Acer Swift Three 16 overview: Old-fashioned package deal however first rate worth
Acer Swift 3 16
“The Acer Swift 3 16 is a bit old school, but offers decent value for the price.”
- Excellent productivity performance
- Solid battery life
- Above-average premium display
- Thin and light
- Attractive price
- Display is in old-school 16:9 aspect ratio
- Touchpad buttons are hard to press
- Build quality is a little subpar
Acer’s Swift 3 line has produced some excellent laptops, with the 14-inch AMD Swift 3 holding the top spot on our list of best budget laptops. The company has expanded the line over the years, offering 13.3-inch, 13.5-inch, 14-inch, and 15.6-inch models that offer a solid combination of thin and light design and attractive pricing. Now, Acer has added a 16-inch model, the largest display yet, and it hopes to bring the same kind of value as the rest of the line.
I reviewed a $1,000 configuration with an 11th-gen 35-watt Core i7-11370H CPU and a 16.1-inch IPS Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display in the old-school 16:9 aspect ratio. And in fact, that last specification, the aspect ratio, is what’s immediately disappointing about the laptop. Most manufacturers are moving to taller 16:10 or 3:2 displays, and 16:9 seems like an anachronism. Overall it’s a nice laptop with good performance and battery life, but the display holds it back from being even better.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Swift 3 16 is how wide it seems, particularly if you’ve handled any other 16-inch laptops with taller 16:10 displays. A year or two ago, the design would have been fine, but now it seems like the laptop takes up too much horizontal space on a desktop.
It’s not as deep, of course, but taller displays that are deeper also offer more space on the keyboard deck for things like larger touchpads. Acer did a good job of using the space it had, and more on that below, but the form factor just feels a little weird compared to other contemporary large-screen machines.
It’s not terrible for a $1,000 laptop packed with the Swift 3 16’s components, but it could be better.
Compared to another 16-inch laptop with a 16:10 display, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4, the Swift 3 16 is wider at 14.48 inches versus 14.13 inches but less deep at 9.1 inches versus 9.99 inches. It’s also thinner at 0.63 inches versus 0.7 inches and lighter at 3.75 pounds versus 3.99 pounds. The Swift 3 16 has similar display bezels to the Lenovo, meaning they’re reasonably small on top and along the sides but with a more prominent chin.
The MSI Summit E16 Flip has similar top and side bezels but an even larger chin on the bottom, and it’s a bit deeper than both laptops while being about as wide as the Lenovo. It’s thinner at 0.67 inches and quite a bit heavier at 4.4 pounds. The Swift 3 16 is nicely thin and light for a laptop with such a large display, and only its width stands out as too much.
In terms of its build quality, the Swift 3 16 is constructed from aluminum but suffers from some bending in the lid and significant flexing in the keyboard deck and bottom chassis. It’s not terrible for a $1,000 laptop packed with the Swift 3 16’s components, but it could be better. The Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey is another recent laptop constructed of aluminum and suffers from a lack of rigidity. You’ll need to look at something like the Dell XPS 15 or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 to get a machine with that solid-as-a-rock feel to it.
Aesthetically, the Swift 3 16 comes in a Steel Grey color that looks like a light black, and it’s joined in the minimalist movement with simple lines and angles and zero bling. Even the edges aren’t chamfered, and there’s no chrome to be found except for the Acer logo on the lid. The Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey is similarly minimalist with a dark color scheme and a chrome logo on the lid, and only some extra molding sets it apart. The Swift 3 16 is an attractive laptop, just very conservatively designed. My only real complaint about its appearance is that its bezels are plastic, making it look a bit cheaper than it might otherwise.
Connectivity is solid. There’s a proprietary charging connection, a USB-C 3.2 port with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB-A 3.2 port along the left-hand side. It would have been better to add a second USB-C port and use that for charging rather than the proprietary power connection, an anachronism that requires carrying an extra piece around when so many USB-C chargers are typically available.
On the right-hand side, you’ll find another USB-A 3.2 port and a 3.5mm audio jack. That’s a good combination of current and legacy connections, with the one glaring omission being the lack of an SD card reader. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 provide wireless duties.
The Swift 3 16 can be configured with either an Intel 11th-gen Core i5-11300H or a Core i7-11370H, both 35-watt 4-core/8-thread CPUs. They fall in between the U-series processors aimed at thin and light laptops and the faster 45-watt 8-core/16-thread H-series CPUs. My review unit used the Core i7-11370H along with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and it performed well in line with expectations. The Core i5 configuration with 8GB of RAM is just $870, nearly a budget price.
