Acer Swift 5 (2020) Review: Featherweight Laptop With Solid Performance
Portability continues to be one of the key factors that consumers look for when buying a new laptop. Today’s ultrabooks offer the kind of performance that is more than capable of handling your school or office work, multimedia tasks and even a little bit of photo or video editing. Intel’s efforts of making low-powered chipsets are definitely paying off, and while we wait for the new 11th-Gen CPUs to take over, I believe the past 2 years have seen notebooks shed weight faster than ever before. This is all thanks to Intel’s efficient chipsets and of course the laptop manufacturers that have been putting in efforts and giving attention to detail while designing their notebooks.
Just recently I reviewed the ZenBook 14 by ASUS, and I was astonished by how lightweight the 14-inch laptop was. However, I had completely missed the fact that Acer had also introduced its ultraslim Swift notebook series earlier this year. Thankfully, the company did remind me by sending a unit over and as soon as I got my hands on it, I was immediately in love. It weighs less than the ZenBook, falling just short of a kilogram. Notably, the new Swift 5 this year is a 14-inch laptop in a 13-inch form factor, as opposed to the 15-inch model from last year.
DESIGN AND BUILD
Now apart from the fact that this notebook is so lightweight, the choice of colour and styling is definitely unique. The ‘Charcoal Blue’ has a slight tinge of green and the keys get a gold font offering an interesting look. The golden colour scheme extends to the Acer logo on the lid as well as under the display covering the hinge mechanism. The notebook is made out of magnesium-alloy which mostly felt like plastic to me, however, Acer assures that it is quite sturdy and rigid. Somehow I wasn’t completely impressed by the finish in terms of touch and feel though.
There is a nice cutout at the front so you can lift up the lid with just one hand, but the hinge seemed quite stiff so I couldn’t successfully do that. Just like the ErgoLift hinge design by ASUS, the bottom chassis rises a little as you open the lid. The mechanism is not the same but does serve the purpose of making space underneath the machine for better airflow. Certain areas on the notebook do flex a little but overall I think the machine is built very well.
The display on the notebook is a 14-inch TFT LCD with a 1080p resolution and touch support. It's a fairly bright panel and I found the colours quite appealing. The bezels are slim on the sides but the top one is a little broad to accommodate the 720p webcam and there is a slight chin with the Acer logo. Despite the matte finish, which usually washes out the panel, it looks vivid thanks to the 120-percent coverage of the sRGB color gamut. Viewing angles are pretty good as well as the overall sharpness. I was satisfied with the brightness too, although there are similarly priced notebooks on the market that can offer you brighter panels if that is something that you prefer. As a quick test, I cranked up the brightness and tried using the notebook under the direct sun. It did wash out a bit but honestly looked perfectly good and usable. The only issue I found was that like most touchscreens it gets smudged after prolonged use. Now I don’t prefer using the touchscreen with Windows all that much, so I think that shouldn’t be a huge setback for most users.
As for connectivity and ports on the Swift 5, you get Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5.0, a standard USB 3.1 port with power-off charging, a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 and power-in capability, a full-sized HDMI port, a headphone and mic combo, a Kensington lock and a standard barrel charging port. I like the fact that the notebook can be charged using the USB-C port, which makes life quite convenient. I think Acer should just drop the idea of having a proprietary charging port.
KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD
Now the keyboard is pretty standard and while the gold fonts are a complete mismatch with the white backlight, the typing experience is pretty solid on this one. The keys offer a decent amount of travel despite the slim chassis, and I liked how they make a calming clicky sound. The keys are nicely spaced out with the arrow and page-up/down keys crammed in the lower right corner. I do want to point out the power button, which sits right next to the delete key and is of the exact size and shape. I really wish laptop manufacturers would consider placing the power button elsewhere or perhaps with a different shape so it is easier to differentiate rather than hitting it by accident.
The trackpad sits right below and while at 4.1 x 2.5-inch it isn't the biggest, I was quite comfortable with its size. It's not entirely smooth and it took my fingers some time to get used to, but overall I had no major complaints. Scrolling and swiping work great as do the default Windows 10 gestures.
There is also a small fingerprint scanner that is placed below the arrow keys. While it is at a convenient spot, it's a lot wider and there were few instances where I was unable to unlock the laptop immediately.
The notebook can be configured with the 10th-Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 or the Core i7-1065G7, both of which are commonly seen on lightweight notebooks. Now I was sent the Core i7 model with 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM which came with a 512GB PCIe Gen3 NVMe SSD. I could easily work my way around with 10-15 tabs on Firefox that included some Docs on my Google Drive, YouTube videos and some pinned tabs like Facebook and WhatsApp Web. There is no dedicated graphics card on this one so you have to rely on the Intel Iris Plus graphics which should be good for just a bit of casual games but don’t expect any shoot-em-up titles to run smoothly on this. The overall day-to-day performance felt pretty similar to the likes of ASUS ZenBook 14 (UX425JA).
Most ultraslim notebooks offer a poor audio output since there is very little space to actually fit a large driver. Same is the case with this one. The audio output is not enough and you would definitely need a pair of headphones or some external speakers to enjoy a movie or listening to music. As a comparison, it was only a tiny bit louder than the ASUS ZenBook 14 that I recently reviewed. There’s an HD camera on top as well and you don't get any face recognition nor is the overall quality of the camera any good.
Battery is very competent as the 56Wh battery lasted me between 6-8 hours on average. While Acer claims 12-hours, I wasn’t able to get anything beyond 8 hours with the brightness down to about 25-percent. The good thing is you can use a standard USB-C charger to top it up and with the bundled barrel-pin charger it takes just about an hour to fully juice up the battery. For some weird reason though, the LED to indicate charging is on the opposite side of where you actually plug-in, and there’s an old school beep sound that the notebook makes every time you plug in or disconnect the charger.
The thing is, while the Acer Swift 5 is essentially a slim notebook, it is a sub-Rs 1,00,000 machine which is more of a mid-range ultrabook similar to the ZenBook 14, both of which are really good in their segment. The problem is that they don't ooze of premium-ness like the MacBook Air or the Dell XPS 13, which are obviously priced a bit higher. Having said that, I think the Swift 5 is a solid piece of work by Acer. The fact that it is lighter than 1kg makes it a wonderful experience in itself. You are going to enjoy how snappy the machine is while multitasking at the same time being mostly cool and silent. Pricing for the Core i7 model starts at Rs 92,999 while the Core i5 model is available for Rs 72,999. A piece of advice though, if you can hold on then wait for the new upgrades that are expected to come with the new 11th-gen Intel processors which are going to bring an improved performance experience along with better graphics capabilities.