(Pocket-lint) - Ask the average person about the themes of 2016 and you'll hear about celebrity deaths and far-right politics spreading across the western world quicker than a cute puppy video.
Tech trends were, thankfully, less depressing: we saw a lot of super-super thin laptops arrive to see in 2017.
The Acer Swift 7 is not just one of the thinnest, it's also one of the more affordable. At £950-1000 (depending on how hard you shop) it's not exactly cheap, but is £100 less than the Dell XPS 13 and is knocking on Apple's design door too.
Acer Swift 7 review: Design
- Just 9.98mm thin
- Gold and black colour
Laptops like the Acer Swift 7 and HP Spectre are a real mix of old and new. They set new standards for super-skinniness and light weight, but are also pure laptops. That means no touchscreen, no hybrid design and no Microsoft Surface-a-like stylus features.
Super-powered portability is the main draw. Well, that and a fancy look. The Acer Swift 7 is all-aluminium and has a two-tone design. It is gold on the inside and black on the outside, and you'd better like that look because there are no silvery safety net options on offer.
The Swift 7's gold is also a little bolder than the more champagne-y shades we tend to see on phones and laptops. Embrace the bling or get out of here.
What really sells the Swift 7, though, is its slender dimensions. It's just 10mm thick, which is even thinner than the HP Spectre.
Having used most of these new ultra-skinny elite laptops, the Acer Swift 7 actually batters you over the head with its slim-ness less than most. Its footprint is still as large as an old-style 13-inch MacBook Pro and, at 1.16kg, it's not so light that you wonder whether they forgot to put the battery in. The Asus ZenBook 3 is 200g lighter, for example.
The Acer Swift 7 also lacks the final magic design touch that makes a laptop feel like its designers were trying to make a museum piece: you can't lift the lid without the keyboard base part lifting off the table. It's one of those little show-off bits only MacBooks and a few Windows laptops have.
More important, though, Acer does seem to have nailed the build quality basics. Despite being dead thin, the keyboard doesn't flex even if you press down on it pretty hard, and you can also tilt the screen back more than on the HP Spectre.
Acer Swift 7 review: Connections
- 2x USB-C and 1x 3.5mm jack only
The main questionable part of this new wave of slim laptop design is the kind of connectivity you get. Well, more the lack of it.
The Swift 7 has two USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack. And that's it. One of those C-ports is taken up by the power lead when it's plugged in too.
We bet virtually everything you own that you'd want to plug into the Swift 7 still uses full-fat USB, and you'll also need to get hold of an adapter to use an SD card. It's one of those MacBook-esque issues.
The positive side of USB-C is that these ports can juggle loads of data. This means you can attach a bunch of things to the one port, as long as you have the right adapter, anyway. And they're not included in the box.
Acer Swift 7 review: Keyboard and trackpad
- Shallow press keys
- No backlight
- Oversize trackpad
One other eyebrow-raiser of these new laptops is that many, including the Swift 7, have ultra-shallow keyboards.
It's a classic MacBook-apeing move, but Acer's slim keyboards are better than some. It'll take some getting used to if you currently have a chunky laptop, but Acer's engineers have managed to inject some satisfying resistance into these keys even though they only depress a little.
It has a meatier feel than a 12in MacBook. The keyboard is also extremely quiet, making our everyday (old style) MacBook Pro sound like a noisy clacker.
There's a major omission here, though. Despite costing almost £1000, the Acer Swift 7 does not have a keyboard backlight. Almost every laptop this pricey has one, and a backlight comes in handy if you need to work in a dim or dark room on occasion. Leaving it out doesn't make a lot of sense, even if it was necessary to get to 9.98mm thin.
In a lot of areas it's easy to label this as Acer's attempt to copy Apple, but the Swift 7's trackpad is much more like one of HP's Envy 'pads. It's very, very wide, giving you loads of space to flick around.
It's great in-use too, with a super-smooth textured glass top and an easy but well-defined clicker. We saw none of the weird behaviour you sometimes see in Windows 10 device trackpads either. If you'll appreciate the extra swiping area, it's hard to beat.
Acer Swift 7 review: Screen
- 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD panel (16:9 ratio)
The Acer Swift 7 display is a little more ordinary, but still good enough to justify the price. It's not as good as that of the new 13-inch MacBook but a lot better than the dated display of the MacBook Air.
Similarly, colour is good but not quite as punchy as the new MacBook Pro's tones or those of something like the super-saturated Razer Blade Stealth.
However, contrast is strong and max brightness gives you the option to work outdoors on a sunny-ish day even though the Acer Swift 7 has a glossy screen. It's topped with Gorilla Glass 5 too, to shouldn't be too easy to scratch even if you treat it like dirt.
