The Acer Swift 1 is ideal for anyone who needs a laptop primarily for writing, email, and light web browsing, and can’t or doesn’t want to spend a ton of money.
- Ideal for light PC work
- Nice price
- More than enough ports
- Fingerprint scanner is a nice addition
- Below average battery life
- Viewing angles and max brightness are not great
- Review Price: £400
- 14-inch Full HD LED display
- Intel Pentium Silver N5000 quad-core processor
- 4GB DDR4 RAM
- 256GB SSD
- Fingerprint scanner
- HDMI, Type-C USB, 2 x Type-A USB, SD card reader
What is the Acer Swift 1?
The latest Acer Swift 1 (SF114-32) range of laptops for 2019 offers buyers a lot for a very nice price of around £300-£450. That’s close to how much you’d pay for a Chromebook – and as the Acer Swift 1 comes running on the full 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home, it features support or familiar apps and programs, including Microsoft Office, Slack and Photoshop Elements, and gives you the option to install web browsers like Mozilla’s Firefox (which isn’t currently available on Chrome OS).
In short, it’s an inexpensive Windows 10 laptop that’s hitting shelves in time for the Back to School run. As well as being aimed at college and university students, it’s also pitched at anyone in the market for an inexpensive laptop that’ll run Microsoft Word, let you check emails and stream Netflix on the side.
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Acer Swift 1 design – Lightweight but not light on ports
While the Acer Swift 1 is an affordable laptop, it looks and feels a lot more premium than its £500 price tag might suggest.
Firstly, its exterior panels and the deck-side case are metal, which means that the Swift 1 not only looks and feels more attractive than a plastic laptop, it’s also more durable and less susceptible to cracks, dents and superficial damage.
Secondly, the plastic bezel framing the 14-inch screen measures 6.3mm at the sides, which, while a little bigger than the bezels of high-end ultrabooks like last year’s Asus ZenBook 14 Pro (3mm) and the new Dell XPS 13 (4mm), is still on the thin side and makes the Acer Swift 1 look slick, thanks to the fact that it draws attention to the big 14-inch Full HD display.
Thirdly, Acer has included a fingerprint scanner on the Swift 1. While it’s increasingly common to see fingerprint scanners on laptops these days, it’s rare to see them on a laptop at this price point, so its inclusion here is a nice plus. As well as giving users an extra degree of security and privacy, it also makes the Swift 1 look a bit cooler.
Despite the low price, Acer has included all but the kitchen sink here, packing in three Type-A USB ports (the traditional, rectangular kind) and one Type-C USB port (the newer, oval-shaped kind), as well as an HDMI 2.0 port, a full-sized SD card reader, along with the usual 3.5mm jack for headphones, a Kensington lock slot, and a port for the AC adapter.
While there’s no dedicated Ethernet port, you can pick up USB-C-to-Ethernet adapters for not very much these days.
Finally, the Acer Swift 1 weighs a very light 1.3kg and measures 15 x 323 x 228mm, meaning it’ll sit snugly inside a satchel or backpack and won’t weigh you down when you’re on the move.
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Acer Swift 1 display – How good is the Acer Swift 1’s screen?
The Acer Swift 1’s display is a 14-inch Full HD LED display with IPS (in-plane switching) for improved viewing angles, and a ComfyView anti-glare filter.
It’s not the best display I’ve seen on a laptop, but it is good enough for simple PC tasks – if you’re after something inexpensive to crunch through essays and spreadsheets on, you’ll be fine here.
Using an X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter and DisplayCAL 3, I recorded maximum brightness of 282.5 nits and a black level of 0.26 nits, adding up to a contrast ratio of 1070:1.
Ideally, you want a display to be able to give you top brightness of 300 nits so it can cope with a variety of lighting conditions. Working outside on a sunny day is tricky on the Acer Swift 1, though the anti-glare coating does mean that any primary light sources reflected off the display won’t cause discomfort.
While the display is perfectly fine for writing on, it is not at all suited for photo work.
Not only was the colour temperature I recorded (7449K vs the 6500K ideal) on the blue side, meaning that images can look a little cold, colour space coverage was also low.
I recorded 58% coverage of the standard RGB (sRGB) colour gamut, the space which digital artists and photographers work in. 58% is very low – for serious photo editing, you need a display which covers at least 80% of the sRGB space – and coverage of the wider Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 spaces was even lower at 41.6% and 42.8%.
Despite the LED display featuring IPS, which usually allows for great viewing angles, on the Acer Swift 1 some discolouration is apparent when looking at the centre of the screen from 45 degrees. This is not likely to be a problem, unless you’re watching something on Netflix with two other people.
On that note, while video content streamed on the Swift 1 largely looks fine, colours can be a little on the cool side. Also, the audio quality is bearable, but not fantastic – while OK for dialogue, the speakers, mounted on the underside of the laptop, are not great for music.
There’s hardly any low end coming out here, to the point where it failed my Master Of Puppets test – if you can’t hear the bass guitar when it kicks in at 0:30, or the bass is so distorted it no longer resembles a bass guitar (I’m looking at you, Asus ROG Strix GL504 Hero II), a laptop fails the test.
In short, if you want to listen to music while working, you’d be best off sticking with headphones.
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Acer Swift 1 keyboard – How easy is it to type on the Acer Swift 1?
