Like many, I had a fixed idea of what Acer did in the mobile computing space. Serviceable, but unexciting laptops or Chromebooks with a near infinite range of bewildering product codes and model numbers. After spending some time in the company of the new 2016 Swift 7, I’ve had to rethink that opinion.
As soon as you hold the device in your hands you know it is something just a little bit special. Firstly, it is impossibly thin. At less than 10mm at the thickest point, it makes the majority of ultrabooks out there look as though they may have had one pie too many. Comparisons will obviously be made to Apple’s products, but where the cheapest MacBook weighs in at £1249 and only has a Core M3 processor, this manages to squeeze a 7th generation Core i5 into the chassis for £999 (and can be had for £899 if you shop around.) This represents very good value for such a premium design.
Only one colour of chassis is currently available – gold – which may not be to everyone’s taste, with a black lid. The keyboard is of the familiar chiclet variety but lacks backlighting (something which is pretty much standard on a premium laptop these days.) The spacing of the keys initially looks a little strange, with some big gaps between the keys, but in use is absolutely fine. The keys have an excellent amount of travel considering the very slim design and touch typing presents no problems. One slight fly in the ointment is the odd placing of the power button, which is next to the Delete key. I can imagine some howls of anguish after holding down the wrong key.
The trackpad is epic. I’m not entirely sure why it needs to be so big. In use, I didn’t find it interfered with my typing, but it is a curious design choice. The accuracy and responsiveness of the trackpad is good and gestures are supported (as one would expect with a premium ultrabook.)
Acer have managed to squeeze 2 USB-C ports into the chassis, providing power and connectivity and, in a nod to legacy hardware, include a USB-C to USB 3 convertor in the box, which is a classy gesture guaranteed to generate goodwill amongst those of us who aren’t quite ready to upgrade all our old peripherals just yet. A headset socket is also present as well as a connector for a security lock. Two lights are visible to show the battery charge status and activity, even with the screen closed. There is no SD card slot in this model, which is a shame.
The screen itself is a delight. Sadly it is not a touch screen, but in practice this isn’t a bad thing. So thin is the screen and so light is the base that prodding at the glossy IPS panel causes the whole laptop to move. The HD (1920 x 1080) screen is bright and pleasant on the eye. It is a shame that Acer were unable to trim away more of the bezel around the screen, but with the whole display covered in Gorilla Glass, there is little to complain about. A webcam sits in the correct location – at the top centre of the screen – but sadly is not compatible with Windows Hello, which is both surprising and disappointing.
Performance-wise, the 7th generation Core i5 CPU (although be aware that this is the 7Y54 variant that has a stock speed of 1.2ghz), accompanied by 8gb of RAM and a 256gb SSD, chews through the majority of normal daily tasks with ease. The Intel HD 615 graphics means that this isn’t a hardcore gaming rig, but for most other tasks is more than adequate. Acer claim 9 hours of battery life, which seems reasonable based on my testing (general work and browsing.) The fanless design means that this laptop is silent, and remains surprisingly cool. However, that same fanless design means the CPU will be unable to sustain the maximum boost possible. Again, this isn’t a problem if you plan to use this laptop for office productivity tasks rather than video encoding or gaming.
In conclusion, Acer have managed to pack a surprising amount of power into a very small space with very little compromise and at a price point that is very attractive. At 32cm by 23cm, it is slightly larger than A4, but being so thin is easy to slip into a bag and carry around. The single choice of colour could end up being a bit divisive, but the design certainly does stand out from the crowd. If you are in the market for an ultrabook, then the Swift 7 is worth very careful consideration.