A few months back I was looking for a new laptop to use for blogging and writing tasks.
I was looking for very specific hardware requirements.
The laptop should be LIGHTWEIGHT, but with powerful hardware and LONG battery running time.
For the monitor size I decided to go for 14" since 15.6" would be full size and cannot be ultra-light, and anything smaller than 14" would be too small of a screen size to work with.
The first laptop that comes to mind is the Macbook Air 13 inches. I was considering it but was open to alternatives as well.
Honestly speaking I was less inclined towards macbook, since I am primarily a Linux user and learning yet another platform like macOS would need me to do extra work. Also I don't like the eco-system restrictions of Apple devices. Also I do play games like age of empires and asphalt which would not run without a Windows 10 system.
Here in India, the 2 major ecommerce sites are Flipkart and Amazon, so I searched on both. Interestingly there were quite a few laptops that matched my criterias.
Here are some of the models:
- Acer Swift 3 (SF314-59-524M) - This is the one I bought
- HP Pavilion Laptop 14-dv0054TU
- ASUS ZenBook 14 UX425
Why I chose Acer Swift 3
Lightest: Though all the laptops had great hardware specs, I decided to go for the Acer Swift 3 because it was the lightest at 1.2 kg. Yes, its actually lighter than the latest macbook air 13 inch.
I wanted the laptop to be as light as possible so that I could work anywhere I like.
Best Battery: The 2nd thing was the battery rating of the Acer laptop at 56 W-h which is higher than that of HP. While using the laptop the battery life turned out to be surprisingly good enough as well.
All other factors being nearly identical or similar, the Acer Swift 3 seemed a better deal overall, so I decided to go for it.
The HP Pavilion Laptop 14-dv0054TU laptop is a good alternative to the acer swift 3, but there are some differences. The HP laptop has less powerful 43 W-h battery. Also it weighs at 1.41 kg.
Another very similar laptop is ASUS ZenBook 14 UX425 with powerful hardware specs as this acer swift 3. The Asus laptop is infact even lighter than this one at 1.17 kg with a 67 W-h battery. However it has 2 usb-c and 1 usb a port. And it was priced higher than the acer swift 3.
And finally you can compare the Acer Swift 3 to the Apple Macbook 13 inch as well. Right away, the macbooks air costs twice of what the acer swift 3 comes for. Since I was more interested in hardware performance without any need for retina display, there was little reason for me to go for the macbook air.
Before we start the detailed analysis and review of this laptop, lets take a quick look at the specs first.
Official Page: https://www.acer.com/ac/en/IN/content/model/NX.A5USI.002
- Color: Pure Silver
- 14" display - 1920 x 1080 - 35.56 cms FHD IPS Panel
- CPU: i5 11th gen - i5-1135G7 - Base Clock Speed - 2.40 GHz
- 16 GB RAM - LPDDR4X
- 512gb PCIe NVMe ssd
- Intel Iris Xe Graphics
- 2x USB A
- 1x USB C (Thunderbolt 4 capable)
- HDMI port
- trackpad with integrated press buttons
- 56 W-h battery (it lasts long enough)
- Comes with a 19V / 65W charging adapter
- Windows 10 home single language
It comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. When you turn on the laptop for the first time after unboxing, it will ask for some information to setup the system and get your started.
It will also get you registered with the Acer website so that your warranty becomes active.
Though the screen size is 14 inch, everything on screen looks decent in size and easy to use. But obviously things will appear scaled down compared to a 21.5 inch desktop monitor.
Reviewing the Hardware
I have been using the laptop for several months now and its time for a full in depth hardware review of various aspects of usability and performance metrics.
1. Build Quality and Appearance - Goodish
According to the specs on the acer uk website the body is all metal made of aluminium. Lookwise the laptop has a decent metallic look in silver color.
But yes, the laptop has a non-premium budget look. Its easy to tell that its a cheap laptop. So what ? It is supposed to be a cheap laptop. It comes in many color variants including dark gray, but the most common color is the silver gray.
The shape and design is sleek and very easy to hold and carry along. When the display lid is fully opened, the laptop body does not raise itself. Some laptops do this, to provide better air flow underneath.
There body is very sturdy with minimum flex anywhere.
2. Thermals - Average
The laptop has a single cooling fan module beneath the right side, as a result the left side stays slightly warmer. At the same time, the fan noise is very low, nearly impossible to hear until the cpu temps go to 90 C, and you put your ears very close to the keyboard. Its a very quiet laptop.
