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Acer Swift X (2021) review: A 3-pound laptop with some graphics muscle

The 14-inch Swift X's AMD and Nvidia chip combo packs a punch for its $1,000 price.

acer-swift-x-04
Josh Goldman/CNET

Late in 2020, Acer released the Swift 3X, the PC maker's first laptop using Iris Xe Max discrete graphics, Intel's first discrete GPU in more than 20 years. The boost in graphics performance elevated the Swift 3X from just a good, general-purpose, thin-and-light laptop to one that could be used for entry-level content creation. With the Swift X, Acer kept the same overall design, but switched to AMD and Nvidia and, well, its performance is better in every way -- and it's less expensive, too.  

7.8

Acer Swift X (2021)

Like

  • Overall strong performance
  • Improved display quality from Swift 3X
  • Over 12 hours of battery life

Don't Like

  • No SD, microSD card reader
  • No webcam, mic privacy features

The Acer Swift X starts at $850 with an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650. My review configuration is around $1,000, although it sometimes jumps closer to its list price of $1,099, which is still a good price considering its size and performance. The same configuration is £1,600 in the UK and AU$1,792 in Australia. If you're considering this for regular use as a content-creation machine, you'll want to spring for the higher-end Swift X I tested. 

Acer Swift X (2021)

Price as reviewed $1,003
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display
CPU 1.9GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800U
Memory 16GB 4266MHz LPDDR4X (onboard)
Graphics 4GB GeForce RTX 3050Ti
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.2
Connections USB-C (USB 3.2 Gen 2), USB-A (x2, 3.2 Gen 1), HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack
Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit (21H1)

Acer designed the Swift X to be used for basic content creation as well as regular day-to-day tasks while still being small and light enough to take anywhere, and that's essentially what you get. Both the processor and graphics chip were right where I expected them to be, able to handle raw photo editing and simple video editing. (You can see how it measured up against other systems at the bottom of the review.)

Also, even though it's not designed for gaming, you can certainly do that. On Far Cry 5's built-in benchmark, it hit 60 frames per second at 1080p on high graphics settings. That's more than twice what the Swift 3X was capable of and for about $200 less. What's equally as impressive is its battery life. On our streaming video test, the Swift X reached 12 hours, 36 minutes.

acer-swift-x-01

The HDMI and USB-C port give you easy options for external displays.

Josh Goldman/CNET

To go with its entry-level creator capabilities, Acer upgraded the display from the Swift 3X to the X. Acer says the full-HD 14-inch display covers 100% sRGB color gamut and a peak brightness of 300 nits. In my tests, the color gamut coverage comes close with 96% of sRGB as well as 76% NTSC and 72% of both the Adobe RGB and P3 color spaces. Brightness actually was slightly better than the claim at 309 nits, which combined with the matte finish makes it easy to use in bright lighting.

Of course, you can always connect to an external display if you need a wider color gamut or greater accuracy. The Swift X has both a USB-C 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. 

acer-swift-x-05

The backlit keyboard is fine, but Acer doesn't include a few features the competition has.

Josh Goldman/CNET

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 these 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.

I have no complaints about the rest of the package, though. It has an aluminum and aluminum-magnesium body that keeps weight down while still being sturdy; it only weighs 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms). It has a comfortable backlit keyboard and a responsive fingerprint reader for quick sign-ins. I didn't experience any issues with the smooth precision touchpad and it feels nice, too. Plus, its Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 gives you a little wireless future-proofing, too.

acer-swift-x-02
Josh Goldman/CNET

PC makers are really going after creators lately including, thankfully, those on a budget. 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 of something like the Acer Swift X and, if your goal is gaming performance alone, there are better options for $1,000 or less. However, a $1,000 gaming laptop is not as thin or light as the Swift X and would not have great battery life. Also, gaming laptops under $1,000 typically don't have displays good enough for color-critical work. The Swift X's would still be a better choice.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
7601
Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
7328
Acer Swift X SFX14-41G-R1S6
7192
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
7133
Acer Swift 3X
5787
HP Envy 14
4897

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
11977
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
11766
Acer Swift X SFX14-41G-R1S6
11543
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
10412

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
6775
Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
6531
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
6265
Acer Swift X SFX14-41G-R1S6
6252
HP Envy 14
5462
Acer Swift 3X
4953

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming Battery Drain test (in minutes)

Acer Swift X SFX14-41G-R1S6
756
Acer Swift 3X
682
HP Envy 14
661
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
611
Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
513
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
407

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

UL Procyon Video (1,920 x 1,080)

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
5389
Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
5208
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
4124
Acer Swift X SFX14-41G-R1S6
3695
HP Envy 14
3350
Acer Swift 3X
2145

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Dell Inspiron 16 Plus Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-11800H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.2GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070; 512GB SSD
HP Envy 14 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650Ti graphics; 256GB SSD
Acer Swift X SFX14-41G-R1S6 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.9GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM; 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti; 512GB SSD
Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.2GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060; 512GB SSD
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