THE DRIVE TO SHED millimetres off ultraportables continues with Acer's re-designed Swift 5, which it claims is the "world's thinnest 14in laptop".
But a svelte frame is one thing, performance is another. But the new Swift 5 promises a good bit of grunt under its slim chassis. We got our hands on the new machine and have some thoughts.
There no doubt at a mere 14.95mm thin, the Acer Swift 5 is a slim laptop. And at 990g it's pretty light as well; it's trivially simple to hold it up with but a few digits.
Yet despite this, it's decently equipped with ports. There's a pair of USB Type-A ports - one on the left and one on the right - as well as an HDMI slot, USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Kensington lock.
It looks pretty fetching in a deep, dark blue with a coppery gold logo and hinge.
Speaking of which, the hinge is not only pleasingly rounded, but it also acts as a means to prop up the laptop's bottom section at a slight angle, supposedly aiding the typing action.
We're not hugely convinced by the benefit of that. And while the keyboard deck itself is solid enough, to our fingers the keys felt a little spongy yet also lacking in travel and tactile feedback.
Sadly, the mission to cut down on weight and bulk has left the Swift 5 with a plastic rather than a glass-topped trackpad. It's responsive though, which is very much what we want in a Windows 10 laptop. The dive-board mechanism beneath the trackpad delivers a slightly flimsy feeling click; if corners have been cut with the Swift 5, then it's here.
Aside from that, the Swift 5 is a nicely made machine that's easy on the eye. It doesn't quite have the premium feel of something like an HP Spectre 13 or MacBook Pro in terms of finish, but it's a pleasant machine to ogle and fondle.
With a Full HD IPS panel, the Swift 5 isn't exactly delivering a 14in display with a super-sharp resolution. But 1080p is still good enough for a screen of this size and text looks plenty clear.
Colours and contrast seem decent enough, though we can't really test this properly until we have a unit for a proper review.
But the brightness seemed a tad lacking even when we whacked it up to full, which might be one of the reasons why the colours aren't exactly singing to us. That could be due to an ambient light sensor holding the scree back from full brightness, but we don't know that for sure yet.
The bezels are reasonably trim, which we always appreciate, though there's still space for a webcam in the top bezel. However, there's a lot of wobble and flex in the screen and lid, which doesn't exactly scream solid construction for the Swift 5. Again, that's probably the price one pays for having such a slim and light machine, and it's a compromise we could live with.
Performance, storage and battery life
We couldn't really test the Swift 5's performance properly in our hands-on, but the model we had our mitts on came with Intel's new tenth-generation Core i7-1065G7 processor. That's an Ice Lake 10-nanometre CPU that comes with Intel's new Iris Plus integrated graphics, which promise a significant hike in pixel-pushing power over the older Intel UHD graphics accelerators.
But this Swift 5 also had GeForce MX250 dedicated graphics card to go alongside the processor. In the hands-on unit, the display wasn't connected to the GPU, rather it was running on the Iris Plus, so we have no idea how that GPU performs in this configuration.
We were able to get Geekbench 4 running on the Swift 5, and with the caveat, it's a display machine, the results were quite promising. In the single-core score, the Swift 5 managed a very solid 4,109, while in the multi-core test it raked in 10,372.
That's roughly on par with the likes of the Surface Laptop 2, though Geekbench 4 showed the CPU running at a maximum of 2.23GHz, despite the chip supposedly being able to hit 3.5GHz across all its cores.
The chip has a configurable thermal design power of 15W to 25W, so given the result here, we have a sneaking suspicion that maximum processor horsepower wasn't extracted from the CPU in this case. Again, this was a fly-by test so we can't make any definitive judgments here.
RAM is this model came in at 8GB, but the last Swift 5 came with up to 16GB so that could be the same deal here; Acer hasn't confirmed this though. Storage comes in the form of a 512GB PCIe SSD, though this is the top configuration, which is decent enough for an ultraportable.
As for battery life, Acer reckons the Swift 5 will deliver up to 12.5 hours of electrical juice. We'd need to see this for ourselves, and didn't really get an impression of the laptop's endurance from our hands-on.
The Swift 5 is yet again an impressively slim machine that'll appeal to regular road warriors who want a properly lightweight machine to lug around.
We have some reservations about the keyboard, trackpad and the wobble in the lid, but otherwise, things look positive for the Swift 5, especially if the Core i7-1065G7 delivers the performance good Intel promises.
We won't have to wait too long to find out as the Swift 5 is due for release at some point this month, with prices starting at 899 Euro, around £812, which is a pretty competitive price for such a machine.
There is the caveat that we expect more laptops with Ice Lake chips to make their debut, so the Swift 5 might only have a swift moment in the limelight before competition from other Windows 10 laptop makers pops up. µ