Hands on: Acer Swift 5 at IFA 2019 Review

First Impressions

The Acer Swift 5 isn't only a fantastically lightweight and space-efficient laptop that’s nice to look at, it brings Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity to the table, as well as a Core i7 Ice Lake processor. While I’ve not been able to do cursory benchmark tests, based on the promise of the 10th-gen processors, my feeling is that this could be a great value-for-money proposition – especially if Acer is able to keep the new Swift 5’s below the £1000 mark. 

Key Specifications

  • 14-inch Full HD LCD with IPS
  • Intel Ice Lake Core i5 / Core i7
  • 8GB / 16GB RAM
  • Up to 512GB SSD storage
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Type-C USB 3.1 w/ Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, 2 x Type-A USB, lock slot
  • 990g
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What is the Acer Swift 5?

The new Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54T/SF514-54GT) Ultrabook unveiled at IFA 2019 is one of the first from the company to feature a processor from Intel’s Ice Lake range of laptop CPUs. Forming part of the 10th-generation of Intel laptop chips, the processor inside the new Acer Swift 5 model I saw – the Core i7-1065G7 – is the most powerful from the Ice Lake range to be announced so far. 

The Intel Core i7-1065G7 is a quad-core processor with a base clock speed of 1.3GHz that’s capable of turboing up to 3.9GHz. While on paper this means basic PC work and photo editing should be super-quick, perhaps the big take-home here is the fact that Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 are both supported. 

This means you can expect top-notch Wi-Fi speeds (depending on the condition of your and router and your service provider), alongside the ability to connect the Swift 5 to monitors and dongles and keep the battery charged at the same time through the Type-C USB port. 

Note that just because a laptop has an Ice Lake chip inside, you shouldn’t take it as read that the manufacturer will have actually implemented Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6. Adding these increases the cost – especially in the case of Thunderbolt 3 – so just because you see Ice Lake on the label, don’t assume it’s there. 

The fact that Acer has managed to include both features in the Swift 5 whilst keeping prices below the €1000 mark is a real plus.

Related: Best Ultrabook

Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54GT) front view

Acer Swift 5 price and release date – How much does the Acer Swift 5 cost, and when is it coming out?

While we don’t currently have concrete UK prices and release dates for the new Acer Swift 5 models, we know that models with 8GB and 16GB of RAM will be available. Storage options will go up to 512GB, so presumably there will be 256GB and 128GB editions as well. 

So far, Acer has provided guide prices of €899 (£810) and €999 (£900), but changes in exchange rates and VAT will likely see these prices change as and when the devices come to the UK. 

Likewise, Acer has said that the new Swift 5 models will hit shelves in September (which means now) – but at the time of writing, no UK pre-order pages could be found. 

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Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54GT) close-up on raised hinge

Acer Swift 5 design and keyboard – Another blue and gold beauty

I’m a fan of any laptop line that doesn’t just rock the regulation black/dark grey/silver look. The Acer Swift 5, like the recently reviewed Asus ZenBook 14, comes in a fetching blue and gold design, but it also available in a more conservative white. 

Like the LG Gram 14, the magnesium-lithium construction means that Acer has been able to keep the Swift 5’s weight under 1kg, while promising a level of durability you wouldn’t get from plastic. 

Possibly taking a leaf out of the Asus ErgoLift playbook, I noticed that the Swift 5’s display housing has a pair of rubber strips on either side of the hinge (see above). As such, when you open it up, the rear portion of the deck is lifted up from the surface it’s resting on, presumably to allow for warm air to escape the system more easily.  

Fingerprint scanners are fast becoming standard Ultrabook features, but the presence of one on the new Swift 5 is still worth shouting about. Windows Hello support means you should be able to quickly and securely unlock the Swift 5 with a simple touch, instead of having to use a PIN or password. 

The keyboard follows the usual layout for Swift keyboards, so you can expect a good typing experience. Despite shallow travel, key action felt snappy and responsive. I was a little dismayed to see that the Page Up and Page Down keys are still sitting above the arrow keys – which have been crushed down to fit into a small portion of the bottom-right corner – but this is a personal bugbear; other folks might not find this such a big deal.

