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Acer Swift X review: Master of all trades

Alun Taylor
9 Dec 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,300
inc VAT

The Acer Swift X has what it takes to satisfy gamers, creatives, home users and business types alike

Pros 
Compact and light
Seriously powerful
Good value
Cons 
Display only 60Hz
Speakers could be louder
Soldered RAM
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The Acer Swift X is a laptop that wants to be all things; small and light enough to be easily portable, powerful enough to handle serious games and creative tasks, cheap enough to not require that you sell your firstborn to buy one and respectable enough to not look out of place in a boardroom. The good news is that the Acer Swift X does all of these things rather well.

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Acer Swift X review: What you need to know

Integrated GPUs or iGPUs have come on quite a bit in recent years. Once a byword for general wretchedness, the latest Iris Xe iGPUs from Intel and Radeon iGPUs from AMD have made basic discrete GPUs like Nvidia's MX450 almost redundant. Of course, if you want to game with any seriousness or run demanding CAD or image/video editing software, then you’ll still need discrete graphics which is where the Nvidia RTX 3050 and 3050Ti GPUs come in: affordable but powerful graphics cards that lend serious gaming and creative capability to laptops on the cheaper end of the scale.

To date, I’ve only encountered the RTX 3050Ti in a full-blown gaming laptop, the MSI GL66 Pulse. In that role, it left something to be desired, largely thanks to it only having 4GB of video RAM which limits gaming performance. The new Acer Swift X is a more natural home for the 3050Ti because it isn’t first and foremost a gaming notebook but rather a general-purpose machine that also happens to be gaming-capable.

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Acer Swift X review: Price and competition

The Acer Swift X will set you back £1,300. There’s only one model available, with an 8-core, 16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 5800U processor, Nvidia RTX 3050Ti GPU, 16GB of dual-channel system RAM, 4GB of video RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 14-inch FHD display. It’s a very decent specification for the money.

For £100 less, you can pick up one of Huawei’s new MateBook 14s laptops. The 14.2in 2.5K 90Hz display is a cracker and the Intel Core i7-11370H-based system gives it a good level of performance.

If money is no object, then Razer’s Blade 14 is worth a look. A seriously powerful 14in laptop, the £3,000 Blade 14 uses an Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU (the RTX 3080 model is an eye-watering £600 more) for serious gaming performance. With a Ryzen 9 CPU, top-quality display and sound system, this is a 14in laptop without compromise.

Acer’s Predator Triton SE isn’t as achingly desirable as the Blade 14 but at just £1,399 it’s a darned sight cheaper. The RTX 3060 GPU and 144Hz display give the Triton SE serious gaming chops and the Intel Core i7 processor comes with Thunderbolt connectivity, though it lacks the outright multi-core performance of the equivalent AMD Ryzen chips.

At the lower end of the price spectrum, the Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim can be picked up for just £850. For that, you get outstanding battery life, a superb sound system and a powerful Ryzen 7 4700U GPU. As a general-purpose laptop, the Yoga 7 is very, very hard to beat.

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Acer Swift X review: Design and build quality

Aesthetically, the Swift X rather hides its light under a bushel. It’s smart enough but considering the marketing pitch, I’d have expected something just a little more adventurous and premium-looking beyond the grey lid and silver body colour scheme and rather run-of-the-mill design. The matte black plastic screen bezel is the most significant blot on the design landscape, though the half-width vent above the keyboard runs it a close second.

Maybe I’m being overly critical – after all, it has collected a RedDot design award – and to be fair the model with the gold lid does look rather more attractive. On the positive side, the Swift X is usefully light at 1.39Kg and at 322 x 212 x 17.9mm it’s nice and compact too.

An all-metal build, the Swift X feels reassuringly solid, though there is just a little give in the centre of the keyboard deck. The keyboard itself is perfectly conventional but still a pleasure to type on thanks to a crisp if slightly shallow key action. Open the screen and the hinge mechanism elevates the rear of the base up by a couple of degrees to further improve typing comfort.

The keyboard has a single-level backlight that shines a pure white light through the silver keys which, thanks to the resultant lack of contrast, makes it hard to see what’s what in anything other than truly dark environments.

The plastic trackpad measures 105 x 65mm and is pleasant to the touch and works perfectly, with a precise corner click action. Biometric security only extends to a fingerprint scanner that sits on the right below the cursor keys.

