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Acer Swift 5 (2019) review: Punching well above its weight

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
899
inc VAT

The Acer Swift 5 may be one of the lightest 14in laptops on the market but it punches well above its weight

Pros 
Puts the ultra in ultraportable
Solid performance
Decent screen
Cons 
Disappointing battery life
Downward-facing speakers
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Acer’s Swift series has always prioritised portability over power and its 2019 iteration of the Swift 5 is no exception. This time around it’s powered by Intel’s 10th-generation processors, which give it a noticeable performance boost.

Is that enough for it to compete with the best lightweight laptops on the market, though? And how high does it set the bar for the forthcoming army of ultraportables with 10th-gen hardware set to be released in 2020?

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Acer Swift 5 review: What you need to know

Weighing less than 1kg, the Swift 5 is among the lightest 14in laptops around but it crams in plenty at that weight. Tenth-generation Intel processors take the starring role in the form of either the Intel Core i5-1035G1 or the i7-1065G7 and they’re backed up, in our Core i5 review model, by 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

The i5 version we reviewed has integrated Intel UHD Graphics, while the Core i7 model includes “discrete graphics on package” courtesy of Intel Iris Plus Graphics. For those wanting a dedicated GPU in addition to the Core i7 processor, there are models available that include Nvidia’s GeForce MX250.

The Swift 5 also has a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) touchscreen across all models and has an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 86.4%.

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Acer Swift 5 review: Price and competition 

The Acer Swift 5 model sent to us for testing retails at £899, which gets you a Core i5-1035G1 processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage, while the Core i7 version with 8GB RAM and 512GB storage will cost you £1,099.

For a touch more – £1,150 – you can add a NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU. That gets you a Core i7 with 8GB of RAM, or you can opt for the 16GB/1TB model for £1,299.

Competitors include the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (13.5in), which comes with 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD and a tenth-gen Core i5 processor and costs £1,049, the Apple MacBook Air (8GB RAM, 256GB SSD storage, 8th-generation Core i5 processor) which is £1,299, and the Dell XPS 2-in-1, which is a stunning laptop, though you’ll be forking out £1,409 for the most basic model which comes with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and i5-1035G1 processor.

Meanwhile, if you’re desperate for a third party GPU, you can get hold of a HP Envy 13 (2019) with 8GB RAM, 2566GB SSD storage and an 8th-gen Core i5 chip with an Nvidia GeForce MX250 on board for £779.

All of the aforementioned options weigh more than the Swift 5. If you’re looking for something equally light, then the LG Gram 14 is a decent shout. It costs more, though, retailing at £999, and is currently running older hardware. LG is due to release a 10th-gen model sometime this year, though.

Acer Swift 5 review: Design and features

I’m a big fan of the Swift 5’s compact, clamshell design. The metallic blue version looks very smart with its bronze detailing and the white version is equally attractive. However, you’ll likely need to be more careful with it to avoid it getting grubby.

What immediately strikes you about the Swift 5 is just how spatially economic it is. It measures a mere 319 x 211 x 14.8mm (WDH) and no part of the design is superfluous, resulting in it weighing less than 1kg – 990g to be precise. It’s so light you really need to hold it in your hand to appreciate the lack of heft. It can be carried in one hand without any fear of wrist or arm-ache and stowed in a backpack you’d be easily forgiven for forgetting that it’s even there. 

I found myself contemplating how robust such a lightweight piece of kit could be, as at just 15mm thick, the Swift 5 does feel a little flimsy. I needn’t have worried though, as the magnesium-lithium and magnesium-aluminium chassis is tough enough to withstand the kind of bumps and knocks you’d expect a laptop like this to suffer. 

The Swift 5 offers plenty of connectivity options, with an HDMI, USB 3.1 Type-A and Thunderbolt-enabled USB Type-C port housed on the left side of the laptop, where you’ll also find the connection for the power adapter (it’s worth noting the laptop will charge via USB Type-C, too).

