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Acer Swift 3 OLED (2022, SF314-71) review: A portable laptop powerhouse

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £1199
(inc VAT)

One of our favourite compact laptops is updated with potent 12th gen Intel silicon and a 2.8K OLED screen


  • Fine 2.8K OLED display
  • Strong performance
  • Good 1080p webcam


  • Average battery life
  • Some Thermal throttling evident
  • No dGPU option

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Acer’s Swift 3 laptops are lightweight, slim and really pack in the value. This one isn’t as attractive as the OLED model we review on this page but it uses the same chassis and its Full HD IPS display should be absolutely fine for most uses. It’s on sale at the moment over at the Acer store with £200 off the usual asking price.

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Acer’s Swift 3 14in laptop is a perennial favourite here at Expert Reviews, so the arrival of a new model carrying Intel’s 12th Generation Alder Lake has been eagerly awaited. The new processor isn’t the only thing worth paying attention to, because the model we’ve been sent also has a 2.8K OLED screen, a significant upgrade on the Full HD IPS display on the last model we tested.

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Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: What you need to know

This is the fifth Swift 3 I’ve tested at Expert Reviews. The early models weren’t anything to write home about, but over the past couple of years, the Swift 3 has evolved to become a solid recommendation to anyone wanting an affordable, capable, well-made compact laptop.

The Swift 3 carries Intel’s Evo accreditation, which guarantees certain baselines in areas such as battery life, Wi-Fi speed, recharging rate and overall performance. I would argue that any laptop on sale today should meet those same targets, but the Evo sticker is a useful indication that the machine you’re about to buy passes muster. The new Swift 3 comfortably exceeds most Evo standards, with only battery life being a marginal pass.

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Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: Price and competition

Configuration tested: Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, Intel Iris Xe GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 14in 2,880 x 1,800 OLED non-touchscreen; Price: £1,199

Saying you own an Acer Swift 3 is like saying you own a Ford: you must be more specific. What I have here is a Swift 3 SF314-71 and, more specifically, the top-of-the-range model with a 2.8K OLED panel, 1TB SSD, Core i7-12700H CPU and 16GB of RAM. It will set you back £1,199.

Two other cheaper variants are also available with the same display and 16GB of RAM, one with a Core i5-12500H processor and a 512GB SSD for £999 and another with the Core i7-12700H processor but a 512GB SSD for £1,099.

HP’s new Pavilion Plus 14 is an obvious competitor, being similar in both size and appearance. It also has a 14in 2.8K OLED display, but rather than include a powerful CPU it has an efficiency-oriented chip backed up by a discrete GPU, Nvidia’s RTX 2050. This means the Pavilion Plus is beaten by the Swift 3 when it comes to productivity, but it steals the Acer’s lunch money when it comes to graphics work.

Apple’s MacBook Air is very highly regarded and is only a little more expensive. The Air’s display is smaller and lower resolution, and you have to make do with only two Thunderbolt 4 ports, but exceptional battery life is a very good reason to choose Apple’s laptop.

When we tested Asus’ OLED-screen ZenBook we liked the 13.3in 2.8K display and powerful AMD Ryzen 7 6800U CPU/Radeon 680M GPU underpinnings, not to mention the lack of weight. At 1kg, it makes the MacBook Air look overweight. Only the 720p webcam let the side down; for £1,300 you should expect better.

Huawei’s MateBook 14s is very 2021 but there are excellent deals to be had. Age has not dimmed the quality of the 90Hz 2.2K 14.2in display or the superb speaker system. The Tiger Lake Core i7-11370H processor still has enough power for most people and the battery life is decent.

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Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: Design and build quality

The latest Swift 3 looks very similar to the model I reviewed last year year, the SF314-511. The only distinguishing features are the touchpad, which is now located centrally rather than slightly offset, and the fingerprint scanner now forms part of the power button rather than sitting below the cursor keys.

At 313 x 213 x 18mm and 1.4kg, the latest Swift 3 is a shade heavier, thicker and deeper than the older model, but it’s 9mm narrower. The HP Pavilion Plus is almost identical in terms of size and weight.

The body and lid of the Swift 3 are still made from aluminium, which makes for a sturdy unit. You have to give the lid a brutal twist to notice any flex. Acer’s press information shows two colour schemes, grey/silver and gold, but the choice is market specific and it doesn’t look like the UK will be getting the very attractive gold version.

The old Swift 3 wasn’t badly endowed with I/O ports but the new machine now has two Thunderbolt 4 spec Type-Cs ports to add to the two Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbits/sec) ports, HDMI 2.1 and 3.5mm audio jack of the old model. That’s a generous array when you consider that companies such as Apple and Dell are trying hard to make Type-A ports a thing of the past. There’s no memory card reader but it’s getting harder and harder to find a compact laptop with one these days.

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the DC-IN jack has vanished from the latest Swift 3, meaning that you’ll now be using one of those Type-C ports for charging duties.

Remove the bottom panel and you’ll find that the RAM modules are soldered to the motherboard, but you can access the M.2 2280 SSD and the Killer AX1675i WLAN card. There is also space for an M.2 2242 SSD, though only a PCIe Gen 3 spec card rather than the Gen 4 supported by the primary drive slot.

