Acer Swift 7 (2018) review

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OUR VERDICT

Between a touchpad that doesn’t click and its aging, fanless processor, the Acer Swift 7 is an absolutely gorgeous Ultrabook – the ‘world’s thinnest,’ in fact – that we simply can’t recommend in a sea of laptops that are far more powerful and not much thicker for the same price or less.

FOR+

Excellent design
Built-in LTE option
Decent battery life

AGAINST-

Touchpad doesn’t click
Awfully weak performance for price
Poor webcam placement
Lacking audio

When the Acer Swift 7 was unveiled at CES 2018, it was touted as the ‘world’s thinnest laptop’ that also maintains a large 14-inch display and a svelte design. Unfortunately, the Acer Swift 7 sacrifices far too much in order to keep that precious thin laptop crown. 

The touchpad, for instance, is unique in that it doesn’t click – either haptically, like the MacBook Pro, or physically. Acer made this compromise to retain thinness, but it’s definitely not worth it. Luckily, Acer has addressed this touchpad issue in the Acer Swift 7 for 2019.

The trackpad isn’t the only compromise the Acer Swift 7 makes. This super-thin Ultrabook is held back by an old, fanless 7th-generation Intel Core Y-series processor, which sees it lag behind comparably priced Ultrabooks. 

It’s a gorgeous device, to be sure, and even squeezes in LTE compatibility. However, it’s hard to recommend the Acer Swift 7 when there are so many better laptops on the market. 

Price and availability

The Acer Swift 7 comes in just a single configuration, calling for $1,699 (about £1,280, AU$2,275) in an all-black or black on gold color option. This will get you everything listed to the right, plus a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello login, as well as an LTE modem and eSIM built in.

The HP Spectre 13 is just a sixth of an inch thicker than the Acer Swift 7 and features a beefier Intel Kaby Lake Refresh Core i7 processor with comparable storage and memory. But, the kicker is that HP’s laptop is less expensive, at $1,399 (about £1,055, AU$1,873). However, the HP Spectre 13’s display is an inch smaller, but it can be configured with 16GB of RAM and a larger SSD than the Acer Swift 7 for just 10 bucks more. 

The latest 12-inch MacBook from Apple measures slightly thicker at 0.52 inches, and would cost $400 less to match the Acer laptop on memory, storage and graphics, as well as provide a sharper display, though it’s missing biometric login and some screen real estate. 

Then, you have the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2018), a 14-inch laptop that’s just $1,399 (about £1,097, AU$1,996) and wipes the floor with the Acer Swift 7 from a value perspective. It’s not quite as thin and light, but it’s not that far off, especially considering the fact that it offers twice the RAM and storage, as well as a stronger Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU and a newer 8th-generation Intel Core processor. Oh, and the display is much sharper at 3,000 x 2,000 pixels.

At this point, the Acer Swift 7 just has an unhealthy obsession with connectivity, thinness and mobility – much to the detriment of everything else. You might be able to find some deals that help the Acer Swift 7 carve a decent niche, but it probably won’t be enough.

Design

Acer has clearly designed this laptop with thinness, lightness and portability in mind. The Acer Swift 7’s weight comes in at just 2.6 pounds, and it measures just 0.35 inches (8.98mm) thin.

Undeniably, this laptop is stunning, encased in this all-black, brushed aluminum unibody chassis with two sturdy hinges holding the display in place. Acer’s latest Swift 7 is certainly one of the most elegant laptops we’ve ever used. Even the screen bezels and trackpad are wrapped in chrome bands – as is the fingerprint reader.

Luckily, the keyboard on the Acer Swift 7 2018 is backlit and feels comfortable to type on – even with the very shallow travel. Turning up the feedback force helps a lot here. However, we can’t say the same for the trackpad. 

Acer decided to completely eliminate the clicking functionality from the trackpad for the sake of landmark thinness. So, you’re left with tap to click as the only means of interacting with Windows 10 – barring using an external mouse.

This clickless trackpad considerably reduced the speed at which we were able to navigate through Windows 10, preventing us from moving the cursor with our index finger and clicking on items with our thumb, like many laptop users are used to.

Before purchasing the Acer Swift 7, you should really consider how important the trackpad experience is to you before picking it up – it’s something you’ll be stuck with for the life of the notebook. We definitely weren’t into it, and you may not be, either.

We could go on all day about this weird design choice, but just know this omission brings a serious learning curve or leveling of expectations. Even though we’re huge tap to click fans, we found using the Acer Swift 7 to be a bit torturous without being able to click at all. Without it, moving and resizing windows requires precise double taps, which gets tedious fast.

