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Acer Swift 5 15in (2018) Review: Hands-on Impressions

We went hands-on at IFA 2018 with Acer’s ridiculously light 15in laptop the Swift 5, complete with tiny bezels and 8th-gen Intel chips. Here's a first look...

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • From $1,099
Acer is no stranger to wonderfully light laptops and is continuing its fine tradition with the 2018 Swift 5, what it claims is the world’s lightest 15in notebook. But could it be one of the best?


Acer is still making the 14in Swift 5 with 8th-gen chips for less, but the 15in model packs a bigger display in a very similar footprint.

At 990g it is superbly portable thanks to the incredibly light magnesium-lithium alloy used for the shell. It’s a powerful Windows laptop with a slight form factor but larger screen. We went hands-on at IFA 2018 – here are our first impressions.  

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Acer Swift 5 15in for 2018 will go on sale in EMEA in November, starting at €1,099. It’ll also be available in North American in January for $1,099.

UK pricing is to be confirmed, but £1,099 is a good guess judging by the prices we know so far.

The 14in Swift 5 for 2018 starts at €999.

DESIGN AND BUILD
The 15in Swift 5 is a well-made laptop that manages to feel incredibly light but also sturdy. There is hardly any flex in the alloy, though a little more than you’ll find on a more solid (but heavier) MacBook.

Acer was quick to champion the laptop’s sub-1kg weight but it’s most impressive simply when picking it up. You can easily hold its entire weight upright and open with one hand – not a comfortable thing to do on most 15in laptops.

Closed, it is a laptop that will prove easy to stow away unthought-of in a bag, helped by the fact it’s closer to the normal size of a 13 or 14in notebook. Its exact dimensions are 358 x 230 x 15.9mm.

But this very slim chassis manages to pack in a full-size keyboard, ample trackpad and fingerprint reader for Windows Hello support.

The sample we took a look at was in an attractive indigo blue, though its matte finish does show fingerprint smudges a lot easier than a silver version would.

KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD
As you’d expect on a 15in laptop there’s a full-size keyboard, but no numpad. The keys have a good travel and clunky not clacky feedback. While not individually backlit, the LED light distribution is decent.

Either side of the off-centre trackpad, Acer has reinforced the palm rests with a stronger magnesium-aluminium alloy to give the laptop an extra sturdiness exactly where you need it. That trackpad has a left and right click, as normal.
SCREEN
The Swift 5’s screen is a 15.6in IPS display with Full HD at 1920 x 1080p. The 5.87mm bezel around it is impressive, offering an insane 87.6% screen to body ratio on a display that we think has excellent viewing angles and brightness.

It’s also full touch, meaning you can poke and prod your way round Windows 10 unlike on cheaper alternatives. That Acer can fit a display of this quality into the form factor of this new Swift 5 is great, and appeals to us in the portability it provides without compromising on screen real estate.

CORE SPECS AND PERFORMANCE
The Swift 5 15in will ship with either a Core i5-8265U or Core i7-8565U processor, both 8th-gen. This is paired with either 8GB or 26GB of on-board DDR4 RAM. Both will have Intel UHD Graphics 630.

It comes with a generous 512GB PCIe Gen3 SSD, the storage option of choice on an ultrabook like this in 2018. In our brief hands-on time, the machine was wonderfully responsive as you’d expect out of the box with the specs on offer.

In our upcoming full review, we’ll benchmark the machine against similarly equipped rival laptops and also see how it does in day to day multitasking.

CONNECTIVITY AND AUDIO
With support for 802.11a/b/g/n/ac dual band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 you’re covered for wireless support, but there’s also a headphone jack for your regular headphones. It’s also great to see a full-size SD card reader, two USB-A ports, one display compatible USB-C port and an HDMI port – a decent array of ports on such a slim laptop.

One area we suspect the Swift 5 has compromised in is audio. While rival Asus has shown heavier laptops at IFA 2018 like the new ZenBook 14, it has packed in superior Harman Kardon speakers. The Swift 5 will likely have adequate but not outstanding speaker audio.

BATTERY LIFE
We obviously couldn’t test this in a short hands-on session but Acer promises up to 10 hours of battery life from the Swift 5 15in. This is in line with expectations of similar laptops, and Acer will have not wanted to add any more cells in there in order to keep the weight down.

Given the impressive build and weight, hopefully we won’t find it was all at the expense of acceptable battery life.

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