Acer Swift 7

The world’s thinnest lap­top

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Technology com­pa­nies love a bit of one-up­man­ship. The Acer Swift 7 is an ul­tra-thin lap­top, a lot like the HP Spec­tre but with a price that’s slightly eas­ier to swal­low. When closed, its thick­est edge mea­sures 9.98mm, which makes it the first lap­top to be un­der 1cm thick. A fine achieve­ment, but does it war­rant buy­ing one?

Price

In 2016 we saw some scar­ily ex­pen­sive lap­tops, the new MacBook Pro line in par­tic­u­lar is pricey enough to suck many bank ac­counts dry. The Acer Swift 7 isn’t cheap, but it does at least slide in just un­der £1,000. At the time of writ­ing you can find it on­line for £979, mak­ing it a lit­tle more af­ford­able than the HP Spec­tre and £100 cheaper than the clos­est Dell XPS 13 spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

There’s also only one con­fig­u­ra­tion of the Swift 7 at the time of re­view: it has an In­tel Core i5-7Y54 CPU, 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen. You get a stan­dard one-year war­ranty, so there’s no value added on that front.

De­sign

The Swift 7’s top fea­ture is 9.98mm thick­ness. That’s even slim­mer than the 12in MacBook or the HP Spec­tre. Take the out of its box and it feels like a con­ven­tional lap­top, though. It’s slim and light, but doesn’t try to rein­vent the lap­top in the way the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Pro 4 did.

There’s noth­ing wrong with that, par­tic­u­larly if you want some­thing fa­mil­iar to use daily, but the Swift 7 also doesn’t have the ul­tra-com­pact style of the Dell XPS 13. There’s some space around the key­board and ‘spare’ screen sur­round that makes its width and height con­ven­tional. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. A solid foot­print lets you use the lap­top on your knees with­out it feel­ing pre­car­i­ous and that 10mm thick­ness makes it easy to stash in a ruck­sack or bag. It weighs just 1.16kg, too.

The Acer has an all-alu­minium frame, with a black fin­ish on the lid and un­der­side and a much more strik­ing gold in­side. As the colour is punchy we would have ap­pre­ci­ated a more sober sil­ver or black op­tion, but it still ap­pears taste­ful. There are no brushed or tex­tured touches to push it over the edge.

For a lap­top this thin, the Swift 7 also feels solid. The key­board doesn’t flex when you press on it and there’s only a slight bend­ing of the frame when you hold it by the very edge of the frame.

There are a few lit­tle touches that make the de­sign seem slightly less im­mac­u­late than a MacBook, such as the way you can tilt the screen so far back the front starts to lift up. How­ever, this may be prefer­able to the rather lim­ited hinge move­ment of the HP Spec­tre.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

The Acer Swift 7 is very HP Spec­tre­like in its con­nec­tions, though. There are two USB-C ports and a head­phone jack. Like many re­cent style lap­tops, there’s no mem­ory card slot, no HDMI and no full-size USBs. One of th­ese USB-Cs is also used by the power plug, leav­ing just the one free while charg­ing.

We’re start­ing to see lots of USB-C con­nec­tion hubs pop up, so you might want to get hold of one for home use. Pho­tog­ra­phers and hard­core users should also check out the Dell XPS 13, though. It has an SD card slot and a full-size USB, mean­ing you won’t need to re­mem­ber to take ac­ces­sories around with you.

Key­board and track­pad

One other trait com­mon to an in­creas­ing num­ber of su­per-skinny lap­tops is a very shal­low key­board. There’s more travel than a MacBook, but less move­ment than an HP Spec­tre or Dell XPS 13.

While a sound rea­son to be put off, the lap­top does still feel good for long-form typ­ing. It’s not clicky but there is a de­cent amount of re­sis­tance to the keys that stops typ­ing from feel­ing vague.

It’s the kind of shal­low key­board we can get on with. How­ever, it doesn’t have a back­light, un­like al­most ev­ery other al­ter­na­tive at the price. At the same price, the Razer Blade Stealth has one that can dis­play any colour of the rain­bow.

As lap­top users who of­ten end up work­ing in dimly-lit con­ven­tion halls, we’d find it hard to switch back to a non-lit key­board. Make sure you won’t miss the fea­ture be­fore buy­ing, as plenty of lap­tops at the price have a back­light.

There are no sim­i­lar mis­steps in the track­pad, though. Like

the key­board, it has a light feel. It’s easy to click but with very def­i­nite feedback, mak­ing quick dou­ble-clicks a cinch.

The Swift 7’s pad is large too, a rounded-off rec­tan­gle that gives you plenty of space for ges­tures. Its tex­ture is also ex­cel­lent, us­ing tex­tured glass just like a MacBook or other top-end Win­dows lap­tops.

Dis­play

Like the HP Spec­tre, there’s no ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tion op­tion when buy­ing an Swift 7. It has a 1080p IPS LCD screen with a layer of Go­rilla Glass 5 on top pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent scratch-re­sis­tance. This is the same sort of glass you might see on an ex­pen­sive phone.

