Acer Swift 3x review: the perfect laptop for work, school and content creation

With plenty of power in a small and light shell, the Acer Swift 3x is an amazing portable with a comfortable keyboard, terrific screen, impressive battery life, and affordable price

T3 Platinum Award
Acer Swift 3x review
(Image credit: Acer)
T3 Verdict

The Acer Swift 3x is proof you don’t have to shell out a ton of cash to get a fantastic laptop with a whole lot of features to boot. The others have all the fame, this 14-inch offering from Acer might just be the underdog that will give them a good run for their money.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Light and compact

  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Great screen

  • +

    Responsive fingerprint reader

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Trackpad not very accurate or central

  • -

    Just one USB-C port

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    Thin-sounding speakers

The Acer Swift 3x is one truly impressive laptop. I’ve tested my share of powerful laptops, and it’s not often that a budget to mid-range laptop can really impress me, but this one did.

While it might not get top billing like the Dell XPS and the MacBook Pros of the world, the Acer Swift 3x is a surprisingly capable laptop in its own right. It rocks 11th-generation processors, Intel Iris Xe Max integrated graphics, and up to 16GB of memory. That means there’s plenty inside to satisfy professionals and students alike.

Acer loaded it up with features as well, some of which you won’t even find in some pricier laptops. There’s a fingerprint reader, which works beautifully, a 1080p matte screen that’s rich and vibrant and a formidably long battery life. All stuffed inside a chassis that’s as light as it is thin.

There are quite a few equally terrific laptops in the same price range, but the Acer Swift 3x should definitely be at the top of your list when you're in the market for your next affordable portable.

Acer Swift 3x review

(Image credit: Acer)

Acer Swift 3x review: design

The first thing you notice about the Acer Swift 3x is its light, portable chassis. This is one of its greatest strengths. At 12.7 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches and 3.1 pounds (1.4 kg), it’s only ever so slightly bigger, thicker and heavier than the premium-priced MacBook Pro 13-inch. That’s while touting a bigger 14-inch screen thanks to its much slimmer bezels.

I’ll talk more about the display in the next section, but I do want to mention the lift its hinge offers. It only gives the device a few millimeters of lift. However, it’s definitely enough to give it a bit of room to breathe, especially when it’s working overtime when performing the more demanding tasks.

The single USB-C port might disappoint some people, but there’s still a decent number of ports to go around. Besides the USB-C 3.2, there are two USB-A 3.2 ports, one HDMI port, an audio jack, and a Kensington lock slot, which should be enough if you want to expand with a secondary display, a mouse, or even bigger storage.

You probably wouldn’t need an extra keyboard, however. The backlit keyboard on the Acer Swift 3x is brilliant. More specifically, it’s ultra-responsive and quiet while being satisfying and comfortable to use.

There’s also plenty of space between the keys and the keys themselves are decently sized (even though they are a tad shorter than what we’re used to), which means they allow for easy typing and won’t make you feel crowded. The FN, special and arrow keys are a tad small, but that doesn't really get in the way of your overall typing experience. In fact, they’re so intuitively positioned that I haven’t found it hard to use those arrow keys at all, despite their size.

The touchpad is a slightly different story. It feels nice to touch, but it just isn’t as responsive as those on competing laptops. Even when set to high sensitivity, there’s a noticeable split-second delay here, which makes you think that it’s not as accurate as it should be.

The left and right buttons also have a bit more resistance to them than I would’ve liked so that instead of feeling a satisfying click, you’re getting something that’s halfway between a click and a dull thud. And, much like a lot of Windows laptops, it isn’t centered; more like center-left, which can be a pain, especially considering that it’s a bit small as well.

I’d definitely recommend using a mouse, especially if you’re planning on working all day on the laptop.

The tiny fingerprint reader near the bottom-right corner of the keyboard, however, is impressively responsive. I’ve tested laptops whose fingerprint readers can be a bit finicky, making logging in a bit of a pain. That isn’t the case with this one. I only wish that Acer had incorporated it into the power button, but for a laptop this affordable, you’re actually lucky to be getting a fingerprint reader, so I can’t complain.

Acer Swift 3x review

(Image credit: Michelle Rae Uy)

Acer Swift 3x review: Screen and speakers

Besides being bigger, the Acer Swift 3x’s matte IPS panel boasts a 72% NTSC color gamut and Acer’s own ExaColor technology. This is designed to fine-tune the display’s color temperature and contrast gamma value. There’s also Acer’s Color Intelligence, which optimizes in real-time the screen color, brightness and saturation.

The result is a 1080p screen that’s incredibly vibrant as well as plenty sharp and bright (300 nits). It’s so good, in fact, that while I don’t particularly find the touchscreen capability to be a vital part of a great laptop, I actually wish it had that here.

Sadly, the speakers boast no low end, which means it sounds very thin. Unlike a lot of thin-sounding laptops, however, it doesn’t sound tinny. This is because it’s been given a mid-high boost around where the vocals sit. But this boost is also a bit of a double-edged sword, as it also makes things sound ever so slightly honky. Also, its highest volume, while okay, is unimpressive.

