Apple’s MacBook Air will face a formidable challenger this summer. The Acer Swift X is a 14-inch laptop that’s seven-tenths of an inch thick and weighs about three pounds, yet packs Nvidia’s RTX 3050 Ti graphics card to deliver solid performance in modern AAA games. It will retail for $899 with 512GB of storage, a full $100 less than the entry-level MacBook Air.
“It’s sleek, it looks good, the price is really good for what you get,” Eric Ackerson, senior product marketing manager for Acer America, said in a phone interview. “It has enough processing power, from the CPU and GPU combined, to not only create content, but also to play games comfortably.”
It’s all about the graphics
–> Acer’s Swift X has an AMD Ryzen processor and Nvidia GTX graphics for $899.99.
–> Apple’s M1 is quick, but graphics performance lags far behind Nvidia GPUs.
–> PC laptops still fall behind M1-powered Macs in battery life.
Outrunning the MacBook Air
I can’t quote Swift X benchmark results because it won’t hit store shelves until late June. Its hardware is a known quantity, though, so an educated guess is possible.
The entry-level Swift X will ship with AMD Ryzen 5 5600U processors, while the Ryzen 7 5800U will be available as an upgrade. Geekbench 5’s benchmark shows the Ryzen 5 reaching a multi-core score of around 5,500, and the Ryzen 7 scores about 7,000. Apple’s M1 MacBook Air scores about 7,500. The MacBook Air also wins in single-core tests.
It’s a different story in graphics. The GeekBench 5 OpenCL benchmark shows Nvidia’s RTX 3050 Ti laptop graphics hitting a score just north of 55,000. Apple’s M1 turns in a result just above 18,000.
Most PC games are not available on Mac, and fewer still are optimized for M1. Apple Silicon Games, a project collecting user-submitted performance data, reports Shadow of the Tomb Raider will produce 20 to 25 frames per second at 1080p and High detail settings on the M1 MacBook Air. A laptop with Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics can triple that result. That’s a win for Acer.
The powerful GPU generates heat, of course, and Acer’s engineers focused their efforts on managing it; lessons from Acer’s Predator gaming laptops were applied to the new Swift X.
“There’s a solution that will automatically spin the fans backwards to reverse the airflow to push dust out,” said Ackerson. “We did the same thing with Predator laptops, and there’s a bit of that in the Swift, as well.”
Apple fans will see this as a flaw. The MacBook Air’s silent, fanless design is part of its charm. Peace and quiet doesn’t make games more attractive, though, and ultimately leaves the Air with a weakness the Swift X can exploit.
What About Battery Life?
The Swift X should prove a performer, but what about portability? Is a 14-inch Windows laptop with Nvidia graphics in the same league as Apple’s MacBook Air?
The answer is a clear “yes,” at least in size and weight. The Swift X is hardly larger than the MacBook Air. It measures half an inch wider and less than a tenth of an inch thicker. The Swift X weighs three pounds, while the Air weighs 2.8 pounds.
“A laptop with Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics can triple the Air’s graphics performance. That’s a win for Acer.”
Acer claims battery life of up to 17 hours, but Ackerson admits this is possible only under specific, light-load situations. “I can tell you that we had some contentious conversations internally about how to make the battery life claims,” he said. Acer cites MobileMark 2014, an ancient battery test no longer supported by its own developer, as the basis for its battery claims.
In truth, endurance will vary greatly based on how you use the laptop. The Swift X’s hardware should prove efficient in everyday use, but its maximum power draw will be much higher. The RTX 3050 Ti has a configurable design power ranging from 35 watts to 80 watts. Apple’s MacBook Air ships with a power adapter rated for no more than 30 watts. The Air will always need less power, even at maximum load.
Can Acer’s Swift X Really Beat the MacBook Air?
That depends on your definition of victory.
They’re similar from a distance, yet the hardware inside could hardly be more different. Acer’s Swift X is basically an entry-level gaming laptop, while Apple’s MacBook Air is an everyday ultraportable. Deciding between them comes down to preferences.
That’s a victory for users. Apple’s M1 chip is outstanding, and will no doubt be followed by even more impressive successors, but that doesn’t mean PC manufacturers will shrivel and perish. On the contrary, they’ll find opportunities to build the laptops Apple can’t—laptops like the Acer Swift X.