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Home Computers Acer’s lucky Swift 7 (review)

Acer’s new Swift 7 is an ultralight, 7th generation Kaby Lake laptop that is claimed to be the world’s thinnest (9.98mm), lightest (1.13kg), non-touch, 13.3” Windows 10, laptop.

Acer Swift 7 backAnd it is a laptop – a traditional clamshell-style with no fancy 360° hinge or a detachable keyboard. Just a subtle, elegant, brushed gold and black visage. On looks, style, and thinness alone, it wins hands down.

There is a lot of competition in this space – HP’s new Spectre, Asus ZenBook 3, Toshiba’s X20, and even Apple’s 12” MacBook. And like the rest, the Acer offering tends to offer similar specifications, give or take, here and there, to make every millimetre count and keeps the price below the magic $2000 mark.

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the use of Intel’s new Kaby Lake Core i7-7Y75 processor — a dedicated, fan-less, notebook processor — over the i7-7500U used elsewhere.

It has a 4.5W thermal design power rating compared to the 15W needed for the latter. That means a 70% power efficiency with a trade-off in raw CPU/GPU performance that, in my general office use tests, was not noticeable.

Out of the box

  • The notebook.
  • A 5/12/20V 2.5A charger brick USB-C.
  • USB-C to USB-A 3.0 adaptor.

The first thing you notice is that it is light and small. Set-up is typical of Windows 10 and you are up and running in minutes. It will ask you for a Windows account (which you can skip) and recommends an Acer ID to manage warranty and communications with Acer.

Acer Swift 7 side

Specifications – Acer Swift 7

  • Screen: 13.3”, non-touch, IPS, 1920 x 1080, Gorilla Glass 5.
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7Y75 base frequency 1.3GHz and 3.6GHz turbo, Intel HD 615 graphics and shared memory.
  • RAM/Storage: 8GB RAM (non-upgradable) LPDR3, 256GB serial ATA.300 SSD, no SD slot.
  • Comms: Wi-Fi AC 2x2 MU-MIMO, Wi-Di, Bluetooth, 2 x USB-C ports (one for charge and data).
  • Camera: standard front 1280 x 720p webcam, indicator light, and dual mics.
  • Audio: 3.5mm jack, two downward firing speakers Dolby/Acer TrueHarmony under the base.
  • Battery: 45W, 2770mAh, 9-hour use.
  • OS: Windows 10 Home.
  • Size/Weight: 324.6 x 229.6 x 9.98mm x 1.13kg.
  • Warranty: one year.
  • Price: $1999 from Harvey Norman.

To build this Acer has traded off some things – compromises made for thinness, weight and price. For example, it has no SD Slot, it uses the Intel HD 615 GPU (not a gaming processor), slower DDR3 RAM, no touch screen, and no fancy 360° hinge – it’s a good, solid, basic, ultralight notebook.

Keyboard and trackpad

Ten out of 10 for the oversize trackpad that allows a single swipe to move the cursor from top right to bottom left – equal to the HP Spectre/x360 and the Microsoft Surface Book. What that means is you will not need to use a separate Bluetooth mouse and it does 2 finger scrolls and other gestures. You can also disable it when using a mouse.

It uses island-style chiclet keys with a 1.2mm throw and 54g actuation. Not exactly the greatest for touch typists who will experience about a 10% speed drop, but good enough to knock out a story.

But these are not backlit to help extend battery life and that is a feature you may miss.

I also like the large wrist rest area – perfect for resting your wrists on while typing.

Screen

Sorry, Acer – I know a touch screen would have added another millimetre or so but it is getting to the stage that it is expected. On the other hand, it is covered by Gorilla Glass 5 so it is tough.

Colours are reasonable – 85% of the sRGB. Other reviews have noted 59.2% of Adobe RGB and 64.2% of DCI-P3 so it is not for professional users like photographers. Contrast is quoted at 997:1 yet the screen seemed dull.

That is until you find the Acer Quick Access and enable colour intelligence and then go to Intel’s HD Graphic control and realise that the screen is set to maximum power saving. A brief play with contrast, hue and saturation made the screen punchy and alive.

The screen has a relatively glossy finish and that means higher reflectivity – you need to get the screen angle just right and avoid strong light sources above and behind you.

Performance

I like the Core i7-7Y75 for general office and domestic use – fan-less, good battery life and good performance for office tasks, browsing, etc. But it “chugs” when you load a processor-hungry app like one for video editing.

PCMark 8 tests bring it in at 2234 – very similar to what an 6th generation Core-i5 scored. Where it falls down is in graphics power – it is fine to play movies, but choked on some game benchmarks.

The serial ATA SSD was slower at around 120Mbps – you don’t get M.2 PCIe SSD for this price.

Battery

Acer claims nine hours (under indeterminate use parameters) and in a video loop test, it achieved around 8 hours at 50% screen brightness and six hours at 100%.

Charging using the Acer brick was fast – under an hour from zero to 100%. But I had issues with using a standard USB-C charger – it simply did not work.

What that means is that any USB-C adaptor you buy (like the common HDMI/USB-C 3.0) needs to have pass through charging and you cannot simply use another USB-C phone charger.

Sound

There is plenty of volume from the stereo speakers under the base with good stereo separation. Like all small speakers, it has a proclivity for mid and treble – forget any heavy bass. This is for easy listening and I quite liked it.

As with all down firing speakers in the base, you can muffle it when placed on different surfaces like balancing it on your lap.

Sound output via Bluetooth and 3.5mm audio to an AV Amp and headphones was as good as can be expected from a Realtek signal processor.

Connectivity

As mentioned there are two USB-C ports (one for data and charging) and one for data, as well as a 3.5mm audio port. I would have preferred an SD slot as well but again it takes up valuable space. It lacks HDMI (buy a dongle).

Wi-Fi was good achieving speeds commensurate with the Qualcomm Wi-Fi AC/Bluetooth 4.1 adapter which is an AC, Wave 2, 2x2 MU-MIMO adapter with a peak speed of 433Mbps.

As a piece of advice look at buying a Kensington SD4600P powered dock (tested here) to give any USB-C device more features as well as support for 4K screens.

Pros:

  • Small and light yet has 13.3” screen.
  • Beautiful design and colours.
  • Good keyboard and trackpad and large wrist rest area.
  • Good sound – easy listening.
  • Plenty of power for office tasks, browsing etc.
  • Fan-less and quiet.

Cons

  • Non-touch (but that is not mandatory).
  • No keyboard backlight.
  • No SD card support, HDMI, USB-3.0 ports.
  • No Windows Hello (would have needed an IR camera) or Fingerprint sensor.
  • Won’t charge using standard USB-C charger (to be investigated further).

I used the laptop over a month, mainly while travelling as it was so small and light. It performed well for my needs.

Apart from the price, $1999, it would make a good student notebook adding less weight to the backpack. It is elegant enough for a C-Suite to use, looks great and it is particularly sturdy.

But mostly I simply found it to be a competent, honest, no-nonsense, well-made, ultralight notebook with a 13.3” screen.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

 

 

 

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