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Acer's Swift 3 will offer AMD and Intel versions with surprising differences

AMD's Ryzen 4000-based offering is still a bit cheaper than the Acer Swift 3 based on Ice Lake. But it looks like Intel could beat AMD badly on battery life, again.

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Acer’s latest Swift 3 laptops surprised us, debuting in two versions that are slightly different, most notably in containing either AMD’s latest 7nm Ryzen 4000 series or Intel’s mobile Ice Lake chips. 

After all, this is simply Acer’s mid-priced thin-and-light laptop line, not normally expected to be exciting. Our most recent Swift 3 review liked most of what we saw, other than the audio and the battery life. 

But now with this announcement Monday at CES in Las Vegas, buyers are faced with an AMD-vs.-Intel decision, such as we’ve explored recently with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. Which should you buy? We won’t know until we test them, but a close look at the specs we know now present some interesting points of comparison.

Acer Swift 3, AMD vs. Intel

Acer’s Swift 3 Intel versions will use Intel 10th-gen, 10nm ”Ice Lake” mobile CPUs, ranging from the Core i3-1005G1 to the Core i7-1065G7. The AMD versions will use one of the brand-new 7nm mobile parts, specifically the AMD Ryzen 7 4700U.

Intel’s mobile Ice Lake chips beat AMD’s mobile Ryzen handily in our head-to-head title fight across the Surface Laptop 3. But AMD’s Ryzen 7 3780U Radeon RX Vega 11 Surface Edition used the older Zen+ architecture and its older 12-nm process—and lost by roughly about 10 percent or so to Intel across the board. Now, AMD’s back with the Zen 2 architecture that’s competed well against Intel on the desktop, plus its 7nm process. AMD mobile performance should significantly improve.

Acer Swift 3 SF313-52/G Acer

Acer’s Swift 3 SF313-52/G, which uses Intel’s mobile Ice Lake chip, looks virtually identical.

The AMD and Intel versions of the Swift 3 differ in more ways than their CPUs. For starters, Acer’s AMD version of the Swift 3 (the SF314-42) boasts a 14-inch screen, while the Swift 3 with Intel inside (the SF313-52/G) has a slightly smaller 13.5-inch screen. The two laptops also have slightly different profiles as a result: The Intel version’s 13.5-inch screen is dimensionally smaller but has a higher 3:2 aspect ratio, so the laptop body has a taller, squarish shape when closed or opened. The AMD version’s 14-inch screen is dimensionally bigger but has a wider aspect ratio, so the laptop body is rectangular and a little shorter. 

Acer Swift 3 SF314-42 Acer

Acer’s Swift 3 SF314-42, built around the 7nm AMD mobile Ryzen 7 4700U.

The Swift 3’s weight changes a great deal, too. While the 2019 version of the Swift 3 we reviewed weighed in at 3.05 pounds, the new Swift 3 weighs 2.62 pounds (Intel Core) and 2.6 pounds (AMD Ryzen), respectively. Yes, that’s about a 15 percent drop in weight.

Acer also seems to be spending more than the usual amount of attention to refining the Intel version of the Swift 3, qualifying the SF313-52/G as part of Intel’s Project Athena program. Typically reserved for flagship or “hero” devices, Project Athena laptops have to meet certain expectations for hardware specifications, fast wake-up, responsiveness, and battery life. It’s not clear whether Acer set similar expectations for the AMD version of the Swift 3, as we’ll see in other specs, below. 

Acer Swift 3 SF313-52/G keyboard Acer

The keyboard on the Acer Swift 3, which should be identical across both models.

The biggest difference between AMD and Intel mobile before has been in battery life, where Intel beat AMD handily in our head-to-head comparison with the Surface Laptop 3. We thought we saw more of the same when Acer claimed 16 hours of battery life for the Intel-based Swift 3, and substantially fewer hours for the AMD version. After our story originally published, Acer decided to walk back the AMD spec, saying that lower number was an “early projection, and may not be anywhere close to accurate.”

The AMD version has ingredients for better battery life, including its lower-resolution display compared to the Intel model’s. However, Intel has also invested heavily in its Project Athena engineering, including extending battery life. We expect to gain greater insight as we bring in Ryzen 4000-based laptops to test against Intel rivals. 

The AMD version apparently lacks Thunderbolt capabilities, too. Both differences are something to watch out for.

An Acer representative also confirmed that the Intel SF313-52/G will include Nvidia’s discrete graphics, but the company hasn’t disclosed which chip. 

According to Acer, the Intel-based SF313-52/G will support fast charging, with up to four hours of use on a 30-minute charge. Both Swifts appear to support Windows Hello via fingerprint reader, as well as Wake on Voice, for interacting with Cortana while in Modern Standby mode.

The final big differences will be in price and availability. The Intel-powered Acer Swift 3 (SF313-52/G) will be available in North America in March, starting at $699. The Ryzen-based Acer Swift 3 (SF314-42) will be available in North America in May, starting at $599. We’ll be eager to get our hands on both.

Acer Swift 3 (SF313-52/G, Intel Core) basic specs

  • Display: 13.5-inch IPS (2256x1504)
  • Processor: Core i3-1005G1, Core i5-1035G1, Core i5-1035G4 or Core i7-1065G7 (all 10th-gen, 10nm Intel “Ice Lake”)
  • Graphics: Integrated UHD or Iris Plus graphics
  • Memory: Up to 16GB dual-channel LPDDR4X SDRAM
  • Storage: PCIe Gen3 8Gb/s NVMe (128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB)
  • Ports: USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), 1 USB-A 3.1 Gen1 with power-off charging, I USB-A 2.0, HDMI, 3.5mm jack, DC jack
  • Camera: 1280x720, 720p video
  • Battery: 56Wh (16 hours battery life)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), 2x2 MIMO; Bluetooth 5.0
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 11.91 x 9.21 x 0.63 inches (15.9mm)
  • Weight: 2.62 pounds
  • Color/chassis: Aluminum, Magnesium Aluminum
  • Price and availability: $699 and up, available in March

Acer Swift 3 (SF314-42, AMD Ryzen) basic specs

  • Display: 14-inch (1920x1080)
  • Processor: Ryzen 7 4700U (7nm)
  • Graphics: Radeon Vega 7
  • Memory: up to 16GB dual-channel LPDDR4X SDRAM
  • Storage: PCIe SSD (128GB, 256GB, 512GB)
  • Ports: USB-C Gen 2, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Camera: 1280x720, 720p video
  • Battery: Undisclosed
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 12.73 x 8.62 x 0.65 inches (16.6mm)
  • Weight: 2.65 pounds
  • Color/chassis: Aluminum, Magnesium Aluminum
  • Price and availability: $599 and up, available in March

This story was updated at 10:33 AM on January 13. In a previous version of the story, Acer provided a battery life expectation for the AMD-specific version of the Swift 3, the SF314-42. Acer has since walked that back, stating that it was an early estimate.

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