That WLAN card supports the latest 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E specification and there’s Bluetooth 5.2. The 1TB SSD in my review machine was a Micron unit that proved impressively fast, recording sequential read and write speeds of 3,141MB/sec and 3,111MB/sec respectively. In the comparator group, only the Asus ZenBook did better and then only in the read metric.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

The keyboard is carried over from the current Swift 3 series, but that’s no bad thing. The keyboard deck is solid and there is a reasonable amount of key travel. The layout doesn’t have any peculiarities, but having a white backlight shining through silver keycaps does create contrast issues, especially when using the lower of the two brightness settings.

The 105 x 65mm touchpad is made from something that Acer calls OceanGlass, which is marine-recovered plastic reconstituted into something that looks and feels like real glass. The touchpad works perfectly and the corner click-actions are deep and positive.

The 1080p webcam is a highlight, producing crisp and colourful video feeds that don’t get too noisy when the light levels drop. Judging by the quality of the video calls I made, there’s certainly more to Acer’s Temporal Noise Reduction (which improves the quality of video imagery) and PurifiedVoice noise reduction system than mere marketing flannel. One thing missing from the webcam is support for Windows Hello facial recognition, but there’s a fingerprint reader for biometric security.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: Display and audio

At the risk of starting the glaringly obvious, the 14in 2,880 x 1,800 OLED 90Hz display is a big step forward from the Full HD IPS display on the old Swift 3.

It is pointedly sharp, thanks to a pixel density of 242dpi. It’s bright and colourful too, maxing out at 432cd/m2 with 161.9% of the sRGB colour volume accounted for. The respective volumes for Adobe RGB and DC-P3 are 111.5% and 114.7%. The Colour accuracy was a little wayward, with a Delta E variance of 3.53, but that won’t bother anyone who doesn’t need to colour match at a professional level. Being an OLED panel, blacks are wholly black and the contrast ratio is perfect.

The brightness and gamut metrics are marginally better than those we recorded from the HP Pavilion Plus but the differences are negligible; both displays are superb and both make it hard to go back to 60Hz once you’ve spent time with a display that refreshes 50% faster. The Acer’s display also carries the TÜV Rhineland Eyesafe Display Certification, which should reduce eye strain without compromising colour registration.

The DTS-accredited speaker system isn’t the loudest you will find on a laptop, producing average volume levels of 76dB from a pink noise source at a 1m distance, and 81dB peaks from a music source. However, the sound is spacious and tuneful and there is even a reasonable depth and bass. There’s no sign of distortion or breakup at maximum volume, which makes listening to a movie soundtrack on the Swift 3 a pleasant experience.

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Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: Performance and battery life

The Swift 3 is an excellent performer thanks to the Intel Core i7-12700H processor. With six performance cores and eight efficiency cores, not to mention a maximum turbo clock speed of 4.7GHz and 16GB of LPDDR5 quad-channel RAM, it goes like the clappers. Expert Reviews standard 4K media benchmark scored 251, which is a good result for a laptop in this class and more than 100 points clear of the old model, which ran on a Core i7-1135G7 chip with 8GB of RAM. The GeekBench 5 scores tell a similar story; the new Swift 3 really does have legs.

When it comes to graphics the HP Pavilion Plus claws back ground thanks to its Nvidia RTX 2050 dGPU. For instance, the Swift 3 could only run the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling test at 14.1fps compared to the HP’s 39.1fps. You’ll struggle to get many AAA games to run on the Swift 3, unlike the Pavilion Plus, which has 4GB of video RAM and support for Nvidia’s DLSS tech and ray tracing. That said, light gaming with recent titles is not out of the question. I tried Metal: Hellsinger and managed to get a reliable 40fps at 1,920 x 1,200 by knocking the detail settings down to Low, which is pretty impressive for a laptop without a discrete GPU.

I did wonder how such a small laptop with a single fan would cope with the heat generated by that H-series i7 chip and the answer is not all that well. The case didn’t get excessively hot in my tests, but that’s because the chip is clearly being throttled when the temperature rises. After an hour of gaming, I ran our 4K benchmark again and it scored a more modest 211 points, making the Swift 3 more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner. If you hit the Fn+F keys you can put the Swift into Performance mode which runs the fans continually at full speed. It’s reasonably quiet while doing this, but the effect on thermal throttling is minimal.

The battery inside the Swift 3 is rated at 59Wh and ran for 8 hours and 2 minutes in our standard video rundown test, 30 minutes more than the Pavilion Plus which has a smaller 51Wh battery. Neither are particularly bad scores considering both laptops have 2.8K 90Hz displays, but getting through a full day at the office without recourse to a charger will be touch and go.

Acer Swift 3 SF314-71 review: Verdict

The latest Swift 3 has all the strengths that have made it a perennial favourite here at Expert Reviews, but now it has the added appeal of Alder Lake power and a cracking 2.8K OLED display. Battery life has taken a hit, but the new chip and display were always going to have that effect.

The new model is naturally more expensive than the old one but that too was to be expected. Is it still our favourite machine in this class? That’s a tough question to answer because the new Pavilion Plus 14 is very strong competition. It all comes down to the question “Do you want a discrete GPU”? If you do, buy the HP, if you don’t, I would lean towards the Acer. Both are very fine laptops.

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