Acer Swift 5 Review: Being Thin and Light Comes at a Price

by January 28, 2021 0 comments

Acer Swift 5 is a thin and light 14-inch laptop that’s been updated with Intel’s new 11th gen tiger lake processors. Build quality feels ok, it’s a bit hollow and lightweight feeling with a plastic exterior, and no sharp corners or edges. It weighs just over a kilo, or under 2.3lb. With the small 65w power brick for charging its 1.35 kg or 3lb total. As a 14” machine it’s on the smaller side and under 1.5 cm thick, so fairly portable.

The 14” 1080p 60Hz touchscreen on the Acer Swift 5 has a glass glossy finish, so reflections and fingerprints show up. It has an antimicrobial coating, which I suppose sounds good in human malware times and makes sense with a touchscreen, but at the same time I’ve got no way of testing how effective that is. I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 94% of sRGB, 72% of AdobeRGB, and 72% of DCI-P3. At 100% brightness we’re looking at over 360 nits, so above average, and with a decent 1110:1 contrast ratio. The 720p camera is above the display in the center, no Windows Hello support though.

The keyboard has white backlighting which illuminates all keys and secondary key functions. The power button is in the top right, but pressing it by accident doesn’t trigger a shut down. There’s only one level of key brightness, and this is controlled with the F8 key. Typing felt fine, the keys sound a little clicky. The precision touchpad clicks down anywhere and worked well without problems. There’s a fingerprint scanner to the right just under the keyboard, which I found to work fast and accurately.

Fingerprints don’t easily show up on the matte finish, and it’s smooth and easy to clean with a microfiber cloth. On Acer Swift 5 left side there’s the power input at the back, HDMI 2.0 output, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port and USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 4 support, DisplayPort output, and it can also be used to charge the laptop. The right has a 3.5 mm audio combo jack, another USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, and Kensington lock slot up the back. The back has some subtle swift branding in the center and rubber feet towards the corners while the front has an indentation for getting your finger in to open the lid.

Due to the lighter weight of the laptop, it wasn’t able to be opened with one finger. When the lid opens, the bottom of the screen raises the back of the laptop up which helps with cooling, improves the keyboard angle for typing, and means the bottom speakers aren’t pressed up against the table. There wasn’t much screen flex, perhaps due to the glass screen, but by trying to flex it you can see that it slides around quite easily on my table, another side effect of being this light, and this was occasionally noticeable when just using it normally.

It’s also in part due to there being less points of contact with the desk, as the back is now just held up by the small rubber feet near the corners. This in combination with the hollow feeling chassis gives it some flex when pushing down, but it felt sturdy enough during regular use. Underneath there’s just some air intake vents towards the back as well as some rubber feet, the back feet are only used when the lid is closed.

Getting inside the Acer Swift 5 was fairly easy and involved taking out 11 TR5 screws. Once inside, we’ve got the battery down the front, M.2 SSD to the right of it, and Wi-Fi 6 card above the battery. Memory is soldered to the motherboard which is pretty typical for laptops at this size, and there’s no discrete graphics here, so not too much for cooling. The speakers are towards the front on the left and right sides. They’re just not too clear at higher volumes and there’s no bass, but the latency results were good.

The Acer Swift 5 is powered by a 4-Cell 54.5Wh battery, and although it was lasting for more than 5 hours in the YouTube playback test. Inside we’ve just got a couple of heat pipes for the processor, and air is exhausted below the screen. When under CPU stress test, it wasn’t running that hot, around 64 degrees Celsius in my 21 degree room. This was a result of the processor running with a 17 watt power limit, so not quite the max 28 watts specified by Intel, but the Intel spec does also list lower power limits, which would be for thinner and lighter machines like this.

Like the other 11th gen laptops tested so far, the single core score is better than all other laptops I’ve previously tested, impressive stuff, especially when we consider it’s beating the higher wattage H series quad-core in multicore score too. At idle the keyboard was under 30 degrees Celsius, so a little cooler than most others tested. With the CPU stress test running it’s only getting to 40 degrees on the left side, as the processor is under there, so just a little warm to the touch.

Although the Acer Swift 5 is not a gaming laptop by any means, the Intel Xe graphics are definitely capable of running games. AAA titles at 720p is possible as long as you’re not going to max settings, while esports titles are fine even at 1080p. I’ve also tested some content creator workloads. Adobe Premiere video exporting doesn’t do as well when compared to other laptops that have discrete AMD or Nvidia graphics though. Adobe Photoshop is heavily dependent on processor performance, and as we’ve seen before the i7-1165G7 has excellent single core performance in Cinebench, so not too surprising that the Photoshop result is nice despite the lack of discrete GPU. I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage, and the 1tb NVMe M.2 SSD was doing alright, though as an 11th gen laptop it should be possible to use a faster PCIe Gen 4 SSD.

The Swift was a little lighter though, so could be a better option for portability, though this means less cooling capacity, so less performance when under heavy load. Overall, I thought the Acer Swift 5 was fine, it’s a nice little laptop that I had no trouble using, it’s just that nothing in particular stood out to me as being amazing, or bad for that matter, it just seems a little pricey to me, but that’s typically the case with smaller and lighter weight machines like this.

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