Take a tour along the sides of the Swift X and you’ll find two USB Type-A 3.2 Gen1 ports, one USB Type-C 3.2 Gen2 port (which supports DisplayPort 1.4 but not Thunderbolt), an HDMI 2.0 connector and a 3.5mm audio jack. You can charge the Swift X via either the Type-C port or the dedicated DC-in jack. For a machine pitched at creatives, the absence of an SD card reader is rather surprising.

Wireless duties are handled by a MediaTek MT7921 card, which supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. Remove the rear panel of the Swift X and you’ll find that while you can swap out the wireless card, the RAM is soldered to the motherboard. However, there is space for a second 2280 SSD. In the interests of science, I tried booting the Swift X into Ubuntu but the OS refused to recognise either the wireless card or the Nvidia GPU. That’s not the ideal place to start from if you fancy taking a stroll down the open-source path.

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Acer Swift X review: Display and audio

There’s nothing technically out of the ordinary about the Acer’ Swift X’s display. It’s a 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 (FHD) IPS affair with a 16:9 aspect ratio, 60Hz refresh rate, no touch interface and a matte finish. It’s thoroughly competent, though, with a decent maximum brightness of 356cd/m2, a good contrast ratio of 1906:1, and an impressively low Delta E colour variance of just 1.1. There’s good colour space reproduction, too, with 99.4% sRGB gamut coverage and 105.8% sRGB gamut volume. The DCI-P3 numbers are rather less impressive at 74.9% on both counts but for the price that didn't really surprise me.

Would I have preferred a 2,520 x 1,680, 90Hz, 3:2 panel like one fitted to the new Huawei MateBook 14s? Yes. But doubtless, that would have propelled the price of the Swift X skywards by no little degree.

The dts-branded speaker system is not one of the Swift X's strong points. The sound is nicely balanced and generally easy on the ear but there just isn’t enough of it. For a general-purpose laptop, I just don’t regard a peak output of 83dB and an average of 72dB as enough. The 720p webcam is pretty typical of the laptop breed; grainy and dull and with suspect colour accuracy.

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Acer Swift X review: Performance and battery life

For an affordable super-compact, the Swift X really does perform very well indeed. Expert Reviews’ in-house productivity test scored 288 points, which put it within a hair’s breadth of the Razer Blade 14’s score of 297. In the GeekBench 5 CPU test, the Acer and the Razer again ran neck-and-neck. In everyday use, and in purely subjective terms, the Swift X feels very quick: it runs cool and quiet no matter how hard it’s thrashed. Even at full whack, the fans don’t generate enough noise to be in any way intrusive.

For a bit of fun, I ran the SPECviewperf20 workstation test on the Swift X to see how it compared to a genuine powerhouse – the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 – that we tested recently. In the 3dsmax-07 test, the Swift scored 46.4fps to the Scar 17’s 134fps. Clearly, a big difference but then the Scar 17 is a £3,000 monster of a laptop. The mere fact that the Swift X returned an even half-decent score was quite impressive.

The Swift X managed to run the Wolfenstein: Youngblood benchmark at our preferred highest - Mein Leben - video quality and hit 70fps with ray-tracing enabled and DLSS set to Quality, but it kept throwing up warnings that it was out of video RAM and then slowing or crashing necessitating a game restart. Knocking the video quality down to Medium fixed the problem and enabled stable gameplay without having any serious impact on picture quality. On these settings, the Riverside benchmark scored 56fps with ray tracing but no DLSS. The same proved true for the Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Once I changed the preset down to Medium I got a stable 57fps with ray tracing engaged.

This underscores the problem with the RTX 3050Ti graphics card installation. The 4GB of VRAM will always be a limiting factor before any outright lack of processing power from the GPU or CPU.

The Western Digital SSD proved a reasonable performer with sequential read and write speeds of 2,227MB/s and 1,911MB/s respectively. That puts it at the back of the pack of competitor machines but not by enough to actually be noticeable.

Our standard video rundown battery test put the Swift X’s lights out after 9hrs 49mins. From a 59Wh battery, I had hoped for better. After all, the Razer Blade 14 managed to run for nearly 90 minutes longer from just an extra 2.1Wh. That’s not to say the Swift X did badly, just unexceptionally.

Acer Swift X review: Verdict

The Acer Swift X is a strikingly successful example of the art of squeezing seriously powerful components into a surprisingly small space, which makes for an impressively versatile machine.

The powerful GPU/CPU combination gives it the capability to play games and run demanding creative jobs, while the display is both colourful and accurate enough for professional image and video work. Add to that the reasonably decent battery life, impressively compact and lightweight design and perfectly reasonable price and you have a solid recommendation.

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