Acer Swift X (SFX14-41G) in the test: a rare beast

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The Acer Swift series is the company’s line of premium thin-and-light laptops, and today we’re going to take a look at the latest Acer Swift X model, which launched in India in September. The Swift X is something special as Acer has managed to pack a powerful AMD CPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU into a 14-inch laptop case that is only about 18.8 mm thick. It’s a powerful machine with great portability for sure, but with prices starting at Rs. 84,999, is it good value? I’ve been using it for the last week and that’s what I’m thinking.

Acer Swift X design

The Acer Swift X has a pretty normal laptop form factor, but the two-tone body color makes it stand out a bit. The silver and champagne gold trim on the unit that I have looks great. It’s not too flashy and still doesn’t look boring. The fit and workmanship of the chassis is good and the palm rest area is not very flexible. The lid can be bent a bit, but the display looks well protected and does not warp even with light pressure.

Weighing around 1.39 kg, the Acer Swift X isn’t too heavy and its compact overall size makes it very portable. You get a good selection of ports for a 14-inch laptop. This includes a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port with power-off charging, a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port that can also charge the laptop, and a full-size HDMI port. There is also a headphone jack, a Kensington lock slot and a circular charging port. The Swift X does not have an SD card slot. There are stereo speakers and plenty of air inlets on the underside. The exhaust air opening is located between the hinges of the lid.

The directional keys feel tight on an otherwise comfortable keyboard

The keys on the keyboard are well spaced and not very loud. There is a white backlight that illuminates all letters evenly. The arrow keypad is a bit cramped as the Pg Up and Pg Dn buttons are placed directly above it. The Acer Swift X has a fingerprint scanner that is placed just below the keyboard area. It’s responsive and works well for logging into Windows. The trackpad is roomy and works well, although it isn’t as precise as a glass trackpad.

The 14-inch display of the Acer Swift X is an IPS panel with an aspect ratio of 16: 9 and a full HD resolution. It has a claimed brightness of 300 nits and this was more than sufficient for my use. The display also has narrow bezels on three of its four sides and a webcam on the top. In the box you will find a 90W power supply and the instruction manual.

Acer Swift X specifications and software

The configuration of the Swift X that I received from Acer is available on its Indian website at the time of writing this review. It has an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U CPU with integrated Radeon graphics, 16 GB RAM, a 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD and a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU. This is the specification list for a compact 14-inch laptop. This configuration costs Rs. 86,990 on the Acer website, from its Rs. 1,09,999 sticker price. There is another variant of the Swift X with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, but I couldn’t find this or any other color variant online.

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

Acer claims to have taken precautions to handle all of the heat from these powerful components housed in a compact body. Air can be drawn in from the gaps between the keys on the keyboard, and there is a specially designed and positioned exhaust fan that is designed to increase airflow by 10 percent. With the key combination Fn + F you can switch through different cooling modes.

The Swift X also features Acer’s PurifiedVoice system, which is designed to suppress background noise during a video call. You get Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, a 720p webcam, and a 4-cell 59 Wh battery. The stereo speakers work with the DTSsound app, which offers various listening modes and equalizer presets for gaming.

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

Acer Swift X performance and battery life

The Acer Swift X was just a trooper at the time I used it, and frankly, I wasn’t expecting anything less. The powerful specs make Windows 11 seem snappy and everything works very well. It boots and loads apps quickly, and the display makes everything look sharp and alive. In fact, I’ve rarely increased the brightness above 60 percent indoors. The vertical viewing angles are also quite decent. The display has a matte surface, so reflections are not a big problem.

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The performance of the Acer Swift X is very good thanks to the beefy CPU and GPU

The quality of the webcam was strictly average. Even if your face is well-lit, highlights can look overexposed and darker areas are very grainy. The colors are still better than a MacBook Air (M1) but average overall. The keyboard is generally comfortable to type, but the proximity of the Pg Up and Pg Down keys to the direction pad makes me accidentally hit the wrong key almost every time, which was annoying.

Watching videos on the Acer Swift X is fun, but the stereo speakers aren’t great and sound tinny. The volume isn’t loud enough for gaming, but it’s fine for occasional use.

Speaking of gaming: The Swift X can also hold its own in demanding games. The integrated benchmark of Far Cry 5 averaged 51 fps with the ultra graphics preset and the native resolution of the display. There were times when the frame rate dropped briefly to the 30s during actual game, but overall the game ran very smoothly. In Shadow of The Tomb Raider, the benchmark of the game delivered an average frame rate of 49 fps with the quality setting “Highest” with activated DLSS.

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

While it’s great to see that such a compact laptop can handle moderately heavy gaming, a big side effect is excessive heating. The exhaust fan starts up and is audible within minutes of starting a game. More worryingly, the bottom and most of the keyboard area get very hot pretty quickly. The right palm rest is the only area that stays cool, but most of the keys, the left palm rest, and the space above the keyboard get very hot. Because of this, if you don’t use a controller, it will make gaming uncomfortable after a while. Despite all the heating, however, the games went well and I never had the feeling that the performance was being throttled.

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The chassis of the Acer Swift X is not designed for a powerful GPU, which is why it gets very, very hot when gaming

The CPU and SSD performance were also solid according to several synthetic benchmarks. The file system test suite from SiSoft Sandra recorded sequential read and write speeds of 2.3 GB / s and 448 MB / s and random read and write speeds of 2.24 GB / s and 377 MB / s. In the single and multi-threaded CPU tests of the Cinebench R20, the Acer Swift X achieved 517 and 2761 points respectively and thus just beats the Intel Core i5-1135G7 from our current MSI Modern 14 test.

This brings us to the battery life. Acer claims the Swift X can deliver up to 17 hours of video playback, but it isn’t that easy to use in real life. With the battery profile of Windows 11 on “Balanced”, I barely achieved four and a half hours of runtime, and this with intermittent use mainly with web apps in Firefox, music from Spotify that is streamed to a Bluetooth headset, and some videos in Prime Video App.

However, with the battery profile set to ‘Power Efficiency’ mode, I was able to get almost double the runtime with a similar workload. Performance didn’t seem to be affected too much, at least when using basic web browsing or music-playing apps. Even Photoshop CC 2020 ran flawlessly under this setting. I also ran Battery Eater Pro, which ran for a decent 1 hour and 50 minutes without using the separate GPU. Realistically, you can expect around eight to nine hours of runtime in the energy-saving profile of Windows 11 with average use, which is not at all bad in view of the specifications of this laptop.

verdict

The Acer Swift X is uniquely positioned to offer developers very good performance while being very portable and compact, which is rarely found. It looks good, performs well, and has a comfortable keyboard and a bright and vibrant display. The battery life is also quite satisfactory, even if it doesn’t quite live up to Acer’s demands.

If I had to subtract a few points, it would be the average quality of the webcam and the lack of an SD card slot. I’m not a huge fan of the cramped directional buttons either. The Swift X gets very hot under load, especially when gaming, which is to be expected as this chassis is not exactly designed for gaming.

The Acer Swift X could be a very good option if you are looking for an ultraportable device with decent battery life that can handle content creation software and even some games if the occasion calls for it. However, if gaming is a priority I would recommend looking at the Acer Nitro or Asus TUF series notebooks, which offer more competitive specs and better cooling at roughly the same or even lower prices.

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