If you’re looking for a lightweight laptop with serious smarts, our Acer Swift 5 review is a must-read. The new 2018 reboot of the Swift 5 notebook (model number SF514) is incredibly light, yet packs a respectable Intel Core i7 processor, Full HD visuals and 256GB of storage.
Acer is one of the most prolific laptop producers in the world, with a massive catalogue of notebooks covering pretty much any budget. This updated 2018 version of the Swift 5 is one of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s more premium efforts, aimed at fairly demanding users who hit the road quite often. You get enough grunt to handle office suites and media editing and even a bit of gaming. Best of all, this capable machine is surprisingly slim and light.
We’ve spent the week with the Swift 5 and here’s what we think.
Acer Swift 5 Review: Design and connectivity
One of the obvious highlights of the Swift 5 is its 970g weight. By coming it at under a kilo, this is officially an ultrabook, designed with portability in mind. Given that this is a full-sized 14-inch machine, I was certainly impressed at the light form factor every time I picked it up. Anyone after a device that they’re going to carry about constantly will be very well served.
At its thickest point the Swift 5 is just 15mm, so this laptop is reasonably slim as well as light. That metal lid is also very thin, which means you’ll see some clear flex when putting pressure on the surface. However, we didn’t see any worrying display distortion even when pushing quite hard on the exterior. Certainly reassuring, if you’re planning to shove the Swift 5 in a backpack every day.
While this laptop is rather slender, you still get a decent selection of ports lining the edges. This includes dual USB 3.0 ports (both of which can be used for charging your mobile devices), a Type-C USB 3.1 port, HDMI connectivity and a headphone jack. There’s also a Kensington lock port, for securing the Swift.
Acer Swift 5 Review: Keyboard and touchpad
Although the Swift 5’s keyboard is quite spongy towards the middle, this had no impact on our touch typing experience. Those isolated keys are well spaced and sized, with the typical exception of the cursor keys. Like with most laptops, these are rather cramped down in the bottom right corner. Still, as this is a touchscreen device, it’s no biggie.
Typing at night isn’t a problem, thanks to the keyboard’s backlighting. This can also be switched off at any time to save on battery life, using one of the function keys.
The only real issue I had with the keyboard involved the space key. Hitting this around the edges is completely ineffective; you need to strike the key towards the middle or you’ll get no response. At first this proved a serious problem every time I typed. However, I eventually adapted my typing technique so I rarely had an issue. All the same, this is the kind of flaw we wouldn’t expect from a more premium laptop such as the Swift.
Although the Swift 5’s touchpad isn’t quite as spacious as the Apple MacBook’s pad, it’s still a perfectly fine alternative to the touchscreen. The surface is slightly sunken, to make it easier to use in the dark. Tapping that surface mimics a mouse click, while you can also simulate left and right mouse clicks by pushing the bottom corners of the pad. When it comes to responsiveness and sensitivity, we had no issues at all.
Acer Swift 5 Review: Screen and media
Open up the Swift 5 and you’ll find yourself staring at a 14-inch IPS touchscreen display. With its 1920×1080 pixel resolution, this produces pleasingly crisp visuals. Whether you’re editing photos or kicking back with a movie, images are perfectly detailed with no hint of fuzziness.
Brightness levels aren’t as strong as we’d like unfortunately, even when bumped up to maximum. Visibility is fine when simply working on a word processor in a bright environment. However, editing darker photos or watching moody Marvel shows on Netflix is much more of a challenge, with lots of head bobbing and squinting often involved. Thankfully the wide viewing angles help with visibility, at least when sharing the screen.
We had no such complaints when it came to the quality of image reproduction. Contrast levels are strong and colours are accurately reproduced, so vibrant photos really stand out. In our experience, the Swift 5 is a close rival to Apple’s Macbook Pro as far as visuals are concerned. Not bad at all considering the price difference.
Acer Swift 5 Review: Features
Windows 10 Home is of course the OS of choice. This runs perfectly on the Swift 5 and offers all of the standard software features you’d expect. Acer has also thrown in some bonus apps, including PowerDirector 14, PhotoDirector 8 and Norton Antivirus.
Just beneath the keyboard, over on the right hand side of the Swift 5, you’ll find an embedded fingerprint sensor. This is a narrow little strip, yet proved perfectly responsive and satisfying to use in our tests. Just a quick tap of your digit to the ever-so-slightly sunken surface is enough to unlock your laptop.
You get 256GB of storage via the built-in SSD. That’s enough space for plenty of software and media, which is just as well. Sadly there’s no SD memory card slot, so you can only expand the Swift 5’s storage by plugging in an external drive.
Acer Swift 5 Review: Performance and battery life
An Intel Core i7-8550U chipset powers the Swift 5, backed by a healthy 8GB of RAM. The result is certainly a smooth everyday experience, while the likes of video and photo editing are ably handled.
In our tests, this laptop could even handle some reasonably complex games. Older titles such as Skyrim played with a satisfying frame rate on medium detail levels, although we did see the game crash and recover at one point. Modern games that aren’t too demanding, such as point and click adventures, also run well. Of course Intel’s integrated graphics struggle with anything more serious, so don’t expect the likes of Doom to be playable.
A 4670mAh battery is stuffed inside that slender frame, to keep you going on the move. I found the Swift 5 generally lasted the day without needing to be plugged in, as long as I stuck to simple tasks. If all you’re doing is word processing with the occasional browse of the web, you can expect roughly six to seven hours of life. If you start streaming video or playing games, that’ll drop quite sharply.
Acer Swift 5 Review: Verdict
If performance and portability are key features for you, the Swift 5 2018 reboot is well worth a look. Despite packing enough grunt to handle media editing and even some gaming, this ultralight laptop certainly won’t weigh you down. Only the dim display and dodgy space bar detract from an otherwise excellent package.