The Acer Swift 1 challenges Chromebook’s dominance of the budget market, but it’s not quite the knockout punch that’s needed.
Healthy battery life
Attractive svelte design
Good value for money
Lacks real power
Weak flash storage
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You’d be forgiven for thinking that there was only one OS in the budget laptop space these days, that being Chrome OS. Acer, a manufacturer of some quality Chromebooks itself, offers up a genuine alternative in the form of the Swift 1, packing a full Windows 10 Home experience into a machine that still manages to roll in at a tempting entry-level price.
To be fair to the plethora of Chromebooks available, the price being asked for this machine can net you a 15-inch Chromebook, such as the Acer Chromebook 15, but the full OS offered here makes for a reasonable counter argument to the added screen real estate. Being able to run the likes of Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and indeed the full range of PC software on it should certainly appeal to the more business oriented.
The Acer Swift 1 isn’t just about offering a budget platform for Windows 10 Home though, and Acer is keen to push how stylish this machine is. Not only is it thin and light (something that was very much seen as a premium for a long time), but the overall build quality belies the asking price.
Here is the Acer Swift 1 SF114-31 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Pentium N3710 (quad-core, 2MB cache, up to 2.56GHz burst frequency)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 405
RAM: 4GB DDR3L
Screen: 14-inch, 1366 x 768, LED-backlit
Storage: 128GB Flash Drive
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, Micro HDMI
Connectivity: 802.11ac wireless LAN
Camera: Built-in VGA video camera
Weight: 3.53 pounds (1.6 kg)
Size: 13.4 x 9.2 x 0.7 inches (340 x 235 x 18 cm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
It’s worth pointing out from the outset that there are several members of the Swift 1 family, with the most sought after models boasting a 1080p IPS screen. That is not the machine we have here though, instead we’re looking at its more affordable sibling that makes do with a more mundane display.
The version we’re looking at here ostensibly has a list price of £349, although we have seen it listed as low as £299. The same model can be picked up in the US for $329, although again, availability of specific models can be patchy. Similar models are available in Australia, for around AU$655, although they don’t quite match the unit we are looking at here.
This does cause a bit of a problem for the Acer Swift 1, because there are plenty of sexy displays to be had at this price, such as the Android spin of the Lenovo Yoga Book (£409, $499, AU$655) and the Windows-based Asus Transformer Mini T102HA (£349, $430, AU$699).
As stated, the model we’ve been supplied here uses a 1366 x 768 TN display, but does boast the larger 128GB flash drive and the faster quad-core Pentium processor compared to some of its siblings. Pricing doesn’t vary too much across the family though, so it’s a case of weighing up what’s currently available against your desired specification.
Value-wise we see the Acer Swift 1 as offering up a good compromise between size, base specification and operating system. The aforementioned Asus Transformer boasts a smaller 10.1-inch screen, while the cheaper version of the Lenovo Yoga Book ships with Android 6, and you’ll need to spend closer to £450 for the Windows equivalent. In that respect the Acer Swift 1 has something to offer.
Acer makes a big deal of the design of the Swift 1, and rightly so. For a long time those eyeing up the budget end of the laptop market had to put up with a generic bulky machines, using poor materials, with little thought to actual style. This isn’t the case here, and the use of a brushed metal keyboard surround lends a dependable air to the system.
While there is still plenty of plastic on show, careful thought has been given to the overall look and feel of the laptop, and Acer hasn’t sidestepped the issue by making it garishly bright, instead settling for a more sober approach. It’s being positioned as a stylish, budget workhorse and hits that brief well.
One word of warning though: we did find that it was something of a magnet for fingerprints. It quickly replaced it’s sleek appearance with a grubbier patina, something that is particularly apparent in bright light.
The Acer Swift 1 has a good heft to it, and feel solid enough to withstand the knocks and bangs of daily use. At 3.52 pounds it isn’t the lightest 14-inch laptop you can lay your hands on, but it isn’t so heavy that it’s a problem lugging it around.