A super-light 16in laptop with a potent AMD chipset and a glorious UHD OLED screen
- Sumptuous UHD display
- Potent AMD chipset
- Weighs next to nothing
- Good selection of I/O ports
- No Thunderbolt
- Quiet speakers
- Keyboard is a bit bouncy
- Middling battery life
When it comes to lightweight laptops, there will always be a trade-off between weight, screen size and structural integrity. Creating such a device with a 13in screen is relatively easy; just ask Dell, whose XPS 13 Plus (£1,469) weighs just 1.23kg and is wonderfully petite and solid. However, achieving that same balance in a 16in model – with a similar weight or less, and with a robust structural integrity – is a challenge. To date, LG has most successfully reconciled the contradictions with its super-light 16-incher, the Gram 16 (£1,549); but now, Acer is gunning for the title with its new Swift Edge.
Acer Swift Edge review: What you need to know
When it comes to battle between the major Windows laptop OEMs, super-light, full-sized laptops are fast becoming the front line. Samsung was one of the first out of the blocks with the Galaxy Book Pro (£799), soon to be joined by LG with its Gram 16. Now, Acer joins the fight with the Swift Edge. All three machines offer full-sized 16in utility, but weigh less than your average 13.6in compact.
In addition, it appears they do so without making any obvious sacrifices. After all, making a laptop thin and light is easy if you remove most of the I/O ports and include a small battery. However, the major sacrifice likely made in doing so will be to structural rigidity; no matter how cleverly you use weight-saving magnesium alloys and plastic, a 1kg laptop will never be as robust as a 2kg model.
In one specific area, Acer has pushed this type of device forward. While Samsung offers an OLED screen, it’s only Full HD; and while LG offers a 2.5K panel, it’s IPS. Acer has fitted the Edge with a UHD OLED display, however, which gives it an automatic advantage out of the blocks when it comes to attracting users who prioritise display fidelity above all else.
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Acer Swift Edge review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: AMD Ryzen 7 6800U CPU, AMD Radeon 660M GPU, 16GB of quad-channel RAM, 1TB SSD, 16in 3,840 x 2,400 OLED; Price: £1,599
If there’s one machine the new Acer needs to beat its LG’s Gram 16 (£1,549). Also a super-light 16in notebook, the Gram 16 boasts excellent battery life and a superb keyboard, complete with numeric keypad. It displays a bit of flex, but it does comply with the MIL-STD 810G standard, and performance is decent thanks to its Intel Core i7-1260P processor. Going into this review, it’s the best in class.
Say the words “compact, light laptop” three times in the mirror and you’ll likely see an M2 MacBook Air (£1,549) appear. As we said in our review of that model, why would you consider anything else? It’s a cracking little machine, powerful too, with an excellent display and epic battery life. However, it’s heavier than the Acer, despite having only a 13.3in display. And if you match the Acer Edge’s spec of 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, you’ll be spending almost £2,000.
Samsung’s Galaxy Book 2 Pro (reviewed here in 360 2-in-1 form) also arrives with an OLED display – a touch-enabled one at that – but it’s only a 15.6in Full HD affair. Right now, Samsung is offering it at £1,249, which is £200 off the usual RRP. However, for that sum you’re having to make do with a 512GB SSD; the 1TB card is restricted to the 2-in-1 model. Surprisingly, it does weigh in slightly lighter than the Swift Edge.
If you’re after a 16in laptop and aren’t too concerned about its weight then Huawei’s MateBook 16s is worth a look. The Core i7-12700H processor delivers excellent performance and the 2.5K display is both attractive and touch-enabled. The sound system is excellent, too. Right now it can be yours for just £1,100, making it enticing value.
Acer Swift Edge review: Design and build quality
The Swift Edge’s main selling point is weight – or, rather, the lack of it. At 1.17kg, it makes the 1.24kg MacBook Air feel almost porcine and, more importantly, has the LG Gram 16 (1.2kg) beaten. The Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro is lighter yet at 1.11kg, but that device comes with a smaller screen. Of course, it could be argued that the difference between those three Windows machines is so negligible as to be irrelevant; the Huawei MateBook 16s weighs almost twice as much at 2kg.
At 357 x 242 x 14mm, the Acer is naturally bigger than the Apple and Samsung machines, but there’s very little to choose between the Edge and the Gram 16 – the Acer being slightly thinner but also slightly wider.
The design can best be described as industrial-angular, with nary a curve in sight. The display takes up 92% of the Edge’s footprint, making the screen bezels suitably slender and adding to the model’s sense of modernity. Acer’s press releases show two colour options, but only the Olivine Black model is available in the UK.
The new Acer, LG and Samsung devices all share a trait not seen in the Apple and Huawei machines: flexibility. By which I mean they bend, rather than that these laptops are multifunctional. To be fair to Acer, the Edge isn’t quite as wobbly as the LG or Samsung devices. Granted the lid does flex if you grab the corners and twist, but the magnesium-aluminium alloy body is surprisingly rigid. Unlike the Gram 16, the Edge lacks any sort of military-grade toughness, so it may be more vulnerable to particle ingress and vibration – although I suspect the differences in actual survivability are small.
For such a slim machine, the Edge has a healthy selection of I/O ports: there are two 10Gbits/sec USB-C ports on the left, an HDMI 2.1 video output and a 5Gbits/sec USB-A port. On the right sits another Type-A port, along with a 3.5mm audio jack and a wedge lock. Being an all-AMD machine there’s no support for Thunderbolt, and you’ll have to use one of the Type-Cs for charging duties. And it’s a shame there’s no card reader to facilitate the easy transfer of media files from camera to laptop.
