Acer Swift 3 SF315-41

AMD’s Ryzen makes the move to mo­bile

Maximum PC - - IN THE LAB -

SINCE FOR­EVER is a long time to wait, but that’s ef­fec­tively how far back you have to go to find a de­cent mo­bile CPU from AMD. In other words, it’s de­bat­able whether AMD has ever made a truly com­pet­i­tive lap­top chip. Yes, AMD’s mo­bile pro­ces­sors based on the Bobcat core were OK for bud­get de­vices, but In­tel’s dom­i­na­tion has been even stronger in lap­tops than it al­ready was on the desk­top.

Or at least un­til Ryzen came along and proved how com­pla­cent In­tel has be­come. But that’s just desk­top, right? This is mo­bile and, at last, Ryzen has made that tran­si­tion to lap­tops, and we can fi­nally tell you whether it’s as big a game changer in the por­ta­ble mar­ket as it has al­ready proven to be on the desk­top. Well, that was the plan, cour­tesy of the Acer Swift 3. On pa­per, it’s the ideal sys­tem for weigh­ing up the rel­a­tive pros and cons of the lat­est mo­bile CPUs from AMD and In­tel.

That’s be­cause it’s one of the very few mo­bile rigs of­fered with both AMD Ryzen and In­tel Core pro­ces­sors. Yes, vari­ables re­main, in­clud­ing the moth­er­board, but the re­ally crit­i­cal bits, such as the screen, chas­sis, and bat­tery, are shared by both vari­ants, pro­vid­ing about as level a play­ing field as you’re ever go­ing to get.

In prac­tice, it doesn’t quite work out like that. But first, let’s dis­sect ex­actly what Acer is of­fer­ing with this AMD-pow­ered Swift 3. For the most part, it’s a res­o­lutely mid­dle-mar­ket of­fer­ing in a 15.6-inch form fac­tor. It’s pow­ered here by the Ryzen 5 2500U. That’s the sec­ond tier in a fourstrong range of mo­bile Ryzen CPUs. The 2500U has the full com­ple­ment of four cores and eight threads on the CPU side, but it loses a pair of com­pute units from its AMD Vega graph­ics core. Where the Ryzen 7 2700U gets 10 com­pute units, the 2500U makes do with five.

The 2500U is also 200MHz down on clock speed, with a base clock of 2GHz, and a max­i­mum Boost clock of 3.6GHz. But over­all, it’s a good in­tro­duc­tion to Ryzen’s mo­bile ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Else­where, the Swift 3 boasts a Full HD IPS dis­play cov­ered in Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass, and a 256GB M.2 SSD hooked up via SATA, rather than the pow­er­ful PCI Ex­press in­ter­face. In terms of phys­i­cal at­tributes, it’s an in­trigu­ingly mid-sized alu­minum af­fair, rather than a truly thin-and-light op­tion, pack­ing a curb weight of 4.85lb, and equipped with a 48Wh bat­tery.

That bat­tery not only re­veals the Swift 3’s mid-mar­ket po­si­tion­ing, it also makes it tricky to get a feel for how ef­fi­cient AMD’s Ryzen pro­ces­sor is in a mo­bile im­ple­men­ta­tion. A pre­mium 15-inch por­ta­ble, such as Dell’s XPS, of­fers roughly dou­ble the bat­tery ca­pac­ity, for in­stance. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, we had prob­lems get­ting our pre-pro­duc­tion re­view sam­ple up to full charge. In short, we couldn’t as­sess the unit’s bat­tery life at all.

If we’re hon­est, that pretty much sums up our ex­pe­ri­ence with the Swift 3 as a whole. Dur­ing test­ing, this lap­top kicked out a fairly mixed bag of re­sults, both in out­right terms, and in the sense that per­for­mance in the same test var­ied widely over the course of mul­ti­ple runs. We ex­tracted scores vary­ing from 340 to well over 500 for Cinebench in mul­ti­threaded mode, even with Win­dows Up­date turned off. The graph­ics per­for­mance of the AMD Vega 3D core was also patchy.

Very likely, all of that re­flected our re­view unit’s pre-pro­duc­tion sta­tus. Maybe the firmware needs a tweak, or the cool­ing hasn’t had that fi­nal pol­ish. What­ever, the over­all sense is that this isn’t Ryzen mo­bile at its best. That’s a pity, not only for this lap­top—it’s a solid lit­tle unit, with a nice IPS panel, and a firm feel to its key­board per­for­mance—but also for the Ryzen chip, which looks very promis­ing in­deed. For now, our feel­ing is that Ryzen will give cer­tain mem­bers of In­tel’s lat­est eighth­gen mo­bile CPU range a very se­ri­ous run for their money, but we’ll need to spend time with a bet­ter optimized sys­tem for a more de­tailed con­clu­sion.

Acer Swift 3 SF315-41

SPEEDY GON­ZA­LEZ Good over­all pack­age for price; high­qual­ity dis­play; quad-core per­for­mance.

PEPÉ LE PEW Pre-pro­duc­tion sys­tem not fir­ing on all cylin­ders; rel­a­tively small bat­tery.

$699, www.acer.com

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