Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review: A featherweight laptop with performance to spare at a fair price

Josh Goldman / CNET

The 14-inch Acer Swift 3 is powered by AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors. This might not mean much to you unless you follow the world of mobile processors, but basically these AMD chips are faster than the competing Intel CPUs that rule the market — and they cost less. That means models like the Swift 3 stay affordable but get you the processor performance of a pricier laptop. 

LikeSlim, ultralight aluminum-magnesium bodyGood battery life with fast chargingGreat processing performance

Don’t LikeMemory can’t be upgraded/increasedDim display

But just because the processor delivers the speed of a more expensive laptop, doesn’t suddenly make everything else about the 14-inch Swift 3 as amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to like about it.  For example, at 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg), it’s incredibly light for a 14-inch laptop at its $620 starting price. It has an aluminum and aluminum-magnesium body, a backlit keyboard and a responsive fingerprint reader for quick sign-ins. Its Wi-Fi 6 gives you a little wireless future-proofing. And while its battery life is good — it got just about eight hours in my testing — it can be quickly charged with the included barrel-style adapter or through its USB-C port. 

Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020)

Price as reviewed

$649

Display size/resolution

14-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel IPS matte

PC CPU

2GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4700U

PC Memory

8GB LPDDR4 3,200MHz (soldered, dual-channel)

Graphics

512MB Radeon

Storage

512GB NVMe SSD

Ports

1x USB-C (3.2 Gen 2), 2x USB-A, 1x HDMI, headphone/mic combo

Networking

WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0

Operating system

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Weight

2.7 pounds (1.2 kg)

A power jack, USB-C and USB-A ports and an HDMI output line the left side. Another USB-A port and a headphone jack are on the right side. 

Josh Goldman / CNET

Frankly, while the eight-core Ryzen 7 4700U’s performance is uncannily good, so is the six-core Ryzen 5 4500U found in other Swift 3 configurations for less money. (Check out the benchmark test results at the end of the review.) All of the current configurations for the 14-inch version (there is an Intel-based 13.5-inch model) have the same full-HD-resolution display, the same chassis, ports, keyboard, touchpad and the same 8GB of memory; the only things that change are storage and processor. 

If you’re just in need of a good laptop for basic school or office work, I’d go with the Swift 3 SF314-42-R0HP, which is currently available for $579. It has the Ryzen 5 that’s still faster than competing Intel chips. It also has half the storage, too, but you can upgrade that on your own later on if needed. The RAM is soldered on, however, leaving you stuck with the 8GB it comes with. But, again, that doesn’t change regardless of the configuration you buy. 

The display is a potential weak spot for the 14-inch Swift 3. 

Josh Goldman / CNET

The 14-inch display stays the same across this version and it’s not extraordinary but it’s fine, which is what I would expect considering the rest of the package. It doesn’t get especially bright, so while I had no issues using it indoors, you might struggle to see it outdoors (that can be said about a lot of laptops, though). It has a matte finish, which minimizes reflections far more than a glossy coating, though it can also make colors look flat by comparison. I wouldn’t recommend this for critical mobile photo or video editing anyway; there are better options for that and you can expect to pay more than $650. 

The star of the Acer Swift 3 is certainly the processor. It’s more performance than you’d get in the past for the money. But what makes this laptop an easy recommendation is that you’re getting that speed plus good battery life and in a 2.7-pound aluminum body at a fair price. 

Josh Goldman / CNET
Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel)

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R20 CPU (multicore)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel)

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition (complete)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel)

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel)

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Acer Swift 3

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4700U; 8GB LPDDR4 3.2GHz; 512MB Radeon; 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD

HP Envy 17 (2020)

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7; 16GB DDR4 RAM 3.2GHz; Nvidia GeForce MX330; 512GB SSD

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz AMD Ryzen 5 4500U; 8GB DDR4 3.2GHz; 512MB Radeon; 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD

Asus VivoBook S15 S532FA

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-10210U; 8GB DDR4 RAM 2.67GHz; 128MB Intel UHD Graphics; 512GB SSD

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel)

Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7; 16GB DDR4 RAM 4.27GHz; 128MB Intel Iris Plus Graphics; 256GB SSD

Dell Inspiron 14 5000

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-10210U; 8GB DDR4 RAM 2.67GHz; 128MB Intel UHD Graphics; 256GB SSD


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