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Acer Swift 3 review: A better-looking budget laptop with plenty of ports

The Acer Swift 3 is a stylish and affordably priced laptop that has a lot of ports and connections.

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Xiomara Blanco
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Xiomara Blanco

Associate Editor / Reviews - Tablets and monitors

Xiomara Blanco is an associate editor for CNET Reviews. She's a Bay Area native with a knack for tech that makes life easier and more enjoyable. So, don't expect her to review printers anytime soon.

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4 min read

The Acer Swift 3 is like a plate of food that looks better than it actually tastes. It's slim, all-metal build and glass-front screen make a great first impression, but flaws become apparent after (figuratively) biting into it.

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7.6

Acer Swift 3

The Good

The Acer Swift 3 is a stylish and affordable laptop. Unlike a lot of current laptops, it has lots of ports and connections.

The Bad

The shallow keyboard isn’t great for typing. The display is dim and the speakers are weak. Battery life is short.

The Bottom Line

The Acer Swift 3 is a budget laptop with an impressive all-metal design, but it skimps on some features you might find important.

A dim, reflective display, disappointing battery life and a shallow keyboard overshadow the impressively stylish construction. It's still worth a look if an affordable laptop with a sharp design is your main goal. But comparable laptops with prices ranging from $500 to $800 (roughly £400 to £630 or AU$630 to AU$1,000) could save you some money. It might require a trade-off to a plastic body instead of metal, but that's not necessarily a dealbreaker.

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 It looks more expensive than it is.

Josh Miller/CNET

The model we tested had a Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, for a total of $650 or £750 (converts to AU$873) and other configurations start at $499, £600. 

A noble attempt to mirror the Macbook

The Acer Swift 3 has some Macbook-like similarities that warrant a quick comparison. It's shiny, glass-front panel has a protective rubber strip surrounding it -- just like a MacBook Pro -- and design details, like the brushed-metal lid, matching aluminum chassis and chamfered edges, are upscale choices usually found on more expensive laptops. Additionally, at 18mm thick, it's super-thin, though average in weight at 3.5 pounds (1,587g).

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It kind of looks like a Macbook -- if you squint a little.

Josh Miller/CNET

Like the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold: the laptop is internally built around a plastic frame (so it doesn't feel as solid as a MacBook), it's tragically dim screen attracts reflections like ants on sugar and the chamfered edges feel unusually sharp. It's not going to actually cause an injury, but I felt uncomfortable while typing, rubbing my wrists and forearms against an edge that felt like a dull knife.

Other dead giveaways that reveal the Acer Swift 3's status as a budget laptop include deep threaded holes with largely visible screws and weak, down-firing speakers on the bottom of the laptop. Ultimately, the Acer is too rough around the edges to qualify as a premium laptop, even if it does its best to look the part.

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Pretty, but uncomfortable.

Josh Miller/CNET

Partly premium

The Acer Swift 3 performed fine for basic tasks like browsing the web, streaming HD video, working on Google Docs and checking emails. When multitasking, I could have about seven to 10 tabs open before the performance started to slow down. It helped to have a Core i5 CPU in our test unit.

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One thing the Macbook can't do: lay flat

Josh Miller/CNET

Specs

  • Seventh-gen Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors
  • Integrated Intel graphics or optional Nvidia GeForce graphics
  • 4GB or 8GB of memory
  • An SSD (128GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage) or HDD (500GB, 1TB or 2TB of storage)
  • Fingerprint reader with Windows Hello support
  • Optional backlit keyboard

An island-style keyboard with a spacious layout and full-sized keys, as well as a fingerprint reader with Windows Hello support, are located on the laptop's aluminum deck. Included is a top row of smaller function keys.

The keyboard is nowhere near as comfortable as, for example, Lenovo's ThinkPad line, but few are. It felt shallow to type on and the keys were too bouncy. There's also a set of cramped cursor keys located on the bottom right that I never got the hang of using without looking down. It's a usable keyboard, but I wouldn't recommend it for students who have to write many papers.

While I knocked the full HD screen as being too reflective, it's worth noting that it still has decent viewing angles and the screen can tilt back 180-degrees, if you ever need to use it while it's laying completely flat. There's no touchscreen option, however.

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The keyboard is shallow.

Josh Miller/CNET

Screen specs

  • 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution
  • IPS LCD screen
  • Screen can tilt back 180-degrees

One thing the Acer Swift 3 has going for it is its variety of port connections. Many laptops are skipping a selection of ports in favor for USB-C only. The Acer laptop packs a USB-C port, as well as a few others that can help connect extra peripherals like a mouse or external monitor.

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Healthy port options on this laptop.

Josh Miller/CNET

Ports

  • HDMI out
  • USB-C
  • Two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0
  • Headphone/mic jack
  • SD card slot

Acer estimates 11 hours of battery life. In our video streaming test it lasted 8 hours and 31 minutes. With heavy use (lots of multitasking, many tabs open at once, working on GoogleDocs and streaming some HD video), I was only able to get about 3.5 to 4 hours.

Considering "heavy use" is how I normally use my computer everyday for work, this would be a dealbreaker for me. Yet, for a more casual user, the short battery life could be forgivable. To its credit, it does boot back up very quickly and a full charge only takes about two hours.

Acer Swift 3 looks more expensive than it actually is

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Budget beauty is only skin deep

From afar the Acer Swift 3 looks like it could be a sexy, expensive laptop, but ultimately the design is a high-end facade. The budget 14-inch laptop overcompensates with good looks to make up for the fact that it's otherwise average.

It's easy to look past the imperfections of a laptop if the price is right -- it's why cheap Chromebooks are so popular for casual use. Depending on what you're looking for, its good looks may trump its decent performance. If you want a budget-friendly laptop with an all-metal outer design, the Acer Swift 3 is one of the few options that fits that bill. 

Acer Swift 3

Price as reviewed $1,398 (roughly £1,090, AU$1,760)
Display size/resolution 14-inch, 1920x1080 display
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U
PC Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) 7650Asus Pro B9440U 7217Acer Swift 3 7033LG gram (13-inch, 2017) 6647Lenovo ThinkPad 13 4330
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Online Streaming Battery Drain test (in minutes)

LG gram (13-inch, 2017) 690Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) 607Lenovo ThinkPad 13 513Acer Swift 3 511Asus Pro B9440U 497
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Specs compared

Acer Swift 3 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U; 4GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 128GB SSD
Asus Pro B9440U Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) Apple macOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2.9GHz Intel Core i5-6267U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel Iris Graphics 550; 256GB SSD
LG gram (13-inch, 2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
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7.6

Acer Swift 3

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 7