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The incredibly portable Acer Swift 7 was my near-perfect travelling companion

On the road to London, this slim 14-inch laptop turned heads and saved my shoulders.

The 2019 version of the slim Acer Swift 7 was one of the laptops I've been most looking forward to reviewing this year. Ever since I first saw it at CES 2019 in January, it's been in the back of my mind as a potential smash hit, taking some current laptop trends to new extremes. Most notably, it squeezes a full-size 14-inch touchscreen into an even thinner and lighter body than last year's version.

The 2018 Swift 7 was one of my favorite travel laptops of last year, too, as it was incredibly thin and fairly light. This new version knocks it out of the water, at least design-wise, and it drew disbelieving stares whenever I showed it off.

How did such a tiny 14-inch laptop get even smaller? Acer took a scalpel to the screen bezels, while also redesigning the hinges, reducing the wrist rest, and shuffling some features, like the webcam, but not always for the better.


The new 2019 Swift 7 is on the left, the older 2018 model is on the right. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Still, the net gain was enough for me to grab the new Swift 7, almost fresh out of the box, and take it on a week-long trip to London as my only computer. A big risk, as I usually travel with at least two, and usually one of them is a super-reliable backstop I know won't let me down (like a MacBook Air).

Smooth sailing

The size and weight are the first things that you want to look for in a travel PC. Like last year's Swift 7, this one hovers right around 9mm thick, although with a smaller overall desktop footprint. But, even though thickness is a spec PC makers really like to throw around, it's actually weight that you should be watching out for. The 2019 Swift 7 is 1.96 pounds (without its A/C adapter), which slips under the magical two-pound mark that so few laptops even come close to hitting. That's a big drop from the 2018 version, which was 2.6 pounds.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The small size drew stares on my flight and in various hotel lobby bars, not just because the laptop is so thin, but because of the high screen-to-body ratio. That means the screen bezels are tiny and the top half is just about all screen. The 1,920x1,080 14-inch display is bright enough, but doesn't otherwise stand out. It's on the glossy side, so watch out for screen glare. Amazingly enough, it's also a touch screen, which is expected in a super-portable laptop such as this, but harder to pull off in something so slim. The screen is covered by Gorilla Glass 6, although I think that's more of a need for two-in-one laptop-tablet hybrids.

But I guarantee that wherever I went this week, I had the coolest-looking laptop in the room. 

Rocky road

Overall, this road trip experiment has been a successful one, but it hasn't been without its hiccups. A few things got in the way of my productivity while traveling with the new Swift 7.

The touchpad is wide, which is good, but it's also close to the front lip of the laptop, which isn't. It was extremely sensitive by default, so anything that came close to brushing against the front lip of the laptop drove the touchpad crazy. I tried turning the sensitivity down, but it didn't get any better. Better palm rejection and a little more of an inset from the front edge might help.

The shallow keyboard was fine for moderately heavy typing. Frankly, it's no more a challenge to type on than any current MacBook. I appreciated the backlighting, which sometimes gets cut from super-thin laptops. But I only tried a webcam meeting once from the Swift 7. The camera has been banished from its usual spot above the screen to a small, flimsy feeling pop-up just above the left side of the keyboard. After being roundly mocked for my nose-cam view, meeting time was over.


*Record scratch* *freeze frame* Yep, that's me, the webcam. You might be wondering how I ended up way down here...

Sarah Tew/CNET

My last major headache was caused by the otherwise amazing slim screen bezel. Because this is a touch screen, every time I tried to reposition the screen by grabbing the edge of the lid, I'd inadvertently close my browser window or something else annoying like that. Everyone loves a thin screen bezel, but combined with a sensitive touch screen and a glossy display coating, it can have unintended consequences.

After I return, we'll have a full review of the new Acer Swift 7, with performance charts and battery life tests. So far, I've found the battery life to be around 5-6 hours of work time, which probably translates to 8-9 hours of video playback. The Core i7 CPU inside is fine for most tasks, but its part of Intel's Y series for super-thin laptops, so it's not going to feel as speedy as a standard U-series laptop. Lastly, this test unit has 8GB of RAM, but Acer says the model sold in the US (for $1,699) will have 16GB of RAM. 

Despite a bit of a learning curve for dealing with the touchpad and lid, I still have regrets about taking this as my on-the-road computer. But I have another couple of trips coming up, and the new Swift 7 is at least still in the running for getting a spot in my carry-on bag. 

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