‘Since forever’ is a long time to wait, but that’s 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 competitive laptop chip. Yes, AMD’s mobile processors based on the Bobcat core were okay for budget devices, but Intel’s dominance was even stronger in laptops than it was on desktop. At least, it was until Ryzen came and proved how complacent Intel had become. But that was just desktop, right?
On paper, the Acer Swift 3 is 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 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 work out like that. But first, let’s dissect what Acer is offering with this AMD-powered Swift 3. For the most part, it’s a 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 four-strong range of mobile Ryzen CPUs. Where the Ryzen 7 2700U gets ten 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 max boost clock of 3.6GHz.
The 48Wh 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, I had problems getting our pre-production review sample up to full charge. In short, I couldn’t assess the unit’s battery life at all.
If I’m honest, that sums up my 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. Very likely, all of that reflected my unit’s pre-production status. Maybe the firmware needs a tweak, or the cooling hasn’t had that final polish. The 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.
that this isn’t Ryzen mobile at its best