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Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 and SF314-42 (2020) review: Strikes a fine balance between power and price

Tom Bruce
14 Jul 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
850
inc VAT

The Swift 3 is a portable, speedy laptop with a lovely FHD display. Can you do any better at this price?

Pros 
Lightweight
Reasonably priced
Nice, colour-accurate FHD display
Cons 
Short battery life
Distracting humming noise
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The Acer Swift 3 is the sensible choice. Unlike the latest Dell XPS 13 or Microsoft Surface Laptop, it won’t inspire the awe and jealousy of your colleagues. It’s the laptop you buy if you want a competent, well-made machine that gets the job done, without breaking the bank.

While it may not be the most luxurious Windows 10 ultraportable on the market, it’s certainly one of the most keenly priced. The question is, can you spend less and do even better?

READ NEXT: The best laptops you can buy right now

Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) review: What you need to know

The Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) is yet another refresh in the popular Swift 3 ultraportable series. It’s actually the third Swift 3 we’ve tested at Expert Reviews. Where those older models were underpowered disappointments, this new model is surprisingly well-specified.

We've tested two variants of the 2020 Swift 3 and both are surprisingly quick on their feet. The first is powered by a 10th-Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 with integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics, backed by 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The second has one of the latest AMD Ryzen 4000-series CPUs at its heart: the Ryzen 7 4700U, with 8GB of RAM for company and a 512GB SSD. 

Both laptops have a 14in IPS non-touch Full HD display. You can also get the Acer Swift 3 (2020) with an Intel Core i5-1035G1, but it’s harder to find online.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) review: Price and competition

With an RRP of £850, the Intel Core i7 based Acer Swift 3 (2020) is competitively priced. You’d hardly call it budget but it isn’t a bad deal for a well-built laptop packing a 10th-Gen Intel Core i7. As I write, Amazon is selling the exact specification I’m testing here, with the same iron grey finish, for only £816. If you want to buy this model from Acer’s own store then you’ll have to pay the full £850 and you’d better like pink because that’s the only colour available.

The Ryzen 7 4700U variant is slightly better value than the Intel mode, though, costing £50 less for a laptop with a larger 1TB SSD, faster performance across the board and better battery life, but a lower quality display. You can buy that version at Currys PC World for £799.

Buy now from Currys PC World


One of the Swift 3’s closest rivals is its fancier sibling, the Acer Swift 5 (2019), which we tested in January of this year. Our £899 review unit had a Full HD touchscreen, a 10th-Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. If you want some extra firepower, the Swift 5 is also available with a Core i7, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

For a more premium alternative to the Swift 3, you can do no better than the Dell XPS 13 (2020). The model we tested packs an Intel Core i7-1065G7 backed by 16GB RAM, and it excelled in every single one of our benchmarks. It does cost £1,599, however. For a similarly-specced Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5in, you’ll have to hand over £1,549.

Working to a budget? You don’t have to spend the earth to get a well-made, high-powered 14in notebook. The Honor MagicBook 14 costs only £550 from Amazon, yet its AMD Ryzen 5 3500 processor delivers performance that’s on par with all the laptops listed above. Its display is a little disappointing but, other than that, it’s an outstanding machine for a lot less.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) review: Design, keyboard and touchpad

The Swift 3’s design could be described as minimalist, but that might be being a bit generous. It’s no beauty, favouring function over frills, but it is fairly well put together. The laptop is encased in a thin metal chassis and finished in plain iron grey. Although it’s a sturdy build, for the most part, the lid and wrist-rest could do with some reinforcement.

Weighing 1.19kg and measuring 320 x 217 x 15.6mm, it’s a lightweight, slender machine. It isn’t quite as slim as the LG Gram 14 – but then again, nothing is. Acer has incorporated a robust 180-degree hinge on the Swift 3 and this swivels back and forth with ease, making it a pleasure to open up. The Swift’s bezel-to-screen ratio is good, too, with slim borders on the left and right and thicker bezels on the top and bottom. Its bog-standard 720p webcam is housed in the bezel above the display.

There’s a decent selection of ports here, including an HDMI output and USB-C 3.2 Gen 2/Thunderbolt 3 slot on the left-hand side along with the power connecter and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port. On the right is a 3.5mm audio jack, one USB-A 2.0 port and a cable lock slot and below the keyboard is a recessed rectangular fingerprint reader. It’s an unusual shape for a fingerprint sensor and I found it had a hard time reading my prints, so you’re probably better off just typing in a PIN.

The keyboard itself has a standard chiclet-style design with three levels of LED backlighting. There’s not much travel to the keys and they have a muted sound when pressed, so typing is fairly quiet as a result. Because there’s not much space to work with, the keyboard layout is compact, meaning that some keys have been downsized or squeezed together.

