Review: For the Acer Swift 7, being thin goes a long way
By Tan Jee Yee November 15, 2019
- Pros: Incredible form factor, great screen, and all-day battery
- Cons: Silly webcam placement, odd-ish keyboard layout
CAN you miss a laptop? I suppose I was, for about a week since I begrudgingly returned the review unit of the Acer Swift 7, the latest high-end ultrabook from the Taiwanese company. Returning to my bulky gaming laptop didn’t help much, either.
I missed how it barely registered as weight in my backpack, or how I could reliably turn it on quickly for some speed typing while attending conferences. I missed not needing to carry a charger out with me, trusting that the laptop will last throughout the day. Mostly, I missed how it allowed me to work virtually anywhere – in the plane, on a mall bench, at a cramped McDonald’s.
I think back about the Acer Swift 7 and I think of how practical it is. It’s this practicality that you’ll be purchasing the Swift 7 for, and it’s this practicality that will help you overlook some of this notebook’s aggravating downsides.
The Swift 7 is a solid device, and a strong contender among the likes of the MacBook Air and other ultra-thin contemporaries, but it’s not perfect. And for the price that it goes for, you might be demanding of a little more perfection.
So wondrously thin
The Acer Swift 7 is a thinness you need to experience. The laptop is only 10mm thick, and easily mistaken for a slim folder of documents. At 990g, I mostly forget that I’m carrying it around in my backpack. It’ll fit nicely in a large purse too.
It’s also a rather elegant piece of machinery, sporting an understated matte black exterior. The build is solid – perhaps not quite as sturdy-feeling as Huawei’s MateBook 13, but definitely more solid than plastic without being too clunky.
Such thinness usually means that the laptop will be difficult to open, but the Swift 7 thankfully has a neat protrusion on the top cover that allows you to pry the clamshell open without needing a spoon, or long fingernails. You’ll still need two hands to open it, though – I once tried opening it on my lap while holding on to a tumbler and utterly failed.
It looks deceptively small, but underneath the clamshell is a 14-inch 1080p screen. No standard USB ports here due to the slimness, but you’ll find two USB-C ports as well as a headphone jack. Acer has included a dongle adapter with USB-A, USB-C and an HDMI port, so it’s not as connectivity-dry as it appears.
The Swift 7’s screen is a standout. It looks great, thanks to the nearly edge-to-edge display and thin bezels. It displays nicely, too – I find it sufficiently bright and sharp. It doesn’t have as high a resolution as some newer laptops, though. It certainly won’t match the fidelity of Apple’s Retina Display, but I feel that the 1080p doesn’t hamper it.
This is a touchscreen panel as well, which is a faster way navigate through the Swift 7 without relying on the touchpad. Not that it’s a bad touchpad, though – it works fine, and is designed to be wider to help move the pointer more precisely.
The keyboard works decently as well, with short travel and well-spaced keys. But in order to fit as much of them into a cramped space, Acer has opted for some rather odd key arrangements. For one, the caps lock key is shrunk down with the “~” key placed right beside it, which makes accessing the caps lock a bit of a nightmare.
Acer has also placed the delete key next to the backspace, and I lost count of the number of times I tried to backspace but accidentally tapped on delete instead. The home and end keys are also relegated to around the arrow keys, which I imagine will raise the blood levels of people who rely on the arrow keys more than I do.
It’s not that the keyboard is unusable, just something for people who are particular about the typing experience to consider. What’s more aggravating, however, is the webcam placement. Due to the tiny bezels, the webcam has been placed as a pop-out module on the left side of the keyboard deck, much like how Dell places it on the older XPS 13 laptops.
Because of where it sits, the Skype feed is more likely to capture typing fingers or your body, unless you bend downwards. You might want to consider an external webcam.
Not slim on power
What’s not aggravating, however, is the Swift 7’s performance. The unit I had contains a dual-core Intel Core i5-8220Y processor coupled with 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. The laptop boots Windows 10 in a heartbeat and has no issues playing HD videos or running Google Chrome with a bunch of tabs open.
It’s not the right laptop to render videos or play graphics-intense games (I did use it to play indie titles like Knights and Bikes, and it works well enough), but it’s certainly more than capable for word processing and movies. You can purchase the Swift 7 with higher specs, too.
The speakers, while not exactly all that loud, work decently in a quiet room. Combine this with the sharp screen, and you have a portable device that can double as an on-the-go Netflix machine.
Another boon is its battery life. I mentioned that it’s all-day, because it routinely got me 10 hours or so in normal use (web browsing, writing, document editing, WhatsApp web and some YouTube videos here and there). It’s good enough that I’ve stopped obsessively wondering if I should charge it while working at a café. The only downside is that I tend to forget to charge it before taking it out.
The Acer Swift 7 with the Core i5 and 8GB RAM configuration I had prices at US$1,447.81 (RM5,999). It’s a little on the high side, especially compared to some of its ultra-slim competitors. Yet it’s also markedly slimmer than the rest, and is no slouch on the performance side.
The only thing left is to find out is if its odd design choices – especially the keyboard layout and webcam placement – is something you’re comfortable with. Yet, when I think of my days with the Swift 7, I think of its practicality and slimness. That thinness truly goes a long way.