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(Pocket-lint) - The most expensive laptops are the ones you're meant to really get excited about, right? Acer's Swift line is a bit different. The mid-range Swift 5 is often the sweet spot for both value and design. And that's no different for 2021.

It is a powerful, extremely light laptop that doesn't feel like a flat-out lightweight. And at under a grand and a couple of hundred cheaper than a similarly specced Dell XPS 13 it's got price appeal too.

But the Swift 5 isn't perfect. It's not the most stylish laptop in this class and it has a plastic trackpad, which is a bit of a cheap move. But if low weight for real work when on the go is what you are after, then the Swift 5 is a sound buy. 

Design

  • Dimensions: 15.9 x 318.9 x 206.9mm / Weight: 1.04kg
  • Magnesium-aluminium and magnesium-lithium body panels

Acer is one of the main proponents of ultra low-weight laptops. The Swift 5 weighs just a fraction over a kilo, around 300g less than the average weight for a portable 13-inch laptop. 

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 3

You get no prizes for guessing how Acer managed it. The Swift 5 has a magnesium alloy shell, rather than the straight-up aluminium that Apple uses in its MacBooks, and Dell in the XPS 13. 

Magnesium is lighter than aluminium, yet still dead strong. The keyboard doesn't flex, the lid is nice and stiff. This is a low weight laptop with no real practical downsides. 

However, there are some things to consider if you care about the surface-level stuff. 

The Acer Swift 5 doesn't feel as swanky as some of the alternatives from Lenovo, Asus and Dell. Some of this is down to the weight - when something is lighter than you'd expect it can initially seem flimsy. Even if it isn't. The magnesium alloys used here are also significantly less metallic-feeling than aluminium. 

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 13

The Acer Swift 5 also has that plastic touchpad, the one part that can be put down to a budget cut rather than a weight-saver.

This isn't, in our opinion, the best-looking laptop for under a grand either. It's tasteful enough, though, with a two-tone blue and gold colour scheme, minimal display border, and no unnecessarily showy parts. But it doesn't quite have the elegance of a Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim. Feel free to disagree if your eyes see differently. 

Screen

  • IPS LCD touchscreen panel, 1920 x 1080 resolution, 407 nit brightness
  • 99.2% sRGB, 72.5% Adobe RGB, 77.7% DCI P3 colour

The Acer Swift 5 has a very good screen, but not one as advanced as some of the laptops you might pay even more for, like the HP Spectre x360.

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 4

Thankfully, the one "cut" is the bit the fewest people are likely to notice at first glance. The Swift 5 has nice colour, but not ultra-wide gamut colour. 

That means the laptop can't render those ultra-vivid tones. But unless you do pro imaging work, you don't need to worry about it too much. The Acer Swift 5's screen still looks great.

It also has enough brightness to deal with outdoors use, just as much as plenty of laptops that cost a few hundred more. 

Resolution is Full HD, so not 4K, but this is the norm for a laptop like this. Higher resolution upgrades almost always command a higher price - and often drain the battery life quicker too.

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 7

The Acer Swift 5 also has a touchscreen with a lovely Gorilla Glass top layer to match. But this isn't a laptop that relies on touch as a big selling point. Its hinge only folds back the usual ~130 degrees, so it's not an all-the-way-back hybrid. We're perfectly happy with that though. iPads are good tablets. Hybrid laptops are not. 

Keyboard and touchpad

  • Membrane keyboard
  • White-LED backlight
  • Plastic touchpad

For work purposes we could easily switch to using the Acer Swift 5 all day, every day - because of its keyboard. Despite the laptop's low weight, it has solid key depth and action, bolstered by its surprisingly stiff keyboard plate.

If there's a design characteristic to celebrate here, it's that the 300g weight loss (compared to the 13-inch norm) has zero real effect on the keyboard quality. 

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 8

The Acer Swift 5 key character is light and fast, not dark and ultra-deep. But it is quiet, and satisfies for long-form typing. It has a backlight too, but does not have customisable intensity. It's on or off, that's your lot.

The Swift 5 touchpad is not quite as appealing, however, because it has a plastic top surface rather than the textured glass we like to see at close to this price point.

What's the difference? Plastic touchpads have higher friction surfaces, which you'll feel when you change direction in swipes. The Swift 5's touchpad ends up feeling slightly tackier than, for example, the Dell XPS 13's. 

