- Slim and light design
- Good overall performance
- Decent screen
- Lots of bloatware pre-installed
- Not as stylish as the best
- Intel Core i5-7200U
- 14in, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
- 9hr battery life
- HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB Type C, SD card slot, headphone jack
- Manufacturer: Acer
- Review Price: £699.00/$1048.60
WHAT IS THE ACER SWIFT 5?
The Acer Swift 5 is the second-tier model in Acer’s new laptop lineup, sitting below the ultra-thin Swift 7. This is still a premium, slim and light laptop, however. On the outside, the Swift 5 is mostly made from metal, and powering the system on the inside is one of Intel’s new, seventh-generation “Kaby Lake” processors.
Add to this a high-quality 14-inch IPS display, the latest MU-MIMO Wi-Fi, a backlit keyboard, and greater connectivity options than you’ll find on the Swift 5’s slim and light rivals. All that and it can be had for £699, a price that comfortably undercuts both the Swift 7 and the competition.
ACER SWIFT 5 – DESIGN AND BUILD
Acer has steered clear of the classic thin and light laptop look of anodised aluminium. Although the outer panels are made of metal, the lid has a ridged pattern embossed into it and is painted black. The hinge area is finished in silver, the base has a soft-touch black coating – to ensure it stays put on your lap – and the keyboard surround is in fact anodised aluminium with a brushed black finish.
Overall, it looks good, although it’s less cohesive than the likes of the MacBook, Dell XPS 13 or even the Swift 7. Plus, there are a few little things that just don’t quite feel as premium as the best machines. For instance, the bezel around the screen isn’t all that thin and the backlighting on the keyboard isn’t particularly even.
Similarly, build quality on the whole is very good, but it definitely lacks that sense of being crafted from solid metal – such as the Apple or Dell machines.
This is because those laptops do actually use panels that have been milled out from thicker slabs of material, whereas all the panels on the Swift 5 are stamped into shape from thin sheets. All told, you can certainly tell this is a cheaper machine than the very fanciest of laptops, but it’s still a cut above most, and comfortably outclasses the likes of the Lenovo Ideapad 510S.
One thing this laptop absolutely aces, though, is being thin and light. At 14.6mm thick and 1.36kg in weight, it beats many 13-inch machines.
What’s more, what extra bulk there is here, when compared to the thinnest and lightest, is put to good use. You get far more connectivity than many similarly-sized machines as well: there are two USB 3.0 ports, one on each side, plus a full-size HDMI port, headphone jack, SD card slot and a USB Type-C port.
ACER SWIFT 5 – KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD
As mentioned earlier, the backlighting on the Acer Swift 5’s keyboard looks a little uneven. Specifically, it’s the light spilling out from under the keys that’s the problem.
When viewed from a normal typing angle, there’s a central patch that appears dark while all round there’s a glow from beneath the keys. It isn’t a practical concern, but just hints at that slight lack of attention to detail.
Otherwise, the keyboard is actually very good. Keys are well spaced and the layout is fine. I kept accidentally adjusting the brightness instead of activating Home or End, because I’m used to both being secondary functions of the cursor keys (Asus and Dell do this) – but other than that, it performed well. Most importantly, you get a proper UK-style layout, rather than a fudged US version.
As for the touchpad, it also held up well. It’s nice and large and has a smooth surface over which fingers glide easily. The click action isn’t quite up there with the best, but it gets the job done.
The touchpad is also home to this laptop’s fingerprinter reader. It works well in conjunction with Windows Hello, allowing for a quick and password-free login to the laptop.
ACER SWIFT 5 – SCREEN
On the whole, the 14-inch Full HD display on this laptop is very good. With a maximum brightness of 345 nits, it’s plenty bright enough for use outside or in other well-lit environments.
A contrast ratio or 1,327:1 also ensures it can deliver deep-looking dark colours at the same time as bright ones, as opposed to cheaper displays where dark colours look grey and washed out.
A Delta E of 0.83 indicates that this display is also able to distinguish properly between fine differences in colour, with a Delta E of 3.0 generally being considered the point at which humans can distinguish differences in colour. Likewise, sRGB coverage of 88.9% is decent for a laptop, making it just about suitable for professional image and video editing.
You even get a reasonably accurate colour temperature of 6,657K (the ideal is 6,500K), so most users should have no need to calibrate the screen for best performance.
There’s just one fly in the ointment: the screen’s glossy finish. This does inevitably make for more distracting reflections than matte finishes. However, there appears to be an anti-reflective coating that, in conjunction with the bright backlight, means the laptop is still very much usable – even in tough lighting conditions.