Wireless communications are handled by a MediaTek RZ616 wireless card, which is a joint development between AMD and MediaTek that I haven’t encountered before. It’s certainly bang up to date in terms of specification, with support for 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, and seems to give nothing away to Intel’s ubiquitous AX211 card in terms of real-world performance or reliability.
Getting inside the Edge is easy enough once you’ve removed the ten Torx screws that hold the back panel in place. Care is required, though: the panel is made from a thin and fragile sheet of metal that can easily be bent. Once inside, you’ll find a spare 2280 M.2 SSD slot and easy access to the wireless card. Note that the quad-channel memory is soldered to the motherboard, however.
Acer Swift Edge review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam
It is in this area that the Swift Edge stumbles slightly, because there’s no denying that the keyboard is a little on the bouncy side, and not just at the centre. The key action is on the shallow side, too. Acer doesn’t state how long the key travel is, but I’d be surprised if it’s more than 1.3mm. None of this actually hampered my typing speed or enjoyment; but the keyboard is one of the Swift Edge’s less impressive features.
Its basic layout is fine, but the LG Gram 16 and the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro both feature numeric keypads, unlike the Acer. The two-level backlight worked well beneath the white-on-black keycaps, so there were no legibility or contrast issues to report.
I’ve no complaints about the centrally located trackpad, which at 125 x 82mm is large enough to accommodate even the most expensive gestures and has a pleasant tactile feel to it. The corner click actions are clean and precise. There did appear to be rather more travel in the right corner than in the left, however, although this may just be an isolated issue with this review machine.
The 1080p webcam produced bright and well-balanced images, even in low light, and managed to balance bright light sources without washing out the rest of the image. Sadly, the webcam doesn’t support Windows Hello Facial recognition, but the fingerprint reader built into the on/off button worked perfectly.
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Acer Swift Edge review: Display and audio
The Edge’s display is an absolute cracker. Colour registration is comprehensive, with gamut coverage of 100% sRGB, 95.4% Adobe RGB and 98.7% DCI-P3 (the volumes are 164.8%, 113.6% and 116.8% respectively). In addition, Delta E colour accuracy is extremely good at 0.83, which means the Swift Edge will handle even the most demanding colour-matching work out of the box.
The maximum brightness of 391cd/m² in SDR mode is the highest of all the Windows machines in this group, beaten only by the MacBook Air. The display also carries TÜV Rheinland Eyesafe Display certification, which means reduced blue light emission and thus less eye strain in prolonged use.
Raw numbers are only half the story, however, because even a half-decent 283dpi OLED screen should look stunning – and the Swift’s screen is very much more than half-decent. The crystal clarity and sumptuous colours make watching 4K video quite mesmerising. I can only wonder what it would look like with a refresh rate higher than the standard 60Hz.
The sound system can’t match the excellence of the display. The issue isn’t one of quality – the DTS-enabled speakers produce a warm, punchy and well-balanced sound in general – but rather of volume. Measuring against a pink noise source, the best the Acer’s speakers could manage was a lacklustre 73dB(A).
Acer Swift Edge review: Performance and battery life
The Edge scored a healthy 216 points in our multimedia benchmark, putting it one point ahead of the M2 MacBook Air, which is hardly a slouch. In the Geekbench 5 multicore test, the 8-core Ryzen 7 chip does give a little away to the 12-core Intel Core i7-1260P chip inside the competing Samsung and LG machines, but 7,500 remains a decent score, so the difference will be difficult – if not impossible – to notice in day-to-day use.In terms of graphics performance, the integrated Radeon 660M chip does have a small advantage over Intel’s Iris Xe, which is most clearly demonstrated by running the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling benchmark. The Radeon chip ran the test at 26.3fs at 1,920 x 1,200, which is almost twice as fast as Intel’s chip can manage. That’s still a lot slower than a discrete GPU can manage (Nvidia’s RTX2050 can run the test at around 40fs), but if you use the Edge for graphically demanding tasks regularly, then those small time savings will add up.
The 1TB Samsung-made SSD proved to be just a little faster inside the Edge than the exact same model of drive inside the LG Gram 16, returning impressive sequential read and write speeds of 5,061MB/s and 3,790MB/s respectively.Perversely, the Edge’s battery life is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because the 9hrs 36mins it scored in our rundown test is pretty good taken in its own right; but a weakness in that it’s still the lowest score in our group. As you’d expect, Apple takes the honours with the MacBook Air. LG and Samsung fight for second place as a result of both models including higher-capacity batteries than the Swift Edge’s 55Wh: 68Wh in the Samsung, and 80Wh in the LG. Of course, it should be noted that the Apple, LG and Samsung laptops all feature lower-resolution displays than the Swift Edge, which gives them an advantage here.
Acer Swift Edge review: Verdict
The new Acer Swift Edge’s key attributes are its excellent UHD display, feather-light 1.17kg weight and decent selection of ports. The LG Gram 16 (£1,549) features a better keyboard, and the MacBook Air (£1,549) feels a more premium machine; both offer better battery life, but neither the LG nor Apple machines can match the Acer’s stunning 283dpi OLED display. The performance advantage from the Acer’s AMD chipset is marginal, but it’s nevertheless an advantage – which, combined with its other strengths, makes it our new recommended super-light laptop.