Acer Swift 1 (SF114-34) full review
The Acer Swift 1 SF114-34 combines the brand’s famous accessibility with a lightweight ‘Ultra-Thin’ design that hints at far more premium laptop marques. With pricing that ranges from £350 to £550, it’s a mass-market laptop that doesn’t skimp on the classy accoutrements.
At the lower end of that price scale, the latest Swift 1 is competing with the likes of the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i 14, but the top model I’m testing bumps into the likes of the HP Pavilion 14 and the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. It’s picking fights all over the place, but it doesn’t quite have the engine necessary to cause any upsets.
I’m testing the top specification here, but the performance level doesn’t vary all that wildly across the range. The main difference seems to relate to internal storage capacity, which ranges from 64GB right up to a 512GB SSD.
Whichever variation of the Acer Swift 1 SF114-34 you choose, you’re getting the same basic formula – a laptop that’s built to perform basic tasks in style. There is no high-performance option as such, which is somewhat ironic given the Swift name.
Design & Build
- Premium design
- Fingerprint scanner
- Stiff hinge
Acer’s Swift laptops place portability front and centre, and the Swift 1 is firmly on message. While we’ve seen thinner laptops at the top end of the market, the Swift 1 SF114-34 cuts down considerably on the chunky dimensions of the Aspire 1 line.
You’re looking at a light (1.30kg), slim (14.95mm) machine with a decent quality aluminium chassis. The Swift 1 feels reassuringly solid in the hand, and it remains firmly planted when you open it up.
It’s not the easiest laptop to get into, however. There’s the usual cheap-Acer stiff hinge, which means you have to physically prize the two halves in half with both hands. But that hinge also gains an extra level of physical resistance when it nears the halfway-open point.
At this juncture, two elbows physically lift the rear of the base off the surface. It makes for a nice, subtly angled typing angle, but it also feels ever so slightly over-engineered. On the plus side, that stiffness and the fact that the display is physically anchored means that it’s extremely stable, no matter the viewing angle, and it doesn’t inhibit using the Swift 1 on your lap either.
The plastic screen bezels are reasonably slim, particularly to the side, with a claimed 84% screen-to-body ratio. The logo-bearing chin bezel is the chunky part here, though it partially disappears behind the back of the base as part of that footing system. There is quite a lot of flex to the screen, but it’s to be expected at this end of the market.
Another notable design inclusion – for an ostensibly affordable laptop line, at least - is a fingerprint reader. Just below the arrow keys doesn’t feel like the most natural position, but I didn’t find it getting in the way of the typing experience at all.
More problematic was its super-squat dimensions allied to a surprisingly deep mooring. The latter means that it’s easy enough to locate by feel, but the former means that I didn’t always align my finger correctly at the first attempt.
In terms of the fit and finish, my test model comes in classic MacBook-Silver (not its official name), but there are also more exciting Pink, Gold, and Blue options on the market. All in all, it’s a handsome machine, particularly if you’re shopping at one of the cheaper price points.
Keyboard & Trackpad
- Backlit keyboard
- Basic trackpad
This review was researched and written on the very laptop it critiques, and there’s a reason for this beyond being meta. Tapping through a couple of thousand words in Word, rapidly scrolling up and down for various edits, and periodically flipping between multiple open web tabs is a great way to put any keyboard and trackpad combo through its paces.
The Acer Swift 1 passed this review test, and indeed every other typing and navigating task, with flying colours. The keyboard is the usual MacBook-inspired chiclet affair and a pretty solid example of the form at that. As with the recent Acer Aspire 1, flitting between this and my MacBook Pro 2019 caused no mental short circuits whatsoever, outside of the usual Windows/MacOS shortcut divide.
Indeed, the Swift 1 gets even closer to Apple’s hallowed turf, thanks to the presence of backlighting, which makes typing in low ambient lighting more feasible. I still don’t care for the way the Page Up and Page Down keys have been squeezed right up to the left and right arrow keys, though. It leads to far too much jumping around when you’re simply looking to fine-tune cursor placement.
This isn’t the most fluid example of a touchpad you’ll encounter, either. It’s sufficiently responsive to the touch, but the buttons have a stiff, slightly awkward feel. The area-specific activation and high level of travel led me to quickly adopt the touch-tap method of selection rather than the traditional left-and-right click approach when I wasn’t simply plugging in a mouse.
It’s not a massive drawback relative to other affordable laptops, but once again, the general level of fit and finish elsewhere led me to hope for (if not quite expect) a little better.
Screen & Speakers
- IPS panel
- ComfyView coating
- Mediocre colour
The Acer Swift 1 packs in a 14-inch Full HD display with a ComfyView coating. The latter has a matte finish that does well in dampening glare.
Acer has used an IPS panel rather than the cheaper TN standard, which means that you won’t find yourself constantly fiddling with the angle of the display in order to see clearly.
The other advantage to Acer not cheaping out on the Swift 1’s display is a decent maximum brightness of 301 nits, which was recorded using an iDisplay Studio. This means that, unlike with certain other cheap laptops, it won’t necessarily spend its whole working life with the brightness cranked up to 100%.
For regular daytime indoors usage, I found that between half and two-thirds brightness level would suffice. When the ambient lighting got considerably brighter, of course, there was scope to go higher.
Colour reproduction is nothing special, however, with a mere 60% sRGB, 42% Adobe RGB, and 43% DCI P3. It might be bright and clear, but it’s not especially vibrant. Suffice to say, while I put most of this review together on the Swift 1, the images were reviewed on a more premium machine.
