The Acer Swift 7 jumps into the lead position in the latest PC arms race towards ever-thinner systems, by slipping in under the magic 10 mm mark.
It's a good reminder that there's nothing as exciting as some solid competition between PC makers. Companies compete to hop on the latest bandwagon, hoping to not get left behind on whatever the next shift in computer design is. Sometimes it's hybrid hinges or 4K screens. Other times it's a literal race to the bottom, as PC makers compete to offer the least expensive product that will hold a charge and at least open a web browser, as seen in wave after wave of $300-or-less Chromebooks (or long before that, netbooks).
One current trend I can get enthusiastically on board with is the recent run of ultra-thin laptops that pack reasonably mainstream power into ever-smaller bodies.
First teased a few months ago as one of the first laptops to make use of Intel's new seventh-generation Core i-series CPUs, the Acer Swift 7 ended up being more interesting than the minor processor update it was promoting. At 9.98 mm thick, this 13-inch laptop with a Core i5-7Y54 CPU is, according to Acer, the slimmest on record (or at least the thinnest standard clamshell laptop).
Sizing up the competition
Its main competition is the very similar HP Spectre, as well as the recent Asus ZenBook 3, and even Apple's 12-inch MacBook. Still, before we get caught up in shaving tenths of a millimeter off these things, note that the Swift 7 and Spectre are both just about 10 mm thick (9.98 mm and 10.4 mm), while the ZenBook 3 ($680 at Amazon) is pretty close, at 11.9 mm thick. That's a very small difference, and you'd be hard-pressed to notice, even when they're sitting next to each other. All three of those Windows laptops manage to be so slim in part because of what they leave out. All are locked to relatively unimpressive 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution displays, and all lack a touchscreen.
The 12-inch MacBook is a relatively hefty 13.1 mm in comparison, and while it lacks a touch screen, it does have a higher resolution display, which carries Apple's Retina designation. And what about the granddaddy of thin laptops, the MacBook Air? A positive behemoth, at 18 mm thick.
Even more so than the HP Spectre, which it closely resembles, the Acer Swift 7 has caught the attention of many visitors to the CNET Labs in the past few weeks. Its black-and-gold design is striking, and when opened on a table, the incredibly thin body draws the eye. The interior is highlighted by an extra-wide touchpad, not as large as the new MacBook Pro's pad, but still larger than the HP Spectre or ZenBook 3, and which partially makes up for smallish keyboard keys that don't have an especially premium feel and lack the usual backlighting.
With only a pair of USB-C ports for both charging and accessories, plus a headphone jack, this is also another nail in the coffin of multiport laptops. Previously, that concept had been limited to outliers such as this and the 12-inch MacBook, but now that Apple has gone all-USB-C in the new mainstream MacBook Pro, look for that to quickly become the new standard. And, get ready to bring a handful of dongles with you for any non-wireless connectivity that's required.