Acer Swift 5 specifications

Note that we don’t currently have a full spec sheet for the new Acer Swift 5 models – the SF514-54T and SF514-54GT – but this is what we know so far:

Acer Swift 5 (2019)
Display 14-inch Full HD LCD with IPS (in-plane switching)
Processor Intel Core i5 Ice Lake (exact models TBC) / Core i7-1065G7 1.3GHz up to 3.9GHz, 8MB cache
Graphics Iris Plus Graphics G7 (integrated), Nvidia MX250 (dedicated)
Storage Up to 512GB PCIe Gen 3×4
Memory 8GB / 16GB LPDDR4X RAM
Ports Type-C USB 3.1 with Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, 2 x Type-A USB, Kensington lock slot
Weight 990g

At a glance, the above looks like a respectable spec sheet for a 2019 lifestyle laptop. The storage being capped at 512GB is a bit of a concern, though. 

While in this day and age, many users will store documents in Google Drive or OneDrive, not being able to keep folders of photos on your laptop without having to keep an eye on storage limits is a downside. 

Again, while the Acer Swift 5 isn’t a fully fledged gaming laptop, you might want to get in a bit of Fortnite or Apex Legends on the side. Those games might not require a lot of storage (16GB and 22GB respectively), but sitting alongside your photos and anything else you might want to back up locally, you’ll want a bit of extra breathing room. As such, 512GB might prove limiting. 

On the flip-side, the presence of Thunderbolt 3 means you can transfer files at rates of up to 40Gbps – so, in theory, backing everything up to a portable hard drive should be an easy and practicable workaround. 

Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54GT) left hand side

Acer Swift 5 battery and performance – Does the 12.5 hours claim stand up?

Acer says that you can get up to 12hrs 30mins of power out of the new Swift 5. 

As with all such claims, it’s worth taking a magnifying glass to the small print. In this case, Acer says that it’s basing that impressive battery life figure on having a program loop 50 websites being browsed in Microsoft Edge every 30 seconds until the battery hit zero, with the brightness of the Swift 5’s display set to 100 nits. 

For context, when we test laptop battery performance at Trusted Reviews, using the PCMark 8 “Work” battery benchmark, we lock display brightness at 150 nits, since this is more representative of the kind of brightness most people will be comfortable working at in most environments. Naturally, the brighter the display, the faster the battery levels will fall. 

Furthermore, Acer said it did this on a Swift 5 with an unspecified Intel Core i5 Ice Lake processor. With no way of telling if this was an Intel Core i5-1035G1, or the more powerful Core i5-1035G7, drawing a conclusion here is tricky. 

It is reasonable to expect that real-world battery performance will be a shy of that 12.5 hours claim. Nevertheless, even if it falls to 10 or 11 hours, that’s still pretty good going. Most people are unlikely to be working away from the mains for that long. 

Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54GT) right hand side

I wasn’t able to run any benchmarks on the Acer Swift 5 during my hands-on time with it, nor has Trusted Reviews been able to test any systems with Ice Lake processors yet, so I can’t really say how the new Swift 5 is likely to perform. 

In terms of single-thread performance, Intel says that Ice Lake chips offer just a slight boost compared to that of models housing Whiskey Lake chips.

Besides support for Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6, another key feature of Ice Lake is machine-learning. This promises to have the system keep tabs on the apps and programs you use the most, in theory dedicating sufficient resources to ensure smooth operations. When doing such tasks as indexing photos or making use of a voice assistant – Microsoft’s Cortana, for example – Intel is promising a silky-smooth running with Ice Lake. 

This should help conserve power as well as loading everything more quickly. Let’s hope that the impressive battery life and overall performance claims stand up to scrutiny. 

I’m also curious to see how the integrated Intel Iris graphics will work alongside the dedicated Nvidia MX250. Generally speaking, it’s better to let a dedicated GPU handle rendering video and running games, but the Iris Plus Graphics G7 supports variable rate shading (VRS). The MX250, based on Nvidia’s older Pascal architecture instead of the Turing design seen on GPUs such as the GTX 1660 Ti, does not.

It might be the case that for gaming, disabling the dedicated GPU – bizarrely – might make some things run more smoothly. How these two components work together when playing games remains to be seen. 

Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54GT) rear view

Acer Swift 5 – Early verdict

Despite not being able to run any benchmarks on the new Acer Swift 5 at IFA 2019, things are looking good. The design and build quality looks and feels premium, and the prices for these models currently appear rather attractive. If Acer can keep the price down, and the battery and performance claims deliver in the real world, then this could be a big seller.

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