The Acer Swift X is not your typical high performance laptop, but compromise is necessary if you want a budget ultraportable that plays games. How does it fare?
Key Specs of the Acer Swift X
14-inch, matte, 1920 x 1080, non-touchscreen 60Hz, LCD; 2.1-4GHz AMD Ryzen 5 Mobile 5500U processor; 8GB RAM; 512GB NVMe HDD; Nvidia GTX 1650; 1.4KG. SKU: N20C12. Full specs here.
Design and Handling
Anyone who has seen a typical Acer laptop in the past two decades will instantly find the Acer Swift X familiar. The brushed metallic finish has been around for two decades yet still looks relatively fresh in the market. It feels plasticy but stiff and robust while the metallic lid ads rigidity to the point where you can twist the screen and it barely moves.
The backlit, Scrabble-tile keyboard is comfortable to type upon for long periods. Our only niggle is the half-height arrow keys that are paired with the Pg Up and Down keys and we were constantly pressing one, the other or both by mistake. The trackpad is a trackpad, so all good. There’s an HD webcam and a fingerprint reader but no Windows Hello compatibility.
The Acer Swift X’s Full HD screen only has a 60Hz refresh rate and a 25ms response time. Not surprisingly fast moving objects quickly become a blurry mess. This is a shame for casual and competitive shoot’em up gamers who wanted to make use of the discreet graphics to frag things on the move. However, if you’re into slower games that don’t need the refresh rate, it can still do a job. The IPS panel gets reasonably bright and supports 100 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Colour and monochromatic gradients can display banding but not to a terrible extent.
The speakers sound like you’d expect laptop speakers to sound like, in that you can hear stuff but there’s practically no bass (or body) whatsoever.
It’s all functional really.
Performance of the Acer Swift X
The hexa-core, 12-thread, 2.1-4GHz AMD Ryzen 5 Mobile 5500U processor is flanked by 8GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe hard drive. These combined to score 5199 in PCMark 10 which is behind just about everything we’ve tested except the ultraportable, ultra-low-powered Asus ExpertBook and, weirdly, both the Swift X’s older siblings, the last-generation (Intel sporting) Acer Predator Helios 300 and even the Acer Nitro 5. It was a similar deal in the CineBench rendering tests, scoring 1316 in R15 and 7658 in R23. That’s quite a testament to the Ryzen processor.
The Acer Swift X’s discreet GPU is *cough* old. But, it’s one of those rare bits of silicon that’s regarded as a classic in some circles – the Nvidia GTX 1650. In 3DMark TimeSpy it scored a lowly 3266 which is an average of only 19fps. In the older FireStrike Extreme test it scored just 3818 (average 17fps). Not being a RTX GPU means it couldn’t run the Port Royal ray-tracing test at all because it’s incompatible with ray tracing. This all means that it will play casual and competitive games but only if they’re slow enough not to look terrible on the slow screen.
Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.
At 1.4KG, and 18mm thick it’s very light and portable. The power brick (and cable) are small and add another 330g to this figure. It’s also tough enough to survive life on the road. It lasted a decent 12hrs 21mins in PCMark 10’s Modern Office test which is a full day out of the office. That’s naturally behind the ultraportable ExpertBook but significantly ahead of everything else.
Should you buy the Acer Swift X?
At $1,599 it’s not cheap for a budget gaming laptop. It’s even significantly more than its RTX 3060-sporting big brother, the Acer Nitro 5 which costs just $1,199. That’s still our favourite, budget, high performance laptop, but if it’s too big for you (at 2.5 KG) and the ExpertBook is too underpowered and expensive, this might be the compromise you’ve been looking for. However, also check out the Venom BlackBook Zero 14 Phantom which is a similar size and has no gaming prowess, but has features you wouldn’t ordinarily consider when choosing a laptop.