Acer Swift 3 (2020) review: an impressive mid-range, compact laptop

The Acer Swift 3 has plenty of appeal

Acer Swift 3
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

When everything is tallied up, the Acer Swift 3 definitely ends up in credit – we do have a few reservations about the laptop, but in general we think it's one of the best options you've got at this size and price point, continuing a strong run of Acer Swift laptops.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Bright, sharp screen

  • +

    Appealing design

  • +

    Comfortable typing experience

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Limited integrated graphics

  • -

    Ordinary battery life

  • -

    A little on the expensive side

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The Acer Swift 3, new for 2020, is the latest in a long line of Acer Swift laptops to come our way – for several years now, these portable, lightweight laptop computers have managed to find an appealing balance between size, portability, cost and internal specifications.

With the 2020 edition of the Swift 3, Acer is looking to continue that tradition. You get a choice of different configurations as usual, but it's all wrapped up in a laptop chassis that's easy on the eye and very portable – the sort of laptop you can pick up and take anywhere.

There's a good list of features too, with support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard and an HDMI out port, and of course Windows 10 (Home) on board. Microsoft's operating system continues to get more refined and more useful (on the whole) as the years go by.

This is a particularly competitive section of the laptop market at the moment, and you've got a lot of choice at this price point and at this size of laptop. Does the Acer Swift 3 do enough to stand out from the crowd? Will it make it into our best laptop ranking? Read our full and thorough review to find out.

Acer Swift 3 (2020) review: screen and design

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Swift 3 comes with a 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen that looks great – the bezels are pleasingly thin, the brightness and contrast are top notch, and it really does look like a premium laptop up close – the keyboard backlighting and the grey aluminium and magnesium-alloy chassis help here. In fact the more we think about it, the better we like the design, which is an area that previous Swifts have always impressed in too.

Tipping the scales at 1.19 kg (that's about 2.6 pounds), it's lovely and light too. Okay, you wouldn't expect a laptop this size to be heavy exactly, but the Acer Swift 3 can be easily picked up in one hand when you need to carry it around the office or take it from the garden to the kitchen. It even looks like a classy laptop when it's closed, though it doesn't quite match the thinness of some of the super-thin laptops on the market (when closed it has a thickness of 15.95 mm or 0.63 inches).

The Acer Swift 3 also has a decent selection of ports, with two USB-A ports (one supporting USB 3.1), one USB-C port (which also supports Thunderbolt), and an HDMI port, as well as a headphone jack. You get a couple of downward-firing speakers on either side too, which don't particularly impress but do the job.

From watching movies to typing out reports, the screen on the Acer Swift 3 really shines, and the laptop is portable enough to go anywhere – and we didn't notice the underside of the computer getting particularly hot either. Personally we prefer screens with a 16:10 aspect ratio rather than the 16:9 one on show here – for seeing more of documents or webpages – but you might have a different preference.

Acer Swift 3 (2020) review: performance and features

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Future)

Our review laptop came with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, which are respectable specs that will get you by without really challenging anything higher up in price. Graphics are provided by the Intel Iris Plus integrated solution, which is fine for most everyday tasks, including some light image editing and gaming. More demanding users are going to want to look elsewhere, though more expensive configurations are available with more RAM, more storage, and an Nvidia GeForce MX350 graphics card if you think you need it.

The Swift 3 isn't trying to compete with the ultra-powerful laptops though – its focus is on portability and comfort, and the computer is fantastic to type on, with just the right amount of spring in the keys (the textured keyboard and chassis helps too). We didn't notice any serious slowdowns when web browsing or working with images in Photoshop, and while the fans spin up every now and again, they're relatively quiet.

A fingerprint sensor is embedded below the keyboard, which is good to see – it makes logging in so much easier – but the trackpad is a little on the flimsy side and occasionally seemed to not want to register a click (or double-click). On the whole though, the experience of using the Acer Swift 3 is a very positive one, especially when you factor in how small and how light it is. It's a laptop that you feel you can take anywhere.

Battery life isn't the best, with an hour of video streaming knocking down the battery from 100 percent to 81 percent (admittedly that was at full display brightness, so you could dial it down a little). Between 6-7 hours of use seemed to be the norm during our testing, so you should be able to get through a whole day of work without reaching for a charger, as long as you're not too demanding – and for most people, that will be enough.

Acer Swift 3 (2020) review: price and verdict

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)

There's a lot that we like about the new Acer Swift 3. Like previous models, it's really well designed, and the screen looks great. The typing experience is a real pleasure too (as long as you don't need the trackpad too often), and we'd be happy using this as our regular laptop for getting work done on the go. It handles most tasks quickly and responsively, and it's easy to carry around.

It's not all positive though, with the battery life and the performance less than stellar. It's also a relatively expensive laptop when you weigh up how good some of the cheaper options are – check the widgets on this page for the latest prices on the Acer Swift 3, but at the time of writing the configuration that we tested was available direct from the Acer website for £899.99.

If you spend all your computing time inside a browser, then you might be tempted to get a Chromebook for much less and save yourself some money (Acer itself makes some very decent ones). While you could say the Swift 3 finds a nice balance between price and performance, you could also argue that it falls between two stools – neither powerful enough at one end or affordable enough at the other.

Taking everything into consideration though, the Acer Swift 3 certainly ends up with more in the positives column than the negatives column – as far as mid-range, mid-priced, compact laptops go, it's one of your better options at the moment, with the screen, typing experience and overall design of the computer particularly strong. Whether it's the right laptop for you might depend on what kind of prices you can find it at.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.