The The Acer Swift 1 is a little different; budget laptops are often clunky, in both weight and performance. But Acer clearly has other ideas with its Swift 1 model. It's attractive, highly portable, has a fantastic battery life and carries out basic, every day computing tasks with ease – and all for a very low price.
But you can't have it all at this price tag, and the compromise here is performance. In short, it's limited, but if you're after a cheap laptop for typing, browsing and streaming, you'd be hard-pushed to find a better overall package.
After an in-depth look, we're in no doubt that this nifty little machine making it into our round-up of the best laptops for students. Let's take a look at exactly what it can do...
Acer Swift 1 review: design and display
The Swift 1’s design is pretty run-of-the-mill as laptops go. It’s plain but tasteful, with an aluminium underside and lid with the Acer logo embossed in the middle. Its part-metal design makes it more durable and less prone to damage, and to touch it definitely feels more luxurious than the price suggests.
Operating system: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Pentium Silver N6000
Screen: 14in Full HD (1920×1080) IPS LCD panel
Ports: HDMI, USB-C, 2x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity: Wireless Wi-Fi 6
Battery: 45Wh 3-cell Li-ion
Dimensions: 322.8 x 212.2 x 14.95mm
The laptop overall feels very sturdy, although one might argue a little too much
if that's possible. To open the lid I had to use both hands to pull the hinges apart, but then very much fixed into position. I thought the stiffness might ease with use, but I've been using it daily now for two weeks and opening it is no smoother.
When fully extended, the hinges sit underneath the base like little feet, elevating the laptop slightly to allow for a more comfortable typing experience. It’s a subtle but nice touch that I actually think adds real value over time.
Speaking of typing, there’s no frills or fancy here, just a shallow but comfortable keyboard experience. There’s a backlight, which is somewhat of a highlight when you consider the cost of the device.
The touchpad is, without a doubt, one of the areas you realise this is a budget machine. To glide your finger across is not an altogether unpleasant experience, but pressing the click is not enjoyable. The material feels flimsy, and you have to really push down to activate it, which feels laboured and awkward to use. I quickly found I adopted a touch-tap method, rather than left right click as I would usually.
The Swift 1 display fairs much better than its trackpad, thankfully. The 14-inch full HD LCD 1920 x 1080 screen isn’t going to rival the brightness of one of the best laptops for graphic design, nor is it a touchscreen. But it does a job, and the ComfyView anti-glare filter makes it much easier to use in bright light. Movies and images look clear and crisp, should you want to use it for streaming or watching videos. However, it’s distinctly lacking the accuracy (and power, for that matter) you might need for creative tasks such as image editing.
Probably the best thing about the Swift 1’s design is its portability. It’s super-lightweight, coming in at just 1.3kg (just 0.06kg more than a MacBook Air). The slim chassis will easily fit into most work bags, and it has a compact charger to boot.
Acer Swift 1 review: features
For a budget laptop, the Swift 1 has an impressive number of connectivity options, with three USB-A and one USB-C ports, HDMI 2.0, a full-sized card reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Kensington lock slot.
Another notable design feature is one you’d not expect for the price point: a fingerprint reader. It adds an extra level of security and privacy you don't normally get with laptops at this price range, which is a nice bonus. The design, however, falls a bit short as the sensor is positioned a little too deep and my finger often didn't align on the first attempt.
The battery life is another highlight, with Acer claiming 15 hours, this is very close to what I experienced, which is impressive for such a budget device. I got through an entire working day of sending emails, watching YouTube, writing Word documents and browsing online with not a sign I needed to recharge. It wasn’t until well into the next day that I noticed the battery reached a critical level. The Swift 1 might not be the best when it comes to performance, but it's a front-runner when it comes to battery life.
Acer Swift 1 review: performance
Okay, let’s be clear, there's no point in expecting stand-out performance from this laptop because that's not its main purpose. This device was built for the basics – typing and browsing – and it does those things well, for the most part. I experienced some frustrating loading times on certain web pages, and often encountered a short but annoying lag after pressing a button for the laptop to perform the function I’d asked it to. But often this was due to the clunky nature of the trackpad.
Here's how the Acer Swift 1 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Cinebench R23 CPU: Single-Core: 734 ; Multi-Core: 2,000
Geekbench 6: Single-Core: 411; Multi-Core: 1,216
That said, I did want to push the Swift 1 and see what it was capable of so I downloaded Photoshop to see how it would cope. And I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting it to be slow to download and run the software, but it was actually very smooth.
When using the Acer Swift 1, there was no lag or delay in the operations I wanted to perform. I was only editing a single, average-sized image though, I'm not sure how well it would cope with a large raw or multi-layered file. But, again, that's not what it was intended for, but I was really pleased to see how well it coped with the software and allowed me to make some small image edits.
That said, just because the Swift 1 handled it doesn’t mean it should. It’s fine if you need to make a small tweak or quick image edit on the go, but the Swift 1 lacks the power and colour accuracy needed for professional-level image editing.
When it comes to our benchmark tests, the Swift 1 returned the expected results. In short, it's not very powerful, but we knew that already, right? Does it have enough power to carry out the basic tasks it was intended for? Absolutely. It's worth noting, however, that if you are someone who likes to have lots of tabs open, you might have to rethink the way you work if you opt for this machine as I found it slowed under the weight of 20 or more.
Overall, the Swift 1 performs adequately for light tasks but nothing more. Photo and video editors and anything more than casual gamers (and even that is a stretch here) will need to look elsewhere.
Acer Swift 1 review: price
The Acer Swift 1 costs $379.99 / £399.99 – that’s for the model with the Intel Pentium N6000, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. You can upgrade specs, which could potentially take you over the $500 / £500 mark. But if your budget will stretch to that, you might want to look around as pricing that crosses this threshold opens up a whole new level of performance.
Acer Swift 1 review: should you buy it?
If portability, an all-day battery and a low price tag top your list of laptop priorities, the Acer Swift 1 is hard to beat. Performance is solid for the price you pay, just bear in mind that it comes with limitations, and if you’re looking to run any high-demand software or games, this isn’t the laptop for you. (If you do want a cheap alternative, consider one of the best Chromebooks for students.)
It won’t get you through complex tasks and will struggle with large games, but if you need it simply to write documents, surf the web and watch videos, it's more than capable. Connectivity is good, with USB-C and HDMI ports included, and the fingerprint reader for added security is a nice bonus.
Overall, the Acer Swift 1 is a good budget laptop, with a design that makes it look more premium than the price tag suggests. Its feature set, particularly price, battery life and portability, make it a great choice for students or for anyone wanting an everyday device to share at home.