Review: Acer Swift X 16 – A Portable Powerhouse with an Intriguing GPU

Intel's Arc GPU Makes a Splash

When I was told I was going to review the Acer Swift X 16 laptop, I must admit that I questioned whether I was the right person to take this on. I am very much a desktop person and when I’m not at a desk in front of a big screen, I’m on my iPad. But in a strange twist of fate, I have owned a few Acer laptops in the past so maybe this makes me the absolute right person to do it…

So let’s get to it. I am currently typing on the Acer Swift X 16 – a laptop designed foremost for productivity that eschews the main laptop industry-standard AMD or NVIDIA discrete GPUs by giving us Intel’s sparking new Arc A370M graphics card instead, marking another line in the sand in Intel’s aggressive battle for the discrete GPU market. This latest addition to the Swift series offers a powerful combination of the Arc GPU, an impressive 12th-gen ‘Alder Lake’ i7 Intel processor, 16gb of ram and a roomy 1Tb SSD for storage.

Let’s go outside

In terms of design, I’ve seen people complain that the Swift X 16 prioritizes function over form. I’d have to disagree, it’s a laptop so the layout is pretty much pre-destined to be a recognisable shape. But to me it looks, dare I say it, ‘macbook-ish’ enough to be considered professional looking with a dark grey, sturdy aluminum casing. In fact, it’s durable enough that a robust attempt at twisting the chassis shows very little flex at all which gives those of us who throw these poor unsuspecting devices in bags as we run towards a rapidly diminishing meeting time hope that we won’t wreck our precious presentations! At 18mm thick and weighing in at 1.7kg, it’s definitely not a featherweight challenger but it’s not so heavy that it will be bothering you.

Socket to me!

Because Acer hasn’t put the Swift X through a major weight loss programme, it does mean you get a full roster of ports on the left and right of the machine. To the left of the keyboard are 2x Type-C with Thunderbolt 4 ports (also used for charging the device),  1x HDMI 2.1 port, and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A. Keep in mind too that those Thunderbolt 4 ports allow you to attach extra displays alongside the HDMI socket. To the right of the keyboard you’ll find a standard headphone/microphone jack port 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, battery charge indicator light and a Kensington lock port. Strangely no sd card slot is present so you photographers might have to stump up for a dongle. For me, this is pretty much the perfect selection as I currently have the power lead plugged in, two external hard drives and a mouse, which suits my working environment perfectly.

Just for complete connectivity, I should also mention that the Swift X packs Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 6E which is super speedy if you have it but I don’t have anything that runs the new hotness so I assume it works fine as the machine was fast and reliable no matter which wifi networks I was connected to.

Just my type

I’m a big fan of a good keyboard and the Swift X does not disappoint. The keyboard another true standout feature. Now I’ve always approached modern chiclet-style keys with trepidation but I shouldn’t have been worried -I can bear witness that it feels great to type on as I have been working on it all day! – The enter key is an odd shape and has been combined with the # key but it’s actually tall and wide enough to be hit perfectly every time. The left-hand shift key is shortened too but all this customization means we can have a super-useful numeric keypad over to the right-hand side of the keyboard, and as anyone who often has to punch in numbers knows, it is a godsend to have on a laptop! Typing or gaming for extended periods is comfortable thanks to reasonable key travel and very little flex in the casing even when hitting that return key a little too hard while correcting someone on social media.

The touchpad is a good size and seems to have sensibly set up palm rejection while typing, but I’m just not a fan of trackpads because of accuracy concerns which just slow me down in terms of getting work done, and this one still hasn’t convinced me to change my mind. I have a good mouse and I used it and I was very happy…

Big screen, tiny pixels!

Obviously a 16 inch laptop is going to live or die by the quality of the display and the Swift X 16 is no laggard here at all.  The matt (non-touch) stunning 16-inch 2.5K IPS LED display is packed with a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution and runs at 60Hz. It’s hard to take a photo that does it justice. the 16:10 panel delivers dazzling brightness and vivid, vibrant colors with nice wide, top, bottom, left and right viewing angles.

For those of you who like specs, the screen covers 100% sRGB colour-space, 76% Adobe colour-space and 76% DCI-P3 colour-space. This means on-screen imagery will be fairly accurate but not perfect. Saying that, I have been working with Photoshop images for a few days and frankly it’s perfectly good enough for production.