Display and audio

Acer has at least gone through great lengths to improve the Swift 7’s multimedia features. Now, the touchscreen is 14 inches on the diagonal, thanks to far more narrow bezels. The IPS screen makes colors absolutely pop and offers up wide viewing angles for sharing content, which could come in handy when pushing the display down 180 degrees. Movies and still photos look vibrant and crisp through the CineCrystal LED display.

However, those pursuits have also produced new drawbacks of their own. Acer appears to have been forced to move the webcam to beneath the display in order to reduce the side bezel width. Of course, we’re no less miffed by this on the Acer Swift 7 than we’ve been with that of the Dell XPS 13: centered but beneath the display rather than above it.

We’ve seen Ultrabooks achieve similarly thin bezels with typically positioned webcams, so there’s really little excuse here.

When it comes to audio, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s poor due to the Acer Swift 7’s thin frame. The laptop’s design leaves room for only the smallest audio drivers that fire from the bottom of its base, leaving you with thin and tinny sound in movies and music. Just be grateful that Acer didn’t also sacrifice the headphone jack in making the world’s thinnest laptop.

For costing as much as it does, the Acer Swift 7 specs and performance aren’t quite what we’d expect. The Intel processor inside this laptop has two major factors working against it in terms of performance – its 7th-generation chip that’s been easily outclassed by the 8th generation, and its Y-series chip designed for low-power, fanless devices. 

Although there’s nothing wrong with such a processor, the problem is that this laptop’s key competitors in this price range aren’t that much thicker and heavier for using full-blown Intel U-series processors … and are so much better off for it.

As you can see from the benchmarks, the Swift 7 is outmatched by the Spectre 13 in every performance-based benchmark – and that laptop is merely six-tenths of an inch thicker (and actually a hair lighter). This is largely because the HP laptop uses an 8th-generation, U-series full-fat Intel processor, as opposed to the Swift 7’s older, lower-power chip.

You can see the same story play out across comparisons, where the Huawei option especially outpaces the Swift 7 with its dedicated graphics. Even the 12-inch MacBook produced similar performance numbers with a weaker Intel m3 processor from the same generation, likely on account of Apple’s aptitude for tuning its computer hardware to the software.

By all accounts, the Swift 7 simply does not produce performance that is comparable to rivaling laptops that come with similar price tags or even less. We even see a bit of sluggishness from this laptop when opening ad-filled web pages and when loading large media files.

For being just tenths of an inch thinner than all the rest, the Swift 7 sure does compromises on a lot.

Battery life

That said, the Swift 7 does bring forth some fantastic battery life figures, even if they’re unsurprisingly behind Acer’s own claims. While Acer promises up to 10 hours of use from the laptop, we’ve seen it last a little more than an hour less than that.

​You’re likely able to get an entire work day’s worth of use out of this laptop; of course, assuming the tasks involved are all relatively lightweight. Meanwhile, we’ve found the more powerful MateBook X Pro and more popular MacBook lasting just as long in our benchmarks – both of which can be had for less than the price of this laptop.

Windows Hello and onboard LTE

Two of the most compelling features the Swift 7 boasts are its biometric login and cellular connectivity. The biometric login comes via a fingerprint sensor embedded into the keyboard deck left of the Tab key.

The setup for this fingerprint sensor is just as simple as on other Windows laptops, and it works perfectly. The placement is also easy to appreciate at a time when some brands are still embedding fingerprint sensors in other bizarre places.

The onboard LTE connection is handled via an Intel modem using an electronic SIM card, or eSIM, which is connected to a global cellular network by Transatel known as Ubigi. Every Swift 7 comes with a 1GB, one-month free trial of the service. After that, you’ll have to sign up for a data plan, with nearly every region – but most of Africa, some of central south Asia, chunks of South America and all of Australia – within its coverage area.

The service works great outdoors, but it gets pretty bogged down within thickly-walled structures, as is the case with most of New York City. However, the convenience of onboard LTE isn’t lost on us, though it would have been more convenient to just sign up with one of the major US carriers with which we already have a phone plan.

Final verdict

The Acer Swift 7 is the result of Acer’s hellbent mission to produce the next “world’s thinnest” laptop. There’s no denying that it got there and can put that string of words on the box, but what kind of product did it result in? Frankly, one that’s far to easily outpaced and outpriced.

You may have the world’s thinnest laptop if you’re to pick up an Acer Swift 7, but you also have a laptop without a properly working trackpad. You also have a laptop that isn’t as powerful as others that are cheaper, and not that much thicker or heavier, while still looking just as luxurious.

While we admire Acer’s excellent product design chops brought to life in the Swift 7, we can’t truly recommend that you buy this laptop, unless you just have to fulfill your desire to own the thinnest laptop.