Between chip shortages, supply chain breakdowns, and ongoing inflation, it may seem impossible to find a high-end laptop for under $2,000. Acer’s 16-inch Swift Edge model makes a case that it is still possible to buy an ultrabook-class laptop for not only less than $2,000, but less than $1,500. Its thin, light chassis, Ryzen 7 CPU, DDR5 memory, and 4K display all shout “premium,” while the price point is more than $500 less than similarly-sized and equipped MacBook Pros.
Of course, this surprisingly low sticker price comes with some concessions you should know about. High-concept design and ultra-rigid construction are left behind here in favor of raw power. The battery life’s also shorter than pricier models. In exchange, you’re getting performance that can handle anything you throw at it — and handled quickly.
This review will help you decide if the balance that Acer has struck between performance, build quality, and price makes the Swift Edge the ideal laptop for you.
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 7 6800U|
|Display||16-inch 3840×2400 OLED panel with a 60Hz refresh rate|
|Memory||16GB DDR5 (up to 32GB available)|
|Storage||1TB Gen 4 NVME SSD|
|Cameras||1080p at 60FPS|
|Battery||54Wh, rated for up to 10.5 hours|
|Ports||2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (up to 20Gbps with DisplayPort over USB), 2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x HDMI 2.1 (HDCP support), 1 combo headphone/microphone jack|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2|
|Weight and dimensions||2.58lbs | 14.04 x 9.5 x 0.51 inches or 356.7 x 242.3 x 12.95 millimeters|
I’d say that this is the least impressive aspect of the Swift Edge. While there’s no single part of the laptop that’s poorly made, the majority of the materials are…serviceable. The outer shell, for example, is entirely metallic, but it’s thinner metal than most laptops with such lofty internals, and there’s more flex to it than I’d like.
This theme continues on the keyboard. It provides an average level of typing comfort and feel, with some noticeable give in the typing deck. That said, the touchpad provides a satisfying mechanical click, and is as responsive and accurate as any I’ve used on a Windows-based laptop recently.
The 4K display, the high point of the system, is surrounded by pleasingly thin bezels, allowing its gorgeous OLED panel to shine (more on this later). The taller-than-16:9 aspect ratio also provides ample screen real estate for work and browsing websites. That beauty and practicality go a long way toward making you forget about the outer shell and keyboard that might seem at home on a much cheaper laptop.
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Features and ports
The port selection on the Swift Edge is another triumph. While some expensive models add even more cost by requiring dongles and adapters, this more budget-friendly model from Acer offers two USB-A and two USB-C ports, likely enough to cover your peripheral and storage bases. It also adds additional flexibility to your setup by expanding the included HDMI 2.1 port with DisplayPort over USB Type-C support for extra monitors.
Those extra displays might struggle to compete with the built-in screen of the Swift Edge. I’ve occasionally waffled on the necessity of 4K displays under 24 inches. But, the extreme pixel density and gorgeous color saturation (provided by the OLED panel) made me shut up and enjoy the show. Video streaming looked crisp, with deep, rich blacks, while text looked razor sharp at all sizes.
The glossy coating is also more resistant to background glare than other models I’ve recently reviewed. Between this and the 400 nits of brightness, you shouldn’t have any issues getting work done in direct sunlight. Of course, that beautiful display does drink electricity, but we’ll discuss that more in the next section.
About that webcam…
I should also cover the included 1080p webcam. I won’t be quite as harsh as I was to the built-in webcam in Lenovo’s ThinkPad Z16, which I recently reviewed. The reasons for this are twofold. First, Acer didn’t make the webcam a showpiece, instead listing it on its spec sheet as a fairly average 1080p laptop camera, unlike Lenovo’s decision to permanently highlight it on its laptop’s lid. Second, for all that lack of attention, it performed about the same as Lenovo’s webcam: exactly how you’d expect a middling 1080p webcam built into a laptop this thin and light to look.
It’s not the worst I’ve ever used, but it has the slightly noisy, not-quite-as-HD-as-you’d-expect look that most laptop webcams suffer from. Still, it’s entirely usable for Zoom calls and the like.
Lastly, I’ll note that the built-in stereo speakers are fine. They won’t blow you away, but they also don’t distort your audio or get overly muddled at higher volumes either, which is nice for media consumption.
Performance and battery life
This is where the sacrifices to other aspects of the Swift Edge pay off. The Ryzen 7 CPU and 16GB of DDR5 RAM (the latest standard) provided exceptional performance in almost every task I put them to. Basic Windows and productivity actions always felt instant, even while attempting to bog the unit down with numerous open browser tabs and several running programs. While it couldn’t quite hold up to the Ryzen 9 CPU in that Lenovo model mentioned above, it came far closer than something with an MSRP $300+ below that model should be expected to.
The only area where it fell somewhat short was gaming. I should emphasize, the Swift Edge is not marketed as a gaming PC. However, most high-end laptops can usually play most mid-range games, even if they can’t offer usable frame rates on AAA titles. The Swift Edge’s performance is just barely usable in games like Overwatch 2 and Valorant, and fine for older titles like League of Legends or any retro/2D games you might like. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it for more than very occasional, very casual gaming.
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Gaming performance is a nice bonus in a work/school laptop, but battery life is usually paramount. Acer rates the Swift Edge at 10.5 hours for video playback and 7.5 hours per a MobileMark 2018 benchmark. I found the lower number closer to reality. Most full charges lasted around 5.5 to 7 hours. Pushing the system hard could drop that figure as low as 3 hours, while applying some modest batter-saving measures could stretch it as far as 8. However, applying what I consider to be an average variety of tasks, I’d estimate 6.5 hours per charge is a realistic expectation.
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This means you shouldn’t expect all-day battery life. But, it was never realistic to expect a 16-inch, 4K resolution display to match the 13-inch, HD display laptops pushing over 10 hours. It’s another trade-off worth noting. If you absolutely need 10+ hours of battery life, you’re going to have to consider a smaller, lower-resolution display, or a heavier laptop. You can’t have it all, especially at this price point.
Hopefully, I’ve illustrated the high points and drawbacks of the Swift Edge in a way that will help you decide if its skills and deficits suit your needs. I believe the ideal owner would be someone that can fully exploit the larger, 4K display. If you’ll constantly struggle with the shorter battery life, or you’re just doing basic productivity work, all of those pixels will just go to waste.
However, if you’re a content creator producing photos or videos at 4K resolution or a content consumer that wants your streaming video to look its absolute best, you’ll savor all this OLED panel has to offer. You’ll also need to plug in from time to time to keep that work or entertainment uninterrupted, albeit not for long thanks to the included 65W charger.
There are options that will get you a little closer to having everything, but you’ll need to shell out $500+ more, and even then you’ll leave behind things like a 4K display. This fact alone makes the Swift Edge an excellent, budget-friendly option for the shopper that needs a solid, workhorse laptop with one of the best 16-inch displays I’ve seen in a laptop under $2,000.
Alternatives to consider
If build quality is more important to you than a 4K display, and you can afford to up your budget a little more, Lenovo’s ThinkPad Z16 is a beautifully made laptop with a powerhouse Ryzen 9 at its core.
If you need something with a longer battery life, Dell’s XPS 13 Plus is amongst the latest and greatest all-day laptops, with a 13-hour plus battery.
The perpetual elephant in the room whenever you’re shopping for a laptop, Apple’s latest 16-inch MacBook Pro is a battery life king with up to 21 hours of use thanks to its highly-integrated, extremely powerful M1 Pro core.