The thermals heavily depend on the ambient temperature and air ventilation. If the surrounding is cool like inside an air conditioned room or with an overhead fan, the laptop will maintain an idle temperature of around 45 C. Under moderate load the temperature would go above 65 C.
Here is a screenshot from CPUID Hwmonitor
Note: Make sure that the laptop is always kept on a flat hard surface like wood or glass so that air can flow unrestricted under-neath. The very first day when i unboxed the laptop i mistakenly put it on my bed pillow which choked the air vents for some time making the laptop so hot that the body could not be touched with bare hands.
The heat of the system is actually distributed to the top side of the keyboard where the body of he laptop gets hot. The lower part of the keyboard where the hands rest, is completely cool all the time, so you would not feel the warmth in your palms when typing.
Heats while gaming - over 90 C
Playing fast graphics games like Asphalt Legends does heat the laptop significantly. While gaming the laptops cooling system is clearly not good enough.
Temperature will shoot in the 90 C range and you must have external cooling like a fast moving fan overhead or cooling pad below the the laptop body.
The cooling system of this laptop is not robust enough for the fact that its an ultra light machine at 1.2 Kgs. Laptops that are very light-weight often cut down or compromise on certain hardware components and in this case it is the cooling module.
If an extra cooling fan was added to the left side as well, that would have made the cooling quite better in my opinion. The laptop manages decent cooling even with a single fan on one side, because the components like cpu, gpu, ram and ssd are of latest generation that consume less power and produce less heat.
There air exhaust vents are on the upper half of the bottom side and one on the top-side right edge.
On the left side there is a USB port + HDMI port + USB C + DC charging port. The USB A port on the left side is a USB 3.2 Gen1 port while the USB C port is a thunderbolt enabled port and also supports display output. According to the specs the usb c port supports charging as well, but i did not test this yet.
On the right side there is a USB port + audio jack + kensington lock. The USB A port on the right side is a USB 2.0 port.
Again, since it is a compact and lightweight laptop, the port count had to be kept low.
The HDMI port will allow you to connect the laptop display output to an external monitor or television. Good thing if you like playing games on large screen. The USB C port can also be used as a DisplayPort to connecting to external displays.
I tested dual displays with my Sony Bravia TV, and was able to get 2x 1920x1080 screens. However, the system does slow down when using dual display setup. Using a triple monitor setup via the usb-c DisplayPort will make it even slower.
There is a utility called Intel Graphics Command Center that can be used to configure dual displays on Windows 10. The same can be done from Windows 10 Display Settings interface.
4. Keyboard - Decent
It is a compact chiclet keyboard without the numpad, but does have home/end and page up/page down functions close to the arrow keys which i found convenient. The power button is on the top right inline with the function keys.
By default the function keys will activate special functions/media keys like brightness adjustment, volume etc. You will have to press and hold the "Fn" key at the bottom left to use the standard functions like F1, F2 etc. This behaviour can be changed from the BIOS settings.
On Kubuntu, one problem that I faced while typing is the caret jumping to a different location due to my hand's thumb base touching the touchpad. To fix the issue, go to settings and change the timeout for "Disable touchpad while typing" to 1000ms.
This behavior is usually tackled by the operating system by ignoring touches while typing but the performance varies across platforms. On Windows 10 it was totally fine.
Another issue with the keyboard is that the functions keys are not grouped into 4 each like they are on ordinary wired desktop keywords.
This is done to save space, but it makes using the function keys less intuitive, since often times when you want to refresh a webpage by pressing F5, you might end up pressing F4. But its just a minor issue.
Overall the keyboard is decent, it does not have a strong tactile feedback or clickiness feeling when typing and the keys feel slightly soft and sort of "chewy". Should not be a big problem though, if you are not typing too fast or too much.
The backlight of the keyboard is pure white color and keeps the keys well illuminated. The space bar does not light up though.
To enter the BIOS settings press the F2 key at boot.
The touchpad is good in size, slightly left shifted and it has hidden left and right buttons if you prefer to press to click. The bottom left part is left click and bottom right part is right click.
The touchpad supports double and triple taps as well. By default double tap is configured as a right click, whereas triple tap is a scroll click or 3rd button click of conventional mouse. It also supports some multi-touch gestures like zooming in and out of images. A user manual is provided by Acer inside Windows 10 which explains how to use the gestures.
