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Acer Swift 3 (2022) review: The best affordable compact laptop

Alun Taylor
10 Jun 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
599
inc VAT

Affordable, compact, well made and with an excellent display, the latest Acer Swift 3 has no real weaknesses

Pros 
Excellent display
Slim, light metal body
Good battery life
Cons 
No card reader
Limited upgrade options
11th-gen Core i5 chip
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Spend enough time reviewing high-end and exotic laptops and you tend to forget that most people in the market for a new laptop just want “A Laptop”. Something compact, light, and well made with a good display, decent keyboard and solid battery life.

If that is what you want – an all-purpose laptop for general productivity, office tasks, web browsing and media consumption for the minimum outlay – then the Acer Swift 3 (2022) is the laptop for you. For a good few hundred quid less than the competition, you get a stylish all-metal notebook with an excellent display and reasonably up-to-date underpinnings.

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Acer Swift 3 (2022) review: What you need to know

You also get a machine with Intel’s Evo certification which guarantees a certain baseline technical competency. The most important aspect of this is Thunderbolt connectivity but it also includes "all-day" battery life, quick recharging time and high Wi-Fi connection speeds.

Much of this you’d take as read in a modern laptop but as you descend towards the cheaper end of the market it’s good to have it as a performance foundation. The rest of Acer’s offering is similar to previous generations. The 2022 Acer Swift 3 is a compact laptop with either a 14in or 13.5in display, designed principally for productivity tasks, and it sits at the budget end of Acer’s laptop range.

Acer Swift 3 (2022) review: Price and competition

In terms of prices, the Acer Swift 3 starts at £599 for the Intel Core i3 model with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM and runs to £999 for a Core-i7 model with a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. Four models sit in between, including the model we’ve been sent, which has a Core i5-1135G7 chip, 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. These prices are for the models with the 14in Full HD display but you can also get the Swift 3 with a sharper, 13.5in 3:2 aspect ratio 2,256 x 1,504 panel for around £150 more per specification.

Bought directly from Acer, our review Swift 3 has a list price of £700, although you can find it for significantly less if you shop around. Either way, it’s one of the cheapest 14in compact laptops around to offer a decent level of build quality and specification.

If you can afford to spend a bit more, the Huawei MateBook 14s has a lot going for it, including a quick 90Hz 2,520 x 1,680 display and an excellent sound system. At the time of writing, it was on sale for £800, a massive £400 less than the list price when it was first released in October 2021.

The MSI Prestige 14 Evo is very much a business machine but at £800 it’s also good value and comes with an 11th-gen Core i7 processor. You also get a huge touchpad, not one but two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a laptop that’s impressively small, solid and pretty. Like the Swift 3, it also carries Intel’s Evo certification.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5500U-powered Honor MagicBook 14 represents solid value at just £649, considerably cheaper than the Core i7 version we tested, although you do have to tolerate a webcam that pops up from behind a fake f-key and looks up your nose rather than at your face. It’s a well made and stylish notebook if one that lacks any features to set it apart from the herd.

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Acer Swift 3 (2022) review: Design and build quality

Except for the plastic bottom cover, the Swift 3 is made entirely from aluminium and feels very solid. It looks smart, too, thanks to the all-over matte effect silver finish, which seems to be impervious to fingerprints.

The only non-silver areas are the matte black display bezels which are 5mm wide at the slides and 8mm thick at the top. And the whole shebang measures 323 x 212 x 16mm and weighs just 1.2kg, making it eminently portable. For context, that’s lighter than the M1 MacBook Pro and the same weight as the M1 MacBook Air.

Give the lid a savage twist and there is some give but no more than you would expect. Swift 3s of yore came with a single hinge but the new model has a more standard double hinge arrangement and these feel very firm and durable. The screen can be canted back 130 degrees and, when it is pushed back, the base of the hinges lift up the rear of the laptop by nearly a centimetre for a more comfortable typing angle.

For a compact laptop, the Swift 3 has a decent range of ports. On the left edge you get HDMI 2.1, USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) and Thunderbolt 4 ports, plus another USB-A and 3.5mm audio jack on the right. The laptop also has a DC-input on the left for charging but you can also charge via the Type-C port if you only want to carry one charger for your phone and laptop. There’s one obvious omission and that’s a memory card reader of any sort, although in this era of cheap (or free) cloud storage these are becoming less common.

