Acer Swift 3 (2021) Review

The Acer Swift 3 was an ultraportable notebook with a 13.5-inch display with a boxy 3:2 aspect ratio that made us declare it was fashionable to be square when we last saw it in July 2020. The Swift 3 2021 (starts at $749.99; $999.99 as tested) reverts to a 14-inch screen with the more popular and rectangular 16:9 ratio, leaving us yearning for last year’s taller perspective and decreased scrolling. There’s a lot to like about the new Swift 3, from its all-metal design and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity to its luxuriously long battery life and fair pricing, providing you don’t mind the bigger display (or specifically want it because you watch a lot of movies on your laptop). The Dell XPS 13 with its fantastic 16:10 display, on the other hand, remains our Editors’ Choice ultraportable.

Acer Swift 3 (2021) Review

Acer Swift 3 (2021)

Sleek and spiffy, but a step backward in screen design
PROS
Excellent battery life
Thunderbolt 4 support in an all-metal chassis

CONS
The 16:9 aspect ratio feels claustrophobic.
The webcam isn’t up to par.

ACER SWIFT 3 (2021) SPECS

Laptop ClassUltraportable
ProcessorIntel Core i7-1165G7
Processor Speed2.8 GHz
RAM (as Tested)16 GB
Boot Drive TypeSSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)512 GB
Screen Size14 inches
Native Display Resolution1,920 by 1,080
Touch ScreenNo
Panel TechnologyIPS
Variable Refresh SupportNone
Screen Refresh Rate60 Hz
Graphics ProcessorIntel Iris Xe Graphics
Wireless Networking802.11ax, Bluetooth
Dimensions (HWD)0.63 by 12.7 by 8.4 inches
Weight2.71 lbs
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)16:47

Silver, sleek, and sturdy

With an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive, the 14-inch Swift 3 starts at $699.99. Our $999.99 test setup includes a Core i7 processor and double the RAM. While having a 512GB SSD in the base model is nice (256GB is getting a little tight these days), it makes the $300 upgrade less enticing because you don’t receive any more capacity. All models have a non-touch display with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080-pixels and a 16:9 aspect ratio.

The Swift 3 is a silver study. The silver lid, silver keyboard deck with silver keys, and silver bottom panel distinguish the all-aluminum chassis. The matte black plastic bezels that frame the display are the only elements of the laptop that aren’t silver. It all adds up to a simple, one-note aesthetic that works well in both a boardroom and a coffee shop.

The metal chassis is very sturdy. The keyboard deck is sturdy, and the lid is rigid, providing good protection for the display. The chassis has very little flex, and the display hinge is devoid of screen wobble. Because of the difference in screen aspect ratio, this Swift 3 is broader and shallower than the Swift 3 model we reviewed last year, measuring 0.63 by 12.7 by 8.4 inches and weighing 2.71 pounds. The machine is little heavier this year than last year’s 2.62-pound model, but it is still incredibly portable (and lighter than the 2.8-pound Dell XPS 13).

The keyboard is pleasant to use, with shallow travel that makes the keys seem snappy and responsive without being as stiff as an older MacBook “butterfly” keyboard. The smallest disadvantage is the cursor arrow keys’ small size: Because Acer squeezed in Page Up and Page Down keys above them, the up and down arrows share a single key, and the left and right arrow keys are half-height. It will take some time to become used to not hitting the wrong keys.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-59 Intel EVO 11th 14" Full HD Touch Ultrathin Lightweight

Although the keyboard is illuminated, there is just one brightness setting available. At this pricing, two- or three-level illumination with ambient light adjustment should be expected. Under some lighting situations, the silver keys with gray text don’t generate the best contrast, making it difficult to tell which key is which.

Below the cursor arrows is a fingerprint reader. The fingerprint reader is your only choice for checking in with Windows Hello instead of inputting passwords if you don’t have an IR webcam for facial recognition.

The touchpad, in contrast to the keyboard, has a little too much travel, making clicks feel a little slow. However, this is a small quibble; the touchpad is otherwise excellent, with smooth glide and accurate capture of mousing movements.

A Wide Display, but Still Crammed

The reintroduction to a 16:9 aspect ratio is the largest change from last year’s Swift 3. I felt the pinch of the wide aspect ratio on a 14-inch screen. Although it’s ideal for watching videos, the lack of vertical space necessitates more scrolling through web pages and documents. A 16:9 display is better suited to 15.6- and 17.3-inch laptops, which not only provide greater screen real estate but are also more frequently utilized for entertainment. A 16:10 or 3:2 aspect ratio on a 14-inch or smaller panel provides more adaptability and makes the display appear larger than it is.

