Acer Swift 3 Series 14-inch ultrabooks are among the most affordable on the market, and I recently spent some time with their latest update at the end of 2020, the Swift 3 14 SF314-59 with Intel Tiger Lake hardware.
On the outside it looks a lot like the Swift 3 14 models from 2019 and early 2020, but it has been upgraded on the inside and can now house two SSDs, a new thermal module and improved speakers.
With this in mind, the following article explains what you can expect from the Acer Swift 3 14 by the end of 2020, with its strengths and idiosyncrasies, so you can make an informed decision.
Specifications as tested – Acer Swift 3 14 SF314-59
|Acer Swift 3 14 SF314-59|
|Screen||14.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 16:9, IPS, Matt, Non-Touch, Chi May N140HCE-EN2 Panel|
|Processor||Intel Tiger Lake Core i5-1135G7, 4C/8T Processor|
|Video||Intel Iris Xe G7|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR4x (solderable, two-channel)|
|Storage||512GB SSD (Kingston OM8PCP3512F-AA – M.2 2280 PCIe x4)|
|Link||WiFi 6 Gig+ (Intel AX201), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||1x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, headset/headset, lock|
|Battery||48 W, charger 45 W (mains plug)|
|Size||323 mm or 12.68 inches (W) x 219 mm or 8.59 inches (D) x 16.5 mm or 0.64 inches (H)|
|Weight||1.14 kg charger + 24 kg battery charger, EU version|
|Besides..,||Optional white backlit keyboard, HD webcam, stereo speakers, finger sensor|
Our research unit is a mid-range configuration, but detailed models will also be available in other high-end versions, with varying amounts of RAM, up to Intel TigerLake i7 processors, and optional Nvidia MX graphics.
Design and construction
Aesthetically, at the end of 2020 this 14-inch Swift 3 is identical to the model we tested earlier this year.
The Acer is built with an all-metal structure, using magnesium and aluminium alloys for the whole thing. As a result, the laptop is rugged and weighs only about 2.5 pounds in our test configuration, making it more portable than other 14-inch laptops in the same class.
Now, if you have touched these magnesium alloys without knowing that they are not as beautiful and high-quality as the aluminium units available in the upper classes, but it is difficult to complain about it, especially on a unit that is generally well made and finished; with the exception of a few sharper edges on the bottom where the D panel is attached to the main deck.
At the same time, the rugged coverage and slight curvature of the keyboard area is reassuring and hides silver color stains and fingerprints well.
This Swift is also a handy laptop. A sturdy hinge holds the screen in place and allows it to rotate 180 degrees backwards. The rubber feet on the underside are sufficiently tight and Acer has ensured that the lips and corners are blunt, so they don’t dig into the wrists. This hinge is a bit stiff, so you need both hands here to lift the screen.
When it comes to I/O, there’s virtually everything you could want, including Thunderbolt 3 support and a finger sensor.
I must add that the cooling solution blows air through the grilles behind the hinge and some of the heat still passes through the screen, but most of it is absorbed by the thicker chin. As you can already see, it’s not the most compact of the 14-inch models, but it helps with cooling and allows Acer to set up a spacious armrest, not to mention the fact that the computer remains freely portable thanks to its light weight.
Keyboard and touchpad
Acer still hasn’t updated its Swift/Spin keyboards, and I think they still need to be up to date to keep up with the competition.
However, it is important to note that they actually offer two keyboard options for this 14-inch Swift 3 series with the same general layout, but one without backlighting, which we have here, and one with backlighting. They also feel different in their daily use.
The unlit model, usually designed for entry-level configurations, is flat and hypersensitive, activating the keys very quickly and leaving no room for stray fingers. The spongy return is also distracting when I press a button, and I often felt the need to check the screen to make sure I had pressed the right button.
The backlit keyboard is still a short-lived and quite soft option, but I finally got used to it after testing in the previous Swift 3 a few days ago, so if I had a choice, I would definitely go for it. Not to mention the fact that key lighting is nowadays a must in a laptop worth more than $500.
The keyboard is a medium plastic surface with precision keys. In contrast to the previous Swift 3, which I was working on for some time, this time the implementation turned out to be much more robust and reliable. There was no more clattering and she reacted very well to my assholes and gestures. This suggests that there may be a difference in this loop between the implemented clipboards, so I will test accordingly.
