Tech review: AMD-powered Acer Swift 3 is the budget laptop to beat

At $1,198, the Swift 3 offers incredible value for its price.
At $1,198, the Swift 3 offers incredible value for its price.PHOTO: ACER

The Acer Swift 3 (SF314-42, available on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee) sticks to the tried and tested. This 14-inch thin-and-light notebook does not have standout features or a unique design.

What it does offer is excellent value, thanks to a judicious selection of practical features (Wi-Fi 6, USB-C charging and a fingerprint sensor) and a surprisingly powerful AMD processor that blows away its more expensive Intel competitor.

The Swift 3 uses AMD's latest Ryzen 5 4500U chip, which is a mid-tier six-core processor that slots in between the Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 7 chips. On paper, one would expect the Ryzen 5 to compete with Intel's Core i5 processors.

But to my surprise, the Ryzen 5 actually beats the latest Intel Core i7-1065G7 in the PCMark 10 benchmark, which tests a variety of common computing workloads.

The Swift 3 scored 4,776 in PCMark 10 compared to 4,556 for the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 5i, which is powered by Intel's Core i7-1065G7. The Swift 3 performed significantly better than the Lenovo notebook in PCMark 10's Digital Content Creation segment, which involves photo and video editing.

The Radeon graphics in the Swift 3 is also impressive for an integrated graphics solution. In the 3DMark Time Spy test, it scored 1,067, which is not too far off from the 1,353 score of the Lenovo, which has a dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX350 chip.

In other words, the Swift 3 will run most video games as long as you choose the lower graphics settings or switch to a lower resolution.

More importantly, the Swift 3 is fairly quiet even during more intensive workloads. The bottom of the laptop can become a tad warm, but remains comfortable to touch.

The Swift 3 has a similar unassuming silver metallic chassis as the 13.5-inch Swift 3 that I tested earlier this year. It weighs a handy 1.2kg and the build quality is decent.

With an HDMI port, two USB Type-A ports and a USB Type-C port, the Swift 3 has most of the ports required by the average user. My only nitpick is the lack of a memory card reader.

While it has a standard barrel power connector, its USB-C port can also be used to recharge the laptop. This is convenient as I can use a single USB-C charger for both the laptop and my smartphone instead of having two different ones.

Unlike the 13.5-inch Swift 3, which has a 3:2 aspect ratio, the 14-inch variant has a conventional 16:9 aspect ratio that is more suited for watching videos.

Unfortunately, the movie-viewing experience is hampered by the laptop's weak speakers, which sound tinny even at maximum volume. I recommend using headphones instead.

The matt display, too, is not as bright as I would have liked. You probably have to increase the brightness to a level close to the maximum brightness in a well-lit room. Viewing angles are good, though the colours are not vibrant enough.

The Swift 3 has good battery life, clocking 6hr45min in The Straits Times' video-loop battery test with its display set to the maximum brightness.

At $1,198, the Swift 3 offers incredible value for its price. The attractive price tag also makes its few flaws seem less insurmountable - this is currently the budget laptop to beat.

FOR

Powerful processor

Excellent value for money

Runs cool and quiet

AGAINST

Weak speakers

Screen could be brighter

SPECS

PRICE: $1,198

PROCESSOR: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U (2.3GHz)

GRAPHICS: AMD Radeon Graphics

RAM: 16GB DDR4

SCREEN SIZE: 14 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.2 Type-C Gen 2, USB 3.2 Type-A Gen 1, USB 2.0, HDMI, audio jack

BATTERY: 48 watt-hour

RATING

FEATURES: 4/5

DESIGN: 4/5

PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

BATTERY LIFE: 4.5/5

OVERALL: 4.5/5 [ST Tech Editor's Choice]

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