6. Networking - Wifi and Bluetooth 5.0
The laptop comes with Wifi 6 (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac) which gives you speeds upto 9.6 Mbits/s and dual channel support of 2.5 Ghz and 5 Ghz. However keep in mind that wifi 6 on the laptop alone will not give you high speeds. You need a wifi 6 capable wifi router as well.
The wifi works seamlessly on other operating systems like Ubuntu without the need of any extra drivers.
7. Battery - Impressive!
This is one of the most powerful aspect of this laptop. The 56 W-h batter lasts really long. For normal usage like document work and web browsing, it lasted over 6-7 hours of continuous usage. It might have gone upto 8 hours but I did not test that carefully.
In my opinion any ultrabook that can run over 6 hours for regular work is good enough.
When gaming it last for over 4 hours which is also impressive, considering that its supposed to be a lightweight and portable laptop.
Note: The battery time depends a lot on the usage pattern. For example if you keep the display bright, the battery will drain faster. I was using the laptop in-house with low brightness setting, and that is why it lasted upto 8 hours.
8. Display - OK-ish
As you would expect with a cheap budget laptop like this one, the display is a FHD 1920x1080 on a 14 inch IPS display which amounts to a ppi of 157.35 pixels per inch. Its good enough, but not as sharp as the retina display of macbook.
It is a matte finish display with a base refresh rate of 60hz. Getting too close to the screen will certainly show you the pixels, but that is not a problem. Game graphics do look slightly less sharp.
For instance the graphics of Asphalt 9 Legends look far better in terms of sharpness and vibrant colors on my Sony Bravia TV than this laptop. But this is a budget laptop so do expect some limitations.
Colors and viewing angles are okay, as its an IPS display. Details about the brightness levels is not available online, but as some users have reported, this laptop has a max brightness of 250 nits.
9. Sound - Loud but like a mobile phone
The sound is loud and clear but feels like a powerful mobile phone and not really a speaker. The grills are on the bottom side, facing left and right.
It lacks the surround effect and has minimal bass. Might not be a good option when watching movies from distance but good enough for watching youtube videos from close.
Its basically small speakers that cannot produce low frequencies that well like full sized desktop speakers. My Ipad Air 4 has significantly better sound quality than this Acer Swift 3. If you need better sound get an external bluetooth speaker.
10. Webcam - Same old 1280x720 @ 30 fps
I tested the webcam with a few free online tools. It seems to have a resolution of 1280x720 with a framerate of 30 fps.
Its the same old school 1 MP camera that nearly every laptop has. Not very powerful, but good enough for basic usage of video calling.
I could never understand why laptop manufacturers won't improve the camera on laptop. There are many theories about that. There is an interesting discussion this topic over here, if you want to know more.https://www.notebookcheck.net/It-s-2020-and-laptops-still-have-1-MP-cameras-What-gives.453549.0.html
On Ubuntu there is a tool called Webcamoid that can be used to test your webcam and make videos.
The real test is the performance benchmarks which give a rough idea about how powerful is the cpu and graphics performance. There are quite a few free and paid benchmark tools out there which show an approximate score for relative comparison of your machine.
In this review we are using the popular tools called Cinebench and Geekbench and the tool from Userbenchmark.com
Here is a screenshot of the single core tests performed on this laptop by cinebench. The rank at the 4th spot is pretty impressive, for the fact that its the 11th gen processor in the i5 series.
Multi-Core Score: 3206 Single-Core score: 1202
Next comes the multi core score as shown below. The multi core rank at 12th spot is not that great for the simple fact that this is just a 4 core / 8 thread processor which cannot compete with a 8 core, 12 core or 16 core processor.
But even amongst the 4 core processor the multi core performance is along the top lines, making this laptop a productivity powerhouse.
The next tool to test the system is geekbench. It uploads the results to an online database for comparison with hardware performance reports from other users.
The Geekbench processor scores for single core and multi core tests can be found here:https://browser.geekbench.com/v5/cpu/8373253
Single-Core Score: 1404
Multi-Core Score: 5404
The cpu scores can be compared with the database of scores submitted by other users here: https://browser.geekbench.com/processor-benchmarks
From the above results it is evident that in single core performance the i5-1135G7 cpu on this laptop performs very well in comparison to other cpus.
However in multi-core performance it is far behind the 8 core and 16 core cpus which is obvious.