Acer also installs a finger sensor in this laptop, as in all other Swifts and Circles. It sits on the right side of your palm and works perfectly with Windows Hello.
Acer also offers various display options in the Swift 3 series. Our device comes with the same high quality Chi Mei N140HCE-EN2 panel that we researched in the Swift 3 series at the end of 2018.
It’s a fair choice for the affordable segment, with a brightness of about 300 bits, a contrast ratio of 1200+:1, wide viewing angles and fair color coverage at 67+ AdobeRGB in our tests. This makes it an excellent choice for everyday use, video content and the kind of activities you’re going to do with this laptop. However, it is not ideal for fast games as it is a 60 Hz panel with a rather slow response time, but there is no much faster panel choice in this 14-inch segment at the moment, and certainly not in this price range.
This is what we have achieved in our test with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro Matrix :
- Panel HardwareID : Chi May CMN14D5 (N140HCE-EN2) ;
- Coverage: 96.2% sRGB, 67.3% AdobeRGB, 69.3% DCI P3 ;
- Measured range: 2.06 ;
- Maximum luminance in the center of the screen: 306.76 cd/m2 per power supply;
- Minimum brightness in the center of the screen: 37.23 cd/m2 at power ;
- Contrast at maximum brightness : 1215:1 ;
- White dot: 6800 K ;
- Black at maximum brightness: 0.25 cd/m2 ;
- PWM: No
The panel is fairly well calibrated, with small gamma and white point problems to be solved. However, it shows a slight bleeding in the lower points of attention, and we also measured a slight color deviation in the lower left corner of the other quadrants.
Equipment and performance
Our research unit is a mid-range configuration of the Swift 3 14 SF314-59 with an Intel Tiger Lake Core i5-1135G7 processor, 16 GB LPDDR4x RAM and 512 GB PCIe-x4 SSD.
We are testing a pre-delivered example of this laptop with software and drivers available at the end of September 2020, so some of our results may change with future software optimizations. Our test device was delivered to Acer and returned after the tests.
In particular, the late 2020 14-inch Swift 3 series is based on Intel’s Tiger Lake hardware, which is also used in many other entry-level ultrabooks of this generation. Our model is equipped with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 4C/8T processor, which offers fast single-core tasks and average multitasking skills. OEMs can implement this hardware in different versions, with a supported TDP of up to 28W. As you will see in our tests, this Swift 3 is surprisingly powerful under heavy load, with an average CPU power of about 28W in our tests.
Graphics are the backbone of this Tiger Lake platform and the i5-1135G7 receives one of the most powerful versions of the Iris Xe iGPU with 80 power units operating at up to 1,300 MHz. This is not the same iGPU chip as the i7-1165G7 processor chip, which has 96 ECs, but it is still a major upgrade of the Iris iGPU of the i5-1035G1 and i5-1035G4 processors implemented in the Swift 3 14 in early 2020.
In addition, our configuration has 16GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz two-channel RAM and a Kingston PCIe x4 mid-range SSD, but this may vary in the retail versions. Levelling is possible by removing the rear panel, which is fastened with two visible cross head screws.
The processor and memory are soldered to the motherboard and cannot be upgraded, but the SSDs can be upgraded. You will also notice that the internals on this generation have been completely redesigned, with the addition of two SSD slots and an updated thermal module that is no longer suitable for the dGPU.
As for the software, there is no special management software on this Swift, so you can only switch from one Windows power mode to another, but without any effect on processor performance or power distribution in our example. This too can change with the latest software updates.
Before you start talking about top performance, you should know that this laptop is used occasionally (browsing, video streaming, text editing, etc.) in a smooth, quiet and cool way.
For more demanding tests, the Cinebench Loop Test performs Cinebench R15 for more than 15 cycles with a 2-3 second delay between each cycle to verify performance in stressful long-term scenarios.
The i5-1135G7 of this machine worked very well in the Windows Best Performance power mode, and stabilized at about 28 W TDP, 3.3 GHz, and a fairly high temperature of about 90-92 degrees Celsius. Acer allows the processor to operate at higher power and temperatures, which has a positive effect on performance.
