Post updated December 21st, 2016 at 02:04 am
Acer’s new lineup of laptops unveiled at IFA 2016 were very interesting, to say the least. From the ridiculously big – and powerful – Predator 21X to the world’s thinnest laptop, the Swift 7, the Taiwanese company is certainly pushing the envelope of what’s possible in a laptop.
Today, we are reviewing the latter product: the Swift 7. Measuring a mere 9.98mm thin, the Swift 7 has an extremely slim profile (duh) that does not fail to surprise anyone who holds it for the first time. It’s a similar experience I had when I first held the 12-inch MacBook.
However, there’s only so much hardware that can be packed into a chassis this thin, but surprisingly enough, the Swift 7 proved to be a capable productivity laptop. It’s not exactly perfect, of course.
Aside from its thin 9.98mm chassis, the Swift 7 actually looks rather…minimalist. It doesn’t look quite as grand or exquisite as the HP Spectre 13, nor does it have the “premium appeal” of laptops like the MacBooks. That being said, the Swift 7 has great build quality: despite the thin chassis, I’m not too concerned about its durability in the long run, although as I’ve mentioned before, the fact that I can flex the bottom portion of the laptop – with some effort, of course – still worries me slightly.
Despite being so thin and weighing only 1.12kg, the Swift 7 doesn’t exactly feel very…portable. See, unlike other ultraportables like the Dell XPS 13 and HP’s new Spectre x360, the Swift 7 has quite thick bezels. This, in turn, increases the overall footprint of the laptop.
But that is not to say the Swift 7 is an unwieldy laptop; far from that, in fact. While it has the dimensions of a conventional 13-inch laptop, I barely noticed the Swift 7 in my bag whenever I’m carrying it around. Needless to say, the laptop’s slim profile and lack of heft make it ideal for those who are always on the go.
Then again, the Swift 7’s thin chassis means there isn’t enough space for a full-sized USB port: this laptop only comes with two USB Type-C ports – and also a headphone jack. While Acer was gracious enough to bundle in two dongles – USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to HDMI – with the Swift 7, it’s not as convenient as having the ports on the laptop itself, but that’s the price consumers pay for a laptop as slim as this.
It’s a worrying trend for laptops. I constantly found myself wondering if I’d pack the two dongles every time I go out in case I need them. It’s an unnecessary worry that 2015 Ultrabooks do not have, but as we transition into a world of USB Type C-filled accessories, this so-called “#donglelife” will be here to stay, sadly.
As far as designs go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a laptop that’s as thin and light as the Swift 7. After all, these are the two major design elements of the laptop, and Acer did not compromise in areas other manufacturers did to achieve them – I’ll explain more in the next section.
In our line of work, we need to do an absurd amount of typing, so the first thing I always test out whenever I’m reviewing a laptop is how good its keyboard is. Thankfully, the Swift 7 has a decent keyboard considering its size. Now, this keyboard is not amazing by any stretch of the word, but it’s definitely better than, say, the keyboard on the 12-inch MacBook or the Asus ZenBook 3 – both of these laptops have very shallow keyboards because of their slim profiles.
In comparison to a conventional laptop, however, the Swift 7’s keyboard is on the shallow side. Thankfully, the keys have good tactile feedback, and the keyboard layout isn’t out of the ordinary in any way, which is a very good thing. In fact, I can actually type as fast on the Swift 7 as I do on a mechanical keyboard.
As for the Swift 7’s trackpad, it’s…decent. It has a very smooth surface, which lets my fingers glide effortlessly on it, but it’s not as responsive as other Windows trackpads I’ve used. While it can track my fingers accurately most of the time, it doesn’t detect my input immediately. Palm rejection proved to be a slight issue as well.
Then we have the 13.3-inch display of the Swift 7, which can get pretty bright; it also has punchy and vibrant colours. However, the glossy nature of the display does hinder visibility quite a bit, especially when using the laptop under bright sunlight. Thankfully, the Swift 7 has an IPS display, which gives it good viewing angles – this makes for a much more pleasant display to use than a TN panel.
Of course, higher resolution displays are available on other ultraportables, but the Swift 7’s 1080p display does the job just fine – this also allows for a more practical battery life too, and this laptop needs all the help it can get.
Thanks to the Swift 7’s Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor – which doesn’t require any active cooling – this laptop is dead silent. No matter how much I push the laptop, it will never make itself heard – there aren’t any internal cooling fans inside the Swift 7. I was particularly impressed with the heat management of the Swift 7 too; the palm rest area never gets too hot to the touch.
In the audio department, the Swift 7’s thin profile doesn’t allow for a very impressive set of speakers. While the laptops bottom-firing stereo speakers can get decently loud, they crackle at higher levels; they also sound rather tinny, which is really expected of a laptop this thin.
