At a time when every laptop seems to want to out-clever the next, the Acer Swift 3 is refreshingly restrained. It’s not trying to dazzle you with ultra thin bezels or a single piece of machined metal that was hand-filed by artisanal robots using artificial intelligence. It’s a laptop. It’s a well-designed, well-built laptop that won’t break the bank. This is why last year’s Acer Swift 3 was the top pick in our guide to budget laptops.
Based on the few weeks I’ve spent living with this year’s modest update, I see no reason to change that pick. The Swift 3 is a solid, no-frills, fairly priced machine. It’s not going to play graphics-intensive games very well, but the battery life is fantastic. It’ll get you through a day’s work or a late night studying without breaking a sweat.
Before I dive in, I need to clear up some confusion. Acer calls two somewhat different laptops by the same name: the Swift 3. Both versions use 11th-generation Intel Core processors. Both have the same keyboard trackpad, and fingerprint readers, but one—the one I am reviewing here—has a 14-inch, 16:9, 1080p IPS display.
The other Swift 3, which I have not tested, uses a 13.5-inch (2256 x 1504) 3:2 IPS display. The internal components are the same, but the resolution and shape of the display are different. Still, aside from the screen, almost everything I say here will apply to whichever model you choose.
The new Swift 3 is a thin, silver, understated, innocuous-looking laptop. Its all-metal construction feels solid and stands up well to life in a backpack, making it a good choice for the college-bound. It’s also light, weighing just 2.6 pounds, which is pretty unheard-of at the under-$800 price point. But as I said above, this is not a laptop that’s out to win design awards. It looks good, but mostly it’s there to stay out of your way and help you get work done.
The keyboard is neither the best nor the worst I’ve used. I like thicker, more ThinkPad-style keyboards and keys, but for Chiclet-style keys, these have good travel and are plenty fast to type on. The trackpad is a marked step up from other Acers I’ve used. It’s more responsive and doesn’t have that mushy feel some Acer trackpads have had.
Thanks to its slightly chunkier design, the Swift 3 has plenty of ports. There are two USB-A ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt port (which it can charge from if you have an adapter, or portable battery, that delivers enough power), a headphone jack, and an HDMI out. There’s no SD card port, so you will need a dongle to dump photos and videos from your digital camera, but otherwise you shouldn’t need a bunch of adapters to use the accessories you already own, which is nice.
The model I tested featured 16 gigabytes of RAM and a 512-gigabyte SSD paired with an 11th-generation Intel i7 processor with Intel’s new EVO rating, which means it’s optimized for battery life, quick-charging, and instant wake. Notice that list doesn’t include performance. Still, I was impressed with the performance of the Swift 3. It felt plenty fast tackling the everyday tasks I threw at it, including browsing the web, video conferencing, and even rendering some short 5.3K videos shot on the new GoPro Hero 10 Black.