If you're a real screen perfectionist you might be left wishing for a few more pixels. 1080p across a 13.3-inch screen lets you see slight pixellation, with small fonts looking less than totally smooth. It all depends on how much you've already been spoilt by super-high density laptops, tablets and phones really.
Acer Swift 7 review: Performance
- Intel Core i5-7Y54 (1.2GHz)
- 8 GB LPDDR3 RAM
- 256GB SSD
There's also a little semi-hidden sacrifice Acer has used to get the Swift 7 thinner than the competition. Look at its spec list and you'll see it has a Core i5 CPU. However, it's actually less powerful than the processors of most alternatives because it's the new-gen equivalent of one of Intel's fanless Core M CPUs. Intel just changed how they're named. Sneaky.
It's an Intel i5-7Y54, a latest-generation Kaby Lake processor. Where the Core i5-6200U used in many ultraportables has a clock speed of 2.3GHz, the i5-7Y54 is clocked at 1.2GHz. It's less powerful, uses a lot less battery and is so efficient it doesn't need a fan. However, with most light laptop tasks like browsing, Microsoft Office work and light photo editing, you won't really notice much difference. It's much better than an Intel Atom laptop. Miles better.
We wouldn't have noticed the shortfall if we hadn't also tried some games on the Swift 7. A "proper" Intel Core laptop is no gaming powerhouse, but you can play some older console-style titles if you turn down the visuals a bit. The i5-7Y54's Intel HD 615 GPU only has about 70 per cent of the power of the last-gen Core i5's HD 520 graphics chipset, further limiting the kind of games you can play without them turning into a slideshow.
This sort of sacrifice is, at the moment, still necessary to get the Swift 7's CPU down to the level where it only creates a third the heat of a normal Core i5 laptop. Even though it doesn't have a fan it stays cool most of the time, although if you do play games for a while you'll feel the part above the keyboard getting hot. This is where the main heatsinks live.
Acer Swift 7 review: Battery life
- 2,770mAh battery
The low-demand CPU also helps keep battery life pretty decent, if not radically better than some alternatives, when you're doing something simple like watching a video or doing some browsing.
At 40 per cent brightness, the Swift 7 lasts for eight and a half hours when playing a movie on loop. We saw similar "all-day" results when using this laptop as our everyday work laptop.
That's better than the HP Spectre, but the Dell XPS 13 lasts even longer thanks to a combo of clever power management and a much bigger battery.
Laptop batteries are normally described as having so many watt-hours (Wh), but Acer uses the much more phone-like milliampere hours in its spec sheet. And the Swift 7 has 2,770mAh, which is pretty low for a high-end laptop. The Dell XPS 13's works out at well over 6,000mAh, but that's partly because the Dell operates at a higher voltage. The Swift 7's i5-7Y54 needs less juice.
It makes us wonder how long the Swift 7 might last if it was 2mm thicker and the extra space was packed with lithium-ion goodness, but then the laptop wouldn't have the all-important 9.98mm thickness to brag about. Still: real-world battery life is very good if you keep your activities light.
Acer Swift 7 review: Sound
The Acer Swift 7 also has fairly good speakers for a very slim laptop, although last year saw the bar for audio in pricey models rise substantially. Two drivers sit on the underside, firing outwards to make the sound wider than the laptop itself.
As they're so close to whatever table the laptops sits on, the sound varies a lot depending whether it's on your knees or a surface. But there is an extra ounce or two of bulk to the sound and decent top volume. It's enough to make watching a film on the Swift 7 while on holiday enjoyable rather than a complete compromise. A MacBook gets you better bass and less brittle-sounding treble, though.
The Acer Swift 7 is one of the thinnest laptops in the world, and it costs a bit less than some in this class. Add a good trackpad, a decent screen and a solid-if-shallow keyboard and you have a great ultra-portable machine for work and the sorts of time-wasting most of us do on our laptops.
Look a bit closer and you realise Acer's super-slim claims are a bit, well, thinner than they initially seem. The Swift 7 has a less powerful processor than most of its rivals, as well as a larger footprint, so while very slim it's not necessarily more portable than the rest. There's no keyboard backlight either.
This shouldn't all necessarily put you off, but it's worth looking a bit deeper if you've been lured-in by the 10mm-thick design. For most, the big question is whether the restrictive connections will get on your nerves (despite it rapidly becoming the norm for high-end laptops). Otherwise Acer has made a generally decent MacBook competitor.
Acer Swift 7: The alternatives to consider
It's pricier, it's just as bling, but it's also more powerful than Acer's offering (even if it's not quite as slim).
With its quirky edge-to-edge display and more power to boot, the Dell XPS might not look as bling, but it's more of a workhorse for not much more cash. Plus it has full-size USB ports.
Ok, so there's no Windows to be seen here, and Apple has the same limitation with connectivity as the Acer. As small, portable laptops go, however, it's a hard one to beat. Especially if you like rose gold.