The Acer Swift 5 has always pioneered when it comes to lightweight build, with previous models in the series being as light as 970g. For 2019 the Swift 5 maintains a lightweight build - but it's actually a little bit heavier (ok, so only 990g) thanks to a new design and integrated discrete graphics (if you want to pay for that anyway).

At IFA 2019 - the largest European tech show, which happens in Berlin, Germany, every year - we got to sample this latest mid-weight, mid-price laptop to see whether it's onwards and upwards, or some of its previous misgivings have failed to be fixed up. Here are our first impressions of the 2019 edition Acer Swift 5.

Design

  • New hinge, elevates platform for comfort when typing
  • Plastic-topped trackpad and backlit keyboard
  • Integrated fingerprint scanner for sign-in
  • 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display
  • 86.4% screen-to-body ratio 
  • Available in: Blue / Metallic
  • Measures: 14.95mm thin
  • Weighs: 990g

Finished in a striking yet subtle blue, with copper keyboard accents, the Swift 5 is a good-looking laptop. If the blue isn't to your taste then a more muted metallic option is also available.

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It's slim, at 14.95mm - in the past that has cost it somewhat in terms of battery longevity, something we doubt has changed this time around, but which we won't know until testing in full - and certainly helps with the lightweight build.

Although the frame is magnesium (magnesium-lithium and magnesium-aluminium alloys, no less), the Swift 5's screen has some flex in it as a result of the material choices. It's not as sturdy as some heavier, all-metal competitors, which we would prefer. But that's the playoff between design and weight.

Principal to the 2019 Swift 5's design is a new hinge mechanism. It's as though the screen is sunk into the body a little, with the keyboard platform angling upwards to the rear as the laptop is maneouvred into working position. As a result, there's no 180-degree movement any more, not that we found this restrictive for, well, using this laptop as intended.

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It's a good angle for comfortable typing (ignoring the split Enter key), although the keys' coverings don't feel the best, given their coating. The trackpad has a similar plastic-topped feel, too, which is a bugbear we've long had with this series - fingers won't drag along it as naturally and the click isn't quite as defined as it could be.

To the side of the keyboard is a fingerprint scanner for rapid login, a more common appearance on Windows 10 laptops. As we said of its predecessor: it works, but we find squarer pads tend to work better.

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The screen in the 2019 has also had a rework, with less bezel to distract your eyes from the panel itself. An 86.4 per cent screen-to-body ratio might not sound that achieved, but as it's only the bottom bezel that's large it's actually a successful deployment of this panel. The 14-inch screen comes in 1080p with touch only, as is befitting of this price point.

Performance

  • Up to Intel Core i7 processor (10th Gen, Ice Lake)
  • Up to Nvidia GeForce MX250 discrete graphics
  • Fast-charging, via both dedicated and USB-C
  • Ports: 1x HDMI, 1x USB-C 3.1, 1x USB-A 3
  • Wi-Fi 6 connectivity

Grabbing a glance of a laptop at a showcase never gives a true impression of how it'll really function in the real-world, as there are too many factors to consider, but knowing the internal spec means we can have a good stab at how it's likely to go.

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First up, the Swift 5 introduces the option for discrete graphics, up to Nvidia GeForce MX250. That's a great addition to get a little bit more out of those more challengine projects - whether 3D in Photoshop, or some light-to-middling gaming tasks - which is something we've long been looking for in a laptop. No, it's not super-powered, but it's appropriate for the price (think in and around £1200 with this and top-end specs, a rise of about £300 over the entry-level model).

Also under the hood is the latest iteration of Intel's Core i processors, the 10th Gen Ice Lake variant, which is available up to Core i7. Unless you're going down the pair-it-with-Nvidia route we'd suggest going lighter on this choice - a Core i5 will likely give the battery life a lot more room to breathe and, therefore, last longer. Battery is one of those unknowns at this point in time, of course.

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Elsewhere the multitude of ports means whether you've got one foot in the past and the other in the future - or the here and now, really - then the mixture of USB-C and USB-A will ensure no task goes missed. There's even HDMI (seems a bit unnecessary to us), a 3.5mm headphone jack, and dedicated charging port (although the USB-C can also be used for this, if that happens to be the only cable to hand).

First Impressions

The Acer Swift 5 sticks to its guns for 2019, delivering a sub-1kg laptop for a fair price. If that lightweight approach is the thing that you really want then this laptop could be your perfect partner.

Thanks to a new hinge design the typing position is more comfortable, although we'd like a better trackpad topping and less flex in the screen, while our Spideysense tells us that battery life won't be best-in-class as a result of the thin and light structure.

As ever, the Swift 5 is all about balance: it's got that almost unnervingly light build with no obvious power sacrifice (now with optional discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics) for the right price. Sure, there are some build quibbles and material choices, but as Windows laptops around the £1000 mark go, there's a lot of positives to be seen here.