Hands-On with the Acer Swift 7

Posted on July 15, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 14 Comments

Aimed at road warriors, the Acer Swift 7 features one of the most compact designs I’ve ever used, but with a 14-inch display. Yes, it’s miraculous. I can’t even believe it’s possible in a PC this small, thin, and light. And yet there it is, mocking other so-called portable PCs.

Design. The Swift 7 is cute as a button, but don’t let that fool you. It’s significantly smaller than any other 14-inch laptop; indeed, it’s smaller than most 13-inch laptops, too. Acer notes that there’s no wasted space, but I’d say that it’s optimized for compactness without compromise. The materials are high-end—the body utilizes magnesium-lithium and magnesium-aluminum alloys throughout—and it has a premium, ceramic-like feel.

Display. How Acer squeezed a 14-inch display into the Swift 7 is unclear, beyond, of course, moving the webcam to a funny and unfortunately placed pop-up unit just above the 1/F1 and 2/F2 keys. It’s a Full HD (1920 x 1080) multi-touch IPS display with some of the narrowest bezels (2.57 mm, or .1 inches, on the left and right sides) I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t lay flat, but it’s protected by a 0.4mm-thick layer of Gorilla Glass 6, if you’re worried about the durability of a PC this thin. And it throws off 300 nits of light.

Components. Powered by a 1.5 GHz 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8500Y processor (5-watts), 16 GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and an NVMe PCIe 512 GB SSD, the Swift 7 provides exactly the right mix of components for a PC that is this thin, light, and portable. The RAM should help overcome any issues with the Y-series processor, and I’ve not experienced any noticeable bottlenecks so far. The Swift 7 includes stereo speakers, and I was surprised the quality in both music and movie playback.

Performance, noise, and heat. The Swift 7 is fanless and so is completely silent. To keep the heat down, Acer employs a copper plated heat pipe for the CPU and a copper/graphite composite thermal pad that evens out heat across the motherboard, eliminating the hot points that are somewhat typical in modern portable PCs. In real-world use, I’ve not noticed any heat issues so far.

Connectivity. Connectivity is excellent: The Swift 7 ships with dual-band Gigabit 802.11ac Wi-Fi with multi-user MIMO technology and Bluetooth 5.0.

Ports. Given its thin and light design, you won’t be surprised to discover that the Swift 7 lacks legacy ports, and is instead served by two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, which are both unfortunately located on the same (right) side of the PC. But Acer throws in a handy little USB dongle (above) with USB-A, USB-C, and HDMI video-out ports, a nice touch.

Keyboard, touchpad, and pen. Given the size of this PC, I was a bit worried about the typing experience, but I’ve had no issues so far. There’s no function key row, which is a bit odd; instead, the function keys and number keys are together, with the latter being accessed via a dedicated Fn key. (The multimedia and special function keys are thus overloaded on the next row down.) It’s backlit, but supports only one level of brightness. The glass touchpad is a precision touchpad, which is ideal, and it seems to function well so far. (And it’s also covered with Gorilla Glass 3.)

Unique hardware features. As noted, the 720p webcam was relocated to a pop-up hole above the keyboard, creating unwelcome up-the-nose shots; on the flipside, it’s normally closed for privacy. The power button, which is located to the upper left of the keyboard, doubles as a fingerprint reader, which is a nice touch. Only the fingerprint reader is Windows Hello-compatible.

Portability. The Swift 7 couldn’t be more portable: At just 9.95 mm (.39 inches) thin and 890 grams (1.96 pounds), it’s the smallest, lightest, and most portable PC I’ve ever used that isn’t bogged down by a major usability compromise. Acer reports that the Swift 7 delivers up to 13 hours of battery life; I assume that’s for video streaming and will guess that it will deliver closer to 9 hours in real-world use. I’ll test that. But it does support reasonably fast charging too: 100 percent in 3 hours.

Software. The Swift 7 is bogged down with crapware. Aside from the crap that comes with Windows 10 Home, it includes the loathsome Norton Security Ultra—which threatened that my subscription had expired on first use and then did everything it could to avoid its removal from the PC—plus a superfluous Acer Collection 5 app store/promotion, Mozilla Firefox, and far too many addition games and applications. There’s some wheat with the chaff, but the sheer amount of crap on this PC is indefensible. The good news? You can remove all of it.

Pricing and configurations. As reviewed, the Acer Swift 7 retails for about $1700, which puts it firmly in premium PC territory. There is a slightly less expensive $1600 model with a slower processor and 8 GB of RAM. And a more expensive $1900 version with Windows 10 Pro. You can view all of the configurations on the Acer website.

Recommendations and conclusions. My preliminary evaluation suggests that Acer has hit one out of the park. I’m not normally a fan of Y-series Intel processors or 16:9 displays—and the crapware is reprehensible—but the Swift 7 is an astonishingly portable PC. It’s ideal for anyone who spends most of their time on the go and doesn’t want to be burdened by the bulk and weight of the typical laptop or Ultrabook.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Magically thin, light, and compact
  • Gorgeous 14-inch IPS display
  • Premium design
  • Great battery life (expected)

Cons

  • Too much crapware
  • Up-the-nose pop-up camera
  • 16:9 display

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