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On the right side of the Swift 5 there’s a 3.5mm audio jack input and a USB 2 Type-A port, giving you plenty of options should you want to plug in a mouse, charge your phone or hook up to external storage. In terms of Wi-Fi connectivity, the Swift 5 is bang up to date, with its Intel AX201 card capable of connecting to the latest, fastest, most robust Wi-Fi 6 networks. Your router may not support Wi-Fi 6 yet but the next one you buy might well do so it’s good to see it in place here.

With an 86.4% screen-to-body ratio, the bezels surrounding the Swift 5’s 14in screen are minimal to say the least. On either side of the screen they’re practically non-existent, while at the top of the screen, the bezel is just thick enough to neatly fit the laptop’s in-built 0.9MP webcam. You won’t be buying the Swift 5 solely for its camera but both its photo and video image quality are respectable for making and receiving video calls.

Alas, the Swift 5 does not support Windows Hello, so there is no way to use facial recognition to sign in. However, you do get a fingerprint scanner, located below the bottom right-hand corner of the keyboard for those wanting an alternative to entering a password or PIN. I typically prefer typing a password but found the fingerprint scanner worked consistently, with only one or two failures during testing.

Acer Swift 5 review: Keyboard and touchpad

The Swift 5’s chiclet keyboard is relatively spacious so I never felt my fingers were short on typing space. I did have a small issue with the Caps Lock key, which felt less responsive than the other keys, but I got used to giving it a firmer press over time.

The Swift 5’s keyboard is nice and quiet to type on. Granted, I’m a pretty delicate typist so my colleagues are rarely exposed to any high-volume button mashing but the Swift 5 won’t be upsetting people in the quiet carriage on the train regardless of who’s using it.

As you’d expect, there are a number of shortcuts mapped to the function keys at the top of the keyboard, including F1 to lock/sleep your screen, the usual brightness and volume controls, the ability to turn off the touchpad with F7, and F8 allowing you to toggle between low and high keyboard backlighting or turning it off altogether.

The only odd key placement is that of the Home/PgUp and PgDn/End keys, which are directly above the right and left arrows, with no gap in between. While this makes some logical sense, the buttons are quite small so you have to be pretty precise with them or you’ll end up pressing a neighbouring key.

The touchpad is of the diving board type and positioned just left of the centre of the laptop, below the spacebar (as opposed to dead-centre), which is exactly where I like my touchpads to be. It’s 10.5cm wide by 6.5cm high so you’ve got plenty of room for manoeuvre while not feeling as if it’s taking up an undue amount of space.

The touchpad is by no means spectacular or innovative, and it has no need to be, instead simply allowing an easy glide of the finger/fingers without any sticking or resistance. When pressed in, the pad responds with a satisfying spring and avoids ever feeling spongy or heavy.

Acer Swift 5 review: Display and audio

The Swift 5’s 16:9 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display is a bit of a beauty. I prefer a taller 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratio but, in other respects, it’s spot on. It has a pixel density of 157ppi, which is sharp enough not to look pixelated, and while its maximum brightness of 311cd/m2 isn’t outstanding, it’s bright enough to work in most conditions other than full sun. Another bonus is that the Swift 5’s display has a semi-matte finish, so you won’t get the glare or reflections you would with a glossier screen.

The Swift 5’s display is pretty good from a technical standpoint, too. It covers a respectable 94.2% of the sRGB colour space and colour accuracy is commendable. It might not have the wide gamut support of the MacBooks, but it’s as good as its Windows 10 rivals, most of which haven’t made the move to wider gamut screens yet.

While I generally opt for touchpad use over touchscreen, the Swift 5’s touchscreen works like a charm. It’s responsive across all 10 of its touchpoints so if you’re particularly dextrous you can perform all sorts of on-screen gymnastics. 

