's claim of 'up to 13 hours' for battery life is rather optimistic, but we still got a full 8.5 hours when streaming video from the BBC iPlayer, and less intensive use should allow to you ease past the nine-hour mark without too much trouble. That's hardly record-breaking, but it's good going for a laptop costing just £700.

And that pretty much sums up the Swift 5. There's nothing eye-catching or outstanding about its design, but it provides a good all-round combination of performance, portability, and battery life at a very competitive price, and will make a good travelling laptop for business users who don't want to pay premium ultrabook prices.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i5 (7th Gen) 7200U / 2.5 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 3.1 GHz
Number of Cores Dual-Core
Cache 3 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Features Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Cache Memory
Installed Size 3 MB
RAM
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 8 GB
Storage
Interface Serial ATA-600
Memory
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Widescreen Display Yes
Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
Monitor Features CineCrystal, glare
Type LED
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 35.6 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation Full HD
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 620
Memory Allocation Technology shared video memory (UMA)
Integrated Webcam Yes
Sound Stereo speakers, microphone
Features Acer TrueHarmony technology
Hard Drive
Type SSD
SSD Form Factor M.2 2280
Capacity 256 GB
Input
Type keyboard, touchpad
Localization & Layout US International
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Wireless Controller M.2 Card
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Processor
Type Core i5
Processor Number i5-7200U
Generation 7
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 2.5 GHz
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory SD Memory Card
Battery
Technology 3-cell lithium polymer
Capacity 4670 mAh
Cells 3-cell
Technology lithium polymer
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 45 Watt, 19 V
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces HDMI
USB 3.0
USB-C
Headphone/microphone combo jack
USB 3.0 port with power-off charging
Memory Card Reader Yes (SD Card)
Header
Brand Acer
Product Line Acer Swift 5
Model SF514-51-54T8
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.1, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Interface (Bus) Type M.2 Card
Miscellaneous
Color obsidian black
Case Material metal
Security Fingerprint reader
Features MU-MIMO technology
Included Accessories power adapter
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 256 GB
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Monitor
Diagonal Size 14 in
Image Brightness 300
Dimensions & Weight
Width 12.9 in
Depth 9 in
Height 0.6 in
Audio Output
Compliant Standards Dolby Audio
Physical Characteristics
Weight 3 lbs
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Windows 10 Home 64-bit Edition
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 620
Graphics Processor Series Intel HD Graphics
Video Memory
Memory Allocation Technology shared video memory (UMA)
Notebook Camera
Integrated Webcam Yes
Input Device
Backlight Yes

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Reviews

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Acer Swift 5

Part Number: NX.GLDAA.001

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