If you are thinking about buying a new laptop and don’t want to spend a ton of money on one (I know I don’t) but still wish to get an adequately-performing machine, we’ve got something far better and more impressive for you in the form of Acer Swift 3. This Acer machine is what could be considered a “budget laptop” at a price of $650 but you won’t know that by looking at its eight-core Ryzen 7 4800U CPU and its ability to perform on par with much more expensive machines (this for the SF314-42-R9YN sub-model, the one we will mainly be focusing on). Of course, there will be compromises and we will get into that but if you are looking for an inexpensive machine that has as much value as possible crammed into it, then look no further.
Obviously, if a cheaper laptop still manages to provide decent (or in this case, excellent) performance, other aspects of the machine would have to suffer. In this case, the laptop’s design is one of those aspects. On the outside, the machine looks dated – big bezels (especially the bottom one), chunky look, not-particularly-good-looking plastic finish, etc. The keyboard is fine – actually it’s pretty pleasant to type on it – the travelling distance of the keys is long enough so that it doesn’t feel awkward while typing. Despite the dated look, we cannot say that it is ugly, it just doesn’t look particularly stylish or slick (and it doesn’t need to).
However, what personally bothered me more was the touchpad. For starters, it isn’t centered and could sometimes get in the way, especially during typing. This isn’t as bad as some earlier Acer laptops but could still be a major annoyance at times. Also, the touchpad itself isn’t the most responsive we’ve seen – it isn’t as precise as that of other 2020 (or even older) laptops and the noise it makes when clicked is quite loud (it’s best to use the tap instead of the click if you are around sleeping people). One positive of the touchpad, though, is that it supports Windows Precision gestures. Still, it’s not a deal-breaker, it’s just a touchpad – unassuming and with some small design flaws that can be overlooked if you aren’t too nitpicky.
The display of Swift 3 is another drawback of this laptop. It is probably the biggest compromise made with this machine. For starters, it is a rather dim one, with only 233 nits of brightness, which is something you’d expect from a budget laptop from five years ago. To put it into perspective, the laptops from the Acer Aspire E 15 series that were released about five or so years ago and had even cheaper versions had about the same screen brightness. Currently, even the cheapest of laptops offer at least 300 nits. This certainly doesn’t make the machine unusable but you should be more picky with regard to environmental lighting when using Acer Swift 3 – if you are outside on a bright day, you might find it difficult to see everything on the screen.
Another issue with the display is that its colors are a bit off. This mostly stems from the fact that the display of Swift 3 simply doesn’t support as many colors as that of other modern laptops. This makes this machine ill-suited for photographers, designers, video editors, and other people who need a screen that accurately displays each color and nuance. The irony here is that Swift 3 can most certainly run all kinds of heavy, resource-intensive programs, that are oftentimes used by this type of users. Despite all this, however, if you aren’t particularly concerned with video or image-editing, the underwhelming screen of Acer Swift 3 should be more of an irritation that you only notice on certain specific occasions rather than a major problem.
Specs and performance
We know we’ve probably made this laptop look rather bad even for its price with all those complaints and nitpicks we pointed out but, to a large extent, this serves to further help the strengths of this machine stand out. In other words, here comes the good stuff.
Right off the bat, we must tell you about this laptop’s processor – this laptop has an impressive processor and this isn’t told from the perspective of comparing it to machines of a similar price range. Acer Swift 3’s processor fares well against the CPUs of way more expensive machines. We need to make something clear, however – as mentioned earlier, we are talking about the SF314-42-R9YN version of the Swift 3. This is the one that costs $650 and comes equipped with the Ryzen 7 4800U processor – the main reason behind the impressive performance capabilities of this laptop. 4800U offers eight cores to its users. For comparison, to get an octa-core CPU on a Mac laptop, you’d need to pay $2799 for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is the cheapest MacBook that is equipped with an eight-core processor. The fact of the matter is that octa-core processors are a rarity as a whole among laptops.
One nitpick we have with the Ryzen 7 4800U, however, is that the number of threads is also eight. Normally, to make a processor as efficient as possible, it is preferable to give it two threads for each core. However, despite this, the Ryzen 7 is still an impressive CPU, especially considering its lower price when comparing it to its Intel counterparts. Overall, you can expect high and reliable performance from this processor. The only other thing that can slow it down aside from the lower number of threads is that it is a 15-watt processor. This means that it simply cannot utilize as much power which somewhat limits its otherwise superb performance. However, the reason for this lower power-consumption is mainly due to the size of the Swift 3 laptop – this is a small laptop that simply cannot accommodate a CPU with a higher thermal design power.
