(Pocket-lint) - Most of Acer's laptops are made for the average buyer, offering solid specs at a good price. Models like the Swift 3 are worth a look if the prices of MacBooks make you want to cry.
The Acer Swift 7 is quite different, though. Its aim is to be the thinnest laptop in the world (just like the last Swift 7 was at launch, in 2017). Guess what? Mission complete.
However, this laptop's high price, annoying non-clicky trackpad and so-so performance make it a little tough to recommend. Unless you'll get a real thrill out of showing your friends a laptop only slightly thicker than their iPhones, anyway.
- 8.98mm thin
- 1.19kg weight
- Aluminium chassis
The Acer Swift 7 has a singular focus: thickness. This laptop is only 8.98mm thick, making it significantly thinner than the Dell XPS 13 (which is 11.6mm).
We're glad the Acer hasn't tried too hard to bring down the weight. At just under 1.2kg, the Swift 7 is still very light, but it uses aluminium panels rather than lighter magnesium alloy ones, the latter which some mistake for plastic.
Here, however, the Swift 7 looks and feels great. It has the cool, hard density of a laptop that costs so much it'll make some do a double-take. Its screen is stiff, there's no flexing to the keyboard. This laptop may be ultra-thin, but it doesn't feel ultra-fragile too.
The Swift 7 is also a contender for best-looking laptop in the entire Acer line-up. And it uses a strategy Acer doesn't always use quite enough: tasteful restraint. Just about every part of this laptop is anodised matte black aluminium. It can pass for the business laptop of a trendy start-up type (although, let's be honest, most probably use a MacBook), but is slick enough to work as a pure style laptop too.
The screen surround is the one visual weak link though. There's a big gulf of blank space below the Swift 7's screen and more border on all sides than the Dell XPS 13. This means while the Acer laptop is ultra-thin, its footprint is not incredibly small. Again, that's not the aim, and with a 14-inch screen it wouldn't have a chance of competing with the 12-inch MacBook anyway.
- 2x USB C 3.1 ports
- Headphone jack
- Nano SIM slot (4G)
- Integrated fingerprint scanner
"Where are the compromises?" is the question you need to ask of a laptop that tries to make one element superlative. And the Swift 7's ultra-thin frame impacts the laptop in three important ways.
First, there are few connections. You get a pair of slim USB-C ports, the kind found on new phones, and a headphone jack. This means you can't directly plug-in your old peripherals. And when you charge the Swift 7 you'll only have one slot free. Sure, the MacBook has exactly the same issue on all counts.
Acer does bundle-in a little breakout box that has a full-size HDMI, a full-size USB and another USB-C, though. As long as you won't need to use memory cards, external hard drives or a mouse while you use the Swift 7 away from home, this box mitigates the issue.
Slim problem number two is the most serious: the trackpad doesn't click. Not at all. Which is a shame, as this lovely textured panel of Gorilla Glass is smooth, fairly large and responsive. But without even any haptic feedback (which Apple uses to great effect in its MacBook), it initially just feels broken. Using a trackpad like this just to shave 0.5mm or so off a laptop feels like a bad decision; it's like design "tunnel vision".
Performance and Battery Life
- Intel Core i7-7Y75CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 256GB PCIe SSD storage
- Around 7 hours battery life per charge
The Swift 7's last thin-centric problem is its power. This laptop uses a last-generation (7th) Intel Core Y-series CPU, because Intel hasn't made a corresponding chip in the current gen, yet. Apple uses them in its 12-inch MacBooks.
The Acer's Core i7-7Y75 processor is so efficient that the laptop doesn't need a fan or a big heatsink. However, as a result it's not designed to work at max power for long periods and even then the total power is only around half that of the Swift 3 (which uses a U-series CPU). And that is half the price.
You won't notice any power issues when pottering about Windows. It's fast and apps load quickly thanks to the 256GB SSD – which, granted, is stingy given the price (but maybe not a surprise because of the limited space available).
The CPU is a bad fit if you need to edit video, use pro-grade design applications or extensively edit big image files in Photoshop. Which doesn't seem like an unfair request of a £1,500+ laptop, right?
