Acer Swift X review: ahead of the curve?

Does Intel's Arc GPU make sense? It's ideal for some scenarios, less for others, as we explore in our Acer Swift X review

Acer Swift X review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Acer Swift X is a competitively priced trailblazer with one of Intel’s new Arc GPUs. They have specific appeals for content creators and streamers. But for all-round general use and gaming, the last generation was ultimately easier to recommend.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    High-quality, large and practical display

  • +

    Solid specs for the cash

  • +

    All-aluminium shell

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Battery doesn’t quite offer all-day use

  • -

    Intel Arc GPU’s true power isn’t proven yet

  • -

    Plastic touchpad isn’t that firm or fancy

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The Acer Swift family is a good first stop for everyday buyers looking for one of the best budget laptops. The company's Swift 1 offers low-cost ultrabook-like styling. The Swift 5 is a perennial all-rounder. This 'X' laptop is a little different, though. 

The Acer Swift X is a 16-inch performance laptop, the kind for folks who expect a bit more. If I wanted to start video editing every day, most versions of the Swift 1 would be a bad fit. But the Swift X? It’s pretty well-suited. 

It has a brand new Intel Arc graphics card, 16GB RAM and a 1TB SSD: powerhouse specs in a 1.7kg package just about light enough to carry around with you comfortably. And at around half the cost of a MacBook Pro 16, it seems sensible. 

Acer Swift X: Price & Availability

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

There’s real potential for content creator types here, but the £1299-1399 Swift X does involve some early adopter risk in being one of the first to jump on the Intel Arc train. And if you’re mostly here for gaming, you are better off with an Nvidia GPU laptop (which, confusingly, is also offered as a Swift X variant).

Acer Swift X review: Design and Display

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Swift X is a relatively drab-looking laptop. Its lid blooms out from the back of the display a bit. Acer’s anodised aluminium texture is significantly less fine, less refined, than Apple’s or those of other key rivals. 

Acer’s Swift X also has a fairly obvious heat grille sitting above the keyboard. This is no beauty of a laptop, particularly compared to some others you can get for this kind of price. 

But does it matter? From a more substantive angle, perhaps not. The Swift X’s screen half is reassuringly rigid — impressively so considering the laptop has a plastic screen top layer, not the harder glass used in glossy display laptops. 

There’s no significant flex to the keyboard. And, heading back to the visuals, Acer has used an unusually small and discreet logo on the lid, which some will like. 

Sat next to the MSI Summit E16 Evo Flip, a MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 13 Plus, the Swift X is not going to stand out as a paragon of beauty and slick design. But let’s remember, this is a performance-driven laptop. More on that later. 

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

The screen is easily a match for some of those big names too. It’s a large 16.1-inch screen with an on-trend 16:10 aspect ratio. This shape of display seems larger in use than classic 16:9 widescreen, and is what you want if, say, you’re going to spend more time making videos than watching them.

The 1300:1 contrast is excellent for a standard IPS LCD, about as high as I see in laptops using this tech. The 2560 x 1600 resolution avoids the slight pixelation that you’ll see in text in a Full HD laptop of this size. Higher resolutions like this give off that pristine vibe that is one of the better reasons to spend more on a laptop.

Colour is great too. The Acer Swift X can render 85 per cent of the shades in the DCI P3 colour standard premium laptops aim for these days.

If you’re upgrading from a computer with a glossy display, the Swift X’s higher-tier qualities may not jump out at you. Glossy glass screens pop that bit more, but the matte style used here is far more forgiving for outdoors use. Or if you work with a bright window right behind you. This screen’s solidly high 430 nit brightness helps out there too.

Would you actually want to use the Acer Swift X while on the go? At 1.7kg it’s a little too heavy to be ideal, but it does weigh a lot less than the 2.2kg MacBook Pro 16, and let’s not forget this thing has a discrete graphics card. I’d happily take the Swift X on work trips and holidays, but for everyday portable use a 14-inch laptop is probably a better bet.

Acer Swift X review: Performance and Battery life

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Swift X is one of the most interesting performance laptops I’ve tried recently, because it has one of Intel’s new graphics processors. Until now Nvidia and AMD have been your two options, and the vast majority of Windows laptops we’ve reviewed over the last few years have stuck with Nvidia.

This laptop has the Intel Arc A370M graphics processor, the higher-end of two laptop graphics cards Intel has made. In raw graphics performance benchmarks like 3DMark’s Time Spy it scores similarly to a mid-tier Nvidia RTX 3050 card. That very GPU was used in the last version of the Swift X. 

However, in actual games you will tend to see worse results. Why? This is a young platform, one with relatively juvenile drivers, and games will not have been optimised with this hardware in mind. 

The Acer Swift X can play plenty of recent games fairly well, but not generally as well as the RTX 3050, bringing the performance closer to the step-down Nvidia RTX 1650. However, the Intel A370M does have a few tricks of its own. 

Well, one important trick. Intel’s new graphics cards support hardware-accelerated AV1 decoding and encoding. Your first reaction may well be: what?

It’s a great feature for content creators. It means generating your videos using the AV1 codec, in applications like Adobe Premiere Pro, is going to be faster than doing so with a similarly-powerful Nvidia Card. And YouTube has gone big on AV1 over the last year — although we can’t promise YouTube won’t mangle your content into another format when you upload these files. 

