Swift 3 SF315-52G 15 inches is a mid-tier computer with a well designed and built chassis, fast keyboard, matte IPS screen, good performance, and good battery life. However, aggressive pricing remains the main selling point and the reason why you accept the oddity, even if nothing has to be a deal breaker: dim screen, average speaker, Wi-Fi speed and IO. I also make sure to buy from places that handle return of goods properly, QC can be problematic at this level. Read on for the whole story.
- slim, compact and fairly light
- matte IPS screen
- fast backlit keyboard and good trackpad
- performs well with daily activities
- runs cool with daily use and quiet in general
- fairly good battery life
- well priced
- dim IPS panel
- some sharp bits and pieces
- runs hot with demanding loads
- average speakers
Swift 3 is an entry-level series of standard Acer clamshell laptops and includes entry and mid-range devices for budget-oriented shoppers. 2017 Swift 3s 15 inches are some of the best value devices in the price range of $ 600- $ 800 last year, so we expect 2018 iterations to attract a lot of attention too.
Swift 3 2018 (codenamed SF315-52) is built on its predecessor and gradually improves on several aspects. This is a smaller computer with a slightly improved build, a matte IPS screen, performance for handling everyday use and some occasional games, and a good battery life at each charge.
It still has a part of the quirks you have to accept, but there are many values on this computer and unless you loose a quality control lottery (something you should consider when shopping for a mid-range notebook today - we will talk about it at the end of the article), I hope many of you will be happy with the 2018 iteration of the 15-inch Acer Swift 3.
You will know the reasons below, and who the laptop is for, where it shines and what can make you look elsewhere
Specs as reviewed
- Acer Swift 3 SF315-52G
- Screen 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, matte
- Processor Intel Kaby Lake-R Core i7-8550U CPU
- Video Intel UHD 620 + Nvidia MX150 2GB (optional)
- Memory 16 GB DDR4 (2x DIMMs)
- Storage 128 M.2 SATA SSD (80 mm) + 1 TB 2.5″ HDD
- Connectivity Wireless AC (Intel AC 7265), Bluetooth 4.1
- Ports 2x USB-A 3.0, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C 3.1 gen 1, HDMI, SD card-reader, mic/headphone, Kensington lock
- Battery 48 Wh, 65W charger
- Size 360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 243 mm or 9.56” (d) x 17 mm or 0.66” (h)
- Weight 4.00 lbs (1.82 kg)+ .70 lbs (.32 kg) charger and cables, EU version
- Extras backlit keyboard, HD webcam, fingerprint reader
Acer also offers the exact same laptop without the MX150 graphics as the Swift 3 SF315-52 sub-series (without the G at the end). Both are available in several CPUs (KabyLake-R, Whiskey Lake later), RAM and storage configuration.
Design and exterior
The 2018 Swift 3-inch 15-inch update is subtle, but at the same time greatly improved in the last year's version. More concise, lighter, better built, and made more careful.
For starters, the entire outer shell and inner deck are now made of aluminum bushes and are available in several colors (we have gold variants here, with alternative silver, blue or red in some areas). The shape feels more sturdy, with a little flex on the keyboard-deck and an acceptable level of curvature on the lid, which doesn't seem to put any pressure on the screen, so you don't have to spoil this one in everyday use. . Sleeve shirts will be recommended, because aluminum tends to be easily scratched.
Acer also tapered the edges around the inner deck and cover, so they are not as aggressive as the fingers and wrists, but they are still not fully blunt and there are still some sharp connections between the bottom panel and the side that you 'll feel when I grab this Swift. In addition, Acer does it well here. Even plastic frames around the color of the screen match other body parts for unity design.
The hinges are strong and keep the screen in place. At the same time, you can open and adjust it with one hand, and allow the screen to lean flat to 180 degrees, something for those of you who use a laptop in your lap or when lying on a sofa or bed will be very appreciative.
Swift 3 SF315-52 has also lost a little weight compared to the SF315-51 (1.8 vs 2.1 kg) version, more compact (360 x 243 mm vs. 370 x 255 mm) and slightly slimmer too (17 vs 19 mm) , without compromise on practicality.
