“The Acer Swift 3 with Ryzen 4000 is the most powerful budget notebook to date.”
Solid build quality
Great value for money
Weak display, narrow color gamut
Cheap laptops are not nice. However, if they are just as powerful as more expensive laptops, the lack of subtleties can be forgiven.
But what if a cheap laptop was more powerful than these expensive laptops? How much more powerful?
That describes the Acer Swift 3 for $ 650. He is one of the first to use the new Ryzen 4000 processors, which offer eight cores and eight threads. Intel eight-core laptops typically cost over $ 2,000. Will the Swift 3 introduce a new era of performance for affordable laptops?
The key figure is the level of awareness of the 3rd generation AMD Ryzen 7 processors. This is what sets them apart from the standard Intel tariff. Eight cores across the board are no joke – that’s twice as much as a competing 10th generation Intel chip. You’ll need to switch to an Intel Core i9 laptop like the Dell XPS 15 to get eight cores that aren’t used in such small laptops.
This is a small laptop. It has a 14-inch screen, weighs just 2.65 pounds, and is 0.63 inches thick – not much bigger than the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. And yet it has the same core count as a 16-inch MacBook Pro for $ 2,799.
Why is the core count so important? Four more cores should theoretically turn this otherwise modest piece of magnesium into something far stronger. More cores mean better performance on key tasks where most inexpensive laptops aren’t particularly good. Applications in the Adobe Suite are a good example. They often use as many processor cores as they are fed.
I tested this with handbrake video encoding. The Acer Swift 3 completed transcoding a 4K movie trailer in just 2.5 minutes. This is 50% faster than the Intel version of the same laptop. That’s what you get with four additional cores. It’s even 21% faster than the XPS 13, a laptop that I praised for how hard it squeezes its quad-core processor.
That doesn’t mean that it can compete with other 8-core laptops. The Core i9 in the 16-inch MacBook Pro encoded the video 24% faster than the Swift 3. The Ryzen 7 4900H in the ROG Zephyrus G14 was 33% faster.
There are two reasons. The first is that the Acer Swift 3 uses the Ryzen 7 4700U, which is only a 15-watt part. Lower thermal design performance means less scope for performance. That alone explains why a slightly larger laptop with a 35-watt processor like the Asus Zephyrus G14 performs better. The Ryzen 7 4700U also does not have simultaneous multithreading. Most 8-core competitors have this, which means that their 8 processor cores act as 16 virtual cores.
I haven’t tested the Ryzen 7 4800U with its 16 threads yet, but this is not an option on the Swift 3. Instead, Acer sells a model with the Ryzen 5 4500U with six cores for $ 20 less. Although it has 8 GB of RAM to match the Ryzen 7 model, it only has 256 GB of SSD storage compared to the 512 GB in my test device. Therefore, the upgrade is worth $ 20.
Acer’s integrated Radeon graphics are powerful compared to Intel’s Iris graphics. I played Rocket League in 1080p with the quality settings (the middle settings of the game) at almost 60 frames per second. They are a big improvement over the integrated graphics of the past few years, but they do not turn the Swift 3 into a gaming laptop.
Display, keyboard and touchpad
A $ 650 laptop has to compromise somewhere – there’s no getting around it. The biggest compromise of the Acer Swift 3 is the display.
It’s a 14-inch 1080p screen that’s disappointing in every way. The color gamut is limited to only 64% of the sRGB color gamut, and the colors are inaccurate. It does not completely ruin the moving watching experience, nor does it hinder getting the job done. It becomes a problem when you work with colors, be it photography, video editing or graphic design.
What good is fast video editing if you can’t trust the colors on your screen? For this reason, the Swift 3 is not ideal for photography or videography. These apps may run, but if you need to connect an external monitor for accurate colors.
The screen is also dark. The maximum brightness is only 233 nits. Even many inexpensive laptops have screens with more than 300 nits. This is a problem when using the laptop in a bright environment.
The other big compromise is appearance. The Acer Swift 3 is not ugly, but it has all the obvious problems with inexpensive laptops. The lower bezel is chunky and covers the screen with textured black plastic. The lid and keyboard deck have this fake aluminum look, and the case is covered with stickers, the removal of which is no fun. Even the backlight under the keyboard is a bit off. The white light is pretty bright, but there is no light under the spacebar, which is a little strange.
Then there’s the touchpad, which was my biggest hurdle when I tried to use the Swift 3 as my daily driver. It is made of plastic, does not run very smoothly and has a loud click mechanism. It’s what I’m used to from a touchpad on a laptop for under $ 800.
However, it is slightly larger than some other inexpensive laptops and supports Windows Precision gestures. It also doesn’t focus on the laptop, which takes some getting used to.
Switching to the keyboard is one of the most entertaining aspects of Swift 3. There’s a lot to travel around without the keys feeling mushy. The buttons have a nice bottom-out action and the layout feels pleasant. The fingerprint scanner is on the right under the arrow keys, but there is no Windows Hello IR camera.
Battery life, connections and bloatware
Battery life is another area where inexpensive laptops often suffer. The Acer Swift 3 is not particularly good in this area. It takes about eight hours of easy use, but in my daily routine it took less than six hours. You can do more with more expensive laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or even the ZenBook 13 UX333.
However, the performance is good enough for a laptop of this price. In fact, the Ryzen 7 model outlasts the Intel version by 45 minutes.
Port selection is another disadvantage of cheaper laptops. There is a lot of variety here, but the ports are not the most modern. You get a single HDMI port, two USB-A ports and a single USB-C port. Unfortunately, it is still powered by a proprietary barrel connector because the USB-C connector does not support power throughput. A version of the Intel-based Swift 3 offers Thunderbolt 3 support, although it only costs $ 700.
Bloatware is finally available. It is in effect as if to remind you how much you have received. Removal is not difficult, but it is a bit irritating between Norton, ExpressVPN, Farm Heroes Saga, GoTrust ID and Acer’s proprietary apps.
Eight cores in a $ 650 laptop seem too good to be true. It is not. The Acer Swift 3 is by far the most powerful budget notebook ever and beats Intel laptops that are twice as expensive. The display quality is the main weakness, but I was surprised at how much value Acer could put in this affordable 14-inch laptop.
Are there alternatives?
The Acer Swift 3 is one of the first to support AMD’s new Ryzen 4000 processors, but it won’t be the last. Everything from ThinkPads to gaming laptops comes with these eight-core chips, although the Swift 3 is the cheapest model that has been announced so far.
Other laptops in this price range are the Dell Inspiron 14 5000 and the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14-inch, but none has the performance that the Swift 3 Ryzen Edition offers. A good alternative is the Dell G3, which offers a better graphics card for games and can configure up to six cores. However, it is a much chunkier laptop and has a much poorer battery life.
After all, Chromebooks offer good value in this price range. They’re not as powerful and can’t run the same applications, but an option like the Pixelbook Go starts at $ 649, has a far better screen, and incredible battery life.
How long it will take?
The Acer Swift 3 is a fairly robust laptop with current components. It should take four to five years before it shows its age. However, Acer’s limited one-year warranty doesn’t help you much in this regard.
Should you buy it
Yes. The Acer Swift 3 dominates the competition when it comes to absolute performance.