The aspect ratio is just one of three display modifications that make us dislike this year’s Swift 3. Another difference is that the resolution has been reduced from 2,256 by 1,504 pixels to the more common 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. On a 14-inch screen, though, full HD is sufficient because text and graphics are sharp. Colors appear to be correct as well; Acer states that the panel covers the entire sRGB color spectrum. (At the end of this review, there will be more on quantitative screen testing.)

While the decreased resolution is acceptable at this size, the screen’s claimed brightness has dropped from 400 to 300 nits with this year’s edition. When it comes to display brightness, inexpensive laptops will have 250-nit displays, whereas a $1,000 notebook should have 350 to 400 nits. For the whole time I used the Swift 3, which was largely in a reasonably lit room, I had the screen set to maximum brightness. In my bright breakfast nook, the display appeared dark, and I wouldn’t recommend leaving it outside for any length of time.

The 720p webcam above the screen captured reasonably crisp video, although it was grainy unless the lighting was perfect. The camera’s colors were oversaturated regardless of lighting, with skin tones leaning toward red.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-59 Intel EVO 11th 14" Full HD Touch Ultrathin Lightweight

The speakers fire downward, which isn’t ideal because it directs music away from your ears, but they generate remarkably deep sound for a laptop. There’s a slight bass response to give music playback some punch, and the speakers can get rather loud without losing much clarity at maximum volume.

With the Swift 3, you won’t need to carry any dongles. The laptop has both Type-A and Type-C USB ports; on the left edge, there’s a USB-C connector with Thunderbolt 4 capability, as well as a USB 3.2 Type-A port and an HDMI video output.

On the right side, a security lock slot is joined by another USB-A 3.2 port and a combined headphone/microphone connector.

Sedate testing of the Acer Swift 3: ‘Tiger Lake’

Our Swift 3 test system includes a quad-core Intel Core i7-1165G7 “Tiger Lake” CPU with Iris Xe integrated graphics and 16GB of RAM, as well as a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive. I compared the device against various ultraportables for our performance charts, including Acer’s Swift 3X, which has the same 11th Generation CPU but uses Intel’s rarely seen Iris Xe Max discrete graphics. The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 has a speedier Core i7 processor, while the HP Pavilion Aero has AMD’s eight-core Ryzen 7 5800U processor. The 11th Gen Core i5 processor powers the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2. Except for the Swift 3X, all systems have 16GB of memory and integrated graphics.

Test System Configurations

PROCESSORGRAPHICSRAMSTORAGE
Acer Swift 3 (2021)Intel Core i7-1165G7 (2.8GHz)Intel Iris Xe Graphics16GB RAM512GB SSD
Acer Swift 3XIntel Core i7-1165G7 (2.8GHz)Intel Iris Xe Max Graphics16GB RAM1TB SSD
HP Pavilion AeroAMD Ryzen 7 5800U (1.9GHz)AMD Radeon Graphics16GB RAM512GB SSD
Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2Intel Core i5-1135G7 (2.4GHz)Intel Iris Xe Graphics16GB RAM256GB SSD
Microsoft Floor Professional 8Intel Core i7-1185G7 (3.0GHz)Intel Iris Xe Graphics16GB RAM256GB SSD

Tests of Productivity

UL’s GGT 10’s core benchmark simulates a range of real-world productivity and content-creation processes to assess overall performance for office-centric operations like word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The Full System Drive test in GGT 10 is also used to evaluate the load time and throughput of a laptop’s storage. (To learn more about how we test laptops, go here.)

Three benchmarks evaluate a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive applications by focusing on the CPU and employing all available cores and threads. Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro mimics popular apps ranging from PDF rendering to speech recognition to machine learning, while Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to produce a complicated scene. Finally, we convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p quality using the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4. (lower times are better).

Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop was our final productivity test.

, which rates a PC’s speed for content creation and multimedia applications using Adobe’s famous image editor Creative Cloud version 22. It’s a Photoshop addon that does a range of general and GPU-accelerated functions, such as opening, rotating, resizing, and saving images, as well as adding masks, gradient fills, and filters.

In most of our CPU-focused tests, the Swift 3 and other quad-core Intel laptops were left staring up at the eight-core, AMD-powered Pavilion Aero. Except for the storage test in GGT 10, the Swift 3 outperformed the Intel systems; in fact, it won the Geekbench and Photoshop benchmarks.

Graphics Evaluations

We put two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark to the test: Night Raid (which is more modest and suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).