We have also tried to improve performance by underloading the CPU, but so far this has not been possible with the Tiger Lake Thorttlestop. On the other hand, the laptop does well in battery mode, almost as well as in mains mode.
To put these results into perspective, here’s how other AMD and Intel ultra-portable laptops were ranked in the same test.
The Ryzen 4000 8Core and 6Core platforms perform significantly better than the Intel options, but this i5 TigerLake implementation outperforms all other i7 TigerLake and IceLake models we’ve tested so far due to the high TDP.
We verified our results by running a longer and more complex Cinebench R20 test, which gave similar results, while the dreaded Prime 95 test stabilizes the processor after a certain time at about 24+W, with a temperature of 90+ degrees C. Thermal stress becomes a limiting factor at such a long processor load, which is not surprising when you consider that the Swift 3 is still an entry-level ultrabook with a fairly simple thermal module.
We also performed our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook, in the same higher performance profile.
The 3DMark load test performs the same test 20 times per cycle, looking for fluctuations and performance loss over time. This device has come through easily, suggesting that performance remains compatible even with extended combined loads. Luxmark 3.1 fully charges the CPU and GPU at the same time, but is currently not well supported by Tiger Lake and is therefore not relevant here.
You can also find some reference results here. We have carried out the full range of tests and benchmarking with the standard Windows best performance profile. Here’s what we’ve got.
- 3DMark 13 – Shooting : 4434 (Graph – 4850, Physics – 13365, Combined – 1676) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid : 16253 (Graph – 19326, CPU – 8551) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy : 1553 (Graph – 1382, CPU – 5198) ;
- AIDA64 memory test: – ;
- Uniengine Overlay – Environment 1080p : 2810 ;
- Motor Overlay – 1080p Extreme : 934 ;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K coding at 1080p): 21.64 fps on average ;
- PassMark: Assessment: 5414 (CPU tag: 13158, 3D graphics tag: 3616, hard disk tag: 11342) ;
- PCMark 10 : 4634 (Foundations – 9405 , Productivity – 6260 , Creation of digital content – 4588) ;
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit : Mononuclear: 5978, multi-core: 21528 ;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit : Mononuclear: 1357, multi-core: 5418 ;
- CineBench R15 (best odometer reading) : CPU 922 kb, single core 199 kb ;
- CineBench R20 (best odometer reading) : CPU 2116 kb, single-core CPU 518 kb ;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit : Pass 1 is 176.64 fps, pass 2 is 42.16 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 80.85 sec.
We have also carried out tasks related to workplaces with the same performance profile:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW car scene – CPU processing power: 7m 51s (car) ;
- Blender 2.82 – Cool Scene – CPU: 22m 11s (Auto) ;
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPU + GPU Evaluation : The CPU is not detected correctly;
These are excellent results, as expected given the powerful Tiger Lake i5 implementation, which ultimately outperforms the recently tested mid-level i7 implementation in the 13-inch Swift 3 chassis. However, the i7 is even faster in single-core tests because it can operate at higher top speeds.
However, based on this sample test, these results are among the best you can expect from a TigerLake i5-1135G7 implementation, both for CPU load and combined tasks.
Note, however, that our device is a pre-launch device, and there is no guarantee that Acer will maintain this aggressive power profile for the final retail versions, or choose a more conservative profile to maintain lower temperatures.
Update : I installed the latest Intel drivers available in mid-October 2020 (22.214.171.12473) on our sample and will update them as soon as we repeat the tests.