It's bad news for gaming too. No laptop with integrated graphics will bother an Xbox One X, but the Intel HD 615 GPU here is significantly worse than even that of a last season entry-level Core i3 processor. Skyrim runs well enough at "Low" settings, but that's it. The game stutters along even at "Mid" graphics. A reminder: Skyrim is seven years old.
Of course, silence is the benefit of this light and nimble CPU. There are no fans at all, no components to make any significant noise. If you're not going to ask it to do any heavy lifting then this silence is a great thing indeed.
In terms of longevity, the Swift 7's battery isn't close to the best if you need it last through a long work day or plane journey either. Acer says it'll last 10 hours between charges, but we think that's a bit optimistic. Streaming video from YouTube with the display at around 35 per cent brightness saw the battery lasts around 7.5 hours. Even with the ultra-low power CPU in tow, this sort of stamina is no great surprise considering the laptop's 9mm thickness.
Screen and Keyboard
- 14-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD
- Touchscreen with Gorilla Glass
- Backlit keyboard
The Swift 7's screen measures 14 inches across, uses a Full HD IPS LCD panel, and features a Gorilla Glass-topped touchscreen. There's no stylus and the screen doesn't fold over to turn the laptop into a hybrid, but you can use a finger when the touchpad gets on your nerves.
Colour, contrast and top brightness are all very good, but the limited resolution does leave clear pixellation, particularly in text. For £200 less you can get the Dell XPS 13 with a 4K display (which affects battery life, to be fair). This Acer has a good screen, but it's definitely not the best on offer at the price.
The Swift 7's keyboard is similar in this respect. As you may guess given the laptop's thickness, its keys are shallow. They aren't MacBook shallow, and have crisp feedback, but we prefer the typing experience of the Dell XPS 13.
There's a keyboard backlight this time around too, but there's only one brightness level. At the price, a bit more control would be welcome.
Acer has also crammed-in a fingerprint scanner. It's in an unusual position, to the left, making this one of the only "left handed" laptop finger scanners. As usual, it's not as fast or reliable as the sensors seen in the latest mid-range and high-end phones, but is a welcome extra.
- Acer TrueHarmony speakers
The Acer Swift 7's speakers aren't great either. They sit on the underside, deliver stereo sound and aren't blocked when you put the laptop on a flat surface. However, they're also pretty puny sounding.
Their tone is thin and maximum volume is poor, drowned out by some of today's louder phones. It's another casualty of the ultra-thin frame, but then Apple manages to fit quite impressive speakers into even its thinnest laptops.
You can use Dolby tuning to try to make the audio project a bit better, but you can't fill in the missing bass and mid-range frequencies that just aren't there. For movies and TV streaming when on holiday or a work trip, make sure you pack your headphones.
The Acer Swift 7 is a show-off laptop, even if its moody obsidian black finish doesn't make it look like one.
Slimming down to be thinner than any laptop out there is the main, perhaps only, goal here. And while Acer has successfully managed this, for most prospective users the knock-on effects won't be worth it.
Some will get used to the lack of USB and video ports. But the non-clicky touchpad and poor performance for this asking price actually means Acer's more affordable laptops are a much better option for the majority.
We're very impressed with the look and feel of the Swift 7. But for this kind of money a Dell XPS 13 or an Apple MacBook Pro would be a more compelling and logical purchase.
Apple's 12-inch MacBook feels closest to the Swift 7, even if it does have a smaller display. Both devices use the same CPU and the MacBook has a much better haptic trackpad. You'll pay an extra £85 to get the Core i7 version, but as it comes with a 512GB SSD the prices are actually comparable.
Dell XPS 13
For £200 less than the Swift 7 you can buy a Dell XPS 13 with 4K display and a much more powerful CPU. At 11.6mm thick it's no longer radically thicker than the Swift 7, unlike older XPS models. Thanks to Dell's InfinityEdge 13.3-inch display design, the laptop's footprint is smaller too.
Acer Swift 5
The Swift 5 is much more powerful than the Swift 7, and slightly lighter too. At 15mm thick it's nowhere near as thin, of course, while the design isn't quite as high-end. However, the lower-end model ultimately seems a more sensible option, especially as it's £700 cheaper.