Great productivity performance
Runs very quietly
Limited connectivity options
A ridiculous amount of bloatware
Performance outside of productivity is lackluster
About the Acer Swift 3 SF314
Here are the specs of the laptop we tested:
- Processor: Intel Core i7-1165G7
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Storage: 512GB SSD
- Display: 15-inch 1080p resolution
- Ports: 1x USB Type-C port, 2x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1 ports, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x HDMI port
- Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
- Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (WiFi 6), Bluetooth 5.0
- Battery: 55.9 Whr battery
- Weight: 2.65 pounds
- Dimensions: 12.7 x 8.4 x 0.63 inches
- Warranty: One-year limited warranty
The Acer Swift 3 is available in several different configurations that range from $729 to $999. (Core i5 and 12th-gen variants available, along with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and a 1440p display options.) The model we tested features an 11th generation Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of LPDDR4X memory, and 512GB of solid state storage. It comes in at the top of that price range but isn’t the best currently available.
Since its release, Acer has unveiled the most recent version of the laptop, each of which has been upgraded with Intel’s new 12-generation mobile CPUs. Anyone considering this laptop should put these most recent versions at the top of their list, as they will almost certainly offer improvements to CPU-intensive tasks, like video editing and rendering.
What We Like
It’s so light, you might forget it’s there
The Swift 3's portability is its killer feature and the biggest reason to choose it over the competition. It's one of the most lightweight and portable laptops you can buy, which makes it incredibly easy to roll into daily life without feeling weighed down.
It weighs 2.65 pounds, which is much closer to a Microsoft Surface Tablet than a traditional notebook. This isn't a laptop that will make you second guess whether you should take it with you every day, and it won't leave your back aching by the time you get home. Its supreme portability made it a more appealing choice for daily work than my usual gaming laptop, even with its better hardware.
It's not all about weight either—the Swift is an all-around compact laptop. Its 14-inch display strikes an excellent middle-ground between a full-size 15-inch and extra-compact 13-inch notebooks. The Swift 3 feels compact without leaving you squinting at the screen or zooming in on text, and the slightly reduced screen real estate makes the screen look extra sharp due to the increased pixel density. Looking at photos and watching videos is a particular pleasure compared to larger 1080p screens.
Its form factor does have a learning curve, however. The keyboard is slightly smaller to accommodate that compact display. Plan on a day or two to allow your fingers to adjust to the squeezed-down layout for typing.
All-day battery and USB-C charging
That extra-portable design would be all for naught if the battery wasn't up to snuff. At 55.9 Watt-Hours, it's about as big as Acer could fit into such a small frame and offers just enough juice to be a constant companion throughout the day. In our testing, the battery lasted right around nine and a half hours at half brightness, which is enough to make it through most workdays with some charge to spare.
If you do happen to run low, you’ll be pleased to know that the USB-C port also supports power delivery for USB recharging. You’ll need to purchase a charger separately (a standard adapter and cable are included), but it’s worth the investment. The included AC adapter isn’t very large, but it’s still much bulkier than a small 65W PD charger and USB cable. USB-C charging enhances the already exceptional portability and means that the bulkier stock charger can stay home indefinitely.
Snappy performance without too much noise
The Swift 3 is tuned for productivity in more ways than one. Its hardware is just enough to run all of your usual work applications without missing a beat. In the two weeks, I carried it with me for testing, I used all of the major Microsoft Office apps (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and the entire Google Drive suite to create and edit documents. It also handled Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom very well, only stuttering when editing huge images—something you can expect on most laptops.
I browsed the web, watched YouTube, and posted on social media. All of these daily tasks were completely seamless without any lag or delay to remind me that I was using a compact notebook instead of a more powerful desktop workstation. Performance is snappy and satisfying, making it an excellent choice for a daily carry for work or school.
That "workforce tuning" also applies to how quietly the Swift 3 runs. In normal use, running Acer's default Balanced power profile, it's nearly silent. Under heavy load, the fans spin up but the amount of noise pales in comparison to the average gaming laptop. Unless you're running benchmarks or performing other intensive tasks, you'll rarely hear more than the occasional rise and fall of the fan as it keeps your processor cool.
Where the Swift 3 begins to struggle is when you step outside of those daily productivity tasks. Its quad-core processor and 16GB of RAM are capable, but if you work in a creative field where you're rendering 3D models or editing video, you'll likely want to look into a larger laptop with a dedicated GPU. (The integrated graphics of the Swift makes for laggy editing and slower renders.) Those laptops lack the same level of portability, however, and tend to cost significantly more.
What We Don’t Like
Heavy content creation and gaming need not apply
The Swift 3 isn’t marketed as a creation laptop and shouldn’t be expected to perform like one, but with an 11th-gen Core i7 processor, it’s reasonable to expect a light video edit or creative task here and there. It’s fine for that, just don’t expect it to work very fast. Rendering the BMW demo file in Blender took a painfully long eight minutes and 21 seconds.
Likewise, the Core i7 powering the machine had a tough time with Cinebench R23, producing one of the lowest scores we’ve seen since the Razer Book 13. Cutting together a 1080p video with animated transitions and motion graphics also took an exceptionally long time to render in Adobe Premiere Pro and just isn’t going to compete with the likes of the Apple MacBook Pro 16 M1.
If you’re planning on mixing a little gaming in with your work, be prepared to turn down graphics settings or play at a lower resolution. In our testing, frame rates were a mixed bag unless we dropped to a low graphics preset and manually tweaked advanced options like resolution scaling. We were able to get Control and Total War: Warhammer 2 playable above 30 fps, so there’s potential for light gaming, but graphically intensive games will be out of reach.
