When we last saw the Acer Swift 3 in July 2020, it was an ultraportable laptop packing a 13.5-inch display with a boxy 3:2 aspect ratio that made us declare it was hip to be square. The 2021 edition of the Swift 3 (starts at $749.99; $999.99 as tested) reverses course with a 14-inch screen that features the more common and rectangular 16:9 ratio, and it has us pining for last year's taller view and reduced scrolling. If you don't mind the wider display (or expressly want it because you watch a lot of movies on your laptop), there's a lot to like about the new Swift 3, from its all-metal chassis and Thunderbolt 4 support to its luxuriously long battery life and reasonable price. However, it doesn't bump the Dell XPS 13 and its stellar 16:10 display from our ultraportable Editors' Choice honors list.
We test laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel(Opens in a new window)) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.
The Swift 3 excelled in our battery rundown, lasting nearly 17 hours. That's an impressive result even among efficient ultraportables. Its screen brightness score of 330 nits surpassed its 300-nit rating, but as I said I don't consider the Swift 3's screen to be more than average at best. It was also a tick away from full coverage of sRGB along with creditable coverage of the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB space, giving creative pros something to work with (if they're content with a 1080p rather than 4K display).
What prevents a stronger recommendation is Acer's move from last year's squarer 3:2 aspect ratio screen to the slightly retro 16:9 panel of this year's edition. For a 14-inch laptop that's meant to take you through your work or school day, a 16:10 or ideally 3:2 display provides a roomier workspace than a 16:9 screen that's good for watching movies but less useful for navigating web pages, email inboxes, and Microsoft Office docs. 153554b96e