Acer Swift X3 review: Solid specs, including Intel’s dGPU, but build quality disappoints

The 14-inch Acer Swift 3Xannounced in October last year, was an early adopter of Intel’s 11th generation Core processors, and among the first with Iris Xe MAX discrete graphics. This marked the Swift 3X as a device to look out for. It has taken a while to arrive in the UK, but starting at £899 (inc. VAT; £749.16 ex. VAT, or $899.99 in the US), does this laptop offer good value for money for knowledge workers and — thanks to the dGPU — creators? 

The Acer Swift 3X comes in two colour variants, Steam Blue and Safari Gold. My Steam Blue variant had a metallic sheen to its blue/grey finish, which was rather appealing. Both colour schemes have a bright green/blue strip all the way along the outer edge of the hinge, with capitalised Swift branding in the middle providing an eye-catching ‘designer’ touch. 

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Acer’s 14-inch Swift 3X runs on 11th generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with discrete Iris Xe MAX graphics.


Images: Acer

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The ‘Swift ‘branding on the outside of the screen hinge provides a designer touch.


Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

If you want to carry this laptop around, its 1.37kg weight is acceptable for a 14-inch device. It’s a little on the thick side at 17.95mm, although the desktop footprint is tidy at 322.8mm wide by 212.2mm deep. When you lift the lid the hinge mechanism causes the back to press down and the base to rise, presenting the keyboard at a slight angle. The screen hinges back to about 135 degrees, which is plenty for working comfortably, but you won’t be able to lie the screen flat on a desk. 

The build contains plenty of metal, but it doesn’t feel all that robust. Pressing down even gently on the lid of my closed review unit was enough to push it inwards, and I wouldn’t suggest sitting anything on top of this laptop when it’s not in use. I was able to flex the lid a little in my hands when the laptop was open and in use, but not to a concerning degree. The base is reasonably firm around the wrist rest area, and as a light-touch typist I only experienced flex in the keyboard area when mimicking a heavy-handed typing action. 

The keyboard’s backlit keys are bouncy, with plenty of travel, and the light ‘thunky’ noise created by typing is not intrusive. The double-height Enter key butts right up to the hash/tilde key, which is a little odd, but did not create any accuracy issues for me. The arrow keys are nice and large. There’s a Fn key that disables the touchpad, which could be useful, although there’s no alternative for cursor control as the screen is not touch-responsive. There’s a fingerprint sensor in the wrist rest and a 720p webcam above the screen which lacks both IR/Windows Hello capability and a security cover.   

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The backlit keyboard sits at a comfortable typing angle, but heavy-handed typists might notice some flex. 


Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The 14-inch screen sits in slim but not minimal bezels: I measured the side bezels at about 5.5mm, the top bezel at about 8.5mm and the bottom bezel at around 13.5mm. However, there’s a narrow black border between the screen edge and the bezels. On my review unit this border was of equal size on left and right sides, and just a couple of pixels wide. On the top and bottom edges it was skewed so that it was (to me) visibly deeper on the upper right than the upper left, and deeper on the lower left than the lower right. I know that in everyday use this would irritate me greatly. 

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The non-touch IPS display is matte rather than reflective, which is welcome. Its FHD (1,920 x 1,080, 16:9, 157.3ppi) resolution allowed me to work with two documents open side by side, although a deeper 16:10 aspect ratio would be even better. 

The stereo speakers deliver plenty of volume and respectable audio quality. There’s nothing outstanding here, but the speakers are certainly good enough for video calls and occasional after-hours multimedia use. 

My Acer Swift 3X review unit ran on an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Its list price is currently £1,199 (inc. VAT; £999.99 ex. VAT) at Acer’s UK online store. If that’s too steep, you’ll find a Core i5-based model on Amazon for £899, with 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Acer has implemented an intricate cooling system to cope with the 11th generation processor and its discrete Iris Xe MAX graphics, which has 4GB of dedicated video RAM. There’s a prominent grille at the top of the keyboard section, which doesn’t look great but is there to let heat out. There’s also a large grilled area on the underside, and while the aforementioned base-lifting hinge presents the keyboard at a comfortable angle, it also promotes airflow. 

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A Fn-F key combo cycles you through three ‘performance’ modes, which will change the processor loading. This could be useful if you are irritated by fan noise: I only found the fan kicked in when I powered up, but it is very noisy, which could irritate users who regularly run demanding workloads. 

Acer provides the Swift 3X with a reasonable set of ports and connectors. There’s one USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, along with a pair of USB 3.2 ports, a full-size HDMI connector and a 3.5mm headset jack. Thankfully, the single USB-C port is not needed for charging, as there’s a proprietary round-pin connector for that. There’s a tiny charge indicator LED on the right edge, as well as one that lets you know when the laptop is switched on — handy if you’ve just shut the lid rather than powered down. 

Acer quotes a headline battery life of 17.5 hours for the Swift 3X range, but 14 hours for my Core i7/Iris Xe MAX review configuration. Even the latter may be slightly optimistic under real-world workloads. My usual test, working into writing apps while streaming sound and occasional video, and with multiple open browser windows, saw the 57.8Wh battery drain from full to 75% over three hours, giving an estimate of 12 hours. Still, that’s comfortable all-day battery life for most knowledge workers, and even some creators making use of the discrete Iris Xe MAX GPU with more demanding workloads. Acer says the battery will fast-charge to provide four hours of use in 30 minutes. Sadly my review unit came without an Asus charger, so I wasn’t able to test this. 

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Image: Acer

Conclusions 

Acer’s Swift 3X is a well-specified laptop with the latest Intel Core processors and discrete Iris Xe MAX graphics. The Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage in my review unit performed well, and even the entry-level Core i5 model offers 8GB and 512GB. We like the matte screen, and although its ‘blingy’ hinge won’t appeal to everyone, it does add some pizzazz to the design. It would have been good to see two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, and that wonky display panel in my review unit is a worry; hopefully it was just a glitch. 

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