The laptop’s sound output is handled by a pair of downward-firing stereo speakers, positioned just under the nearside corners. They’re loud enough, with reasonable stereo separation, but they’re also thin and reedy, and they badly lack low-end grunt.
That’s fine in a £350 laptop, but you might just find yourself starting to expect more for £550, as this top model costs. For example, the HP Pavilion 14 mentioned at the top has decent Bang & Olufsen speakers.
Specs & Performance
- Intel Pentium or Celeron
- 4-8GB RAM
- 64-512GB storage
The Acer Swift 1 top model I tested runs of a 1.10GHz quad-core Intel Pentium Silver N6000 CPU. Lower models utilize a small spread of alternatives, including the Pentium N5030, the Pentium N5000, and the Celeron N4500.
None of these processors is what you’d call a star performer. Even this top model scored a modest 1737 in the Geekbench 5 multi-core test, which is lower than the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i (1940), but a little higher than the Asus E410 (1606).
As you’ll see from the following GPU-focused benchmark results, the Acer Swift 1 falls well behind the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i when it comes to pushing graphics around, too.
In general terms, the Acer Swift 1 performs perfectly adequately for the light tasks it’s built for. Flitting between documents, web browsers, and email never caused any great hitches for me, nor did firing up video content. Photo and video editors need not apply, however, nor anything more than casual gamers.
The Acer Swift 1 loads with Windows 10 in S Mode as the default, which limits you to apps installed directly from the Windows Store. This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing anyone spending £500+ on a laptop would want, so I deactivated it from the off for the full Windows 10 experience.
It didn’t suffer for the switch, but I did find the Swift 1 to be annoyingly sluggish to wake from sleep. Interestingly, I didn’t feel this level of annoyance from the Acer Aspire 1, which packs the same processor. Perhaps the higher price and more premium construction of this top model sub-consciously raised my expectations or at least lowered my willingness to forgive and forget.
This top-spec comes with 8GB of DDR4 RAM, but cheaper models lower that to 4GB. In terms of storage, the top model gives you a healthy 512GB SSD, but spending less might get you 256GB, 128GB, or even 64GB.
The Swift 1 certainly isn’t lacking for ports. Besides two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, you also get a single USB Type-C port and an HDMI port. The right edge also houses a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Kensington lock slot. There’s no ethernet connection, which is a bit of a shame (perhaps a casualty of that Ultra-Thin chassis), but the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard (11ax) is supported.
- Above average performance
- Barrel style charging port
Acer claims a 15-hour battery life for the Swift 1, and that’s in line with my own findings. I was able to get through a full working day involving heavy Word, web, and Mail usage, as well as watching a couple of YouTube videos and listening to some music, with enough left to start a second day with.
In our standard looping video test at 120 nits brightness, the laptop lasted 15 hours 12 minutes before it gave up the ghost. It’s an excellent result, soundly beating the Asus E410 on 12:48, the Lenovo IdeaPad S340 on 14:26, and even more expensive laptops like the Honor MagicBook 14 on 11:35.
When it came time to recharge this 45W triple-cell, the Swift 1 managed to regain 39% in 30 minutes using the bundled cable. Acer claims that this will equate to four hours of usage, and I’m not inclined to dispute that.
You’ll need to rely exclusively on the traditional barrel style plug, though. While there’s a USB-C port here, it’s not capable of carrying a charge.
The Acer Swift 1 costs £549.99 on the official Acer storefront for our test model’s top configuration, but prices start much lower at £349.99. That will get you a more modest Celeron N4500 CPU, half the RAM (4 GB), and a mere fraction of the storage (64GB), though with the same external offering.
Sat in between those two spec bookends are a handful of variations on the theme, with an assortment of humble processors, RAM allotments, and storage capacities. For example, there’s a £399.99 model with a Pentium N5030 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. These middle models feel like they hit the sweet spot of price and specs to me, avoiding some of the bigger fish at either extremity.
If you’re not fussed by the Swift 1’s fingerprint sensor, have no need for a USB-C port, and don’t mind a more prosaic design, then you might want to consider the Acer Aspire 1 A114-33. It’s £50 cheaper than the entry-level Swift 1 model, yet it packs this higher model’s Pentium N6000 processor.
At the opposite end of the market, £550 will get you the HP Pavilion 14 or the entry-level Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, both of which supply another level of performance.
Check our best budget laptops chart for more options.
If your leading laptop priorities are extreme portability, sterling battery life, and a low price tag, then the Acer Swift 1 is quite a hard package to beat. It sports a tidy, compact design, will last an extended work-day on a single charge, and prices start from a very reasonable £350.
Connectivity is strong too, with USB-C and HDMI ports included, as well as a fingerprint reader and Wi-Fi 6 support.
While performance is perfectly solid at the entry and mid-point of the pricing range, you might find it a little wanting if you were to splash out an extra £200 on the top model covered here. The competition gets a lot more serious when you cross that £500 threshold.
Provided you stick with the mid-spec models, however, the Acer Swift 1 is an excellent portable pick.
Acer Swift 1 (SF114-34): Specs
- Windows 10 Home in S Mode
- 14in Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD panel
- Intel Pentium Silver N6000 processor (4 Cores/4 threads 1.10GHz, up to 3.30GHz Turbo Boost)
- 8GB 2933MHz DDR4 RAM
- 512GB M.2 SSD
- HDMI port
- USB 3.2 (Gen 1) Type-C
- 2x USB 3.2 (Gen 1) Type-A
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 2 x Speakers
- 720p webcam
- Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (802.11ax)
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Fingerprint reader
- 45Wh 3-cell Li-ion battery
- 322.8 x 212.2 x 14.95mm
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