Still, they do not sound bad, and with Bluetooth connectivity and the 3.5mm audio port on hand, you could always opt for a pair of headphones or external speakers.

Acer Swift 3x review

(Image credit: Michelle Rae Uy)

Acer Swift 3x review: Performance

There’s plenty of power to go around in the Acer Swift 3x, thanks to our review unit’s Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and the Intel Iris Xe Graphics, which is known for its impressive graphical performance, even when tackling photo editing tasks.

You won’t be gaming a lot on this laptop. Although some less demanding games like Flower are definitely playable in our experience. You definitely won’t have as much fun playing Valheim, Sims 4, or It Takes Two, let alone bigger titles like Doom Eternal and Resident Evil Village.

Then again, this isn’t a gaming laptop. Nor does it claim to be. Instead, it’s focusing on the content creation market, touting specs that will see you through your photo editing and lighter video editing needs, as well as your daily productivity tasks.

I’ve had 20 Google Chrome tabs open - three of those streaming videos on Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube - while also playing songs on Spotify, and this laptop doesn’t even break a sweat. It works just as well when editing 30 or more large RAW images in Lightroom.

I wouldn’t advise doing all your heavy video editing tasks on this laptop. After all, that integrated graphics can only do so much. However, you can definitely get away with editing and rendering a one to three-minute 4K video without getting frustrated.

However, if your daily workload looks more like mine, where you’re doing a lot of productivity tasks and research while also squeezing in some photo editing on the side and watching a movie or show, the Acer Swift 3x is definitely the right laptop for the job. That’s whether you’re a professional or a student.

Acer Swift 3x review

(Image credit: Michelle Rae Uy)

Acer Swift 3x review: Battery

The excellent performance on the Acer Swift 3x extends to its battery life as well. Acer has given it a rating of up to 17 hours of battery life, and if you were to drop its brightness down to half, perhaps turn notifications and Bluetooth off, and solely stream and watch movies or shows all day long, you would definitely be able to squeeze more than 16 hours of use from it

However, in the real world, that’s definitely not what you’ll be using this laptop for. Most of the time, you’ll be writing emails, video conferencing with colleagues, classmates and family, typing up documents, opening several browser tabs at once, and messaging people on Slack. If you’re a content creator, you’ll likely be photo editing all day. That means that the battery won’t quite make that 17-hour mark.

Still, you’ll be happy to know that it’ll still have plenty of juice for all that. This laptop does boast an all-day battery life, typically lasting for more than 10 hours when you’re doing all of those aforementioned tasks. In fact, I performed the PCMark 10 battery test on it and it lasted almost 11 hours – or more specifically, 10 hours and 52 minutes. That’s a whole day of work plus a couple of hours of maybe unwinding to a good movie after work. Not to mention a lighter laptop bag, since you won’t need to take its charger with you.

When it has finally run out of juice, you’ll also be happy to know that its fast-charging capabilities will get you four hours of use for only 30 minutes of charging. That means you won’t need to charge it all night to get it work- or school-ready in the morning.

Acer Swift 3x review

(Image credit: Michelle Rae Uy)

Acer Swift 3x review: Price and verdict

The Acer Swift 3x isn’t exactly a budget laptop. Instead, it sits comfortably in its mid-range perch, with its Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD configuration costing $899.99/£899.99 and its higher model that I reviewed here, priced at $1199.99/£1199.99.

However, considering its similarly-specced rivals, including the Surface Laptop 4 with half the storage and a smaller screen, it’s surprisingly affordable. That makes it a rare affordable option in a sea of premiums.

Especially because you’re getting a lot for less here. It’s not just the slightly bigger screen, the portable form factor and the powerful internals. There’s also its long battery life, fingerprint sensor and comfortable keyboard, among others. And, if you’re looking for the best value laptop, whether it be for work, school, or your creative endeavors, you can’t go wrong with the Acer Swift 3x.

Acer Swift 3x review: Also consider

If you’re not really looking to do any creative projects, consider one of the Chromebooks, most of which boast premium features without the premium price tags. The Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is a good one, and it has that 2-in-1 functionality and touchscreen feature that the Acer Swift 3x doesn’t offer.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a laptop you can work as well as game on, we adore the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. It isn’t just among the best gaming laptops out there, it’s also among the best laptops. With game-worthy specs under the hood of a gorgeous and classy-looking chassis, you won’t be embarrassed to take it to business meetings. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable for what it offers.

Able to stretch your budget a little? The Dell XPS 13-inch gets our vote. Stunning and powerful, with amazing features to boot, this has been among our favorite Windows 10 laptops for a few years now. It is a bit on the pricier side, however, be prepared to spend a little more.

Michelle Rae Uy
Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is a tech and travel journalist, editor and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. She is a regular contributor for IGN, TechRadar and Business Insider, and has contributed to Thrillist, Paste Magazine, Nylon, Fodor's and Steve's Digicams. Living mainly in California with her adorable cats, she splits her time between Los Angeles, London and the rest of the world.