Acer Swift X Review (SFX14-41G): A rare beast

The Acer Swift series is the company’s line of premium, thin and light laptops, and today we will check out the latest Acer Swift X model, which was launched in India in September. Swift X is special because Acer has managed to wrap a powerful AMD processor and a discreet Nvidia GPU in a 14-inch laptop body that measures only about 18.8 mm thick. It is a car full of power for sure, with excellent portability, but with prices starting at Rs. 84,999, is that a good value? I’ve been using it since last week and I think so.

Design Acer Swift X

The Acer Swift X has a fairly standard form factor for the laptop, but the two-tone body color helps it stand out a bit. The silver and champagne gold trim on the unit I have looks good. It’s not too loud and yet it doesn’t look boring. The fit and finish of the chassis are good and there is not much flexibility around the palm rest. The lid has a bit of flexibility, but the screen looks well protected and doesn’t warp when light pressure is applied.

Weighing about 1.39 kg, the Acer Swift X is not too heavy, and its compact size makes it very portable. You have a good selection of ports for a 14-inch laptop. These include a USB 2.0 port, a stop-charging USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A USB port, a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C USB port that can also charge your laptop, and a full-size HDMI port. There’s also a headphone jack, a Kensington lock slot, and a round-pin charging port. There is no SD card slot on the Swift X. There are stereo speakers at the bottom and plenty of air vents. The drain hole is placed between the lid hinges.

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The direction keys feel cramped on an otherwise comfortable keyboard

The keys on the keyboard are well spaced and not very noisy. There is a white backlight that illuminates all the letters evenly. The arrow key group is slightly crowded, as the Pg Up and Pg Dn keys are placed just above it. The Acer Swift X has a fingerprint scanner placed just below the keyboard area. It is responsive and works well for Windows authentication. The trackpad is roomy and works well, though not as accurate as a glass trackpad.

The 14-inch screen on the Acer Swift X is an IPS panel with a 16: 9 aspect ratio and full-HD resolution. It has a supposed brightness of 300 nits and this was more than adequate for my use. The screen also has narrow edges on three of the four sides, along with a webcam at the top. In the box you will find a 90 W power adapter and the user manual.

Acer Swift X specifications and software

The Swift X configuration I received from Acer is available on its website in India at the time of writing. It features an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U processor with integrated Radeon graphics, 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB NVMe PCIe SSD and a discreet Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU. This is the list of specifications for a compact 14-inch laptop. This configuration is priced at Rs. 86,990 on the Acer website, down from Rs. 1.09,999 sticker price. There is another variant of Swift X with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, but I could not find this or another color variant online.

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Acer Swift X offers a good selection of ports, but it lacks an SD card slot

Acer claims that it has taken steps to manage all the heat from such powerful components mounted in a compact chassis. Air can be extracted from the gaps between the keys on the keyboard and there is a specially designed and positioned exhaust fan, which is said to increase airflow by 10%. You can go through different cooling modes with the Fn + F key combination.

Swift X also has the Acer PurifiedVoice system, which is said to suppress background noise when in a video call. You have Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, a 720p webcam and a 59 WHr 4-cell battery. The stereo speakers work with the DTSsound application, which offers various listening modes and equalization presets to play.

My drive came with Windows 10, but I was given the option to upgrade to Windows 11 during the initial setup process, which I did. Some pre-installed applications include a limited-time subscription to Norton Security Ultra and a full version of Microsoft Office 2021 Home & Student. Typical Acer applications, such as Care Center, are also present.

Acer Swift X battery performance and life

The Acer Swift X was a soldier when I used it, and I honestly didn’t expect anything less. Strong specifications make Windows 11 feel fast and everything works fine. Quickly start and load applications, and the display makes everything look clear and vivid. In fact, I’ve rarely woken up to 60 percent brightness when I’m indoors. The vertical viewing angles are also pretty decent. The screen has a matte finish, so reflections aren’t a big deal.

