Design

Acer’s design ethos for the new Swift 3 would make you think this is a much more expensive device. The 14-inch notebook features an all-aluminum design, offering a much more premium feel than what you’d normally expect on a notebook in this price range. At just 1.2 kg / 2.65 lbs, the 14-inch notebook is extremely portable, and with an 83% screen to body ratio, it is easily as compact as a 13.3-inch notebook from a couple of years ago. Acer’s choice of a 16:9 display does mean that the display has a hefty chin, but is almost certainly a choice that was made to keep the device in-budget.

Despite the thin design and the low price, the aluminum chassis is very stout, with little to no flex no matter how you pick it up. Acer has cut in a slot at the front to make opening the laptop easier, although it will not open with a single finger since the hinge is too stiff to allow this. There is no touch support either, so the hinge stiffness does not need to be quite so tight, but it does make for a solid platform once you open it up.

The keyboard provides a great typing experience. The keys themselves have single-level white backlighting, which works well. The white backlighting on silver keys can cause some contrast issues in bright light, but the effect is not as pronounced as it is on some other devices. Typing offers a surprisingly good keyboard feel, with solid keys that have a solid level of pressure and feedback. Acer has the power button as part of the keyboard, which does make it prone to accidentally turning the device off if you miss the delete key, and moving the power button out of the normal keys would be appreciated, but Acer is far from the only manufacturer to do this, and the laptop resumes instantly so even if it did happen it’s not as big of an issue as it was a few years ago, thanks to the new modern standby options built into Windows and the new CPU.

If there was one area where the notebook showcased it was a lower-cost device, it would be the trackpad. Although it offers the Precision touchpad drivers, the material is not as smooth and responsive as some higher-priced notebooks. This is not so much a knock against the device, but a reality of where it is situated in the market. It does offer the expected multi-touch capabilities you’d expect, it just doesn’t quite offer the level of refinement you’d see in more premium notebooks.

Acer has also included a fingerprint reader, which has great response. It unlocks the device in well under a second even if the display is off. It is a nice to see Windows Hello support despite the lower cost of this device, and the chosen reader seems to work very well. There is no IR camera included, and the built-in webcam is only a 1280x720 unit, so do not expect to be the belle of the Teams meeting, but it gets the job done with a properly located webcam in the top bezel.

Acer offers reasonable I/O as well, with a USB Type-C port on the left, which does support power delivery up to 15 Watts output, and support for charging the device via USB-C as well. There is no Thunderbolt 3, but it does offer DisplayPort output. This is in addition to the included HDMI port, and the laptop also has a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port on the left which supports power-off charging, and a USB 2.0 port on the right, along with a headset jack.

Overall, the Acer Swift 3 is a great design, with a modern feel, and premium materials. The 14-inch notebook is compact, thin, and light, and Acer has done a great job with the look and feel of this device. There are enough ports, and the included USB-C port adds the expanded ability to charge as well as I/O. Looking at this device, you could easily mistake it for a notebook that costs hundreds more.

Introduction SPEC: Renoir vs Picasso vs Ice Lake
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  • lightningz71 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    It appears that the Acer Swift design philosophy just doesn't translate for anything that requires a high steady-state power draw and thermal load. The Swift had the same issues with the 2XXX and 3XXX series chips as well, so this is nothing new. This is something that Acer has deliberately chosen to make a design trade-off for: sacrifice some thermal dissipation ability to keep the product in the size class that it is intended for.

    It will be interesting to see the benchmarks on the 4500U in this platform. It was shown in benchmarks of previous versions of the swift that lower end APUs actually performed better in gaming than the top end parts because the system was better able to manage the thermal output and the APU was better able to keep consistent clocks. While the absolute performance was still lower than notebooks with better thermal management implementations, it was a better gaming performer than the top end SKU.
    Reply
  • neblogai - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Generally, you are not complaining about Acer, but about U-series chips from both Intel or AMD. The philosophy of laptops with ~15W chips is that these chips are used in ultrabooks that are responsive and fast in short boosts, and not made for steady power (even if there are some premium devices that offer both). Reply
  • fmcjw - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    The 2019 Swift 5 and LG Gram series were matched to the thermal promises of Intel 10nm chips that took 2 generations to arrive, and maybe 5nm AMD SoCs in 2021 since AMD decided to rush to market with last generation GPU architecture in early 2020. Perhaps with software or AI based optimization, there can be a more optimal mix of processes split between the CPU versus the GPU for best performance within thermal constraints. Not every task is as clear cut as gaming routines, where more of the work is performed more efficiently on the GPU. I'm not sure that will happen though, as such software optimization has the least return on investment outside cloud and data center applications. Not even Apple wants to do it for the 2020 Macbook Air, thermally crippling a fine Intel chip and resolving the issue by sticking a more powerful cooling solution in a Macbook Pro (and charge more).

