Acer Swift 3X review: A lightweight laptop for creators under $1,000
One of the first laptops to use Intel's Iris Xe Max discrete graphics, the Swift 3X should hit the spot for budding creatives on the go.
Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
The Acer Swift 3X might not look all too different from the PC maker's regular Swift 3, and that's because it isn't. The X in the name is to let you know what's inside: Intel's Iris Xe Max, its first discrete graphics processor in more than 20 years. Combined with its 11th-gen Intel Core processor, the Swift 3X is elevated from what would normally be a good, general-purpose, thin-and-light laptop to one that can meet the basic needs of creators and creatives without giving up battery life and mobility or costing a small fortune.
The Swift 3X currently starts at $900 with an 11th-gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and 512GB of storage. Knowing that certainly makes the $1,200 configuration I tested look like a steal with twice the memory and storage and a faster Core i7 CPU. (Plus, since the memory is onboard, you can't upgrade it later.) Laptops made for creatives can easily be two or three times this price. This model is also available in the UK for £899, while the starting configuration is available in Australia for AU$1,200.
The Iris Xe Max GPU is a step up from the integrated graphics you'd typically find in a thin-and-light laptop like the Swift 3X and is good competition for Nvidia's entry-level discrete graphics like the GeForce MX350. It's not designed for really demanding graphics tasks, but can speed up things like video encoding and raw photo editing. What makes it a compelling alternative to Nvidia, though, is Intel's Deep Link technology that essentially allows the GPU and Intel's 11th-gen Core CPUs to work better together.
Part of Deep Link, for example, is a Dynamic Power Share feature that will automatically shift power and cooling to the CPU when the GPU isn't working, which in turn increases processing performance for tasks like previewing, importing and exporting content. However, to get the most from what Deep Link has to offer, you'll need to use Deep Link-enabled software. That list currently includes HandBrake, Topaz Gigapixel AI, Adobe Lightroom Classic, OBS and XSplit. Support is also coming soon for CyberLink, Magix and Blender.
If you regularly use or plan to use any of the Deep Link-enabled applications, well, you should seriously consider the Swift 3X or other models using Iris Xe Max graphics. If those aren't at the top of your software list, that's OK too, since the laptop did turn out excellent performance regardless. Keep in mind, though, that despite the discrete graphics this isn't made for gaming. With demanding games, you'll get playable frame rates at low settings, but set on high you'll be lucky to break 30 frames per second.
Watch this: Acer's Swift 3x is ready for your next creative project with Intel's help
Acer Swift 3X SF314-510G-767Y
Price as reviewed
14-inch 1,920x1,080 display
2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7
16GB 4266MHz LPDDR4X (onboard)
4GB Intel Iris Xe Max
1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
IEEE 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.1
Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, USB-A (x2, 3.2 Gen 1), HDMI 2.0, headset combo jack
Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2)
The rest of the laptop is fairly similar to the regular Swift 3, which is a good thing overall. It has an aluminum and aluminum-magnesium body that keeps weight down while still being sturdy (although there is some flex in the lid). It has a comfortable backlit keyboard and a responsive fingerprint reader for quick sign-ins. Its Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 gives you a little wireless future-proofing, too.
Battery life is long -- it reached 11 hours, 22 minutes in our testing -- and it can be quickly charged with the included barrel-style adapter or through its Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port. There's also an efficient cooling system with dual heat pipes and a big vent on the right side at the top, giving it an interesting asymmetrical design.
The 14-inch full-HD matte display has a brightness of 300 nits, and as a general-use display it looks fine. The fact that it only covers 72% NTSC color gamut is disappointing for a laptop aimed at creators. It's close to 100% sRGB but should really be 100% sRGB. The similarly priced HP Envy 14 hits that color gamut and it's factory calibrated.
Of course, you can always connect to an external display if you need a wider color gamut or greater accuracy. The Swift 3X has both a Thunderbolt 4 port and an HDMI 2.0 output to handle that. What you won't find is an SD or microSD card slot, which seems odd given the laptop's target user. That's the downside to repurposing a design for a new audience, I guess.
Along that same line, there are no shortcut keys for muting the mic or blocking the camera to help with privacy. While this isn't a deal-breaker, you'll find this on competing laptops from HP, Dell and Lenovo. And, given how much more time many of us are spending on video conference calls, it's increasingly important for work laptops.
Create for less
The Acer Swift 3X is a safe bet for creators on a budget. As I said earlier, laptops built for creatives can cost thousands, which might not be possible for someone just starting out. This gives you more graphics performance than you'd typically find at this price, along with a lightweight body and a long battery life.
You might be tempted to go with a gaming laptop instead and, if your goal is gaming performance alone, you'd be better off with something like Acer's own Nitro 5. However, a $900 gaming laptop is not as thin or light as the Swift 3X and would not have great battery life. (Although the Nitro 5 is a rare exception at just over 12 hours in our tests.) Also, gaming laptops under $1,000 typically don't have displays good enough for color-critical work. The Swift 3X's would still be a cut above.
Acer Swift 3X
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 4,096MB Intel Iris Xe Max graphics; 1TB SSD
Razer Book 13 (late 2020)
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 256GB SSD
Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 512GB SSD
Acer Nitro 5
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 3.0GHz AMD Ryzen 5 4600H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 4,096MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics; 256GB SSD
HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz; AMD Ryzen 5 4500U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,933MHz; 512MB Radeon graphics; 256GB SSD