Acer’s Swift 3 will deliver surprisingly different AMD and Intel models

We were delighted by Acer’s new Swift 3 laptops, debuting in two slightly different versions, most noticeably featuring either the newest AMD 7 nm Ryzen 4000 series or Intel’s desktop Ice Lake processors.

After all, this is just the mid-priced thin-and-light range of Acer laptops, which is not generally considered to be thrilling. Our latest Swift 3 review liked most of what we saw, other than the battery life and the audio.

But now with this launch at CES in Las Vegas on Monday, consumers face an AMD-vs.-Intel choice, as we have recently discussed with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. What one you should buy? Before we check them we won’t know, but a close look at the specs that we now know are posing some fascinating points of comparison.

Acer Swift 3, AMD vs. Swift 3 Intel models of Intel

Acer will use Intel 10th-gen, 10 nm “Ice Lake” desktop CPUs, ranging from the Core i3-1005G1 to the Core i7-1065G7. The AMD models, specifically the AMD Ryzen 7 4700U, will use one of the brand-new 7 nm mobile components.

Intel’s mobile Ice Lake chips handily beat AMD’s mobile Ryzen over the Surface Laptop 3 in our head-to-head title battle. 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 overall to Intel by about 10 percent or so. Now, AMD is back with the Zen 2 architecture that has done well on the desktop against Intel, plus their 7 nm process. AMD mobile performance should improve substantially.

The Swift 3 models of AMD and Intel are different in more respects than their CPUs. For example, Acer’s Swift 3 AMD edition (the SF314-42) features a 14-inch screen while the Swift 3 with Intel inside (the SF313-52/G) features a slightly smaller 13.5-inch screen. As a result, the two laptops also have slightly different profiles: The 13.5-inch screen of the Intel edition is dimensionally smaller but has a higher 3:2 aspect ratio, so when closed or opened, the laptop body has a larger, squarish shape. The 14-inch screen of the AMD edition is dimensionally bigger but has a narrower aspect ratio, so the body of the laptop is rectangular and slightly shorter.

The weight of the Swift 3 is changing a lot too. While we reviewed the 2019 version of the Swift 3 at 3.05 pounds, the new Swift 3 weighs 2.62 pounds (Intel Core) and 2.6 pounds (AMD Ryzen), respectively. Indeed, that’s about a weight drop of 15 per cent.

[ Further reading: Our choices for best PC laptops] Acer also seems to be paying more attention than usual to improving the Intel version of the Swift 3, nominating the SF313-52/G as part of Intel’s Athena Project programme. Project Athena laptops are typically reserved for flagship or “star” devices and must meet certain standards for hardware specifications, quick wake-up, responsiveness and battery life. It’s not clear whether Acer has set similar expectations for the Swift 3’s AMD version, as we will see in other specs below.

Then, the biggest difference between AMD and Intel mobile was in battery life where Intel handily beat AMD in our head-to-head contrast 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 significantly less hours for the AMD version. Since our story was originally released, Acer decided to go back to the AMD configuration, saying that the lower number was an “early estimate, and may not be near accurate anywhere.” The AMD version has ingredients for improved battery life, including its lower resolution display compared to the Intel model. Nevertheless, Intel has also invested heavily in the development of its Project Athena, including improving the battery life. We expect to gain more insight as we bring in 4000-based Ryzen laptops to test against rivals from Intel.

Apparently, the AMD version lacks also Thunderbolt capabilities. Both variations are something you should pay attention to.

An Acer representative also reported that Nvidia’s discrete graphics will be included in the Intel SF313-52/G but the company has not disclosed which processor.

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

The last big differences are in price and availability. The Intel-powered Acer Swift 3 (SF313-52/G) is set to be available in March in North America starting at $699. The Ryzen-based Acer Swift 3 (SF314-42) will be available in May starting at $599 in North America. We are going to be excited to get our hands on the two.

Basic Specs for Acer Swift 3 (SF313-52/G, Intel Core)

  • Display: 13.5-inch IPS (2256×1504)
  • 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: 1280×720, 720p video
  • Battery: 56Wh (16 hours battery life)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), 2×2 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

Basic Specs for Acer Swift 3 (SF313-52/G, Intel Core)

  • Display: 14-inch (1920×1080)
  • 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: 1280×720, 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 on January 13, at 10:33 AM. In a previous version of the story, Acer received the AMD-specific version of the Swift 3, the SF314-42, with an assumption of battery life. Since then Acer has walked that off, saying it was an early estimation.

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