The screen has a thin 5mm bezel on 3 sides apart from the top which is 9mm and houses the webcam, microphone array and the decent magnets to hold the lid closed. The webcam itself is a 1080p affair and is fine for an onboard camera in a confined space. If you’re after really high-quality video for your Teams meetings then you’ll need to get yourself a separate device but staying with the on-board camera shouldn’t get you any abuse from your co-workers! The microphones work well and do their job more than adequately.

How does it work in everyday life?

So I’ve avoided it as much as I can but I know you all want to know about the Intel ARC GPU. In truth, it was one of the main reasons I was interested in this device. Recently, I have been using Adobe Photoshop plus a few other Adobe apps on here over an extended period of time and I have to say the experience was… well… uneventful!

Now don’t get me wrong, this is 100% NOT a bad thing… Combined with the powerful 12-core i7 processor, the Swift X 16 chewed up everything I threw at it from (not horribly heavy) 3d modeling, to photo editing, to video editing. It all just worked and didn’t bring attention to itself at all, which is exactly what you want from a practical, powerful working computer. I encountered absolutely no hassle at all and my work got done.

Now, obviously, a shiny new laptop in the house gets a lot of attention from the younger contingent of the household, and the kids wanted to play some games. How could I refuse? Now a bunch of stuff just worked fine. FIFA ’22 worked like a dream at medium settings at native resolution (which was kinda shocking, but awesome). The basic FIFA ’23 minimum system requirements are ridiculous and the game needs a few patches but it still worked acceptably if a little laggy. But then we got to CS-GO which booted up fine and worked for a while but then locked up the machine to the point of having to reboot, same with Sable, same with a few more. Now I’m 100% sure this is an Intel ARC driver issue as we had other odd performance issues that were fixed with a driver update. The games ran fluidly until the hangs. So yes, a mixed bag.

In terms of battery life, I saw a notification today after about 5 hours warning that I should plug it in ( 22% left ) but I have been swapping between large processor-intensive apps, downloading and uploading through a browser all day. On a little more sedate working day it should be closer to just under 10 hours of working time but obviously, more processor and/or GPU-intensive tasks will eat the battery much faster.

Also just on the subject of giving the machine a processor/GPU-intensive workout, I haven’t heard a fan going yet! The Swift X 16’s thermal management seems to be top-notch. The machine runs cool no matter what I seem to be working on and there’s no bothersome noise to distract you from your work.

Talking of noise, I should say that the speakers built into the Swift X 16 are better than a lot of other laptops I’ve tried. They are great for streaming Spotify while working and fine for conference calls but, as always, if you love your sounds, you’ll be better off with good earphones/earbuds or cabled speakers.

So should I buy one?

This was always going to be an “it depends” type of answer. The Acer Swift X 16 is going to allow you to do most tasks without any issues at all – it’s not a video editing monster but you can easily edit video without frustration with it. It’s not a 3d beast but you can do 3d on it and I’ve been designing documents and building infographics on it with no lags or pain of any sort.

If you want to play games then I guess the answer is; not quite yet. For casual gaming you’ll probably be fine, but for a graphically intensive workout you’ll have to badger Intel into updating the ARC drivers. I suspect it won’t be too long coming as there appears to be ongoing work and Intel certainly seems to have committed to matching AMD and NVIDIA for performance and undercutting them on price.

But indisputably yes if you need a good, performant, working machine with a lovely screen, a full keyboard and a bunch of useful ports. The Acer Swift X 16 should certainly be high on your list of options.

You can see more information and full specs on the Acer Swift X 16 here. Or buy from Amazon here

 

About Author
Born into a family of restauranteurs, Ricardo Pirroni didn't want to join the family business. His talents extended beyond the kitchen and he has spent the last 20 years honing his skills in various creative pursuits. From making things from scratch, 3d sculpting, drawing, designing graphics, art directing to brainstorming concepts. His work is not only functional, but also thought-provoking and entertaining. In addition to being a recognised authority on cake, his diverse range of talents and love of all things tech, makes him a versatile writer, capable of crafting stories that are both engaging and visually compelling.