We have run a number of DX11, DX12 and Vulkan games with the best performance profile and low/low graphics settings. Here’s what we’ve got:
|FHD Game||Swift 3 14 – Intel 1135G7 28W||Swift 3 13 – Intel 1165G7||UX393 – Intel 1165G7||UX425 – Intel 1065G7||IdeaPad 7 – AMD R7 + Vega 8||UM425 – Drum R7 + Vega 7|
|BioShock Infinity (DX 11, low preset)||88 frames per second (52 frames per second – 1% decrease)||76 frames per second (45 frames per second is 1% less)||83 frames per second (44 frames per second – 1% decrease)||40 frames per second (22 frames per second – 1% drop)||81 frames per second (58 frames per second – 1% decrease)||66 frames per second (50 frames per second is 1% less)|
|Dota 2 (DX 11, best preset appearance)||73 frames per second (44 frames per second – 1% drop)||71 frames per second (46 frames per second – 1% drop)||63 frames per second (39 frames per second – 1% drop)||34 frames per second (20 frames per second is 1% less)||53 frames per second (40 frames per second is 1% less)||39 frames per second (28 frames per second is 1% less)|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, low preset, no AA)||31 frames per second (19 frames per second – 1% drop)||32 frames per second (19 frames per second – 1% drop)||29 frames per second (19 frames per second, or 1% less)||12 frames per second (10 frames per second is 1% less)||28 frames per second (24 frames per second is 1% less)||21 frames per second (17 frames per second is 1% less)|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, lowest preset value)||77 frames per second (58 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 fps (43 fps – 1% decrease)||67 frames per second (53 frames per second – 1% decrease)||32 frames per second (22 frames per second is 1% less)||33 frames per second (24 frames per second is 1% less)||45 frames per second (36 frames per second is 1% less)|
|CBC: Most searched (DX 11, lowest preset)||60 fps (53 fps – 1% low)||60 fps (53 fps – 1% low)||60 frames per second (45 frames per second is 1% less)||42 frames per second (25 frames per second, or 1% less)||60 frames per second (46 frames per second – 1% reduction)||56 frames per second (34 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, lowest preset, no AA)||46 frames per second (31 frames per second – 1% drop)||36 frames per second (5 frames per second is 1% less)||46 frames per second (12 frames per second – 1% drop)||16 frames per second (3 frames per second is 1% less)||41 frames per second (22 frames per second – 1% drop)||28 frames per second (22 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Volcano, lowest-preset, no AA)||41 frames per second (23 frames per second – 1% drop)||37 frames per second (21 frames per second – 1% drop)||34 frames per second (18 frames per second – 1% drop)||17 frames per second (12 frames per second is 1% less)||38 frames per second (22 frames per second – 1% drop)||27 frames per second (16 frames per second is 1% less)|
|Alien Brigade (Vulcan, low-level)||56 frames per second (48 frames per second is 1% less)||50 frames per second (40 frames per second is 1% too low)||54 frames per second (45 frames per second is 1% less)||21 frames per second (7 frames per second is 1% less)||41 frames per second (36 frames per second – 1% drop)||37 frames per second (32 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Witch 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, low preset, Hairpieces out)||–||–||–||–||28 frames per second (22 frames per second – 1% drop)||21 frames per second (14 frames per second – 1% drop)|
- Witcher 3, Dota 2, NFS – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode ;
- Games BioShock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Tomb Raider – recorded with reference utilities enabled;
I’ve added a few other configurations for comparison, either ultraportables available in the same segment and price range, or some of the few other Tiger Lake models we’ve tested so far.
As you can see from the test results above, this 14-inch Swift 3 performs better than the other i7-1165G7 models we’ve tested so far, even in the real game world. Power distribution is important here and allows the iGPU to run at a peak frequency of 1.3 GHz in most titles, including fairly stable CPU frequencies. However, this was not the case for all games, because we saw different results for less popular games such as Dota 2 or NFS : Most Wanted, who tends to favour the CPU over the GPU. This is strange and can change with drivers and later software updates.
In the end it’s the Swift 3 that gets to play. Older games run smoothly with frame rates of 60+ in FHD and low settings, often even at higher graphics levels, while newer games run with frame rates of 30+ at a few drops per second. It’s great with the integrated chip and a big step forward from Intel’s IceLake platform, as well as the Vega iGPU now available in AMD Ryzen 4000 configurations.
Sound, heat, communication, speakers and other
Acer has updated the thermal design of the Swift 3 SF314-59 of the 57 and 58 models. They are still equipped with a fan and a heat pipe, but the heat pipe is thicker and shorter, and the design leaves no room for the dHPU.
Now this thermal module is doing an excellent job by getting great performance out of the Tiger Lake i5, but at high CPU temperatures on this aggressive 28-watt power profile implemented on our test module, especially as the fan is running moderately fast and only rises to around 38-39 dB on its head.
As a result, the aluminum housing becomes hot while playing and some of the heat is trapped in the chin of the screen. The panel itself is only slightly warm, between the mid and mid-forties, because the thick chin absorbs the blunt part of this heat.