GPU Scores: OpenCL and Vulkan
The gpu performance scores based on OpenCL tests can be found here: https://browser.geekbench.com/v5/compute/2972097
The OpenCL score database from other hardware can be found here: https://browser.geekbench.com/opencl-benchmarks
Looking at the database of score from other users, it is seen that the GPU on this laptop is close to GeForce GTX 770 and Radeon RX 550 in terms of performance.
So the GPU is indeed capable of giving moderate gaming performance.
The vulkan test scores can be found here: https://browser.geekbench.com/v5/compute/2972103
UserBenchkmark from https://www.userbenchmark.com/ is another free tool for benchmarking your computer and compare results with other users online.
The tool is free to download and the test results are made available online.
The userbenchmark test results for this laptop are here:https://www.userbenchmark.com/UserRun/45823839
The results clearly shows that as the desktop system the laptop performs quite well. However it is just below average when it comes to gaming and workstation jobs, primarily due to lack of a powerful gpu.
Userbenchmark also tests the ssd performance
4. CrystalDiskMark - SSD Benchmark
Its the most popular tool for benchmarking the read write speed of your ssds and nvmes. So I tried it out on this laptop and got some decent results.
The numbers are not super impressive but indicate a good performing nvme ssd. There are nvme ssds out there that perform far better than this one. But on a budget laptop like this acer swift 3, with a large 512gb ssd, we get only typical moderate speeds.
5. Boot time
The boot time is surprisingly fast. Windows 10 boots in 4 seconds and shuts-down in 3 seconds. The snappy speed mostly comes from the nvme ssd and 11th gen i5 processor.
In my opinion, the fast boot and shutdown time is not just because of the powerful hardware. Windows 10 is doing some sort of optimisation to speed up the boot process.
So a 14" lightweight laptop is not meant for gaming, but every laptop can do some gaming anyways. With this Acer Swift 3, my gaming experience was decent and satisfactory.
It has the Intel Iris Xe integrated gpu, and in terms of performance this gpu lies somewhere between Nvidia GT 1030 and Nvidia GT 1050. Slightly better than 1030 but not as good as 1050.
Games that I play mostly are Age of Empires Definitive Edition and Asphalt 9 Legends. Sometimes I do a little bit of Counter Strike and Fortnite as well.
I ran a couple of game on this laptop and the frame rates did not disappoint, despite the laptop not having a dedicated graphics card.
To see the frame rate you can press Ctrl-G to enable the Xbox interface and see the performance metrics in game. It will show load metrics for CPU, GPU and the FPS.
Keep in mind that this ultrabook does not have an ethernet port. So if you plan to play any multiplayer games online that need the lowest possible latency, then wifi might not be the best option depending on your network setup. Then you would need a usb ethernet lan adapter to get an RJ-45 port on this laptop.
1. Asphalt 9 Legends - Great Performance - 9/10
The game is available right from the Microsoft store on windows 10, for free and you can install it right away, signup and start playing.
Verdict - I was able to play Asphalt 9 Legends on this laptop with the highest graphics settings and got a decent frame rate of 60 FPS which is sufficient for a racing game.
Here are some screenshots:
The above performance is for June-2021 and the game just manages to get 60 FPS. As the game receives more updates in future it might get heavier in graphics requirements and might not work that well.
2. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition - Max performance - 10/10
Age of Empires is a somewhat 2D (or 2.5D) game that does not require a whole lot of graphics power, but having a decent gpu is necessary if you want fancy visual effects.
Verdict - I was able to play AOE 2 DE with the highest graphics settings and got a stable FPS of 60. This is expected as the Intel Iris XE GPU is sufficiently capable for a game like AOE.
Here is a quick screenshot:
Besides AOE 2 DE, its previous version AOE-2013 (AOE 2 HD) will also work perfectly fine on this system. So if you are age of empires fan then this laptop is great.
But yet, the display size is small so might want to connect it to a larger display and would need an extra mouse. More-over since age of empires involves using a lot of hot keys i would recommend using an external keyboard as well, since laptop keyboards are not really designed for very aggressive thrashing that we all do while gaming.
3. Counter Strike CS:GO - Mediocre performance - 6/10
Now lets take a look at FPS games and the most common and the oldest one is CS:GO.
In my tests counter strike had medium below average performance on this laptop, but is still playable if you reduce the graphics settings to medium. You can also reduce the resolution to improve game performance as well.
I was able to get an average FPS between 40-45 when playing with medium settings. Here is a quick screenshot
If some of the graphics settings are completely disabled, then the FPS can be boosted to over 70+ with a resolution of 1080p. So you can actually get some good CS:GO performance on this laptop.
