Since the arrival of the 12-inch MacBook, Apple’s rivals have responded in kind with enough super thin laptops to practically create a new subcategory. It’s one that we like to call ultra-thin, ultra-luxurious Ultrabooks, and the Acer Swift 7 wants to bring that experience to more people.
Acer largely nails the attempt, with a 13-inch gorgeous device wrapped in black and gold aluminum that’s not much thicker than an iPad with a sharp, colorful screen and extra USB-C port. But, corners cut in battery life and other premium niceties stand to hold the Swift 7 back from dominating any “best-of” lists.
Price and availability
There is only one version of the Swift 7 that’s available right now online through Amazon and other retailers for $1,099 or £999 (about AU$1,449). That premium nets you one of the latest Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 processors paired with 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) behind a 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display.
In some ways, what you’re getting here is well worth the cost, what with the Swift being an absolutely gorgeous device. In others, like the omission of keyboard backlighting and less-than-stellar battery life, it’s a less attractive proposition.
Measurements and ports
At 12.8 x 9 x 0.4 inches, the Swift 7 is virtually the same size as the HP Spectre 13.3 (12.8 x 9 x 0.41 inches) and almost an inch wider and deeper than the Dell XPS 13 (11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches). It weighs about the same as its closest competition, though, tipping our scales at 2 pounds, 8 ounces. The Spectre 13.3 is 2 pounds, 6.8 ounces while the non-touch Kaby Lake Dell XPS 13 is 2 pounds, 11.5 ounces.
Display, keyboard, and trackpad
The 13.3-inch display is a non-touch IPS panel with a native resolution of 1920×1080 and a Gorilla Glass 4 layer. Images look sharp and crisp, and aside from the general complaints I have about glossy or glass screens, the Swift 7’s is pleasant to use. Just be aware that you’ll encounter some glare.
The Chiclet-style keyboard feels responsive and satisfying when touch-typing, providing adequate key travel and a discrete sensation when you press down. It does lack crispness in its feedback, but the sensation is more soft than mushy. That said, for my personal taste, I prefer the Spectre 13.3’s keyboard, which has a similar layout but with a firmer key press when typing.
I liked the Swift 7’s trackpad a little less. It’s impressively huge (5.5 inches wide, a full inch over than the XPS 13’s trackpad and 1.5 inches more than the Spectre 13.3’s), and it offers decent palm rejection and tactile feedback. It can be frustratingly sensitive on default settings, though, and traditional right-clicking doesn’t always register. You can adapt to both situations by fiddling with settings and using a double-finger tap, but it’s still a little annoying.
Powering the Swift 7 is a brand-new 7th generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor that runs at a stock clock speed of 1.2GHz, boostable to 3.2GHz. Its equivalents in previous generations were part of Intel’s Core M (Broadwell) and Core m (Skylake) lines, but Intel’s done away with that naming for these successors to its Skylake m5 and m7 chips. Instead, the company calls this a Core i5 part, with the stance that the performance has improved enough to warrant that designation.
Paired with that processor are 8GB of LPDDR3/1866 RAM and a 256GB Kingston SATA 6Gbps solid-state drive. Running AS SSD’s storage benchmark showed sequential read speeds of 418.12MBps and sequential write speeds of 372.05MBps.
The CPU inside the Swift 7 might be brand-new, but this particular laptop doesn’t showcase any of Kaby Lake’s modest gains. Older machines running its previous generation equivalent, the Core m5-6Y54, outperformed it.
For the most part, though, that gap in performance extends to more intensive tasks. The Swift 7 is still fast enough for basic office work. In PCMark 8’s Work Conventional benchmark, which simulates tasks like word processing, web browsing, light spreadsheet editing, and video conferencing, the Swift 7 scored a 2,719.
If you look at the numbers, you can see that you’re getting the same level of performance as the HP Elite x2’s m5-6Y54. The Swift 7 also manages to edge out the higher-wattage Core i5-6300U in the Surface Pro 4 by a hair, which is interesting given the results in our more intensive benchmarks. (More on those in just a moment.) In real-world terms, though, these tiny differences in results don’t mean much. Any score above 2,000 in Work Conventional means the machine will handle basic everyday tasks just fine. You might feel a minor difference in snappiness between this i5-7Y54 and faster CPUs, but not enough to warrant a complaint.
The difference in performance begins to open up as we move to testing pure CPU performance with Maxon’s Cinebench R15 benchmark. This test involves rendering a 3D scene, but because it only takes a few minutes, it’s a good way to see how a laptop will handle short, CPU-intensive tasks.
The i5-7Y54 begins to fall more dramatically behind the HP Elite x2, with a performance drop of about 20 percent. The combination of tight spacing and a fanless processor puts higher constraints on how fast the Swift 7 can perform as the CPU’s core temperatures begin to rise.
The HP Spectre x2 also seems to suffer from these limitations. Despite being a step up from the Elite x2’s m5, its m7-6Y75 processor performs even more slowly during this rendering test than the Swift 7.