Moving to AMD Ryzen 4000-series mobile processors (CPU) is the current trend for mid-range and budget tier laptops — like the IdeaPad Flex 5 14 we recently reviewed — and it's a smart choice. Performance and battery life get a considerable boost without raising the price, allowing consumers who favor power over premium aesthetics or features to get exactly what they want. I've been using the refreshed 14-inch Acer Swift 3 with exactly these circumstances for about a week to see how well it performs and whether or not it's worth a buy.
Budget AMD-Powered Notebook
Bottom line: The Acer Swift 3 has a lacking display, and the keyboard probably won't be for everyone, but otherwise, this is a solid laptop. The AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU is powerful, the battery lasts all day, and it's all available at a very attractive price.
- AMD Ryzen 7 4700U brings strong performance
- Great price for what you're getting
- Decent port selection
- All-day battery life
- Fingerprint reader for Windows Hello
- The keyboard isn't for everyone
- Dim display with poor color
Acer Swift 3 at a glance
Acer supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the Acer Swift 3 (model number SF314-42-R9YN) that was first announced in January at CES 2020. It has inside an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU with eight cores, 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and a 512GB Samsung solid-state drive (SSD). The 14-inch display has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1920x1080 (FHD) resolution. It is non-touch and has a matte finish. This exact model can be found at Amazon for about $650, putting it well within the budget range.
There are some models available with more storage up to 1TB, and you can upgrade the M.2 SSD after purchase. Finding a model with more than 8GB of RAM is not as easy, and soldered RAM means no upgrades.
Check out the exact specs found in my review unit of the Swift 3.
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
2.0GHz up to 4.1GHz
AMD Radeon Vega 7
|Storage||512GB M,2 PCIe SSD
16:9 aspect ratio
|Ports||USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2)
Dual stereo speakers
|Wireless||Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
Kensington lock slot
|Dimensions||12.7 x 8.6 x 0.71 inches
(322.6mm x 218.4mm x 18mm)
|Weight||2.65 pounds (1.2kg)|
Acer Swift 3 design and features
The Swift 3's magnesium chassis feels much more solid than a PC/ABS plastic equivalent, and it's also relatively light for a 14-inch laptop at just 2.65 pounds (1.2kg). It reminds me of the feel of LG's gram lineup when held, which is a good thing in terms of durability. These types of chassis can usually stand up well to daily use and abuse, and there's hardly any flex in the keyboard or display lid. The Pure Silver color finish hides fingerprints and smudges well on the outside and inside of the laptop. The single wide hinge extends back 180 degrees so that the display lies flat.
Port selection is relatively generous, especially compared to more premium Ultrabooks that have abandoned everything for Thunderbolt 3. There's a barrel charging port, USB-C 3.2 (which can also be used for charging), HDMI, USB-A 3.0, USB-A 2.0, and 3.5mm audio. An SD or microSD card reader would help here, but at least you can easily connect a USB-C hub or docking station if you need better connectivity.
A sizable Precision touchpad makes good use of the space below the keyboard. Pointing is smooth, and the click is firm. Unfortunately, the solid touchpad isn't accompanied by as great a keyboard. Travel is ample, and I did get used to it, but it just doesn't stand up to the keyboards we're seeing from HP, Dell, and Lenovo these days, even in the mid-range lineups. The chiclet keys are small, and the white backlight on silver color causes issues. Unless you're working in near-complete darkness, the backlight causes the letters to blend into the keys. This is the same issue I've seen with a premium laptop like the XPS 13 9300 in Arctic White color and is a definite annoyance.
On the right palm rest is a fingerprint reader that works with Windows Hello for a convenient security boost. It's a narrow touch-type reader that sort of messes with the aesthetic of the silver keyboard due to the black color, but it works well. Logins are snappy and work without fail.
A speaker resides on either side of the bottom of the laptop. It would be nice to see top-firing speakers flanking the edges of the keyboard, but at least the audio is clear. It doesn't get exceptionally loud; I didn't find it too much, even at maximum volume. At least it's not very tinny, and there's no distortion. Audio is about average for a laptop this price and size.