    For 2020, Acer managed to get the Swift 3 down to 1.2kg from 1.45kg of the 2019 model through the use of aluminum AND magnesium (not just aluminum as the article states). The 2020 Swift 5 maintains a 1kg weight while including a rare-breed matte touch screen. The Swift 5 is the model you want to get for 100% sRGB at a $300 premium. I think the only reason these fine machines sell for $600 to $900 for a mid-range configuration is the thermally constrained performance of the more stubbornly ambitious SoCs.

    Which if they can think outside the box can easily resolve by selling a fan-assisted cooling dock and unleash the full potential of the SoC we already paid for (and charge more).
    Reply
  • Fulljack - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    while Vega here is based on GCN 5 and not RDNA, it doesn't mean it's an outdated architecture. AMD did enhance the Vega arch for Ryzen 4000, with 56% improvement over Vega arch found in Ryzen 3000. overall, with enhanced arch, reduced core count, and higher clock, AMD did deliver 2020 Vega 8 that performs 28% better than 2019 Vega 11.

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/15324/amd-ryzen-400...
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, May 7, 2020 - link

    All irrelevant when the laptop's cooling is so pathetic:

    "The laptop really struggled with its thermals, dropping the framerate into single digits often. The device attempted to run at around 18 Watts of power draw, slightly over the 15 Watt TDP, but in fact only averaged around 8 Watts during this run."
    Reply
  • csp4me - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Acer Swift 3 and 5 are in the market for lightweight, cool & quiet laptops within thermal constraints, thus ~ 18W tdp, and throttling under stress test.

    For the same budget of Acer Swift 5 ~ $900 you can find laptop models with the same quality display or better and also better thermals ~ 28W-35W at the expense of weight 1.3-1.4kg and noise/heat during heavy loads. Examples Lenovo Ideapad S540-13 both AMD or Intel, or Yoga Slim 7 both AMD or Intel.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    When you buy low power laptops - Y or U series TDPs - you are really looking out for these things

    1) Sustained Single Core Clock
    2) Sustained All-Core Clock
    3) Race-To-Sleep Single Core Turbo Boost (and the time it can sustain this)
    4) Race-To-Sleep All-Core Turbo Boost (and the time it can sustain this)

    1 and 2 are what your gaming sessions will occur in. 3 and 4 might help in some particularly CPU-heavy parts, but only for small periods of time.

    This is the problem Intel have with their 14++++ chips - 1 and 2 cannot be raised in the TDP they are restricted to (unlike desktop, where they can simply lie about the figures, in a laptop this will affect battery life and be easily detected), so they hype 3 and 4 to compensate.

    AMD on 7nm does well in all four measures, but you should never think you'll get long-term turbo clock performance from any mobile chip. I don't know if Renoir has a 4C turbo that can last longer than the 8C turbo for lightly threaded loads.
    Reply
  • fmcjw - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Can a Y or U series SoC be considered the equivalent of an H series SoC internally, with a beefier cooling solution and reduced I/O capabilities externally? I imagine not just the I/O or cooler but also the capacitors and power circuitry need to be higher specified for the higher sustained load.

    It's just that few makers even try to create a balanced system around the U or Y series, letting Turbo Boost go wild to impress for the first minute or two, or restraint the system thermally to achieve longer battery life even when you can plug it in.
    Reply
  • T1beriu - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    >the mobile chips here only feature half the L3 cache compared to its desktop counterparts

    Small correction. Ryzen 4000 actually has a quarter.
    Reply
  • ads295 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Acer has consistently impressed me with their attention to detail. There are so many moronic OEMs that put in a single module of RAM but even my 2016 Acer E5-553-T4PT came with 2 modules of 2GB DDR4 RAM to enable the A10-9600P to run in dual channel mode.
    I suppose they don't get paid to debilitate AMD setups.
    Reply

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