The hinges work well and the interior is sturdy, as mentioned earlier. The laptop also sits well on the desk thanks to the large rubber feet at the bottom, a full size keyboard / clickpad, a spacious palm rest and a fair set of ports, with almost everything you need: 3x USB-A-port, one USB connector -C, HDMI, and SD card reader. There's only HDMI 1.4 and no Thunderbolt 3 support, but you won't get it with other laptops in this price range
Overall, the Swift 3 SF315-52 looks and feels like the right 2018 mid-range laptop, with balanced design, build and practicality. It's still a mid-range laptop, so don't get premium materials and expertise from more expensive options, or some of their features.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is very similar to the one in the previous generation, and it's mostly fine, because this is a fast and fairly reliable typer after you get used to it.
The keys are quite strong, but they are at the same time gentle and driven with little effort, and that will feel a little strange at first, because feedback doesn't always give you the confidence that your hits are truly registered. If you are willing to take the time and you are used to this kind of short-stroke keyboard, I hope you will match this one. For me, this is one of the fastest and most comfortable typists I have, but the strange feedback does lead to a few unanswered blows.
I also have some nits with the layout. The main button set is good and spaced, but the arrow and NumPad parts are very narrow and the Power Button is integrated as the top left button. In addition, there are no indicators when CapsLock and NumLock are active, which can interfere in time.
This keyboard is also backlit, with white LEDs and only a single illumination level
Clickpad is under the Space button. The size is appropriate and that is Elan's plastic surface (Acer also uses the Synpatics surface on several versions) with the Precision driver. It works well with everyday use, friction, movement and beats, and even physical clicks are quite calm and soft, so there's not much to complain about here.
Acer also placed a finger sensor on this 15-inch Swift 3, and works well with Windows Hello. But you have to make sure to properly test it (and upgrade the driver to the latest available version) if you decide to get one of these laptops, people have complained about finger sensors to draw attention to the previous Swift 3 iteration. You also shouldn't expect this to function as fast or smooth as a finger sensor on your cellphone, because you might have to swipe your finger over it, not just put it on it.
Unlike the previous version that got a non-glossy touch screen, the Swift 3 SF315-52 2018 now gets a 15.6-inch matte screen with an IPS panel. Our test unit uses the AU Optronics B156HAN02.1 panel, similar to that used by other manufacturers on their products (Asus VivoBook F510, Dell Inspiron 15 5000).
This is an average quality panel, pretty much what you expect in this class, with decent viewing angles, blacks and contrasts, and pretty mediocre color coverage. But the Acer application is a little fainter than applying this panel to other products, as you can see below (noted with the Spyder4 sensor), so you will have difficulty using it in bright light:
I will also add that I did not see any minor bleeding in our test unit, even if the lower part was about 10% darker than the middle and upper half. It also does not use any PWM type for brightness adjustment, so those of you who are sensitive to flicker don't need to worry about this aspect too.
Hardware and performance
We tested the Sw3 3 SF315-52G high-end configuration, with a Core i7-8550U CPU, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, dual storage (256 GB SATA SSD and 1 TB 2.5 ″ HDD) and full power 15 W Nvidia MX150 graphics chip version.
If you choose a lower configuration, you can increase the storage module, RAM and wi-fi. Getting inside is quite easy, you have to take the back panel that is held by a few Torx screws, all visible around its side. You will need a plastic tool to pry the stomach from its sides, because both are held together by some stubborn plastic clips.
Inside you will see that the SSD and HDD are easily accessible, but the CPU, GPU and RAM are hidden behind a metal radiator, which is also held by two Philips screws and lots of tape. This is quite easy, but we chose not to delete it completely in our test unit. Be careful when peeling all the recordings and remember that the BIOS battery is also attached to this shield.
Our test unit is a pre-production sample so you have to take our findings with salt grains and look at other reviews and analyze hardware performance correctly.
With that in mind, outside the sample box we were somewhat limited in power, with CPU clocking down aggressively under TDP 15W from the KabyLake-R platform in demanding load, but undervolted at -100mV this behavior was corrected. That's why we did all of our tests on profiles that were not scrutinized, which did closer to the capabilities of the platform and were closer to how the retail version performed.
