Acer Swift 5 is an ultraportable laptop combining impressive weight (1kg) and very decent specs. The latest model (late 2020) which I got packs the latest Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 (11th gen) processor with Intel Evo standards. It is clearly not gaming-level machine, but its impressively lightweight design makes it very enjoyable to use with everyday commuting.
I was in the market for a lightweight laptop earlier this year. The idea of carrying 2kg+ laptop around in post-pandemic world did not sound good to me. Since I have sold my Macbook during the pandemic lockdown months (no viable use case), I figured now is the time to get a new machine.
Macbook was my first choice. The new models with M1 processors was tempting, but after reading a number of reviews and forums, I concluded that ARM-based processor for laptop is not ready for prime time yet. Many apps are not compatible and some of them are deal-breaker for me to jump on the ARM laptop bandwagon.
Windows laptop is the next possible option. Since I plan to use the new machine for work activities, I figured that using Windows will make things slightly easier.
The following questions are processor and laptop brand. I know (and read a lot) that AMD processors are offering much better value for their impressive performance lately, yet I struggle to find viable lightweight laptop (1kg or under) with the latest AMD processor. So, back to Intel then. Intel 11th gen processor is by no means perfect, but it does the job and it is not like I am trying to get top of the line specs. I am generally happy with i5 and rarely see the need to go i7 in the past.
Several hours of reading, contemplating between Acer, Sony, Samsung and Asus, my choice went to Acer Swift 5. This is when it gets confusing. I read reviews of “2020 model” and found very different set of specs. It seems that there are 2 different 2020 models: early 2020 and late 2020. The first decision point is whether I should get early 2020 or late 2020 model (some review sites call this 2021 model). Why would I even consider older model? Well, because early 2020 model is actually lighter than the newer late 2020 model, by around 80 grams. Since the headline of this laptop hunt is “lightweight”, that weight difference was enough to get me thinking.
In the end, I decided to get the newer model, mostly because of some reviews of the performance of Intel 11th gen compared to the older 10th gen. Plus, the late 2020 model of Swift 5 has Thunderbolt 4 port (instead of Thunderbolt 3 in the older model).
If you are wondering, the easiest way to tell the model of Swift 5 laptop is by looking at its colour. The newer late 2020 model has dark greenish colour, the older early 2020 model has dark blue colour. The newer model has Acer logo at the top of the keyboard panel, the older model has Acer logo on the screen panel.
Move on to basic specs, my NX.A34SA.002 comes with Windows 10 Home and has 14″ IPS touch-screen display with 1920 x 1080 pixels native resolution. When connected to external display, this laptop can handle 4K resolution. My model comes with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. More expensive models have up to 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD.
In my (subjective) opinion, the display looks crisp, bright and colourful enough. Certainly usable for short working sessions. For longer sessions, (larger) external display is recommended.
Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics does the job well for my everyday use. Disclaimer: I do not use this machine for gaming nor image editing.
The built-in HD camera (1280 x 720) looks good enough for me, but somehow Windows does not allow this camera for Windows Hello face recognition, even though I know some other laptops with Windows Hello face recognition actually have same or worse quality camera. I guess it is more about business decision to get into Microsoft’s approved list instead of technical constraint. I enjoyed using Windows Hello face recognition with Microsoft Surface Laptop. Alas, I can’t do the same with this new machine. For now, I have to be happy with the included fingerprint sensor.
There are 4 ports on the left side: charging, HDMI 2.0 with HDCP support, USB 3.2 gen 1, and USB-C ports. The charging port is for the Acer’s proprietary 65W charger. HDMI port gives ready to use connectivity for most modern monitors. The USB-C port is actually USB 3.2 gen 2 with DisplayPort support and Thunderbolt 4. Thanks to Thunderbolt 4 specification, the USB-C port can be used to charge the laptop. It makes this laptop compatible with most USB-C chargers with Power Delivery. There is no official information of the minimum wattage required to charge this laptop using PD charger, but I believe we need 45W to achieve reasonable charging speed with normal usage. Some sources believe it needs minimum 29W to charge more than its drain, but I tested with a 20W PD charger and it does charge this laptop without any problem. It is slow, but still charging.
On the right side, we can see Kensington lock, battery and power LED indicators, another slot of USB 3.2 gen 1 and standard 3.5mm headphones jack. The combination of 2 standard USB ports and 1 USB-C is sufficient for most of my use cases. So far I only needed a dongle for some occasions when I need to connect to wired LAN via ethernet port.
Other features include backlit keyboard, dual band Wi-Fi 6 AX201, 802.11a/b/g/n/acR2+ax and Bluetooth 5.1. Technically, this laptop promises DTS® Audio featuring optimised bass. I did not test this feature as I do not use this as my main computer, and therefore I do not put any music or video in this machine. Maybe I will test this later on.
In actual real-world usage, this laptop delivers to my expectation. Starting up from power off takes less than 10 seconds until I can actually start using the computer. Waking up from sleep is almost instant. Waiting for Teams and Outlook to load is bearable. Most working activities are snappy. I regularly work with Outlook, Teams, Excel and 20+ tabs open in Chrome and Acer Swift 5 handle its job quite well.
Battery life is not as I expected. It rarely survive regular 8-9 work hours without charging. Though maybe the biggest drain factor is that I do hours of Teams video calls every day.
Overall, I am happy with my newest working machine. It helps me staying productive with minimum frustration. The price is lower than Macbook, especially with the $400-off promo that I found in official Acer Australia website. A reliable computer that will not hurt my back when I carry it in my backpack.