Acer’s sumptuous Swift 7 laptop has certainly grabbed headlines, but its wallet-wilting asking price will scare off many would-be buyers. The Swift 5 – the middle child of the company’s ultrabook range – delivers the same slimmed-down portability at a fraction of the price.
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Acer Swift 5 review: What you need to know
While the Swift 7 may be the golden child of Acer’s 2017 lineup, the Swift 5 offers similar portability and performance at a much cheaper starting price. Inside this ultraportable laptop you’ll find Kaby Lake Intel Core i5-7200U or i7-7500U processors, with 8GB of RAM and a choice of 256GB or 512GB SSD. All models ship with a Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display – as with the Swift 7, there’s no spangly 4K option here.
Acer Swift 5 review: Price and competition
The Swift 5’s £900 entry point teeters close to premium laptop territory, but it undercuts most of its competitors by a considerable margin. Dell’s similarly equipped XPS 13 will set you back a lofty £1,249; Apple’s recent MacBook Pro is another alternative at the same high price. If you’re more interested in a Windows 2-in-1, Acer’s Switch 5 is a good bet at £900.
Acer Swift 5 review: Design
The Swift 7’s luxurious, barely-there chassis, drawing inspiration from HP’s stunning Spectre 13, was the star of the show at its New York unveiling earlier this year.
The Swift 5 isn’t quite so elegant. Its black anodised aluminium keyboard surround isn’t too bad, with its pleasant brushed finish, but the rest of the device feels like it’s been cobbled together from various parts of other machines. The ridged lid both looks and feels bargain-basement, despite being made of metal, while the screen bezels and underside are surrounded with a soft-touch plastic. It doesn’t add up to a coherent design.
Still, even if the Swift 5 looks like a Frankenstein’s Monster of a machine, build quality feels reassuringly solid. And the design is perfection when it comes to portability. It’s light enough to carry around effortlessly in a satchel or backpack, tipping the scales at just 1.3kg, and its 15mm slimness matches Apple’s recently refreshed Macbook Pro for a fraction of the price. As for ports, you’ll find one USB-C connector for charging, two USB 3 ports, a single HDMI socket, a 3.5mm headset port and an SD card slot.
Acer Swift 5 review: Keyboard and touchpad
The Swift 5 is quite comfortable to type on, but a few minor niggles mar the experience. Some keys are awkwardly cramped – notably, the half-size left shift key is squeezed up uncomfortably against the backstroke key – and the action is perhaps a little too squishy for my tastes.
The trackpad however is nicely sized, offering ample room for your Windows 10 multi-touch finger flourishes. It’s as reliable as you should expect in 2017, and there’s a subtle aluminium chamfered edge to it too, which makes it easier on the fingertips when you bump your fingers into the sides.
Acer Swift 5 review: Display
Slimming down the screen bezels has allowed Acer to squeeze a luxurious 14in display into a frame that isn’t much bigger than your typical 13.3in laptop. The bezel-less design isn’t original – the Dell XPS 13 has been doing it for several years – but it’s always impressive to see it implemented well.
The glossy 1,920 x 1,080 panel is just about up to snuff. Maximum brightness is a more than decent 363cd/m2 (a little brighter than the XPS 13), but sRGB colour coverage lets things down a little at just 82%. If we’re being picky, we’d have to say that colours looked a tad muted overall, with iffy colour reproduction across the board, and particularly with darker reds and blues.
Acer Swift 5 review: Performance and battery life
The Swift 5 comes in two different configurations, powered by either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor. The model I tested came equipped with a Core i5-7200U processor clocked at 2.5GHz, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. The pricier Core i7 model has a higher clock rate and comes with a 512GB SSD, but the changes end there.
Just like its cheaper Swift 3 sibling, the Swift 5 opts for a low-powered U-series processor, catering for thermal efficiency over raw processing power. As a result, we were anticipating above-average battery life, partnered with respectable – if not exceptional – performance.
Our demanding 4K benchmarks confirmed our expectations. The Swift 5’s overall score of 45 is just shy of Dell’s pricier XPS 13 (which scored 50), but there’s more than enough grunt here for most of your daily tasks. Even more strenuous applications should be usable without the system grinding to a total halt.
Importantly, the Swift 5 won’t let you down when it comes to longevity either. It lasted 9hrs 12mins in our continuous video playback test, with the screen set to our standard brightness of 170cd/m2. That’s roughly 90 minutes longer than either the Dell XPS 13 or the 2017 MacBook Pro.
Acer Swift 5 review: Verdict
Acer’s Swift 5 is one of those rare devices that defies categorisation. At £900 it’s hard to call it a high-end laptop, yet it beats much pricier competition in terms of both raw performance and battery life.
My only complaint is that its bizarre mishmash of a design won’t be to everyone’s tastes; it looks clunky next to the sleek unibody design of its Swift 7 sibling. Overall though Acer’s Swift 5 perfectly straddles the line between portability and performance, making it a strong challenger to Dell’s ongoing XPS dominance.