Acer Swift 5 initial review: The lightweight leader is back

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The Acer Swift 5 is never short of a new version – Acer upgrades this thin-and-light portable laptop series about twice a year to ensure it offers the latest and greatest features.

We got to handle the 2020 Swift 5 to get a sense of what it brings to the table. In addition to the latest Intel Core i processors and up to Nvidia GeForce MX350 graphics, there’s also less bezel than before – plus a new antimicrobial screen coating from Gorilla Glass.

Is it the snazziest Swift to date? Here’s what we make of this lightweight laptop.

Design

  • Magnesium alloy and magnesium lithium lightweight construction
  • Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x USB-C 3.1, 1x USB-A 3, Wi-Fi 6
  • USB-C is Thunderbolt 4 supported
  • Finishes: Mist Green, Safari Gold
  • Thickness: 14.95mm
  • Weighs: 998g

Acer has always been pioneering when it comes to lightweight build, using magnesium alloy and magnesium lithium here to ensure it keeps the Swift’s weight under that critical kilogram mark.

That figure has been marginally creeping up though: two iterations ago it was 970g; the last gen model was 990g; and this latest model adds a negligible amount more as a result of its features.

Will you notice? Not in the slightest – this is still a super lightweight laptop. It’s slim, too, measuring just 14.95mm, so easy to slip into a bag when you’re on the go.

The 2020 Swift 5’s predecessor was finished in a striking yet subtle blue coat. This latest model comes in two options: Mist Green (pictured) or Safari Gold.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: “that’s not green!”. It’s not a trick of photography white balance either – it’s the least green green that we’ve seen. It’s more a slate with flecks of a maybe-it-could-be-green in there. The copper accents are set off by this base colour though, making for a good-looking laptop.

However, that magnesium composite doesn’t make for the most luxe feeling of finishes. It’s got a very plasticky sense about it. Which, really, the Swift has always had as part of its character. It doesn’t mean this laptop flexes under pressure though – it just doesn’t have that aluminium visual presence that you’ll find elsewhere.

Elsewhere the multitude of ports means whether you’ve got one foot in the past and the other in the future then the mixture of USB-C (small!) and USB-A (big!) will ensure no task goes missed. There’s even HDMI, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and dedicated charging port (although the USB-C can also be used for this, if that happens to be the only cable to hand).

That USB-C port is also Thunderbolt 4 ready, Acer tells us, making this machine capable of serious transfer speeds (up to 40Gbps, which is quadruple the already fast 10Gbps of TB3.1).

Display

  • Smaller bezel: 90% screen-to-body ratio
  • 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display
  • 300-nits maximum brightness
  • Gorilla Glass antimicrobial

The screen has also had a rejig, bringing slightly less bezel to distract your eyes from the panel itself. A 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio is an achievement – even if it can’t see off the likes of the mighty Dell XPS 13 in this regard. Pop the Swift 5 next to a three-year-old laptop, though, and it’ll make the older device look aged – we’re typing this from a MacBook Air and the screen surround looks positively huge by comparison.

The  Swift 5’s 14-inch screen comes in Full HD (1080p) resolution, offers multi-touch controls too, and has ample brightness – it touts 300 nits which is perfectly fine for this size, even if there are brighter laptops out there. 

The screen is also coated with Gorilla Glass’ antimicrobial finish. That’s means to keep germs at bay when you’re poking away at the screen on repeat. However, this coating is also rather glossy, meaning reflections are a potential problem when you’re out and about.

Image result for Acer Swift 5 (2020) initial review: The lightweight leader is back

The screen is the only area where that magnesium frame shows up a little flex. Nothing to the point of concern, mind, plus you’re getting a very light laptop as a result – which is, in essence, the whole point of the Swift series.

Keyboard & Trackpad

  • Plastic-topped trackpad and backlit keyboard
  • Integrated fingerprint scanner for sign-in

Principal to the Swift 5’s design is the hinge mechanism that was introduced in its predecessor. It’s as though the screen is sunk into the body a little, with the keyboard platform angling upwards to the rear as the laptop is maneouvred into working position.

As a result, there’s no 180-degree movement as was once possible a few generations back (that’s reserved for the ‘Spin’ series, which, as the name suggests, offers a 360-degree hinge mechanism).

Typing on the Swift 5 feels comfortable – ignoring that split Enter key – as the keys are the right size and spacing, with necessary feedback levels. However, the finish of the keys is reflective of the feeling from that magnesium top – a little plasticky and tacky. 

The trackpad has a similar plastic-topped feel, too, which is a bugbear we’ve long had with this series. Fingers won’t drag along it as smoothly and naturally as is possible, while the click isn’t quite as defined as it could be.

To the side of the keyboard is a fingerprint scanner for rapid login, a more common appearance on Windows 10 laptops. As we said of its predecessor: it works, but we find less condensed and squarer-shaped pads tend to work better than this smaller aperture.

Performance

  • Up to Intel Core i7 processor (latest series)
  • Up to Nvidia GeForce MX350 graphics

Now we can’t profess to living with the Swift 5 just yet, so a true reflection of its relative performance isn’t something we can dig deep into. There are just too many factors to consider.

However, we can tell you that the 2020 version of the Swift 5 cranks up the potential, including the option for discrete graphics – up to Nvidia GeForce MX250. That’s a great addition to get a little bit more out of those more challenging projects – whether 3D tasks in Photoshop, or some gaming tasks not on the minimum settings.

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