The front-facing 720p camera above the display does an acceptable job for video conferencing. It manages to keep track of my face even when sitting in front of a set of bright windows, and the picture is as clear as can be expected at this price. Overall it's better than I was expecting. As for wireless connectivity, the inclusion of a Wi-Fi 6 chip is a bonus and sets the laptop up for fast transfer speeds for years to come.
Acer Swift 3 display
Much like the IdeaPad Flex 5 14 with AMD Ryzen 5 4500U I recently reviewed, the display is a definite weak point here. Testing with a Datacolor SpyderX Pro, the display managed just 61% sRGB, 45% AdobeRGB, and 45% DCI-P3 color reproduction. Contrast is good, so the display doesn't exactly look washed out, but anyone who aims to use the laptop for something like photo editing will find it lacking.
Brightness maxes out at a low 231 nits. It's not as impactful due to the matte finish on the display, but it's still quite dim. I had the backlight as high as it would go during the day, even without working in direct sunlight. In a well-lit room, viewing the display is a struggle. Also note that the bezel is raised, and anyone with a preference for edge-to-edge glass will want to look elsewhere. It's not a big deal for most people, and the bezel is relatively thin for a modern look.
Overall the display will cut it for casual use, including word processing, web browsing, email, and streaming. Most people will be able to get used to the look, though if you aspire to enjoy the outdoors while you work, you will have problems. Likewise, for any professional work, you'd no doubt want to check out an external display with better color. Unfortunately, there is no display upgrade option for the AMD-powered Swift 3 model.
Acer Swift 3 performance and battery
With AMD's 7nm Ryzen 4000-series mobile CPU inside, the Swift 3 is a real performer. It has eight cores, and a clock speed up to 4.1GHz, but the real win is the price and how efficiently it runs. Even with just a 50Wh battery, I got between eight and nine hours from a charge when going about standard productivity work with Photoshop, Office, Slack, and Edge. I ran the PCMark 10 Modern Office battery rundown and got back just more than 10 hours with "Better Performance" Windows 10 power setting and about 80% brightness.
On top of excellent processing power, Integrated Vega 7 graphics are impressive. On the OpenCL test, the Ryzen 7 scored 12,008. That's on par with something like a discrete NVIDIA GTX 960M and beats out the common NVIDIA MX330 dedicated GPU that's found in modern laptops. If you're in search of a laptop that can handle some gaming in your downtime, the Swift 3 should be able to push respectable framerates for a ton of modern games.
I ran some benchmarks to see how the Swift 3 stacks up against other laptops we've recently reviewed.
Geekbench 5.0 (CPU) (Higher is better)
|Device||CPU||Single core||Multi core|
|Acer Swift 3||Ryzen 7 4700U||1,131||4,860|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||Ryzen 5 4500U||1,087||4,570|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Ryzen 5 3580U||769||2,720|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||i5-10210U||1,069||3,754|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||i3-10110U||1,015||2,111|
|Lenovo Yoga C740 14||i5-10210U||1,094||3,767|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Flex||i7-1065G7||1,317||4,780|
|Dell XPS 13 (9300)||i7-1065G7||1,284||4,848|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||i7-1065G7||1,336||4,893|
|HP Elite Dragonfly||i7-8665U||1,125||2,942|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||i5-1035G7||1,177||4,413|
|HP Spectre x360 13||i7-1065G7||1,006||3,402|
|Surface Pro X||SQ1||725||2,819|
|Galaxy Book S||SD 8cx||685||2,681|
Strong performance here from the eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 4700U. It delivers raw performance on par with Intel 10th Gen Core i7 "Ice Lake" CPUs, and integrated Vega 7 graphics are also quite impressive.
|Acer Swift 3||4,861|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||4,759|
|Surface Laptop 3 15 (AMD)||4,006|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14||3,202|
|Surface Book 3 15||4,393|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||4,899|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||4,008|
|Lenovo Yoga C740||4,941|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Flex||3,924|
|Dell XPS 13 (9300)||4,524|
|Surface Laptop 3 15 (Intel)||4,604|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1||4,554|
|HP Spectre x360 13||4,261|
|HP Elite Dragonfly||3,716|
|LG gram 17||4,157|
|Surface Pro 7 (i5)||3,992|
PCMark 10 measures how well the PC's hardware works together to perform everyday tasks. Excellent results here from the complete system, even with 8GB of RAM.
