Acer Swift X 16 Review: Excellent Performance and Display Held Back by Meh Design
We love the 16-inch OLED panel and strong CPU and GPU performance, but the rest of the Swift X 16 package is pedestrian. And it's battery life doesn't help, either.
Updated Oct. 27, 2023 4:00 a.m. PT
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Matt ElliottSenior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Designers and creators may balk at the uninspired looks of the Acer Swift X 16, but hiding beneath its plain exterior is a laptop well-equipped for content creation. For starters, its OLED panel offers excellent color performance and stellar contrast. Plus, the 3.2K-resolution 16-inch screen is a large canvas, and its 120Hz refresh rate keeps videos looking smooth. And under the hood is a formidable CPU/GPU duo for ample power to run intensive graphics apps.
Unfortunately, the Swift X 16's AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU do the battery life no favors. Normally, a 16-inch laptop isn't the first choice for regular travel or daily commutes, but its comparatively short runtime means you'll regularly be hunting for power outlets. The smaller Swift X 14 is the better option for wandering creators because of its size and battery performance. And for something in between that provides a big display backed by plenty of power and all-day battery life, the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra sits in the sweet spot and remains our content creation laptop recommendation.
Configuration as tested
Price as reviewed
16-inch 3,200 x 2,000 120Hz OLED display
4GHz AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS w/ Radeon Graphics
16GB DDR5 6,400MHz RAM
6GB Nvidia RTX 4050 graphics
IEEE 802.11ax Gigabit Ethernet Bluetooth 5.1
Windows Home 22H2
Acer sells two models of the Swift X 16. The baseline model costs $1,250 and features a 16-inch LCD display powered by a Ryzen 7 CPU and older RTX 3050 graphics. Our $1,600 test system (model SFX16-61G) features a higher-resolution 3,200x2,000-pixel OLED display along with a higher-powered Ryzen 9 processor and the latest RTX 4050 graphics. The lower-end model is available for £1,299 in the UK while the higher-end model we tested is listed on Acer's UK site but is not yet available. We found a Swift X 16 product page on Acer's Australian site, but it's not currently available for purchase.
With a Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU that has eight physical cores, 16 processing threads and a base clock of a blazing 4GHz and a maximum of 5.2GHz along with a GeForce RTX 4050 GPU with 6GB of dedicated video RAM, our Swift X 16 is a powerhouse for content creation. And the entry-level RTX 4050 dGPU also provides some gaming capability.
The Swift X 16 competed well with Intel-based content creation laptops on our lab tests, earning top marks on PCMark 10 and JetStream 2 application benchmarks. It was less successful on Geekbench 6, but the results were all tightly grouped with the competition on that test.
On our graphics tests, it finished second only to the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus 7630 on Cinebench, but the Dell has the advantage of using RTX 4060 graphics, a step above what's in the Swift X 16 and the rest of the laptops you'll see in the charts below. The Swift X 16 did well on our game tests, too, producing playable framerates at 1080p that will let you make use of the 120Hz display. It averaged 117 frames per second on our Guardians of the Galaxy test and 119 fps on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which was actually a few frames per second faster than the Dell.
The flip side of getting a large, high-res OLED display and high-powered components is what this combination does to battery life: It's not good. The Swift X 16 couldn't last even five hours on our battery drain test, a decidedly poor result. You might eke out a slightly longer runtime with some power management (and if you aren't constantly streaming a YouTube video). But even then, the Swift X 16 won't let you stray too far from a wall outlet.
OLED and RTX
For many laptops, dismal battery life is a deal breaker. For the Swift X 16, it's definitely a demerit, but doesn't kill the deal. The reason the Swift X 16 merits consideration despite its short runtime is because it offers the two ingredients most important to content creators: an awesome OLED display and strong, RTX-backed performance.
Recently, I reviewed 16-inch content creation laptops with one or the other. For example, the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus 7630 is a strong performer with a Core i7 H-series CPU and RTX 4060 graphics but features an average LCD display. And Acer's own Swift Go 16 supplies the same, high-resolution OLED display as the Swift X 16 but is saddled with integrated Intel graphics. Our $1,600 Swift X 16 test system costs $300 more than the Inspiron 16 Plus and $400 more than the Swift Go 16, but it's money well spent for graphics pros who need the display quality and graphics performance for work.
I've covered the Swift X 16's strong overall performance (and you can see its benchmark results in the performance charts below). The 16-inch OLED display is big, sharp and fast. OLED panels in general have fantastic contrast with bright whites and absolute black levels. And color performance is excellent. But to confirm things, I used a Spyder X Elite colorimeter to test its color range, and the Swift X 16 showed excellent coverage: it hit 100% of both sRGB and DCI-P3 and 98% of AdobeRGB.
The panel is rated for 500 nits of brightness but measured below that on the Spyder X brightness test. It reached a maximum of 390 nits and climbed only to 399 nits with HDR enabled. The display is bright enough for indoor use under artificial light, but you may struggle if you plan on using it outdoors. Whether at my desk in my home office next to a north-facing window or sitting at a sunny breakfast table in my kitchen next to south-facing windows, I had the display brightness set to around 70% for most of my time with the laptop. It's definitely not a dim display -- it's just not as bright as its rating. A bigger barrier than display brightness to using the Swift X 16 outdoors will be the battery life, especially if you need to crank the brightness to do it.
The 1080p webcam produces crisp, well-balanced images but lacks both a physical privacy shutter and an IR sensor that would allow for facial recognition logins. All is not lost, however, on the biometric front: a fingerprint sensor is built into the power button.
The Swift X 16 is better for content creation than content consumption. Many 16-inch laptops feature four speakers for fuller sound, but the Swift X 16 has just the standard stereo set and produces underwhelming audio. The sound is tinny with little to no bass, which is a disappointment on such a large laptop at this price.
The rest of the Swift X 16 package is undeniably ordinary. The all-metal chassis is fairly rigid but otherwise average, offering no interesting design flourishes. The laptop weighs 4.3 pounds, which is average for a 16-inch model. If you are willing to ditch the RTX graphics, Acer's own Swift Go 16 not only costs less but is lighter at 3.6 pounds. And the Swift Edge 16 weighs just 2.6 pounds.
The keyboard felt comfortable, but I question the inclusion of a number pad. With RTX graphics, the laptop is overkill for data entry. I'd prefer to ditch the numpad and have the keyboard centered below the display. The touchpad is generously proportioned and felt accurate with a firm click response that had just a bit too much travel to my liking.
The port selection has no glaring omissions. You get a pair of Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a pair of USB Type-A ports, an HDMI out, a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. The power connector is located in the middle of the left edge instead of the more common and useful spot near the rear of the laptop. This placement means you might find yourself fighting the power cord in certain situations, depending on where the nearest outlet is located.
The Acer Swift X 16 hits the mark by giving creators a roomy OLED display backed by a powerful CPU/GPU combo. Without those two items, it's difficult to recommend a laptop to design professionals and enthusiasts. That said, it's difficult to recommend the Swift X 16 over the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra because Samsung's model not only provides a fantastic OLED display and a strong CPU/GPU pair, but it also boasts a sleeker design and much better battery life.
The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device's aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments.