There are many great ultraportable laptops out there these days, so when it comes to the premium segment each manufacturer tries to put their products on the map in some way.
With the Swift 7 (also known as the Aspire Swift 7) Acer went the ultra-slim route, advertising it as the slimmest 13-inch notebook available to date, slimmer than the HP Spectre 13 which previously held the title (9.98 mm for the Swift 7, 10.4 mm for the Spectre 13). This doesn’t make a whole of a difference in practice though, and personally I consider more interesting the fact that this laptop is one of the very few 13-inchers built on a fanless Intel Kaby Lake hardware platform.
I’m convinced my next daily-driver, the one that’s going to retire the Dell XPS 13, needs to be a fanless 13-incher, so with that in mind I was very excited to spend time with a pre-production version of the Acer Aspire Swift 7 and I’ve gathered my impressions on it in this post.
In very few words, the Acer Swift 7 is a surprisingly well built laptop that can handle everyday tasks well, doesn’t run very hot (I was actually expecting it would) and lasts for quite a while on a charge. But there are quite a few flaws creeping from beneath the surface, some of them even deal-breakers, as you’ll find below.
The specs sheet
|Acer Swift 7 S7-371|
|Screen||13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, Gorilla Glass 4, glossy , IPS, non-touch (?)|
|Processor||Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7Y75 CPU|
|Video||Intel HD 615|
|Memory||8 GB LPDDR3 (soldered)|
|Storage||256 GB SATA SSD (30 mm)|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.1|
|Ports||2x USB 3.1 gen1, mic/earphone|
|Operating system||Windows 10|
|Size||325 mm or 12.79” (w) x 230 mm or 9.05” (d) x 9.98 mm or 0.39” (h)|
|Weight||1.09 kg or 2.4 lbs|
|Extras||non-backlit keyboard, stereo speakers|
Design and exterior
Despite its very thin profile and overall low weight of 2.4 lbs (1.1 kilos), this laptop feels very sturdy and well built. That came to no surprise when it came to the chassis, given it gets an aluminum unibody construction, but even the lid cover and the bottom panel are solid and show very little flex even when pressed hard. So I’m pretty sure this is going to be a strong travel companion that can be thrown in the bag without much pampering.
On the aesthetic side, the Swift 7 is a mix of black and gold elements. I’m perfectly fine with the matte black exterior, even though it shows smudges easily, but the golden interior is just not up my alley, and from what I can tell right now there’s not going to be another color scheme available for this device. So that means you’ll either be OK with owning a gold laptop, or you’ll have to pick something else. That for me is strike one.
On the practical aspects, the laptop is grippy, easy to hold and carry around, and thanks to its very small profile, comfortable to use on the lap or on a desk. The screen is hold in place by two strong hinges, stiff enough that they don’t allow the screen to be lift up with a single hand. The palm-rest is spacious, the edges are a little sharp but won’t be a problem due to the thin profile, and the laptop sits fairly well on a desk, despite having some minuscule rubber feet on the bottom.
The Aspire Swift 7 gets however a large footprint, as you can tell by the bezel around the screen and the space on top of the keyboard, much larger than my XPS 13 and most other 13-inch laptops for that matter. Pardon my ranting, but I don’t see the purpose of making such a thin laptop with the footprint of a 14-incher without at least sticking a 14-inch screen on it. I’d rather get a 15, maybe even an 18 mm thick device, as long as its compact and has room for ports on the sides and a large battery inside, while the Swift 7 actually falls short on both.
Besides these, the display doesn’t lie back flat completely, but only to about 150 degrees. And since I’m listing my nits with the design, I wonder who thought placing those bright status LEDs beneath the screen is a smart idea. I’d reckon he or she never tried watching a movie in a dark room while the laptop charges and that maddening orange LED is lit up.
The IO consists of two USB Type C ports, none of them supporting Thunderbolt 3 features, as well as a headphone jack. All these are placed on the right edge, which for me as a right-hand user is rather inconvenient when using peripherals.
I’m not a big fan of such frugal IO, but more and more manufacturers are going this route with their thin-and-lights (Apple Macbook, Asus Zenbook 3, HP Spectre 13, among others), so I’d reckon I might just accept the fact that users will have to carry a dongle in their bags for those moments where they’ll actually need to use a card-reader, the HDMI port or an USB peripheral. I can’t tell whether Acer will include any such adapter with the Swift 7, my test unit came without one, but that might change on the final retail units.
All these combined are strike two, although they might even add up to strike three or four. But let’s move further.
There’s a 13-inch display on this laptop, glossy, as the panel is covered by a layer of Gorilla Glass, yet without touch support, the kind of screen that I just can’t understand. Yes, the Gorilla Glass probably helps strengthening the slim screen ensemble, but for me that’s clearly not enough to justify the glare and reflections caused by the glossy surface in strong light environments.
This is once again a common trait between this laptop and the Acer Macbook, HP Spectre 13 and the Asus Zenbook 3, but this time it’s one I simply can’t accept.
At least the panel is fairly good. It’s an IPS panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 px, decent brightness, contrast and colors, as you can tell from the results below.
- Panel HardwareID: Chi Mei CMN1367;
- Coverage: 97% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 75% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 315 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 670:1;
- White point: 6700 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.47 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.20 uncalibrated, 0.78 calibrated.
The brightness is still not good enough for outdoor use or even well lit rooms, but at least it’s brighter than on the Zenbook 3 or the HP Spectre 13, if that makes any difference. On another hand, the colors are very accurate out of the box, but if you want to get our calibrated ICC profile you can find it here.
Bottom point, as long as you’re going to use this laptop indoors, you’ll probably be happy with its screen. It’s not as sharp as some of the other options out there, but the 1080p resolution is still good enough for a 13-inch panel. My main nits are with the glossy coating and the fact that the display doesn’t lean back to 180 degrees, something the hinges’ design would have easily allowed, at least on a fist look.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Swift 7 is marketed as a premium laptop, yet Acer decided to put a non-backlit keyboard on it. Initially I was hopping that’s just something my pre-production unit is missing, but no, the Swift 7 just don’t get illuminated keys. This is a laptop that’s supposedly going to start at $1000 and doesn’t get illuminated keys. Strike three!
You might say I’m being too harsh here. Well, if this was a mid-range device with a more affordable price, I would have probably been able to accept it. But I just can’t in this case, where Acer’s desire to create the “thinnest laptop” is probably the reason why the back-lightning system was left out.
The keyboard itself is decent, but with shallow travel and an imprecise response, which lead to plenty of mistakes during my experience with the laptop. I tried writing this whole review on it but gave up after a while. Besides the weird feedback, this keyboard just feels somewhat minimized, shrunk down. It gets 14 x 14 mm keys with plenty of space in between, so that’s only a feeling, but somehow I just couldn’t get used to typing it. And it’s not the short travel, I’m usually fine with this aspect, it’s the overall combo between the keys’ size and response that breaks it for me.
A huge trackpad sits beneath the keyboard, something we’ve seen on some HP laptops before. I don’t really see the point of having such a large trackpad, but I don’t have any reason to complain about it either, since I haven’t ran into any palm-detection issues or anything else that would interfere with my daily experience.
The trackpad uses a Synpatics surface, feels smooth and is properly set apart from the palm-rest around it. Performance isn’t reliable though. Most of the time it worked fine with gestures, taps and swipes, but occasionally the cursor would get jumpy or would double-tap instead of single taping.
The jumpiness usually happened when reaching for the left-click button and trying to perform a physical click, which caused the cursor to jump straight on the Windows button in the lower left corner. I couldn’t find a clear explanation for this behavior, but this is not the first time I run into this issue on a laptop, so I expect it can be fixed with more mature drivers on the final retail units.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Our test unit came with a pre-production version of the Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7Y75 processor, with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB M.2 SATA SSD. I was exited to share my findings on this new processor with you, but since this is not a retail solution, I’m not going to get in depth with benchmark results and will only share a few impressions on performance.
The test unit was able to handle most everyday tasks fine, from browsing to watching movies and editing texts. I even ran a few older games (Age of Empires HD, Need for Speed Most Wanted) on it and the results were quite good, I’d expect to be able to play such games on HD resolution with medium details on the Intel HD 615 graphics chip integrated withing the Kaby Lake Core Y processors.
Serious multitasking was still able to choke down the system easily. Launching 10 tabs one after the other caused delays and pushed the processor to 100% usage, but again, this is a pre-production unit so it’s too early to draw conclusions on how this platform actually performs under load. Still, given my experience with Skylake Core M and the fact that the Kaby Lake Core Y is not a significant update, I don’t expect this to be able to handle smoothly more than casual to mid-intensity daily chores. So those of you in need of performance would have to go for a Kaby Lake Core U platform.
Still, let’s not forget this laptop is fanless, and those who want a passively cooled computer and don’t plan to ask that much from it might find it interesting enough.
Acer will probably offer the Swift 7 in a few different configurations. The CPU and RAM are soldered on the motherboard on all of them, but the storage drive and the wireless chip are upgradeable, and getting to them is easy and only requires you to unscrew the few Philips screws on the back. This laptop doesn’t use the 80 mm SSDs that are common on ultraportables these days, but instead a 30 mm Kingston RBU-SNS4180S3256GG drive with a B-M key, which is limited to SATA speeds only. The form-factor means you can’t put PCIe drives on this laptop and actually limits your storage upgrade options drastically.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
As I mentioned earlier, the Swift 7 is passively cooled, thus it provides a perfectly quiet daily experience. That’s in theory, because in practice our test unit suffered from coil whining, quite obvious in a perfectly silent room, where a fanless device is supposed to shine. Hopefully final retail version won’t run into this.
On the other hand, this laptop ran surprisingly cool, considering the lack of a fan and the extremely thin form factor. You’ll find the case temperatures below, both in daily use and in demanding activities. Yes, the middle top part gets to about 47 degrees Celsius, but most fan-cooled ultraportables available these days actually get hotter than that, and don’t forget there’s the high end Core i7-7Y75 processor in our test unit, the Core i5-7Y54 configurations will run cooler.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
Connectivity wise there’s Wireles AC and Bluetooth 4.1 on the Aspire Swift 7. The wireless is supposedly one of its selling points, with 2×2 802.11ac antennae with MU-MIMO technology, yet our test unit didn’t perform very well. It did OK as long as I kept it right near the router, but at 15 feet the speeds dropped dramatically and at 30 feet the connection was long gone. I hope this is an isolated issue of this pre-production sample, but it’s something I’m going to keep my eyes on and update once we know more about.
The audio is ensured by two speakers placed on the belly. They are not very loud (we measured a maximum of 84 dB at head-level in our tests), but the sound is clear even at high volumes and suffers from no distortions, although some vibrations can be felt in the palm-rest when pumping up the volume. The audio quality is decent for this class, yet rather on the tiny side with no bass. I’ve mostly used the Music profile in the included Dolby Audio app, this one sounded best imo.
The speakers can be obstructed and covered in certain cases though, which is going to take a toll on the sound coming out of them, due to their positioning on the bottom sides. This usually happens when using the laptop on the lap or when placing it on an uneven surface, like a blanket or a mattress, something you might be inclined to do since this is a portable device without any air-intake grills that could limit usage.
Last in this section is the Webcam. Pretty crappy if you ask me, even in a properly lit room. I like to think I don’t look like a zombie, yet this camera disagrees. Those eyes! The mics on the other hand are decent, but the fact that they are placed beneath the screen, thus very close to the keyboard, makes it really difficult for them to capture voices properly while typing.
There’s only a 42 Wh battery on this laptop, which is small for a 13-incher, yet the platform is not very power hungry and as a result the Swift 7 is going to last for a fairly long time in daily chores. The screen’s brightness was set at 30%, around 120 nits, in the following situations.
- 5.9 W (~7 h of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.7 W (~7 h 20 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.8 W (~8 h 45 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.6 W (~7 h 30 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10 W (~4 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
However, these results are not far-off from those recorded on a Core i7 U platform though, which means the Core Y processor is not exactly as efficient as you might have expected. That is a common problem of the Core Y platforms, as they have to work harder to meet certain requirements, and as a result end up requiring more or less than same energy as the Core U platforms when performing daily chores. Under high loads, the Core Ys are more efficient, but at the same time not capable of handling the same demands as the Core Us.
The laptop comes with a 45 Wh power brick and a full-recharge takes around 2 hours. It charges via USB-C.
Price and availability
The Aspire Swift 7 is available in stores and starts at $1099 in the US, with some models going for as much as 1300 EUR in Europe.
The base configuration includes the Core i5-7Y54 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. A more affordable version with a Core m3 Kaby Lake processor should be available in the near future as well, for around $1000.
Follow this link for the latest configurations available at the time you’re reading this article and updated prices.
Expect the Acer Aspire Swift 7 to start at around $1000
I really wanted to like this laptop. Maybe I expected too much from it, but the truth is, after spending these last days with it I’m convinced the Acer Swift 7 is not going to be my next.
I appreciate its sturdy build and although the performance and battery life aren’t really on par with the other premium 13-inchers powered by Core U platforms, I can probably accept those in exchange for the fanless experience. But then there are so many aspects I wish were done differently.
I might be subjective on some of them, like the black and gold color scheme or the fact the screen doesn’t lean back flat, although its hinges’ design would have allowed it. Other aspects I just find annoying, like the abnormally large footprint, the status LEDs placed beneath the display, all the IO crammed on the right side or the fact that display is glossy, without being a touchscreen. And then there are those that are just unacceptable, like the fact the keyboard is not backlit, plus I have my concerns about coil whining, the trackpad and the wifi experience, which were lacking on this preview sample, but hopefully are not going to on the final retail units.
In their quest for the sleek profile, Acer cut quite a few corners on the Aspire Swift 7, that’s why this I not one of my favorites
Last, but not least, there’s the price to consider: $999 and up, from what we know so far. That’s a fair price, it’s not unexpected to be charged a little extra for the premium aesthetics. But if I were to spend that much on a computer in this day and age, it would have to check all the right boxes, especially since I’d be already trading in performance and battery life for the fanless experience, like I already mentioned above. The Swift 7 sacrifices quite a few of them in order to be the thinnest laptop of the moment, that’s why it’s not one of my favorites.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be the right one for you, especially down the line when the prices will drop. Just make sure you understand where it shines and where it falls short, and make sure you’re fine with all these aspects before taking the plunge.
If looking for other options, this article on the best ultraportables of the moment, this one on the lightest laptops out there and this one on fanless thin-and-lights are perfect places to start your search from.
With that in mind we’ll wrap up this post here. Get in touch in the comments section below if you have anything to add to this review of the Acer Swift 7 or any questions. I’ll be around to help you out if I can.