Cinebench (R20) (Higher is better)
|Acer Swift 3||Ryzen 7 4700U||2,391 to 2,428|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||Ryzen 5 4500U||2,388 to 2,397|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||Core i5-10210U||1,137 to 1,442|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||Core i3-10110U||924 to 929|
|Lenovo Yoga C740 15||Core i7-10510U||1,415 to 1,613|
|Lenovo Yoga C740 14||Core i5-10210U||1,450 to 1,535|
|LG gram 17||i7-1065G7||1,079 to 1,199|
|Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54T)||Core i7-1065G7||1,361 to 1,400|
|Lenovo ThinkPad P53||Xeon E-2276M||2,686 to 2,701|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||Core i5-1035G4||1,584 to 1,606|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||Core i7-1065G7||1,703 to 1,745|
Running the Cinebench R20 render test multiple times in a row can show how well a laptop deals with heat and thermal throttling. The Swift 3 started out strong and remained there with minimal difference in performance. Despite a single fan and small heat pipe, the laptop manages to remain cool. Thank AMD Ryzen for that.
CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)
|Acer Swift 3||2,161.99 MB/s||1,214.84 MB/s|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14||2,199.10 MB/s||1,017.07 MB/s|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14||3,405 MB/s||1,512 MB/s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga||3,188.82 MB/s||1,685.61 MB/s|
|Lenovo Yoga C640||1,906.78 MB/s||970.69 MB/s|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Flex||3,376 MB/s||2,983 MB/s|
|Dell XPS 13 (9300)||3,000 MB/s||1,217 MB/s|
|HP Spectre x360 (Optane)||2,092 MB/s||515 MB/s|
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1||2,400 MB/s||1,228 MB/s|
|HP Elite Dragonfly (Optane)||2,124 MB/s||548 MB/s|
|Lenovo Yoga C740||3,408 MB/s||2,982 MB/s|
|LG gram 17 (2020)||3,477 MB/s||2,900 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop 3 15||2,028 MB/s||806 MB/s|
|Surface Laptop 3 13.5||2,338 MB/s||1,583 MB/s|
|Acer Swift 5 (SF514-54T)||1,641 MB/s||1,025 MB/s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2)||3,416 MB/s||3,016 MB/s|
The Samsung PM991 is no doubt fast enough for most people, though you can upgrade after purchase if you're looking for something with superior performance.
I was curious to see if there was any thermal throttling occurring due to the single fan and single heat pipe, but there was no evidence when running the CPU at 100% usage for an extended period with AIDA64. The fan never got too loud, and it turned off shortly after completing the test.
Should you buy the Acer Swift 3?
Budget laptops always need to make up for cost somewhere, and the display often suffers. Some budget displays are better than others; unfortunately, the Swift 3's is on the lower end of the spectrum. Color reproduction and brightness are lacking, but at least contrast is good, and the matte finish helps reduce glare. There's no upgrade option, so you'll have to live with it or work around it with an external monitor.
The keyboard will likely divide people. Some won't mind the smaller chiclet keys as long as there's enough travel (which there is), but others will wish the keys were larger and had a different backlight that didn't hide letters against the silver finish.
Setting display and keyboard aside, for about $650 you're getting a whole lot of laptop. The Swift 3 sits well within the budget range, and there it should be an attractive choice. The magnesium chassis is rigid and should stand up to a fair amount of abuse, there's a decent port selection for external accessories, and the fingerprint reader is snappy. Speakers aren't extremely loud, but the sound is clear, and the camera handles video rather well.
The AMD Ryzen 7 4700U is a strong performer, easily rivaling Intel's 10th Gen Core i7 "Ice Lake" CPU in terms of raw performance. And graphics performance is stellar, beating out what you'd get from something like the discrete NVIDIA MX330. The laptop runs surprisingly cool for having just one fan and such a small heat pipe, and battery life will go for a full eight hours.
Budget AMD-Powered Notebook
A lot of laptop for the asking price
If you value performance and battery life over display quality, the Acer Swift 3 should be a great laptop. Just watch out for that display.
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