The benefits for streamers are even greater. AV1 is a highly efficient codec, better than H.264, H.265 or VP9 at the same file size. That means your streams are going to look more detailed, less artefact-ridden. Or at least they will do when platforms like Twitch actually adopt the technology. 

You could call the Acer Swift X a laptop of the future, but there are good and bad sides to this. It has the AV1 encoding the Nvidia RTX 3050 lacks, but the relatively immature drivers lead to just-OK real-world gaming performance and you can’t make full use of its special skills yet. But one day it’s gonna shine. Maybe. 

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Swift X also has lower battery capacity than some of the competition, at 52Wh. That’s the kind of capacity I typically see in 13- and 14-inch laptops without dedicated GPUs. The LG Gram 16 has an 80Wh battery, the MSI Summit E16 Flip Evo an 82Wh battery.

In tests the Swift X lasts for a little over six hours of YouTube streaming. Or almost dead on eight hours of light office-type jobs. You can get better stamina elsewhere. The MSI Summit E16 Flip Evo can last up to around three hours longer, for example. This may be why the Acer Swift X is not an “Intel Evo” laptop, because its battery does not make the cut.

However, the Acer Swift X is at least low-key when in its natural habitat — plugged in and blasting away at some tough workloads. The fan has the deeper sound of a larger diameter model than most of this (reasonably) slim and light style. Lower-pitch noise is much less distracting than higher-pitch stuff.

The Swift X also has a great processor, the Intel Core i7-1260P. OK, so much of how impressed we are here is down to the Intel 12th Gen’s relative new-ness. But a Geekbench 5 score of 10,413 flattens last-gen models, which typically achieve less than half that score.

Acer has actually played it a little safe and sensible here. It could have used the Intel Core i7-12700H, as seen in the Dell XPS 15. It is even more powerful, made to generate more heat. And Acer would likely have needed to have used a beefier, heavier cooling system to actually make that punchier CPU worthwhile. Swifts don’t seem so, er, swift at 2kg-plus.

Acer Swift X review: Keyboard & Touchpad

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

Acer likes to put its green credentials front and centre. The Acer Aspire Vero is the best recent example of this in action. We also see this in the Acer Swift X and its OceanGlass touchpad. Recycled glass bottles dredged up from the sea and turned into a touchpad? Sounds great. 

However, OceanGlass is actually plastic. A sea filled with plastic is a tragedy, but expensive laptops with plastic touchpads are somewhat tragic too. 

The Acer Swift X’s pad also has a bit of pre-click give to its surface, which does not feel great. This is far from the best touchpad you can get in a £1000-plus laptop. But at least it’s large. 

The keyboard holds up better. Key travel is reasonable, there’s a NUM pad to the right and the key depress comes with a nice dark, quiet clonk of feedback. 

Acer Swift X review: Connections & Features

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

Like a lot of 2022's higher-end laptops, the Acer Swift X now has a Full HD webcam, rather than the dismal old 720p norm. As such, it’s able to make video calls and meetings look much sharper than most last-generation models, although I’ve noticed a lot of image noise dancing around the picture block areas, such as walls and curtains. 

The Acer Swift X’s speakers are fine, but nothing more than that. There’s almost no bass, and volume is unremarkable, particularly if you use the preinstalled DTS processing. These modes are often used with small speakers to increase their loudness and perceived bass, but here it de-uglifies the sound. The Swift X speakers sound much louder, and bigger even, with DTS switched off entirely. But the Music DTS preset makes it much more coherent, if all too politely quiet. 

This laptop’s connections are more generous than most ultra-stylish laptops, but less comprehensive than most performance-led ones. You get two Thunderbolt 4 USB-Cs. Great. There are two old-style USB-A ports, a full-size HDMI and a headphone jack too.

Elsewhere you might find a memory card slot — there’s none here — and perhaps an extra USB-A. Some may need to buy an add-on USB hub for this laptop.

Acer Swift X review: Verdict

Acer Swift X review

(Image credit: Future)

The Acer Swift X is the first Intel Arc GPU laptop we’ve looked at. Whether you should consider buying it largely depends on if you like what Intel is doing with its tech, and if you have faith the future is going to pan out as Intel hopes. 

This is not the obvious pick for gaming with Arc under the hood. You can do better with Nvidia right now. But Intel’s GPUs have tech that streamers should pay attention to — it’s just a shame then that gaming and streaming go hand-in-hand so often. 

And the rest of the laptop? The Acer Swift X has a great, practical screen, good CPU performance and fans that aren’t too annoying. Its design is a bit drab and the plastic touchpad is not great despite its large size. However, it’s a reminder the Swift X is made to a budget (albeit not masses). A Dell XPS 15 with roughly comparable specs would cost you £600 more though, so there's certainly logic in Acer's attempts here. 

Also consider

As the Dell XPS 15 is just too pricey to be a direct rival, take a step down to the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus. For similar money you can get one with an Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, which is much better for gaming. Its screen is also a bit sharper too, but not as bright. 

If you need longer battery life, check out the MSI Summit E16 Evo Flip. It’s a hybrid with stylus support, and has a slightly more powerful CPU, but the screen is lower-res. The Acer display looks better. And the MSI lacks discrete graphics, so isn’t a good for gaming or certain creative jobs.