In daily use, the fan rests quietly and almost silently. However, we did notice some electronic noise on our sample, which you should definitely check on your device.
*Day use – Netflix streaming in EDGE for 30 minutes, best battery mode, fan at 29-35dB
*Games – Far Cry 5 game for 30 minutes, best performance mode, fan at 38-39dB
For network connections, this notebook is equipped with the latest generation Intel AX201 WiFi 6 module. It worked well with our platform, and the signal and power remained strong at 30 feet, with obstacles in between. However, it is not as fast as the other Wifi 6+ models we have tested in the past.
Acer has upgraded the speakers of this Swift 3 model, and although they’re a little louder now, I don’t see any significant improvement in the quality of our model. Their sound remains mediocre, with almost no bass and a volume of only 74-76 dB at head height.
Finally, there is an HD camera with 2 microphones at the top of this notebook’s screen. It’s fine for occasional conversations, but the quality of the camera is still dirty and blurry.
The Swift 3 SF314-59 has only 48 watts of battery power inside, which is perfect for an entry-level model that is ultraportable but smaller than some of the competition’s offerings.
Here you can see the operating time of our test device with a screen brightness of approx. 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 8.5 W (~5+ hours usage)– Google Drive text editing, best battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 5.5 W (~8+ hours usage)– Full screen 1080p video on Youtube in Edge mode, best battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.8W (~8+ hours of use) – Netflix full screen in Chrome mode, best battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 10 W (~4-5 hours operation)– Border mode display, Better performance mode, 60% display, Wi-Fi ON.
Take them for what they are, and remember that our example is a pre-version, so chances are they will be improved with later drivers and software. Compared to the previous generation of Swift 3 models, this Tiger Lake variant is more efficient than the Ice Lake variant of early 2020, but less efficient than the Whiskey Lake variant of 2019.
The laptop comes with a 65W charger (in this configuration) which is connected via a standard wall socket. It is a two-piece model with a small brick and long cables. A full charge takes about 2 hours, but a fast charge fills a large part of the capacity in less than an hour. Charging via USB-C is also possible with the corresponding charger.
Prices and availability
The Acer Swift 3 14 SF314-59 was not yet available in stores at the time of writing.
I could only find this i5 / 8GB RAM / 512GB SSD in Canada for $999 CAD, which should be about $700-750 USD. He’s competitive.
We will continue to update this section as we learn more about the final configurations and prices. In the meantime you can follow this link for more information.
I’m not sure if this Swift 3 will eventually perform the same functions as our previous test model, but if it does, I must say I’m impressed. Acer has managed to turn the powerful 28-watt Tiger Lake implementation into an affordable product, and as a result, it handles all types of tasks perfectly, including heavy loads and gaming.
The Tiger Lake platform is still not the multitasking beast for which an AMD Ryzen computer would be an obvious recommendation, but it remains a very agile everyday user and a competent gamer, even with current AAA games. If that’s what you’re looking for, the Swift 3 can be the right one for you, especially with an affordable price, solid build quality, good input/output and a great side-play.
On the other hand, typing on this version without the backlit keyboard is not my favorite, but most models have a better and denser version of the backlight than I’ve done well in previous tests, so it probably won’t be a problem on these models. Although Acer has upgraded the speakers of this model, there is something else to note on our rating unit.
After all, this laptop runs both indoor and outdoor games thanks to the power of the hardware implementation, and it can also scare some of you if it ends up with the final product. If I were Acer, I would work with variable power profiles and keep the 28W implementation, but I also offer a more balanced option for those who prefer better temperatures.
Of course, the Swift 3 series is not without competition, and among the best alternatives I would like to mention ZenBook 14 by Asus and IdeaPad Slim 7 by Lenovo, with the latter available with Intel and AMD hardware.
With this in mind, I suggest doing some additional research on the Acer Swift 3 14 SF314-59, preferably on retail products, to more accurately determine feel, temperature and performance, from which I cannot draw definitive conclusions based on this example alone.
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Andrei Girbea, editor of Ultrabookreview.com. I’ve been involved in mobile computing since the 2000’s, and you’ll find here mainly reviews and detailed tutorials written by me.
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