De­spite hav­ing a glossy, re­flec­tive screen, the Acer doesn’t have a touch­screen, though. This sort of fin­ish looks flashy, but can be­come an an­noy­ance when you use the lap­top out­doors. How­ever, with top bright­ness of 368cd/m2, the dis­play can go bright enough to com­bat re­flec­tions.

Us­ing the lap­top as our main work ma­chine, we did no­tice the con­ser­va­tive res­o­lu­tion as soon as we booted-up the lap­top. Icon text looks a lit­tle pixel­lated, and so do smaller char­ac­ters in web­sites. Many ul­tra-slim and stylish al­ter­na­tives at a sim­i­lar price use 1080p screens, though.

Dis­play qual­ity is oth­er­wise very good, if not any bet­ter than we ex­pect at the price. It cov­ers 85 per­cent of the sRGB colour stan­dard, mean­ing colours ap­pear very slightly un­der­sat­u­rated. Cov­er­age of the deeper Adobe RGB and DCI P3 colour stan­dards is un­re­mark­able, at 59.2- and 64.2 per­cent re­spec­tively, so if you’re a keen pho­tog­ra­pher or pro de­signer, you may want to look for a lap­top with a higher-grade screen. For more gen­eral use, the dis­play still looks good be­cause of its very solid con­trast. At 997:1, it’s more im­pres­sive than the colour per­for­mance, help­ing the screen ap­pear punchy.

Per­for­mance

Acer has taken a rather un­usual ap­proach with the pro­ces­sor. In­stead of us­ing a nor­mal Core i5 pro­ces­sor, it has an In­tel Core i5-7Y54. This is the lat­est take on In­tel’s ‘Core M’ style CPU se­ries, chips de­signed to use as lit­tle en­ergy and cre­ate as lit­tle heat as pos­si­ble.

As well has en­abling the su­per­slim de­sign, this lets the Swift 7 get by us­ing pas­sive cool­ing: heat sinks only. As a re­sult, it’s silent, although you will no­tice some heat in the space above the key­board when charg­ing or do­ing any­thing that gets close to max­ing-out the CPU.

Us­ing this sort of pro­ces­sor also means the Swift 7 is less pow­er­ful than the much cheaper Acer S13, which uses a con­ven­tional Core i-se­ries pro­ces­sor. You won’t no­tice the dif­fer­ence when do­ing day-to­day lap­top tasks. This is seen in some of our bench­mark re­sults, too.

In the PCMark 8 Home test, the Acer scored 2234 points, where a nor­mal i5 might score around 2200to 2400. We got a bet­ter re­sult from the Acer S13, but they’re in the same class. Sim­i­larly, in Geek­bench 3.0 and 4.0 it scored 5430 and 5523 points re­spec­tively, again very sim­i­lar to a nor­mal Core i5 Sky­well-gen­er­a­tion lap­top. It’s when you start play­ing games you see the big dif­fer­ence be­tween the

Swift 7 and some­thing like an HP Spec­tre or Dell XPS 13. The i5-7Y54 has an In­tel HD 615 CPU, which is worse than both the In­tel HD 620 found in full Core i-se­ries CPUs and the HD 520 of the last gen­er­a­tion’s set.

Let’s com­pare the Swift 7 with the cheaper Acer S13 to make the dif­fer­ence clearer. Play­ing Thief at 720p, low de­tail, you’ll get an av­er­age of 20.4fps from the S13 but just 14.3fps from the Swift 7. At 1080p, high de­tail, the S13 man­ages 5.1fps, the Swift 7 4.5fps.

Re­sults are sim­i­larly poor in Alien: Iso­la­tion, at 20.5fps (720p) and 10.1 (1080p) where the S13 man­ages 27.6fps and 12.3fps.

No lap­top with an in­te­grated graph­ics chipset is go­ing to be great for gam­ing, but the Swift 7 is worse than most at £1,000.

Bat­tery Life

We’ve seen few of th­ese Core M-style CPUs used in the past year, but it is likely part of the rea­son why Acer was able to get the Swift 7 quite to thin. It also helps out with bat­tery life. Play­ing a 720p video on loop at 120cd/m2 bright­ness, it lasted eight hours 40 min­utes. While not a class-lead­ing re­sult, it’s very good given the lap­top only has a 2770mAh bat­tery.

Au­dio

Speaker qual­ity is roughly sim­i­lar to the bet­ter su­per-slim lap­tops. It’s loud and there’s enough bulk to the sound to avoid sound­ing thin or weak. The best man­age to sep­a­rate out bass notes and give them more weight, and have smoother-sound­ing tre­ble. How­ever, the Swift 7 sounds good enough to make the speak­ers us­able rather than a high-price em­bar­rass­ment.

Ver­dict

Whether the Acer Swift 7 is the right lap­top for you de­pends on how much you care about its 10mm thick­ness. If you don’t mind adding a mil­lime­tre or five, you can get lap­tops with more power and bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity for the same price. Hard­core users take note. How­ever, if you like the look and the slim frame means a lot to you, this is a very solid op­tion. A great track­pad and slim but de­cent key­board make this an en­joy­able lap­top, par­tic­u­larly as it can last through a day’s work of light tasks. Henry Bur­rell

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