4. Fortnite - Medium level performance - 6/10
Now Fortnite is a somewhat FPS game that needs high power graphics processing so its performance on this Acer laptop was mediocre as expected.
However the game was playable and ran well.
At medium graphics settings the FPS were in the 40+ range, whereas with high graphics settings the FPS fell below 30 and the on screen visuals were stuttering and lagging.
The most optimum setting for playing fortnite on this laptop was Medium Level graphics with max FPS 30 setting.
Here are some screenshots
Drawbacks - The Cons
Looking at the price and performance, I could not find much to complain about in this laptop. It gives excellent performance for the money and since its a budget laptop, not every hardware component would be high-end.
Who is this laptop for
This laptop is excellent for the following use cases:
- Office use, document editing
- Blogging and Writing
- Web Browsing and watching videos
- Light Gaming
- Online Learning
- Video Conferencing
Due to its powerful hardware, all you need to do is connect it with a larger external monitor and you can do as much as a desktop computer.
Since its so light with excellent battery life, its ideal for travelling and on the go computing.
Overall it is a portable business and study laptop for office users and students.
Who this laptop is not for
This laptop is not for
- High end gaming
- 3d modeling and rendering
- Heavy Video Editing
- CAD applications
It does not have a powerful gpu, so can't deliver good fps on high requirement games. For the same reason it is not a very suitable option for running 3d modeling or CAD applications.
The high performance i5 processor with the integrated Iris Xe gpu will allow you to do basic 1080P video editing with few tracks. You would also be able to do basic photo editing with applications like Photoshop Elements.
For heavy video editing get a laptop with high pixel density display and discrete graphics card. The 16-inch MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15 are great options for that.
Since the display is only 14 inch in size, it is not suitable for cad applications either. For CAD applications look for laptops with atleast a 15.4 inch or higher display.
The laptop comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. Besides that it also have Microsoft Office trial version and Norton antivirus trial version pre-installed. Both will expire in few months. If you don't need those, you can un-install them.
There is some Acer utilities for registration on the official website. Besides that, there is no bloatware or brand specific applications running on the laptop. Its mostly Windows 10 only.
A light-weight laptop that already has plenty of RAM and ssd space, in my opinion would not need any serious upgradation in future before it actually becomes very old.
The official website does not provide much details about the upgrade options. However, other users have posted details about this online.
1. RAM - The ram is soldered onto the motherboard and cannot be upgraded. So if its a 8GB laptop you cannot upgrade it to 16GB. The situation is probably the same with other models as well. This is probably due to the fact that the laptop is very sleek and keeping the RAM on-board saves space.
2. SSD - There is no extra ssd slot for adding another ssd. However the existing ssd can be changed and upgraded. No official information is available but the laptop should be able to support atleast 1TB ssd.
And since its a compact and light-weight notebook there is no more space inside to add a hdd or anything else.
The Swift 3 series of laptops has quite a few models with variations in processor, gpus, ram size etc.
US based consumers can check this page:https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/models/laptops/swift3
UK consumers should check out this page
Indian consumers should check this page:https://www.acer.com/ac/en/IN/content/models/laptops/swift3
If you are in the US there are alternate models available with Ryzen octa-core processors ( like the SF314-42-R3U5 ), which is even more powerful than the intel i5 4 core processors. Remember, more cores means more responsive system and better multi-core performance.
The Swift series also has another line of laptops named Swift 5 and Swift X which are more powerful compared to swift 3.
The Swift X laptop comes with Nvidia 3050Ti, Ryzen 7 - 5800U and 16GB Ram and can be used for more serious gaming and video editing applications.https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/model/NX.AU3AA.001
and it is available on amazon here:
Overall the Acer Swift 3 has managed to pack some really powerful hardware in a compact size and budget. I use it for blogging and web browsing and document editing at home along with light gaming and it delivers great performance.
Strong features: Powerful CPU, Lots of RAM, Lots of ssd space, very light, powerful battery.
Average features : average sound, basic display, basic gpu, average cooling
Overall it is a productivity powerhouse and great for regular work. I have been using it for over a month now and am quite satisfied with it. I do my regular office work and also play Asphalt and Age of Empires and this laptop handles it all very well.
I also have dual boot setup with Kubuntu 20.10 which works great on this laptop without the need of any device drivers.
Now choose for yourself. And thanks for reading !