The Acer Swift 1’s keyboard is well spaced, making it easy to get familiar with. The ample-sized trackpad combined with sensible positioning of the keyboard means that your palms rest naturally on the south side of the deck, allowing your fingers to get acquainted with the home keys.
The keycaps feature a dry, matt finish, which feels a little odd at first, and travel is very shallow, to the point where the keys initially feel almost flush to the board. It’s not as flat as, say, the MacBook Air 2018’s butterfly-switched keys, but it’s still shallower than most laptops we’ve tested recently. It certainly made me appreciate the quality of the keyboards of the (admittedly more expensive) Dell XPS 13 and HP Envy 13.
The metal casing means there’s hardly any flex present here, although you do see a bit of that towards the centre of the keyboard. The board is underlit, meaning you’ll be able to beaver away at reports, essays or homework in a gloomy conference centre, library, or your bedroom without having to peer at the keys in the dark.
My only real whinge about the Swift 1’s keyboard is that the nav keys – Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End – are not only tiny, they’re also hemmed in around the arrow keys, which makes for frequent mis-types.
Functions are also doubled up here, requiring you to hold down the Function key in order to jump to the beginning or end of a sentence. That’s not as much of an issue as their size and position on the board, but, personally, I’d have preferred four dedicated nav keys here. If HP can manage it on a 13-inch notebook, all other manufacturers should follow suit.
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Acer Swift 1 battery life – How long does the Acer Swift 1’s battery last?
Expect to get anything between six and seven hours out of the Acer Swift 1. Running the PCMark 8 Work benchmark, which simulates basic PC office work, with the screen’s brightness locked to 150 nits, gave me six hours and two minutes.
That’s consistent with my real-world observations. It’s also a low score for a lightweight notebook, especially one with such an undemanding processor. You should expect at least eight if not 10 hours of juice from most lifestyle laptops these days.
Pushing it, you’d be able to get a bit more power out of the Acer Swift 1. If you were to dip the brightness levels even further, and, where possible, use a USB-to-Ethernet adapter to connect to the internet instead of relying on Wi-Fi, you should be able to squeeze another 30 minutes out of the Swift 1 – though realistically, you’re not always going to be able to do that. While an average battery life of six hours isn’t great, it’s still serviceable. Just remember to take the mains adapter with you everywhere.
On the plus side, you can get an empty Acer Swift 1 charged back up in under two hours – around one hour 45 minutes. After half an hour on the mains, expect to have just over a third filled up, and expect around 55-60% after 60 minutes.
Acer Swift 1 performance – Can I watch Netflix on it?
If you want to stream anything on Netflix or BBC iPlayer, I would close down all other applications on the Acer Swift 1 first.
I can’t stress enough that, while for basic PC applications the Acer Swift 1 is fine and dandy, it is not a high-performance machine. To get the most out of it, you need to take it easy.
When browsing the web, for instance, I’d find that Chrome would often groan under the weight of multiple (20+) tabs. If you’re the kind of person who works with plenty of tabs open, and at least one of those tabs contains YouTube with Autoplay on, you may to need to close and relaunch Chrome (or your browser of choice) a bit more frequently than you’re used to.
I’m mainly chalking the light performance up to the processor, a Pentium Silver N5000, which has a slow base clock speed of 1.1GHz. While it can boost up to 2.7GHz, overloading the Swift 1 with processes causes it to not live up to its moniker.
To put that into context, I ran Geekbench 4’s CPU benchmark to stress test the processor. The Geekbench stress test is based on the performance of a high-end 7th-gen Intel laptop CPU from 2015 – an Intel Core i7-6600U with a 2.60 GHz base clock speed – and uses single and multi-core scores of 4000 and 8000 respectively as a baseline for performance.
The Acer Swift 1 gave me scores of 1995 and 5418 – so yes, this is pretty low powered by comparison. Then again, it’s not so low powered that you can’t do the basics.
The SSD on the model I reviewed was a 256GB Kingston RBUSNS8154P3256GJ1, about 240GB of which is available to the user. Running CrystalDiskMark benchmark, I got read and write scores of 828.7 MB/s and 632.1 MB/s.
Again, for the most part, this is no big deal, as such speeds are OK for saving, loading, and transferring Word documents, but for anything more intensive than that, expect things to move slowly.
Don’t expect to play any games here, besides the likes of Candy Crush Saga. Running 3DMark Ice Strike (a benchmark for laptops with integrated graphics), I got 14,492, one of the lowest Ice Strike scores recorded so far. The Microsoft Surface Go tablet, for example, gave us 39,953 with Ice Strike, and that’s not exactly a gaming powerhouse.
This, combined with the lack of dedicated graphics and the display’s low colour space coverage, means that the Acer Swift 1 isn’t suited to the most basic photo editing tasks. If you want something for that, you may need to open your wallet a little more – if you’re not wedded to Windows 10 and have an extra £200 to spare, check out the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1, another metal-clad ultrabook with an Intel Core i3 processor and a higher-quality display, meaning it’s better equipped for light photo work.
Should I buy the Acer Swift 1?
If you are shopping for a new laptop for work or study purposes and you’re on a tight budget, I can recommend the Acer Swift 1 as a good option. It’s not quite the bargain of the century – you will need to keep an eye on that battery and it’s not suitable for even the lightest of photo editing tasks – but for word processing, web browsing, emails and a spot of occasional Netflix, it’s fine, not to mention cheap. Just go easy on it.
A very affordable Windows 10 laptop that will confidently do the basics, but struggle to do much else.