As part of their Swift series of laptops, Acer launched the Swift 3, 5 and 7 earlier this year — an attempt to please people with varying budgets and performance requirements. Last weekend at the Acer Live Blog in Glasgow, I checked out the Acer Swift 7, the Switch Alpha 12 (a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 alternative) and also Acer’s mid-range Swift 5.
Priced at £699.99, £300 less than its older brother (Swift 7) at £999.99, the Swift 5 swaps out super portability for a few extra features and improvements. Is it worth your money? I got hands on to find out.
Acer Swift 5: design & build quality
Acer have created such a good looking laptop with the Swift 7 that it’s difficult not to make comparisons. The Swift 5 has a modest look with a black/chrome finish — although you can get a white/gold finish too — and a slightly thicker body (roughly 4mm) than the Swift 7, but after some time with this machine I’m starting to think it’s a good thing.
For one, the added thickness gives the Swift 5 a proposed 4 hours of additional battery life. That’s a significant amount more, and I for one am happy to carry a little extra weight and bulk for the sake of better battery life.
Next up: the Swift 5’s display. It has a similar full HD IPS panel like the Acer Swift 7 (neither are touch displays) for great viewing angles and rich colours, but this 14-inch panel goes much closer to the edge thanks to thinner bezels. It looks so much cleaner without a chunky frame which makes me prefer it over the Swift 7’s.
One downside of this display is that it flexes easily which makes it feel tacky, but it isn’t something you’ll notice frequently since the Swift 5 isn’t touch-enabled. Plus, the hinge is very nicely built with a firm and resistant feel when you open and close the display.
One of the standout features here is the fingerprint scanner. Despite being their flagship, Acer’s Swift 7 doesn’t have this feature while Acer have stealthily embedded one into the Swift 5’s touchpad. Once you’ve configured a password and PIN on your account, you’re able to head into your settings, add multiple fingerprints and use them to log in to your machine and Windows apps.
Acer have also included a backlit keyboard here that can be adjusted between 2 different levels of brightness, so working in the dark isn’t an issue. The light even turns off after a short amount of time if you’ve stopped typing which is a useful touch (especially for battery saving). Typing on it has been a real pleasure too; I managed to dive straight into touch-typing without making mistakes or needing any time to adjust, and the keys feel reasonably firm with a shallow yet comfortable amount of travel to them.
Acer’s touchpad feels responsive most of the time (although it’s prone to the occasional inaccuracy when you’re pointing around the display) and supports gestures like three or four finger taps to open Action Centre or the Windows menu. It’s perfectly reasonable for casual day-to-day use, although I think for long periods of serious work you’ll want to use an external mouse.
All in all, from an aesthetic and usability standpoint, the Swift 5 feels like a no-brainer at £300 less than its slimmer (and more expensive counterpart.)
Acer Swift 5: configuration options
Don’t be fooled by its slender look and simple design; the spec game on Acer’s Swift 5 is strong. You can pick between i3, i5 and i7 processors to handle intense, power-hungry applications; 4GB or 8GB of RAM so that you can cope comfortably with multitasking; and there’s 128GB, 256GB and 512GB solid state drive storage options for rapid performance.
The front-facing camera is average at just 720p resolution, and if you rely heavily on ports then Acer have you covered with HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, USB-C, headphone jack, and an SD card reader. Acer also claim the Swift 5 can handle up to 13 hours of battery life, although that feels unrealistic in real-world use. In my testing I can say that I’ve been working on the Swift 5 at full brightness, using Chrome with 7-8 tabs open (with the keyboard backlight off) for three hours, and the laptop has dropped to 45%.
I’m confident that the Swift 5 can get through a full day’s use — although it all depends on the type of work you’re doing — but with Windows’ battery saver mode you’ll definitely nudge this machine over the finish line.
The experience of using the Swift 5 laptop
It’s very early days — I’ve only been using Acer’s Swift 5 for a couple days now — but it’s definitely a strong laptop. It’s got a solid spec sheet, the full HD display looks brilliant from all angles, the keyboard is brilliant to type on and the touchpad feels like one of Acer’s best to date. Throw in those small bezels, a fingerprint scanner and a slender design and the Swift 5 is definitely a laptop to shortlist if you’re shopping in the £700+ budget.
Unless ultra portability, super-sexy design or a display above full HD is at the top of your priority list, the Swift 5 is worth a serious look at. Not only do you save £300 on the premium Swift 7, but it actually feels like a better laptop overall.
Availability: The Swift 5 will be available in the UK from January 2017.