Overall, the user experience of the Swift 7 is definitely pleasant. I love the fact that it’s a passively-cooled laptop that doesn’t require cooling fans, and the heat management is great for a laptop this thin. While the Swift 7’s keyboard isn’t the best in the business, it’s definitely better than the keyboards found on other slim laptops like it.
I’ll be honest: I was very sceptical of the Swift 7’s Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor’s capabilities when the laptop was first introduced. After all, it’s really just a seventh generation Core m chip with a new naming convention. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how capable this new generation of Core m chips is.
Using the Swift 7 for day-to-day tasks like writing articles and light photo editing proved to be surprisingly pleasant with no noticeable lag. This laptop can also handle multiple tabs on Google Chrome and play 60fps videos on YouTube just fine, which I remember wasn’t possible on laptops with Core m processors a couple of generations back.
However, gaming on the Swift 7 is still a pipe dream. I tried to play a match of Dota 2 with the Swift 7, and while it’s playable, the frame rate wasn’t consistent enough – or high enough, for that matter – for it to be a pleasurable experience. That being said, the Swift 7 should be more than capable at running less graphically-intensive games like Hearthstone.
Again, let’s not forget just how slim the Swift 7 is. At only 9.98mm thin, one would assume that this laptop wouldn’t have very decent battery life. Unfortunately, this proved to be the case with the Swift 7.
With Battery Saver mode activated and the power plan set to Power Saver, I managed to get close to six hours of battery life with the Swift 7; the display’s brightness was also set to a comfortable level. While this battery life is decent, it’s not exactly great, especially for a productivity-focused laptop like the Swift 7.
There are plenty of slim and light productivity laptops in the market, and one of the most immediate competitors to the Swift 7 is the HP Spectre 13. Design wise, the Spectre looks a lot more grand than the minimalist Swift 7; I’d argue that the Spectre has a better keyboard too. Other than that, HP’s offering also has one extra USB-C port – along with support for Thunderbolt 3 – compared to the Swift 7.
However, the Swift 7 is more affordable than the Spectre 13; the latter retails from RM5,999, which is RM1,000 more than the Swift 7. Other than that, the Swift 7 is also thinner than the Spectre 13 (10.4mm vs. 9.88mm) and more quiet. That being said, the Spectre 13 has a more capable Core i5-6200U processor; while it’s one generation behind the Swift 7’s i5-7Y54 chip, the Spectre 13’s processor offers an entirely different performance level.
Another interesting competitor to the Swift 7 is the Asus ZenBook 3. While Asus’ offering goes for a whopping RM7,999, it has a much more generous 1TB PCIe SSD, a more powerful seventh generation i7-7500U processor, as well as more RAM at 16GB. That being said, the Swift 7 has two USB-C ports – instead of just the one single port on the ZenBook 3 – a more comfortable keyboard, as well as a thinner profile. The ZenBook 3 is more compact, however, but that’s really because it has a smaller 12.5-inch display.
Last but definitely not least is the 12-inch MacBook. Retailing from RM5,499 – that’s RM500 more than the Swift 7 – the MacBook has a sharper 12-inch 2304 x 1440 display, a better trackpad, much better battery life, as well as a more portable form factor. While it’s not quite as thin as the Swift 7 (13.1mm vs. 9.98mm), the MacBook is lighter at 0.92kg.
The Swift 7, on the other hand, has a more comfortable keyboard, more USB-C ports (two instead of only one on the MacBook), and a newer – and technically superior – Core i5-7Y54 processor; the 12-inch MacBook is powered by sixth generation Core m series chips instead. Putting aside operating system preference, the 12-inch MacBook’s long battery life does give it quite an edge, although I imagine not many will take a liking to its extremely shallow keyboard.
I’m more critical of how compact a productivity laptop is than how thin it is, but there definitely is a market for slim and light ultraportables like the Acer Swift 7. Taking everything into consideration, the Swift 7 is really…only a decent laptop.
While the amount of work that goes into designing a laptop as thin as the Swift 7 is commendable, the laptop’s battery life, trackpad, and processing power – while surprisingly capable – pale in comparison to its competition, which are really only slightly thicker than the Swift 7.
This leads me to believe that the Swift 7 is more similar to the gargantuan Predator 21X – they are both statement products designed explicitly to put the Acer brand in the spotlight as more than just mass makers of forgettable devices. The Swift 7 evokes desire with its eye-catching thinness and classy design, but not necessarily leading in performance.
The saving grace for the laptop is perhaps its RM4,999 price tag, which is actually a pretty competitive price tag for a premium, slim ultraportable.
The Acer Swift 7 is a tough proposition for me, but if the world’s slimmest laptop catches your fancy, and you don’t mind the Swift 7’s “okay” battery life and somewhat limited processing power, it is a mighty fine option. It’s not a laptop I would personally buy, but it’s definitely one I enjoyed using.