The Acer Swift 3 (SF314-52G-55WQ) is a 14-inch budget laptop that will get stuff done without costing an arm and a leg. Its performance and feature-set has lots going for it, allowing it compete with systems outside its price range.
- Strong performance for the price
- Useful port options
- Comfortable keyboard and trackpad
- Dim display
The Acer Swift 3 (SF314-52G-55WQ) is a 14-inch budget laptop that will get stuff done without costing an arm and a leg. If you’re on a tight budget but need something portable for the office or college, the Acer Swift 3 is among the best laptops around. It features Intel’s 8th-Gen CPU, which is faster and offers better performance than the 7th Gen (Skylake) it replaces, and adds a dedicated Nvidia MX150 graphics card.
And beyond that, it does offer a snappy solid-state-drive (SSD) storage option, which is a nice component over traditional rotating hard drives. Once you go beyond the surface, however, you realize that the Swift 3 is impressive with powerful components for the price and feels premium with the all-aluminum chassis.
For those who have interacted with premium ultraportables, it might not be easy for them to like the Swift 3’s. Most of us would appreciate a gold trim on the edges, but at the end of the day Acer wanted to deliver a functional laptop that doesn’t cost so much. And that’s exactly what you have. The silver lid and chassis are aluminum, something you rarely get at this price range.
The lid open to a 14-inch, 1080p display, island-style keyboard, a brushed aluminum deck and a fingerprint reader. The single hinge is silver with the signature “Swift” inscribed on it in capital letters. One thing the SF314-52G-55WQ has going for it at 3.7 pounds and just 0.7-inches thick, it is lighter and thinner than its competitors. If you’re always on the move and need something to lug around, this might be the right laptop.
Connectivity is excellent. You get all the ports you expect, including an HDMI output, a USB Type-C port, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack on the left side. The right side holds an SD card slot, another USB 2.0 port and a Kensington lock slot.
The Swift 3’s display isn’t the brightest around, you might be left jamming the keys attempting to increase the brightness, and the colors aren’t that accurate. For instance, watching a trailer for The Hunt, the green trees in the tropical forests have leaves with strange colors, and a yellow tint, and it’s hard to see the predators in the woods at first.
The screen covers a 78 percent sRGB color gamut and 177 nits; lower than the Aspire’s 158 percent and Flex’s 133 percent, but still delivers more vivid hues. The Swift’s screen measures a dim 177 nits on light meter tests, below the mainstream (258 nits), but is acceptable for a daily use budget system that you won’t be using for professional image creation.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The island-style keyboard is well laid and feel comfortable. With just 1.2 mm of travel, it isn’t very sparky among its peers, but is sturdy thanks to the aluminum deck that prevents flex. It is very possible to do over 104 words per minute, which isn’t badly off.
Its touchpad measures 4.2-by-3.0 inches, meaning its spacious and responds well to gestures, including finger taps to open Cortana. Speakers are nice and loud enough to fill a small room, though the vocals aren’t precisely balanced.
Among the Acer Swift 3’s most redeeming features is performance. No matter the iteration you’re going for, rest assured that you’re getting a fully-fledged Intel Core U series, not the battered down, low-frequency Y series, that you’d find on some models of the Swift 7, and not the tired Core m3 you find on most entry-level MacBooks.
Our review model, the Swift 3 (SF314-52G-55WQ) features an 8th Gen., Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD, a feature-set that puts it in the same league as much more expensive machines. Performance-wise, it comes close to the pricey Surface Laptop 2 or even the Asus VivoBook F510UA. Despite coming a bit short in screen resolution, its features are really close to both of these spendy devices.
Still, the Swift 3 is more than enough for the average multitasker. It is rare to have a budget system that can open over 33 Chrome tabs, including two streaming 1080p clips on YouTube, without hints of lagging at all.
It might even be able to handle low-level gaming with its dedicated Nvidia MX150 (2GB) graphics card. Played at medium settings (1920-by-1080), the system manages 51 fps on Dirt 4, 44 fps on Prey and 72 fps on Titanfall 2, slightly ahead of systems equipped with Intel HD 620 graphics in the same category. However, if you raise the quality settings, the system begins to slow down, but for casual gaming it puts forward a better showing.
The Swift 3 will last almost through a work or school day. It lasted 7 hours 26 minutes during tests, which better than the mainstream average of 6 hours 14 minutes. The Acer Aspire E 15 offers more than 10 hours battery life, which is equal to a whole day plus commute in both directions.
The Bottom Line
While Acer categorizes the Acer Swift 3 as a budget laptop, it packs superb performance and longevity that easily lets it compete in a space outside its price range. It has features that will impress most of us, including a wide range of ports, a comfortable keyboard and touchpad, and snappy SSD storage. As long as you can overlook the uninspired lack of style, the Acer Swift 3 (SF314-52G-55WQ) offers real value that’s hard to beat. It is a solid choice overall, that needs to be at the top of your very short shopping list.
Acer Aspire E 15, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-81GD
1 used from $1,499.77