Introduction, Design, Features
Horse races and NASCAR battles occasionally come down to photo finishes, where two contestants cross the line side by side and it takes a freeze frame to see who was first. Usually these virtual ties are settled by a matter of inches. But can you imagine bragging rights being determined by one-fiftieth of an inch?
Welcome to the competition to make the world’s thinnest laptop. When the HP Spectre 13 came out in June 2016, it claimed the title at an incredibly skinny 0.41 inch. But today there’s the Acer Swift 7, which has the same footprint as the HP (12.8 by 9 inches) and weighs the same (2.48 versus 2.45 pounds), but stands taller—or rather, shorter—at 0.39 inch. This breaks the 10-millimeter barrier (9.98mm versus 10.41mm), and makes the Swift the slimmest notebook you can buy.
Even if you don’t carry calipers to measure computers, the Acer is not a bad deal at $1,099 to the HP’s $1,249 (at presstime, Best Buy and Amazon offered the Swift for $1,049). It has an Intel Core i5 processor rather than a Core i7, but matches the Spectre in other essentials, with 8GB of memory, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a 13.3-inch, full HD display. It has two USB-C ports to the HP’s three, but both top the Apple MacBook’s count of one. Its keyboard travel is inevitably shallow, but its typing feel was a pleasant surprise.
To avoid other surprises, we should tell you more about that Core i5 CPU. It’s a seventh-generation part, but tagged with a Y instead of a U—the Core i5-7Y54. In Intel’s alphabet, that signifies an ultra-low-power chip (this one draws just 4.5 watts)—one that, before Intel changed its nomenclature, would have been called a Core m5. So while you should expect sufficient performance for productivity apps, you shouldn’t expect the 1.2GHz processor to slug it out with “real” Core i5’s or plan on playing the latest games with its Intel HD 615 integrated graphics.
Centered beneath the screen is another Acer logo. Centered above it is a run-of-the-mill Webcam that captured accurate images but with a lot of grain or noise in our low-light tests.
Ports are not plentiful. On the laptop’s left edge is a hole for a security lock that looks barely big enough to accommodate a string or lanyard for your key fob, not a Kensington cord. On the right you’ll find an audio jack and the two USB-C ports mentioned above, the rearmost of which accommodates the Swift’s AC adapter. Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi round out the connectivity choices.
Compared to Apple’s monoport MacBook, the Acer wins points for leaving another USB-C free for your use while recharging the laptop. Compared to the HP Spectre 13, the Swift loses points for not supporting the Thunderbolt 3 spec, so you can’t plug in the latest monitors and drive arrays. However, we don’t consider Thunderbolt 3 a must-have for systems other than workstations, which the Swift decidedly is not.
Compared to both of its rivals, the Acer earns bonus points for including two USB-C adapters or dongles in the box: One lets you plug in your existing (USB-A) flash drives or other peripherals, while the other lets you connect a HDMI monitor. This is a thoughtful and money-saving touch—HP, for instance, charges $45 for its HDMI adapter.
Dell XPS 13’s. There isn’t ample key travel, but there’s enough to give a fair tactile feel, and the keys are well spaced, with large Enter, Shift, and Backspace keys. The cursor arrows are in the proper inverted T rather than HP’s straight line, but they’re tiny, and team with the Fn key for Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn.
One drawback for night owls is that the keyboard is not backlit. The power button is in the top right corner next to the Delete key, but if you tap it by mistake you won’t lose your work in progress—you must press it for a couple of seconds to activate it.
The Acer’s touch pad is enormously wide (roughly 5.5 by 2.5 inches), giving you plenty of room for two- and three-finger gestures as well as ordinary taps and swipes. It requires just a light push to produce a quiet click.
You can’t tap and swipe the Swift’s 13.3-inch screen—it’s not a touch screen—but the display, set in averagely wide bezels and covered with Corning Gorilla Glass, offers IPS technology for broad viewing angles. The 1,920×1,080 panel arrives with Windows 10’s zoom set to 150 percent, which makes text and icons easy to read or even a little oversized. It’s nicely bright, with vivid colors and high contrast; fine details looked sharp enough that we didn’t miss higher resolution.
The laptop can generate surprisingly loud sound, but you won’t enjoy it; audio was tinny and distorted at high volume. Dialed down to moderate levels, sound was acceptable but bass was missing in action.
Acer backs the Swift with a one-year warranty and preloads a handful of familiar apps such as Netflix and Twitter. From its ubiquitous presence, we can only conclude that the makers of Candy Crush Soda Saga have photos of the world’s laptop vendors in compromising positions.