Swift 3 we handle everyday tasks easily, while running calm and cool.
Configuring Core i5 with Intel HD graphics will suffice if you will only use a computer to browse, film, edit text and basic tasks like that, and you only need to step into i7 if you plan to run some demanding workloads too.
We tested the CPU performance in the load by running Cinebench R15 in one circle. The i7-8550U does quite a lot as expected, clocking up to a maximum of Turbo Boosts for a short period of time and then settling in around 2.8-3.0 GHz and powering the package around 15 W for test reminders. The CPU reaches a temperature of up to 80 degrees Celsius and then settles to around 65-70 C, and this behavior is consistent across multiple Cinebenchs simultaneously running, returning the score around the 600-point mark.
This shows that there is enough headroom to improve performance in the retail version with a higher heat threshold that will allow the CPU to approach 90+ degrees Celsius before going down to a lower frequency.
GPU is quite limited aggressively too. Only up to around 70 degrees Celsius in our unit and hour by hour in game sessions that demand to stay within this limit, but keep in mind that our implementation is pre-production and the final retail version must be better.
However, our unit performs well, just not at the best of the MX150 chip, because it records up to around 1200 MHz in a more demanding title (FarCry 4). By comparison, the same average chip of around 1400 MHz in the 3-inch 14-bit Swift SF314-52 was tested in the past, and this 2018 update really got redesigned cooling. That's why we won't get in-depth about the results of the game, because I feel our results are skewed. But you can find the HWinfo log for Shadow of Mordor and FarCry 4 below.
I’ll also post the benchmark results, if you’re interested in these, but once again I muss stress to take them with a grain of salt and expect improved scores on the final versions:
- 3DMark 11: P4853 (Graphics: 4662, Physics: 6857);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 3217 (Graphics – 3528, Physics – 10291);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1106 (Graphics – 998, CPU – 2883);
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3472;
- PCMark 10: 4007;
- PassMark: Rating: 4124, CPU mark: 9756, 3D Graphics Mark: 2674;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 3972, Multi-core: 14059;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4829, Multi-core: 15448;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 95.97 fps, CPU 604, CPU Single Core 173 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 159.00 fps, Pass 2 – 35.86 fps.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and more
As mentioned earlier, Swift 3 2018 gets a redesigned interior and cooling redesign, with one fan still, but two heat pipes shared by the CPU and GPU. But the component was covered by a metal shield, and I wasn't sure if this really helped spread the heat or more precisely, by blocking the airflow above these heat pipes and their components. Will rush to draw conclusions based on this pre-release sample, so we won't do it.
With everyday use, the Swift 3 SF315-52 really runs cooler and quieter than its predecessor, so the new cooling design shows its strength. Fans keep quiet for the most part and only kick with heavier multitasking, but you almost never hear it even in a quiet room.
With the game, the fan will rise, but remain calm, averaging around 40-42 dB at the head level. Both the components and the outer skin remain in normal temperature, with the bottom panel reaching temperatures in the high 40s in certain places, so the game on the lap will not be an option.
There’s a 48 Wh battery inside the 15-inch Acer Swift 3 Sf315-52, which on one hand is averagely sized for this day and age, but at the same time bigger than what many other manufacturers put in their mid-tier 15-inchers.
Paired with the dim screen and efficient hardware implementation, this laptop actually squeezes plenty out of this 48 Wh battery. Here’s what to expect, with the screen set at 50%, roughly 120 nits of brightness.
- 7 W (~7 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~8 h 45 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~8 h 45 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~8 h 45 min of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.5 W (~5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON.
This particular configuration comes with a standard 65 Wh power brick and a full charge takes around 2 hours. The Swift 3 does not charge via USB-C.
Price and availability
The 2018 updates of the 15-inch Swift 3, code-name SF315-52 (with Intel HD 620 GPU) or SF315-52G (with Nvidia MX150 graphics), are available in most regions at the time of this post, September 2018.
The high-end variant with the i7-8550U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD and the MX150 graphics goes for around $900 in the US and around 1000 EUR in Germany/France.