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The performance of Acer Swift X is very good thanks to the robust processor and GPU

The quality of the webcam was strictly average. Even if your face is well lit, the lights may look overexposed, and the darker areas are very grainy. The colors are even better than the ones you get from a MacBook Air (M1), but average overall. The keyboard is generally comfortable for typing, but the proximity of the Pg Up and Pg Down keys to the steering panel means that I would accidentally press the wrong key almost every time, which was annoying.

Watching videos on the Acer Swift X is nice, but the stereo speakers aren’t great and they sound poor. The volume is not loud enough for games, but they are fine for occasional use.

Speaking of games, Swift X manages to stay even in demanding games. Far Cry 5’s built-in benchmark averaged 51 fps with Ultra-preset graphics and native display resolution. There were times when the frame rate dropped briefly to 30 years during the actual game, but overall, the game worked very well. In Shadow of The Tomb Raider, the game’s benchmark returned an average frame rate of 49 fps at the “Highest” quality setting with DLSS enabled.

When playing Doom Eternal, the game limited the texture quality to the “average” setting due to insufficient video memory (there is 4 GB of GDDR6 RAM on the GeForce RTX 3050), but I managed to push the other sliders to “ultra”. Here, I had an average of 65-70 fps during the actual game.

Although it’s great to see such a compact laptop that handles moderately heavy gaming, a big side effect is overheating. Within minutes of starting the game, the exhaust fan rises and is audible. More worryingly, the bottom and most of the keyboard area are getting very hot, pretty fast. The right hand rest area is the only area that stays cool, but most of the keys, the left hand rest area, and the space above the keyboard become very hot. Unless you’re using a controller, games get awkward after a while because of this. Even with all the heating, the games worked well and I never felt that the performance is low.

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The Acer Swift X chassis is not designed to handle a powerful GPU, which is why it gets very, very hot when you’re playing.

CPU and SSD performance was also solid, according to several synthetic benchmarks. The SiSoft Sandra file system test suite recorded sequential read and write speeds of 2.3 GBps and 448 MBps, respectively, and random read and write speeds of 2.24 GBps and 377 MBps, respectively. In the CPU tests with one and more threads of the Cinebench R20, Acer Swift X gave 517 and 2,761 points, beating Intel Core i5-1135G7, as seen in our recent review MSI Modern 14, with a small margin.

This leads to longer battery life. Acer claims that the Swift X can offer up to 17 hours of video playback, but using it in the real world isn’t that simple. With the Windows 11 battery profile set to “Balanced”, I barely had about four and a half hours to run, and this happened with intermittent use with most web apps in Firefox, streaming music from Spotify to a Bluetooth headset, and some videos in the Prime Video App.

However, when the battery profile is set to “Energy efficiency” mode, I managed to achieve almost twice the operating time with a similar workload. Performance didn’t seem to be affected much, at least when using basic web browsing or music playback apps. Even Photoshop CC 2020 worked well in this setting. I also ran Battery Eater Pro, which ran for 1 hour and 50 minutes without using the discrete GPU. Realistically, you can expect about eight to nine hours of average battery life in Windows 11, which isn’t bad considering the specs of this laptop.

Verdict

The Acer Swift X is uniquely positioned to deliver great performance for designers, while being extremely portable and compact, which is rare. It looks good, works well and has a comfortable keyboard as well as a bright and vivid display. Battery life is also quite satisfactory, even if it doesn’t live up to Acer’s claims.

If I had to eliminate a few points, then this would be for the average quality webcam and the lack of an SD card slot. I’m not a big fan of the crowded steering block either. Swift X works very hot when stressed, especially during games, which is to be expected, as this chassis was not designed specifically for gaming.

Acer Swift X could be a great option if you want an ultraportable with a reasonable battery life, which can handle content creation software and even some games if the occasion demands it. However, if gaming is a priority, then I’d recommend looking at Acer’s Nitro or Asus TUF series of laptops, which offer more competitive specifications and better cooling at roughly the same or even lower prices.

Updated: March 14, 2022 — 2:03 am

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