Acer Swift 7 (July 2019) review: The ultimate thin-and-light laptop's flaw is still performance

Unbelievably, Acer managed to shave off more than a half-pound from the earlier Swift 7.

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PCMark 8’s Work test suite emphasizes office apps, such as word processing and spreadsheet work, while the Home and Creative tests push harder into applications like web browsing and photo editing. Light gaming is also tested, though the separate 3DMark test (discussed below) provides greater insight into how well the Swift 7 will perform.

Acer Swift 7 July 2019 pcmark 8 home IDG
Acer Swift 7 July 2019 pcmark 8 creative IDG

In the PCMark tests, which lean more heavily into multimedia applications, the Swift 7 suffers. 

PCMark 10 reproduces some of the same tests within PCMark 8, though with a greater emphasis on performance. There’s only a single test, which measures video call performance, photo editing using GIMP, gaming, and even metrics like app startup times. At the end PCMark produces a single overall benchmark score, which we use to compare to similar machines: 2978, which is most directly comparable to the HP Spectre x2, a 2017 tablet.

From there, we move on to two simulated benchmarks: the venerable Cinebench, as well as the open-source HandBrake tool. Cinebench, developed by Maxon, renders a simulated image using all of the cores and threads available on the processor itself: just two cores and four threads, unfortunately. However, because the test is so widely used, there’s an enormous database of comparable scores. We test using Cinebench R15 and the newer R20, which introduces a more complex and lifelike image that requires longer to render. The message on both tests, though, is that the Swift 7 is not optimized for performance.

Acer Swift 7 July 2019 cinebench IDG

The Y-series tablet processors used by the Acer Swift 7s simply can’t keep up.

HandBrake is a real-world video-conversion app, which can transcode a video file into a variety of formats and profiles. We use a .MOV test file of several gigabytes, transcoding the movie into a format that’s optimized for an Android tablet. Faster machines can convert the movie in a shorter time than is actually required to play back the film. In the case of the Swift 7, however, it simply can’t keep up with its faster competition. 

Acer Swift 7 July 2019 handbrake IDG

We didn’t expect that the latest Swift 7 would generate the worst result. But with the amount of heat that the Swift 7 pumps out, it’s possible that thermal throttling could hamstring the July 2019 edition further. Nevertheless, the message is a consistent one: This isn’t a performance machine.

From there, we move to 3DMark, which measures 3D performance. Granted, we don’t expect much here inside of a tablet. 

Acer Swift 7 July 2019 sky diver IDG

Yes, you can play games on a Swift 7, but they’ll be from long ago.

Intel optimized the Y-series Core chip inside the Swift 7 for low power, and not performance, so there’s no way you should expect to play the latest games on the Swift 7 (July 2019). In fact, using Systemrequirementslab as a guide, only 22.9 percent of games in its database are even playable. (The site uses a tool to match your system’s settings against a database of minimum and recommended settings for a detailed list of games.) Games where the Swift 7 meets the “recommended” requirements include Minecraft, Portal, Undertale, and Counter-Strike; and there’s just enough horsepower to play Fortnite and StarCraft at minimum settings.

Finally there’s battery life. The Swift 7 does decently here, considering there's hardly any space to cram battery cells. North of 9 hours of battery life isn’t bad.

Acer Swift 7 July 2019 battery life IDG

Achieving more than 9 hours of battery life is pretty good for such a thin and light machine as the Swift 7 (July 2019).

Conclusion: How much does a light PC matter?

The Swift 7 reigns supreme as the ultimate thin-and-light PC. Its performance may be modest, and its heat output slightly worrisome. The webcam is one of the worst we’ve used. The LG Gram, another ultralight PC, heartily outperforms it—but the Gram weighs 2.5 pounds, and the Swift 7 weighs just 1.84 pounds. 

Buying the Swift 7 requires buying into the Swift 7. Do you commute daily by foot, or simply prefer a laptop that can slip into a backpack or (maybe) a purse, without extra weight? Do you mind working wirelessly? We’d recommend the Swift 7, especially after it solved its shortcomings from a year ago. But if extreme thin-and-light isn't your goal, you can find less radical models that may be more satisfying overall.

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At a Glance
  • Acer's updated Swift 7 (July 2019) is the ultimate thin-and-light PC, a 14-inch laptop that solves the problems of its predecessors. Performance, though, is still mediocre.

    Pros

    • The ultimate thin-and-light PC
    • Thunderbolt ports, plus a hub, solve expansion concerns
    • Dramatically lighter than older model

    Cons

    • Awkwardly-placed, awful webcam
    • It gets quite hot in places while under load
    • Tablet performance in a notebook form factor
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