The two top choices in our best lightweight laptops guide come not just from different manufacturers, but from completely different worlds.
The Acer Swift 7, which we think is the best lightweight laptop in the world right now, runs Windows 10 on an Intel processor; the MacBook Air M1 2020, which we think is the best all-round laptop for most people, runs macOS X Big Sur on Apple Silicon.
And, right here, we compare these two lightweight laptops head-to-head, as not every laptop is right for every user. Small details here and there can often make the difference, so understanding exactly what each system offers is crucial when making a purchasing decision.
- Get learning remotely with the best student laptops
- Get the best of both worlds with the best 2-in-1 laptops
Acer Swift 7 vs Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): Design and usability
Let’s start with the statistics. The Acer Swift 7 is 9.95mm thick and weighs just 890g. By comparison, the svelte Air is a hippo: it’s 16mm thick and weighs 1.29kg even though its screen is an inch smaller. And it’s not because the Apple is packed with ports, either. The current generation has just three connections: two Thunderbolt/USB 3.1 Gen 2 and a headphone jack.
The Acer’s display is a 14” FHD touchscreen protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 6. It’s an IPS panel with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and truly tiny bezels around it.
The MacBook Air display is a 13” Retina display. Like the Acer it’s an IPS panel but the resolution is higher – 2,560 x 1,600. It isn’t a touchscreen.
As much as we love Apple laptops the design is really starting to age and this year’s expected redesign should make things interesting again. But in terms of luggability and portability the Acer is miles ahead right now.
Acer Swift 7 vs Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): hardware and performance
Let’s talk about the MacBook Air first, because the new Apple M1 system is extraordinary and delivers incredible performance. That’s partly due to the way it uses unified memory for the processor and graphics system, which delivers spectacular performance but limits the spec: you can have its 8-core Apple M1 with 7 or 8 GPU cores, but you can only have up to 16GB of unified memory. The base configuration is 8GB. The standard SSD is 256GB with options up to 2TB.
By comparison the Acer is a lot less fun. Its processor is a dual-core Core i7 i7-8500Y, and while that delivers perfectly adequate performance for everyday computing the M1 gives it a sound thrashing in every benchmark we’ve seen. It also underperforms rival PCs such as the Dell XPS 13.
The Acer has Intel UHD graphics 615 and comes with 16GB of memory. The SSD is 512GB.
Acer Swift 7 vs Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): connectivity and battery
We’ve already detailed the MacBook’s twin USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 ports. The Acer has the same.
Both laptops promise all-day battery life: the Acer has a quoted 11.5 hour life and the MacBook Air 15 hours of web browsing or 18 hours of video playback.
- Maintain precision with the best gaming mouse
Acer Swift 7 vs Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): price and verdict
The base MacBook Air with 8GB of unified memory and a 256GB SSD is £999. Prices for the Swift vary but £1,460 is pretty typical and you’ll occasionally find refurbished models for considerably less. Finding new ones is quite difficult at the moment: it’s sold out in Australia and there appears to be limited stock in the UK too.
If you can find one, should you get it? That really depends on what’s most important to you. If you don’t particularly care about the operating system but you need to have a grown-up laptop that won’t dislocate your shoulder when you travel, the Swift 7 is a superbly portable device. But its portability comes at a price, and that’s its performance.
We used to say the same about the MacBook Air, but not any more: the new M1-powered version is as fast as some of Apple’s most powerful Intel-powered laptops, and while 8GB of unified memory doesn’t sound like a lot it works very differently to traditional PCs and should be enough for most people. It may not be the cool kid any more, but if you don’t mind the slightly thicker case or heavier weight the Mac is the one to buy.