These aren’t surprising results given the modest hardware that powers the Swift 3. Without a dedicated graphics card, video editing, rendering, and gaming are tall orders for its quad-core CPU. But, it is possible if you’re willing to exercise patience and turn down the graphics settings.
The Swift 3 is designed to run quietly, even under heavy load, but that means heat can sometimes become an issue. While gaming, temperatures quickly rose into the mid-70s (Celsius) and even spiked into the mid-90s when followed up with benchmarks. Though it’s unlikely that these results will shorten the lifespan of the notebook, it could result in thermal throttling and decreased performance.
A ridiculous amount of bloatware
Booting up the Swift 3 for the first time can feel like you’re traveling back in time to an era when it was still acceptable to litter fresh new machines with third-party software and shameless promotion nobody asked for. The amount of bloatware installed on this machine makes it feel like there should be a “sponsored by” message stamped on its lid.
All told, there are a whopping 25 extra applications pre-installed out of the box. 17 of these are from third-party companies and eight of them are directly from Acer. Some provide extra value, like the CyberLink PhotoDirector and PowerDirector apps, which allow you to edit photos and video. Others are intrusive and downright obnoxious. Norton Lifelock provided constant interruptions and pop-ups, but at least it promised increased protection. Acer Jumpstart, on the other hand, seems to exist solely to serve up ads.
While including extra apps isn’t bad on its own, it becomes so when most of them just don’t offer extra value and smack of backroom promotional deals. At $999, there’s no reason this laptop should be serving ads every time it boots up, and no reason you should be stuck uninstalling so many needless apps just so you won’t be plagued by notifications and special offers.
Limited connectivity limits productivity
When it comes to wired connectivity and port selection, the Swift 3 has a lot to learn. In total, there are three USB ports (two Type-A and one Type-C), a full-size HDMI, and an audio jack for connecting headphones. This isn’t terrible given the size of the machine, but certainly isn’t impressive, and can become a genuine issue when you begin to take full advantage of its features.
The USB-C port is the star of the show. It can function as a high-speed data port to quickly copy files or connect peripherals, supports power delivery up to 65 Watts, and can even carry video to an external monitor. Battery life on the Swift 3 is impressive, but if you’d rather run on AC power, it’s nice to use a small PD adapter instead of the bulkier power brick that comes in the box. With that port dedicated to power, you’re left with only two USB-A ports. The right USB port is also positioned directly in the path of the mouse, which hurts usability.
If you plan on pulling photos from your camera’s microSD card, think again. The notebook lacks any kind of dedicated card reader. It’s an odd omission that will also leave you reaching for a USB cable and an open USB port. While some users may never need more than a port or two, if you do, you’re stuck investing in a USB hub or docking station to fill the gap. That’s more money from your pocket and less space in your bag.
It’s generic to a fault
Once you look past the Swift 3’s portability the laptop begins to feel generic and uninspired. The design is simple, matte silver, without unique embellishments to make it stand out. The keyboard is average and feels a bit mushy if you type with a heavy hand. The speakers are fine with DTS enabled and terrible without. The screen is tidy and has thin bezels, but has average brightness (320 nits) and mediocre DCI-P3 coverage for content creation (though sRGB pegged our colorimeter at 100%). Other than its size, there just isn’t much about the laptop that feels special or memorable.
As a laptop designed for work and school, it doesn’t need a bold or brash design like a gaming laptop. It also doesn’t need an ultra-bright screen or snappy RGB keyboard to draw your eye and keep you immersed in the action occurring on its screen. What it does need to do is be well-built, reliable, and satisfying to use. It checks those boxes but feels pretty bland doing it.
Should You Buy It?
Maybe, if you value portability and productivity most
It's hard to overstate just how meaningful the Swift 3's size and weight are, and because of that, it makes up for some of its other shortcomings. It’s designed to roll seamlessly into your life and be as unobtrusive as possible and succeeds, making it pleasant to use as a daily carry—and that design is exactly what makes Swift 3 compelling, even when some of its other qualities are less inspiring.
It’s not the most powerful notebook on the market, and the configuration options all fall into the middle tier of performance. But for productivity, that’s fine. Core apps, like Word and Google Docs, run seamlessly. Browsing social media, scouring YouTube, and binging Netflix is fast and lag-free. Even light photo editing with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom is within scope. But beyond that, the Swift 3 hits its glass ceiling. The limited I/O also means you may need to invest in a small USB hub to carry with you.
If you’re looking for something with more connectivity without added bulk, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is an excellent option that also offers improved brightness, a larger battery, and configuration options with more memory. You’ll pay more for those features, however, with models starting around $1400. If you love the form factor, but want extra horsepower for gaming and content creation, the Razer Blade 14 is another great option but that will again cost you more to bring home. The alternatives highlight that there’s more Acer could have done to make the Swift 3 shine, but, particularly with its 12th generation models, it balances price and performance well.
But, even with its shortcomings in mind, it’s still incredibly nice to have such a small, lightweight laptop on hand throughout the day. If all you’re doing is word processing, web browsing, and video, you’ll find that it runs almost identically to higher-performance laptops while costing substantially less.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Chris has been specializing in PC and audio-related tech since 2015. Find him at IGN, Tom's Hardware, PC Perspective, MMORPG.com, and more.
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