Moving on to the RAM of Acer Swift 3, it comes with 8 gigabytes of it which may not be particularly impressive but, then again, for the price of $650 we’d say it is an adequate amount. The RAM technology is LPDDR4 which is known for reduced power consumption at the cost of reduced bandwidth. In other words, you won’t be able to run the latest games on their highest settings but you should still get a decent performance if you dial it down a bit. Besides, keep in mind that many higher-end laptops still don’t offer that much RAM and are instead equipped with only 4GB if you get their stock versions. Overall, there’s not much else to be said about the RAM of Swift 3 – it is average or maybe even a bit above average, considering its price range.
The next thing we’d like to talk about is the graphics card. It is an integrated AMD Radeon graphics card that provides decent performance but it is still important to remember that this isn’t a gaming GPU. Although integrated graphics cards have become significantly better over the years, you cannot expect the same level of performance from an integrated GPU compared to a dedicated one. The GPU of Swift 3 does a good job of running modern games from a couple of years ago at medium settings. Overall, you cannot expect Swift 3 to perform on the same level as a gaming laptop but it should still be a good option for moderate/non-competitive gaming.
In terms of storage, Acer Swift 3 comes equipped with 512GB of SSD which is actually quite impressive for a non-expensive laptop. Normally, to get this amount of SSD on most other laptops, you’d have to pay extra but here you have it with the stock version of the laptop.
All in all, we can say that, while the Swift 3 is definitely not a high-end machine, in many areas it performs (and sometimes even outperforms) laptops that are more expensive and advanced. If you are looking for a laptop that gives you the most value in terms of performance and under-the-hood characteristics, we believe that Acer Swift 3 could leave you pleasantly surprised.
We must not forget that we are reviewing a laptop and one of the main aspects of these machines is that they are portable and can be used without being connected to a power socket. Laptop battery life has always had room for improvement even on higher-end laptops. Acer claims that Swift 3 can last up to 11 hours which sounds quite impressive if you take it at face value – some of the best laptops out there cannot last that long. However, take this statement with a grain of salt because how long a laptop battery lasts largely depends on how you are using the machine. Those 11 hours have most likely been of very light use without any even remotely resource-intensive tasks. Therefore, a more realistic number would be something along the lines of 7 or 8 hours of light browsing and around 6 hours of moderate use. These last numbers can be a bit unimpressive, especially if you are looking for a laptop with a battery that will last you through a whole day’s work. However, to give you the premium performance Swift 3 offers, Acer needed to make compromises somewhere and the battery life is yet another such aspect. Nevertheless, if you are like me and don’t use your laptop on battery most of the time and only need the battery on rare occasions, then this shouldn’t be such a big deal.
We liked the variety of ports that Acer Swift 3 offers, especially considering its smaller size. You get one USB-C and two USB-A ports as well as an HDMI port. The power-cable port is separate so you cannot power the laptop through the USB-C port which some might see as a drawback. Another possible disadvantage of the ports is that the USB-C one doesn’t come with Thunderbolt 3 support. Despite the few cons regarding the ports of Swift 3, we were actually quite pleased with the variety, especially with the fact that there is an HDMI port on such a small laptop.
Bloatware is something to be expected pretty much every time you buy a new computer or smartphone. Bloatware is the different pre-installed apps and programs that come with the device and that are most of the time unneeded or outright unwanted. With the Swift 3, there’s quite a lot of bloatware when you first get the laptop – a VPN service, a pre-installed antivirus some users may prefer to replace, and even some games (no, not the cool type of games). The good news is that none of those are difficult to remove so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to get rid of anything that you consider a waste of space.
Acer Swift 3 is a laptop that proves that it isn’t necessary to spend a whole lot of money to get a machine that has an above-than-average performance. It’s Ryzen 7 processor with eight cores, its decent GPU, and its 8GB of RAM give you a satisfying amount of speed and power and enable you to run all kinds of heavy programs and resource-intensive games without experiencing performance issues unless you really try to push the laptop to its limits. However, since this machine comes at quite an affordable price, compromises must be made with various other aspects – the display of Swift 3 is below average, it’s touchpad isn’t particularly great, and its battery is mediocre. However, all those things can be forgiven and, at least in our opinion, are not deal-breakers considering that the performance of Acer Swift 3 is on par with machines that cost at least twice as much.
In conclusion, if you are on a budget but want to experience the enjoyment of working on a high-performing laptop and can put up with certain necessary drawbacks in other areas that come with that, then Acer Swift 3 is likely to leave you quite satisfied.