Getting the bottom off the Swift 3 is easy enough but pretty pointless. All you can do is switch out the Intel AX201 wireless card and the Micron 2280 SSD. While I’m on the subject, the AX201 gives you full Wi-Fi 6 connectivity as well as Bluetooth 5.0, while the Gen 4 512GB SSD recorded perfectly decent (for the price) sequential read and write speeds of 2,026MB/sec and 1,085MB/sec respectively.

Acer Swift 3 (2022) review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

The keyboard is pretty good and has a bright, single-level white backlight. I’m generally not a fan of white blacklights under silver keyboards but Acer has put some thought into the design; all the key graphics are clearly visible with the backlight either on or off.

The key travel is rather shallow but that’s a criticism I could make of almost every laptop of this class and it never gets in the way of the speed or feel of typing. Given the compact dimensions of the Swift 3, it’s no surprise that the function and arrow keys are half-height affairs. Other than that the layout is both standard and fault free.

At 105mm by 65mm, the one-piece trackpad is again of a standard size with only the MSI Prestige 14 having a noticeably larger one and it has a precise and quiet click-action at the corners. It’s made from plastic rather than glass but it’s none the worse for it and feels pleasant to the touch.

The 720p webcam is marginally less dire than the laptop norm. Images are still rather grainy but colours are generally well balanced and it works fairly well, even in lower-light environments. There’s nothing in the way of a privacy shutter so a strip of insulating tape will be in order if you think someone is watching you.

Biometric security comes in the form of a fingerprint reader that sits just below the arrow keys. I’ve long been a fan of both the style and positioning of Acer’s fingerprint readers and the Swift 3’s is no exception.

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Acer Swift 3 (2022) review: Display and audio

Considering the price bracket, the Acer Swift 3’s 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display is excellent. It doesn’t have a trick refresh rate – just good old 60Hz – or a touch interface but what it does have is an impressive maximum brightness of 383cd/m2 and a superb contrast ratio of 2,157:1. There’s plenty of colour about, too, with a total colour reproduction of 106% sRGB. The matte finish, meanwhile, does a very good job of keeping reflections at bay.

Is the 13.5in QHD display worth the extra £150? It’s questionable unless you really want a 3:2 rather than a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Full HD model has a pixel density of 157dpi which is more than high enough to avoid any visible pixelation.

The speaker system can’t quite match the display for quality, though, despite carrying DTS certification. To start with there’s not a lot of volume on offer: at 1m distance, I measured an average of 71dB from a pink noise source and 72dB with peaks of 79dB from a music source. That’s pretty average. There’s not much in the way of bass, either, although the definition is good and there’s no break-up even at maximum volume.

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Acer Swift 3 review: Performance and battery life

With the latest Alder Lake 12th-generation Intel chips only just appearing in high-end laptops, the new Swift 3 makes do with an 11th-gen Tiger Lake Core i5-1135G7 processor with 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM soldered into place in blocks of 2GB, meaning it’s quad-channel. Our standard multi-media benchmark tool returned a score of 143, which is perfectly in line with most Intel-based 14in compact laptops we’ve tested recently bar the Huawei MateBook 14s, which has a Core-i7 chip and a Performance Mode and scored 178.

Lenovo's Yoga Slim 7 did better thanks to its AMD Ryzen 7 chipset but we will have to wait for Intel 12th-geneneration Alder Lake processors to filter down to the more affordable end of the market before we see those sorts of numbers from a Core i5 chip. Benchmark numbers to one side, however, for everyday computing needs and office productivity tasks, the Swift 3 has more than enough power.

A little light gaming isn’t out of the question either. The Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark scored nearly 49fps at 1080p, which is really rather good for a Core i5 laptop using Intel’s integrated Xe graphics processor. Even the 2016 Doom reboot ran pretty smoothly at around 50fps although I did have to reduce the resolution to 1,280 x 720 and video detail settings to medium.

Battery life is a strength, with the Swift 3 lasting 11hrs 24mins before our video rundown test put the lights out, although that’s only twenty minutes longer than the Huawei MateBook 14s and MSI Prestige 14. On the days I used the Swift 3 as my work laptop I never got to clocking off time with less than 20% of the charge still in the battery, a result I was more than happy with.

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Acer Swift 3 review: Verdict

The new Acer Swift 3 is a highly impressive combination of high quality and low price. For under £600, you’re getting a well-made, compact all-metal laptop with a very good display and plenty of fringe benefits like a fingerprint reader, a backlit keyboard and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.

Add to that class-leading battery life and you have a proposition that’s very hard to argue with. Even with the competition now available with considerable discounts the Acer Swift 3 is still the cheapest option for anyone wanting a good quality compact laptop and, in these straightened times, that is becoming increasingly important to an increasing number of buyers.

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