It should be noted that the lack of discrete graphics and the low core and thread counts make this more of a basic work laptop than a creator’s workstation, despite the display size.
Acer squeezed out some very good performance from the CPU.
Despite the lower-powered components for a laptop of this size, Acer managed to squeeze some decent performance out of this system.
In Geekbench 5, the Swift 3 16 was the third fastest in our comparison group and came in fourth place in Cinebench R23. In many cases, the Swift 3 16 was punching above its weight class against these other machines.
For a more real-life test, I ran our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265. Impressively, the Swift 3 16 tied with the Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey running a 6-core/12-thread Core i7-11600H, but fell behind the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 and Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1.
Finally, in the PCMark 10 Complete test, the Swift 3 16 once again came in fourth behind the same machines.
These are solid results and point to the Swift 3 16 being a fast performer for productivity users. Again, it’s not going to handle demanding creative applications, but for everyone else, but it shows that in some cases, the difference between a 35-watt chip and a 45-watt chip isn’t as much as we often assume.
|Cinebench R23 (single/multi)||PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|Acer Swift 3 16 (Core i7-11370H)||1,613 / 6,119||151||1.568 / 5,806||5,491||1,911|
|Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey (Core i7-11600H)||1,478 / 5,366||151||1,601 / 8,571||5,989||N/A|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro (Core i7-11370H)||1,578 / 5,957||202||1,514 / 5,544||5,149||1,888|
|Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (Ryzen 7 5700U)||1,184 / 6,281||120||1,287 / 8,013||5,411||1,247|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (Core i7-1165G7)||1,327 / 5,201||N/A||1,469 / 4,945||5,147||1,776|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio (Core i7-11370H)||1,321 / 5,131||179||1,304 / 5,450||5,091||4,266|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (Core i7-11800H)||1,520 / 7,353||106||1,519 / 10,497||6,251||6,691|
However, the Swift 3 16 is stuck with Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics, and there’s no getting around that. It’s not made to be a gaming laptop or a video editing tool. That makes it unusual among larger laptops that typically ship with discrete graphics and can do some light gaming.
The Swift 3 16 did well in the 3DMark Time Spy test for an Intel Iris Xe machine, beating out the other machines with integrated graphics. Still, it naturally couldn’t keep up with the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio’s Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti or the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4’s RTX 3060. I ran Fortnite and saw 24 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and epic graphics, a few fps faster than most other Iris Xe laptops we’ve tested but nothing to write home about.
As mentioned earlier, the Acer Swift 3 16 equips a 16.1-inch Full HD IPS display in the 16:9 aspect ratio. That makes it very wide, which is great for setting two windows side by side but not so great for viewing vertical information, where a taller display would have been welcome. Even so, this was a pleasant display to use while working on this review in terms of its brightness, colors, and especially contrast. I found it at least as good, subjectively, as most premium displays I’ve reviewed.
According to my colorimeter, the display is slightly above average for a premium panel not aimed at creators. Colors were a little wider than average at 77% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and they were very accurate at a Delta E of 1.11 (1.0 or less is considered excellent). Brightness was good at 334 nits, above our 300-nit threshold, and contrast was excellent for an IPS display at 1,530:1. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey’s display — a 15.6-inch panel on a laptop aimed in part at creators — was far worse at just 48% of AdobeRGB and 65% of sRGB, accuracy at 2.37, brightness (which was better) at 350 nits, and contrast at just 800:1.
I would much have preferred a higher resolution and a taller aspect ratio with the Swift 3 16’s display, but you can’t argue with its overall quality.
The MSI Summit E16 Flip’s 16-inch 16:10 IPS had wider colors than the Swift 3 16 at 89% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and they were as accurate at 1.12, and its brightness was higher at 482 nits. Its contrast, though, was 1,140:1, good for an IPS display but not display deep blacks as well as the Swift 3 16.
I would much have preferred a higher resolution and a taller aspect ratio with the Swift 3 16’s display, but you can’t argue with its overall quality. This is a fine display for productivity users, and again, it’s great for setting two windows side by side. The colors aren’t quite wide enough for creative professionals, but that’s not this laptop’s target.