ACER SWIFT 5 – AUDIO AND WEBCAM
Acer makes grand claims about this laptop’s audio, and largely it lives up to them. Most of the leg work is actually put in by Dolby Audio software, which tweaks the signal being sent to the speakers in order to better optimise for them being inherently weak.
It works, though, and sound is delivered with clarity, even at maximum volume. Regular music listening in particular will push you towards the use headphones or external speakers, but for everything else they’re fine.
As for the webcam that sits in the top-centre bezel, it’s just about adequate. The image isn’t particularly clear – it looks too dark – but it’s fine for video chat. Certainly, it’s good enough for face tracking on the Windows Camera app. Likewise, the built-in microphone is on par.
ACER SWIFT 5 – PERFORMANCE
At its heart, the Swift 5 has a brand-new 7th-gen Intel processor. Depending on which configuration you opt for, it’s either the Core i5-7200U or Core i7-7500U. Both are dual-core products with Hyper-Threading, so they can handle four processes at once, with the i5-7200U running at 2.5GHz-3.1GHz, and the i7-7500U running at 2.7GHz-3.3GHz.
Those processors are the only differences between the two configurations of the laptop that you can currently buy, with the slower option costing £699 and the faster one £799. From my testing, though, I wouldn’t bother with the more expensive option, since the i5-7200U is fast enough for anything you’re likely to want to do on a laptop of this type, apart from video editing, which will benefit from the higher clock speeds.
Web browsing, email, word processing and image editing are all perfectly speedy, so it’s only if you regularly find yourself editing video or big batches of photos that you’ll need more power. Notably, this is a step up in overall speed from the Acer Spin 7, for instance, which uses are particularly low-power processor and struggles for it.
What really helps to keep things moving is the 256GB SSD. It isn’t the fastest around, with read and write speeds of 468MB/sec and 386MB/sec respectively, but it’s still a vast improvement over a hard drive, making boot up, app loading and file-transfer times rapid.
A PCMark 8 score of 3,136 actually puts this machine a touch behind some other ultraportable laptops, as do its scores of 3,284 (single) and 7,049 (multi) in Geekbench 3. However, they’re still in the right ballpark.
As for gaming, the graphics integrated into the Intel processor is fairly basic and will struggle with anything graphically rich. However, a score of 65,753 in 3DMark: Ice Storm shows it can easily power through more basic titles.
The slightly more expensive Lenovo Ideapad 710S benefits from a slightly better processor with faster onboard graphics, so it will be a slightly better choice for those looking for a lightweight video editing machine. Its SSD is also substantially faster.
ACER SWIFT 5 – BATTERY LIFE
One thing this laptop pretty much nails is battery life. Around ten hours is desirable in an ultraportables such as this and the Swift 5 managed 9hrs, 25mins in our Powermark test, which runs a loop of video watching and web browsing while the screen is set to a brightness of 150 nits.
This was backed up with our Netflix test, where watching an hour of Full HD video consumed only 11% of the battery, suggesting it can last for the full nine and a half hours when watching video.
SHOULD I BUY THE ACER SWIFT 5?
Acer has created an outstanding laptop in the Swift 5. We’ve been getting used to seeing truly slim and light laptops reach prices of £1,000/$1,500 and beyond, but with the Swift 5 you’re getting an impressively portable machine for less than £700. The design can’t quite match those truly premium options, but it still looks smart enough and feels nice to use too.
Plus, you get a great-quality screen, decent keyboard, excellent performance and great battery life. Add in the superb selection of connectivity, and it’s darn near-perfect. Only a slightly nicer build and perhaps a USB-C/ThunderBolt port would have completed the deal, but that would have also added to the cost. This machine does the basics very well indeed.
The only other real sticking point is the choice of some of the software Acer has pre-installed. One in particular – the App Explorer – pops up every time the machine is booted up and insistently asks to set the browser’s homepage to the dodgy Adware platform Start Search. You can remove the software, but it’s a poor show to see it installed in the first place.
The best alternatives both come from Lenovo in the form of the Ideapad 510S and 710S. They both have optional specifications with better-performing Intel Iris graphics, but the former is much heavier and the latter quite a lot more expensive. The Swift 5 on test here fits into a nice middle ground.
If you’re looking for a truly thin and light laptop, but don’t want to pay the £1,000/$1,500-plus prices of the most premium models, the Acer Swift 5 is an ideal alternative.