Super-slick and ultra-slim.
The introduction of ever more power-efficient CPUs, along with the tiny dimensions of USB 3.1 Type C ports, has allowed a new generation of laptops that are thinner than we’ve ever seen. First we had the Razer Blade Stealth, which was a mere 13mm deep, and now we have something even slimmer. The latest Acer Swift measures a miniscule 9.98mm deep at its thickest point, making it the world’s slimmest Ultrabook.
With a weight of just 1.12kg, it also makes it one of the lightest Ultrabooks around. If you’re looking for a super-mobile Ultrabook that you’ll barely notice is in your handbag or briefcase, this thing takes the cake. Yet it feels incredibly well built, thanks to the eye-catching gold and black aluminium exterior. There’s absolutely no keyboard flex even under the heaviest of hands, while the rounded corners and angled edges give it the appearance of being even thinner than it is.
The 13.3-inch screen is a stunner, using IPS technology to deliver extra-wide viewing angles, although it does have a glossy finish. While this delivers richer colours and contrast indoors, we found that it suffers from the same issue of other glossy screens in bright environments – it basically turns into a mirror, especially when used outdoors under the brightness of the sun. It’s 1920 x 1080, which is more than adequate for these dimensions, though the lack of touch support is a little disappointing. Balancing this out is the use of Corning’s Gorilla Glass, so scratches and the like shouldn’t be an issue.
Given the extremely thin depth, we were very impressed by the feel of the keyboard, with the travel distance of each key just right. The touchpad is a piece of art in itself; it’s so smooth that it feels like you’re stroking a piece of highly polished glass, with almost zero resistance. Yet it’s incredibly accurate, and it’s also nice and big, making gesture controls much easier.
Given the small dimensions, it’s not surprising to see the lack of I/O options; there’s simply not enough depth to squeeze many in. Twin USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1 (5Mbps) connections are included, one of which doubles as the power input. There’s also a single 3.5mm stereo output, and that’s it. Acer is nice enough to include a Type-C to Type-A adaptor, and there are plenty of Type-C docks around that will allow you to plug in four or more USB Type-A devices.
Hidden inside the chassis is Intel’s Core i7-7Y75 CPU, a twin-core Hyper-Threaded chip which idles at 1.3GHz. Yet under load it’ll crank up to a surprisingly high 3.6GHz, without annoying fan noise. In fact, we didn’t detect any fan noise at all even during our heavy benchmarks. 8GB of DDR3 memory is also included, along with a single 256GB SSD. To our surprise it’s SATA III based; we expected the newer M.2 interface given both the popularity and size of these drives. Networking is supplied courtesy of 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but it uses a 2x2 transmitter/receiver configuration, and also supports MU-MIMO for higher sustained wireless speeds when multiple devices are all using the same router… provided your router is also MU-MIMO ready.
Given the fact that this CPU is only a twin-cored chip, we were pleasantly surprised at the benchmark results when compared to the Razer Blade Stealth, which has an Intel i5-6500U, which is a quad-cored CPU. The Swift peaked at 3015 in PCMark 8 Home versus the Stealth’s score of 2506, and around 2800 for the Dell XPS 13. The integrated Intel Graphics 615 GPU delivered decent performance for low-end games, posting a score of 4411 in the 3DMark Cloud Gate benchmark. Battery life was also excellent, hitting four hours and 37 minutes in our PCMark 8 Home test.
Not only is it faster and thinner than the competition, it’s also very competitively priced, basically equal to that of the Razer and XPS 13 when they’re similarly specced. As a result, we have to give the nod to the Swift as arguably our favourite new Ultrabook, though we would love to see a larger SSD and touchscreen in future.