This is mostly fine apart from the arrow, PgUp and PgDn keys, all of which have been squished into a tiny space in the corner. Inevitably, I accidentally pressed the Pg Up and Pg Dn keys with a maddening frequency; if I owned the Swift 3, I’d be disabling these the first chance I got. As for the diving board touchpad, I have no complaints. It’s on the small side but it’s responsive enough and the clickers work well.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) review: Display and audio

Somewhat surprisingly, the Swift 3’s Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display is fantastic. I say it’s a surprise because the two Swift 3 screens we’ve tested previously were miserable affairs. Not this one. It's well worth noting, though, that if you purchase the Ryzen model, the panel is significantly worse.

The Intel mode's panel covers 93.7% of the sRGB colour gamut, with a volume of 95% and an average Delta E of 1.74, it’s exceptionally vibrant and highly-colour accurate too. It hits 291cd/m² at peak brightness, which is perfectly fine for a typical working environment, and its 1,232:1 contrast ratio lends the screen plenty of pop.

Contrast that with the Ryzen model's sRGB coverage of 52.7%, dim peak brightness of only 212cd/m2 and overall poor colour accuracy and it's clear that cuts have been made to hit such a low price.

The Acer Swift 3 has a pair of tinny speakers located on the underside of the chassis. These stereo speakers aren’t nearly loud enough for my liking and the bass is awful. Whether you’re playing Mozart or Slayer, music comes across sounding whiny and metallic. It’s fine for Zoom calls and YouTube videos but that’s about it.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) review: Performance and battery life

It's a shame about the display because the Ryzen 7-based Swift 3 comfortably outperforms its Intel Core i7-1065G7 rival on all other fronts and with both laptops supported 8GB RAM that's no mean feat. Note that the RAM is soldered in and there are no free slots for expansion but you shouldn’t need more on a machine of this specification.

In day-to-day use, both models feel snappy in use. They power on rapidly, boot up games without issue and seem comfortable running dozens of Chrome tabs at once. However, the Intel review unit did let out a persistent humming noise, even when the CPU wasn’t being taxed that heavily.

In our 4K media benchmark, the Swift 3 performed roughly as expected, reaching an overall score of 87, beating the 75 achieved by the Core i5-powered Acer Swift 5 (2019). As the chart above indicates, the Swift 3 is no match for the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 and Dell XPS 13 (2020), both of which use a Core i7-1065G7 and 16GB RAM. But all these laptops are bested by the Honor MagicBook 14, which hit 109 in the 4K media test with its AMD Ryzen 5 3500 and 8GB RAM.

Both CPU variants employ integrated graphics. On the Intel laptop, you're getting Intel Iris Plus Graphics, while on the AMD machine you're getting RX Vega 7 graphics. In the GFXBench OpenGL benchmark (above), the Intel machine edges in front but in DirectX based games (below), the Ryzen chip streaks ahead.

Unfortunately, the 512GB SSD inside the Acer Swift 3 isn’t quite as good. In the AS SSD test, it recorded a sequential file read speed of 1,567MB/sec and a write speed of 1,382MB/sec. The write speed is fine, but the read speed is way behind that of competitors like the XPS 13 and MagicBook 14.

The battery life is better on the AMD-based Swift 3, too, although it's still middling. In our video rundown test, it lasted only 8hrs 10mins (vs 6hrs 15mins for the Intel) before powering down.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-57 (2020) review: Verdict

At £850 (or £800), the Acer Swift 3 is positioned quite neatly between the luxurious ultraportables of Dell and Microsoft and the tempting affordability of Honor’s MagicBook 14. It’s a strong performer in most areas, whether you choose the Intel or AMD model, and the display (only on the Intel model, mind) is impressive, too.

There are a few things holding it back from an unqualified recommendation, though. The battery life isn't great; this simply isn't an all-day, take-it-anywhere work unit. There’s also that rather weak audio and generally uninspiring design.

So what do you buy, if not this? The £549 Honor MagicBook 14 is the obvious choice so long as you don’t mind the display’s poor colour accuracy. And, if money is less of an issue, then you can’t go wrong with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 the Dell XPS 13 (2020) or perhaps the Honor MagicBook Pro at £850, which has a much nicer 16in display and superior all-round build quality.

Acer Swift 3 (2020)
ProcessorIntel Core i7-1065G7
RAM8GB
Additional memory slotsNo
Max. memory8GB
Graphics adapterIntel Iris Plus
Graphics memoryShared
Storage512GB
Screen size (in)14
Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080
Pixel density (PPI)157
Screen typeIPS
TouchscreenNo
Pointing devicesTouchpad
Optical driveNo
Memory card slotNo
3.5mm audio jackYes
Graphics outputsHDMI, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (Thunderbolt 3)
Other ports1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, power, cable lock slot
Web Cam640p
SpeakersStereo
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
BluetoothBluetooth 5
NFCNo
W (mm)320
D (mm)217
H (mm)15.6
Dimensions, mm (WDH)320 x 217 x 15.6mm
Weight (kg) 1.19
Battery size (Wh)48
Operating systemWindows 10 Home

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