The Swift 5’s two stereo speakers aren’t nearly as impressive. They’re housed on each side of the base as it curves upwards towards the laptop’s front corners. As such, the audio travels down into your desk or lap, potentially blocking out some of the sound. Despite this, the sound quality is clear enough and, considering this is a laptop designed for on the go use, blasting out audio at high volume is unlikely to be a huge concern.

Acer Swift 5 review: Performance and battery life

The Swift 5 model we reviewed uses a 10th-generation Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor backed by 8GB RAM, although you do have the option to bump this up to an i7-1065G7 with 16GB RAM if you’re willing to splash a bit more cash. 

With its 1GHz base clock, you wouldn’t expect the Swift 5 to be setting the world alight in terms of CPU performance but it scored a solid 75 in our in-house 4K multimedia test, on par with the second generation Huawei MateBook X Pro we reviewed in 2019, which had an 8th-generation Core i7 processor inside. That’s pretty good for a Core i5 machine.

The Swift 5 boots up and loads programmes quickly and handled multiple processes admirably during my testing. It won’t blow you away with its speed but you won’t find yourself cursing it while multitasking, either.

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The only minor issue is the Swift 5’s SSD, whose sequential read speed of 1,199MB/sec performed substantially slower than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019) and the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2019). In terms of write speed, however, the Swift 5 matched up to its competitors well, achieving a speed of 666MB/sec.

This is a laptop designed for on the go general use, not hardcore gaming so it’s no surprise that the Swift 5 didn’t excel in our gaming performance benchmarks. Its GPU is capable of running less demanding titles at smooth frame rates – it achieved a touch over 30fps at its native resolution of 1080p in the GFXBench Car Chase test – but you’ll want one of the versions with the Core i7 chip and Nvidia MX250 GPU if you plan on playing more seriously.

Perhaps the Swift 5’s biggest flaw, however, is battery life. In our video rundown test, which we conduct with the screen set to a brightness level of 170cd/m2 (roughly 60% brightness setting) and the laptop in flight mode, the Swift 5 only lasted 6hrs 22mins. This is over two hours shorter than the Core i5 Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (13.5in)’s result of 8hrs 48mins. 

Should you run out of juice, charging the Swift 5 for half an hour while turned off restored 40% of the battery in testing. Charging for the same length of time with the laptop on and undertaking some light processes at 60% brightness restored the battery to 30%.

Acer Swift 5 review: Verdict

The Acer Swift 5 has a lot going for it, with its elegant, ultra-lightweight build being the pièce de résistance. The incorporation of a 10th-generation Core i5 in a laptop of this size and weight is something we’ll likely see more of in 2020 but that doesn’t make what Acer has achieved with the Swift 5 any less impressive. Its overall performance is more than good enough unless you’re planning on hardcore gaming or 4K video editing and its vibrant 14in display is a pleasure to look at.

There are some flaws. Battery life is a little disappointing and SSD performance is a little slower than I’d like but if you’re looking for a strong all-round ultraportable with great connectivity options, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the Swift 5. If your budget allows, I’d suggest going for one of the more powerful versions with the i7 processor and Nvidia MX250 GPU, as the improvement in performance is well worth the extra outlay.

Acer Swift 5 (2019) specifications 

ProcessorIntel Core i5-1035G1
RAM8GB
Additional memory slotsNo
Max. memory16GB
Graphics adapterIntel UHD Graphics
Storage256GB
Screen size (in)14
Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080
Pixel density (PPI)157
Screen typeIPS
TouchscreenYes (10-point multitouch)
Pointing devicesTouchpad
Optical driveNo
Memory card slotNo
3.5mm audio jackYes
Graphics outputsUSB Type-C
Other ports2 x USB Type-A, HDMI
Web Cam720p
SpeakersStereo
Wi-FiWiFi 6 (802.11ax)
BluetoothBluetooth 5
NFCNo
W (mm)319
D (mm)211
H (mm)15
Dimensions, mm (WDH)319 x 211 x 15mm
Weight (kg)0.94
Battery size (Wh)Not stated
Operating systemWindows 10

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