Performance

  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU
  • 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD
  • Intel Xe graphics

The Acer Swift 5 is a mid-tier slim and light laptop. It doesn't have the best CPU in its series or stacks of RAM, but does have the best Intel configuration we could have asked for at this price.

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 10

You get an 11th Gen Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. With some other models you might only get 256GB storage. And for the person who needs a general purpose laptop, not one that will actually be used for apps that really chomp down on 16GB RAM, that extra storage is really the most meaningful bump-up you can get.

Not sure whether to get a Core i5 or i7 laptop? They both have four cores, eight threads. The Core i7 has a smidgen more core power and a little more GPU power. But the change is not as big as it is in the world of desktop PC CPUs. 

The crucial part for us here is the Intel Evo GPU, seen in Core i5 and Core i7 laptops. This is a big part of Intel's 11th Generation class, and makes laptops like the Acer Swift 5 much better as roving entertainment stations.  

Intel Evo lets you max out Skyrim to Ultra settings, the works selected. You can play The Witcher 3 at 1080p if you fiddle with the visual effect settings. GTA V runs well too. 

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 12

Do light work on the Acer Swift 5 and it's virtually silent. Even when gaming for a short while it doesn't make much noise. However, it does become noticeable if you stress the CPU for a while, the familiar higher-pitch whirr of a laptop fan kicking in. 

The actual decibel count isn't high, but that higher tone can make it more distracting. We're a little swayed by having come from the very quiet LG Gram 16, though. The Swift 5's fan noise shouldn't put you off - unless you dream of a silent fan-free life, which you can get with a MacBook Air

Battery life

  • 56Wh battery
  • 65W power adapter
  • Up to 15 hour life per charge

The Acer Swift 5 has a 56Wh battery. It's a solid capacity, but nothing out of the ordinary. However, we see some impressive results even with mid-size batteries, using the latest AMD and Intel CPUs. 

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 1

This laptop lasts 10 hours 20 minutes when playing streamed video at the sort of display brightness you might use indoors, using its power saver mode. 

Used for light work - just a word processor and a browser window or two - it lost just 14 per cent after two hours' use, suggesting it can last up to 14 hours. It's unusual to see light use figures beat those of a simple video stream test. Assume you'll get nearer to 10 hours unless you keep the screen intensity relatively low and barely do anything to make the CPU quiver. 

This is good real-world stamina, particularly for a circa-1kg laptop. However, it's a way off some of the figures we've seen from AMD Ryzen laptops recently, which seem to routinely outlast Intel ones. 

Pocket-lintAcer Swift 5 (2021) review photo 11

The Acer Swift 5 also uses a classic cylindrical power socket rather than USB-C, which is fast becoming the standard connector for laptops like this. However, this means the one Thunderbolt port is left free even if you leave the adapter plugged in. 

Other ports are fairly traditional. The Swift 5 has two USB-A ports, the classic USB shape, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack. 

5 reasons why you should consider downsizing your keyboard and going wireless with the Logitech MX Keys Mini

Verdict

If you find four-figures a bit too high and 1.3kg a bit too heavy for a portable 13-inch laptop, then the Acer Swift 5 is a remedy to your concerns. It is an ultra-light laptop that doesn't feel hollow and has excellent keyboard rigidity. Working all day long on this thing feels great, and your shoulders will thank you if you carry your laptop around every day. 

The Acer Swift 5 probably wouldn't be our top choice if you barely care whether your laptop weighs 1kg or 1.3kg, mind. Accept a little more weight and you can get an aluminium laptop that feels a bit nicer, one with a superior glass touchpad too. Call us shallow if you like, but we value things like that. 

Also consider

Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim

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One of our favourite laptops in this class. Its AMD processor seems to result in dramatically better battery life than the Acer, while its aluminium shell feels more expensive. However, it is significantly heavier, which could and probably should put some people off. 

Apple MacBook Air 

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Now featuring a processor derived from phone tech and has no fan. So you'd assume it's lighter than the Swift 5 right? Nope. It's around 270g heavier because it's made of aluminium. We prefer Acer's keyboard for long-form typing too. However, the MacBook wins for battery life, display resolution and raw performance. 

Writing by Andrew Williams. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 6 April 2021.