Two downward-firing speakers provide audio, and the Swift 3 16 joins several recent laptops I’ve reviewed that put out surprisingly low volume. Those laptops at least had clear sound, whereas the Swift 3 16 somehow manages to be distorted. Mids and highs are muddied, and there’s little to no bass. Sound quality is not a strength, and you’ll want a pair of headphones for just about anything.
Keyboard and touchpad
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
There’s plenty of horizontal space for a keyboard given the very wide display, and Acer uses most but not all of it. The key spacing is excellent, keycaps are large, and there’s a numeric keypad that’s rather small and could have been larger given some space on each side of the keyboard. The key switches provide plenty of travel, with a bottoming action that’s just a tiny bit abrupt and so detracts from the keyboard’s overall precision. It’s a few steps behind the best, such as those on the HP Spectre line and Dell’s XPS laptops.
The touchpad is large and tasks up most of the available space on the palm rest. Its surface is comfortable for swiping, and as a Microsoft Precision touchpad, it handles Windows 11’s multitouch gestures well. The only problem is that the buttons require a lot of force to depress, to the point where I gave up on using them and just tapped the touchpad instead. If you prefer to use physical buttons, these won’t make you happy. The display, unfortunately, isn’t touch-enabled, something I always miss.
A fingerprint reader in the upper-right corner of the palm rest provides Windows 10 Hello password-less logging support. It worked quickly and reliably after a few tries at registering a finger. There’s a button to turn off the microphone, but no way to turn off or block the webcam for privacy purposes.
The Swift 3 16 has just 58 watt-hours of battery packed inside, which isn’t a lot for a laptop with a 35-watt CPU and a 16.1-inch display even running at Full HD. I wasn’t expecting the best battery life.
I was pleasantly surprised, though. The Swift 3 16 made it to 8.75 hours in our web browsing test that cycles through a series of popular and complex websites. We like to see 10 hours on this test, but nearly nine hours is good enough. The Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey went for a longer 10.5 hours, while the Samsung Galaxy Book shut down after 8.3 hours.
Battery capacity matters, though, which is why the Dell XPS 15 with 86 watt-hours and a power-hungry OLED display managed to exceed nine hours. In our video test that loops a local 1080p movie trailer, the Swift 3 16 lasted for 13 hours, a much stronger score that was still behind the Galaxy Book Odyssey’s 14.3 hours but well ahead of the Galaxy Book’s 11 hours. The XPS 15 OLED managed 11 hours on this test as well.
I also ran the PCMark Applications battery test that’s the best indication of productivity battery life, and the Swift 3 16 lasted for 9.5 hours. Again, that’s a decent score and promises all-day battery life. The Galaxy Book Odyssey was stronger at 11.8 hours, while the Galaxy Book also did better at almost 11 hours. The XPS 15 OLED fell behind at just eight hours. In the PCMark Gaming battery test that indicates how hard a laptop runs while on battery, the Swift 3 16 lasted for an average of 1.75 hours.
Overall, the Swift 3 16 has good battery life that will get you through a full day’s work with an hour or two left over. That’s a somewhat surprising result given the small battery, but somehow Acer managed to squeeze out above-average longevity.
You really can’t knock getting a large, 16-inch laptop with excellent productivity performance and good battery life for $1,000. That’s the Acer Swift 3 16 in a nutshell. My biggest complaints with the laptop are its slightly subpar build quality and its 16:9 display, making it feel too wide.
But the keyboard is adequate, and the touchpad is large, although Acer needs to loosen up the buttons a bit. If you’re looking for a large-format machine for productivity use with a bit of creative work tossed in, then the Swift 3 16 is a strong candidate.
Are there any alternatives?
The Surface Laptop 4 15 provides a thinner and lighter chassis, albeit with a slightly smaller display, and will provide similar performance given its own discrete GPU. It’s far more expensive, though.
You could also consider the HP Envy 15. It costs around the same money and offers superior performance, albeit with less battery life. Its display can also be superior if you choose the OLED option (which costs more, of course).
How long will it last?
The Acer Swift 3 16 demonstrates some bending and flexing in the lid, keyboard deck, and bottom chassis, but it still feels like it should provide several years of productive use. Its components are modern and should keep Windows 11 humming along. As always, the one-year warranty is a disappointment.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Even though its display is 16:9, the Acer Swift 3 16 provides more than enough performance for productive multitasking, and the large screen can comfortably host two windows side by side.