We also conduct two tests from the GFXBench 5 cross-platform GPU benchmark, which puts a strain on low-level operations like texturing as well as high-level, game-like visual rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase experiments, which are rendered offscreen to suit multiple display resolutions, use the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation, respectively, to exercise graphics and compute shaders. The higher the frame rate (fps), the better.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-59 Intel EVO 11th 14" Full HD Touch Ultrathin Lightweight

None of these ultraportables, including the Swift 3X with its Iris Xe Max graphics, shone in our graphics tests. In some situations, such as AI-assisted photo editing, that Intel GPU shines, but in others, such as gaming and 3D graphics, it falls short. The Swift 3 performed admirably, but it lacks the pixel-pushing muscle to play anything other than casual or browser-based games. See our review of integrated graphics performance on laptops.

Battery and Display Examinations

We use a locally saved 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) to assess laptop battery life.

with the panel brightness set to 50% and the audio volume set to 100%. Before the test, we ensure sure the battery is fully charged and that Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting are turned off.

We also utilize a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and Windows software to determine a laptop screen’s color saturation—how much of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—as well as its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).

Acer Swift 3 SF314-59 Intel EVO 11th 14" Full HD Touch Ultrathin Lightweight

In our battery test, the Swift 3 performed admirably, lasting over 17 hours. Even among efficient ultraportables, this is an impressive result. Although its screen brightness of 330 nits outperformed its 300-nit rating, I still consider the Swift 3‘s screen to be acceptable at best. It was also a smidgeon shy of full sRGB coverage, as well as respectable DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB coverage, offering creative pros something to work with (assuming they’re happy with a 1080p rather than 4K display).

Compared with similar items

Acer Swift 3Acer Aspire 1Acer Spin 3Acer Aspire 5Acer Aspire 5
Customer Rating4.4 out of 54.4 out of 54.4 out of 54.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
Computer Memory Size8 GB4 GB8 GB8 GB4 GB
Connectivity TechnologyUSBBluetooth, Wi-FiUSB 3.1 Gen 1 port, 2 – USB 2.0 Ports, 1 – HDMI Port with HDCP support, Wi-Fi
CPU ModelCore i7CeleronCore i5-1035G4Ryzen 7 3700URyzen 3 3200U
CPU Model ManufacturerIntelIntelIntelAMDAMD
CPU Speed4.7 GHz2.8 GHz3.7 GHz4 GHz3.52 GHz
Display Resolution Maximum1920×1080 pixels1920 x 1080 pixels1920 x 10801920 X 1080 pixels1920 x 1080
Screen Size14 inches15.6 inches14 inches15.6 inches15.6 inches
Display TechnologyLEDLEDLEDLED
Graphics CoprocessorIntel Iris Xe GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 600Intel Iris PlusAMD Radeon RX Vega 10AMD Radeon Vega 3
Graphics DescriptionIntegratedIntegratedIntegratedIntegratedIntegrated
Hard Disk DescriptionFlash Memory Solid StateEmbedded MultiMediaCardflash memory solid stateFlash Memory Solid StateFlash Memory Solid State
Hard Disk Size256 GB64 GB512 GB512 GB128 GB
Hardware PlatformPCPCWindowsPC
Human Interface InputUnknown, KeyboardMicrophoneKeyboardKeyboardKeyboard
Item Dimensions12.73 x 8.62 x 0.63 inches14.31 x 9.86 x 0.78 inches12.8 x 9.06 x 0.67 inches14.31 x 9.74 x 0.71 inches14.31 x 9.74 x 0.71 inches
Item Weight2.65 lbs4.20 lbs5.50 lbs4.19 lbs3.97 lbs
Operating SystemWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 SWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 Home S
Processor Count42442
RAM TypeDDR4 SDRAMDDR4 SDRAMDDR4 SDRAMDDR2 SDRAMDDR4 SDRAM
Wireless Communication StandardBluetoothBluetoothBluetooth802.11ac802.11ac
Wireless Communication TechnologyWi-Fi, BluetoothWi-Fi, BluetoothWi-FiWi-FiWi-Fi

Conclusion: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

The Acer Swift 3 is an ultraportable that offers a variety of features, a dash of elegance, and competitive performance (especially its excellent battery life) at the low price of $999.99. It’s not a gaming laptop, like its competitors, but it checks all the boxes for a traveling productivity companion.

Acer’s switch from last year’s squarer 3:2 aspect ratio screen to this year’s slightly retro 16:9 panel limits a stronger recommendation. A 16:10 or ideally 3:2 display on a 14-inch laptop is better for navigating web pages, email inboxes, and Microsoft Office documents than a 16:9 screen, which is good for watching movies but less effective for navigating web pages, email inboxes, and Microsoft Office docs.

Acer Swift 3 (2021) Review

Acer Swift 3 (2021)

Sleek and spiffy, but a step backward in screen design
PROS
Excellent battery life
Thunderbolt 4 support in an all-metal chassis

CONS
The 16:9 aspect ratio feels claustrophobic.
The webcam isn’t up to par.

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