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Asus Zenbook 3 vs. Acer Swift 7: Two of the thinnest Windows laptops duke it out

It’s been a great year for ultra-portable laptops. With the MacBook Air sliding into obscurity, falling further and further behind the curve, other manufacturers have stepped up to fill that void with their own high-powered, razor-thin, super-premium laptops. Two in particular have been vying for the coveted crown as the best ultra-portable notebook on the market, the Asus Zenbook 3 and the Acer Swift 7.

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Both are impressively built, both are fast and reliable. But which one will come out on top when we pit them against one another head-to-head, matching spec-for-spec?

Performance

Looking at the specs side-by-side, you can see some trends emerge. The Zenbook is a little more expensive, so it’s got a little more power under the hood, but other than that the Zenbook and Swift are evenly-matched. The Swift has a comparable graphics engine, similar battery life, and it has more ports. In an age when manufacturers are paring down the profiles of their flagship notebooks, those extra ports are more important than ever. The Asus Zenbook 3, for instance, only has one USB-C port.

Asus Zenbook 3

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Acer Swift 7

swift-thumb-2

Size 11.65 x 7.52 x 0.46 inches 12.8 x 9.0 x 0.39 inches
Weight 2 pounds 2.48 pounds
Display 12.5 inch IPS display 13.3-inch IPS display
Resolution 1920 x 1080 1,920 x 1080
Operating System Windows 10 Windows 10
Storage 512GB SSD 256GB SSD
CPU 2.7GHz 7th-generation Intel Core i7-7500U or 2.5GHz 7th-generation Intel Core i5-7200U 1.2GHz 6th-generation Intel Core i5-7Y54
RAM 16GB 8GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620 Intel HD Graphics 615
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1x USB-C Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 2x USB-C
Battery Around 7 hours of heavy use Around 7 hours of heavy use
Price Starts at $1,600 $1,100
Availability Available at Amazon Available at Amazon
DT review 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

In our tests, the Zenbook 3 easily outperformed the Swift 7, but that’s no surprise given their hardware disparity. Both feature standard SSD read/write speeds, and on-board graphics, but the Zenbook really pulled ahead in CPU performance.

Featuring cutting-edge 7th-generation Kaby Lake processors, the Zenbook 3 easily eclipses the Swift 7’s base performance. The clock speed on its lowest-spec CPU is still more than double the clock speed of the Swift 7’s 6th-generation CPU. So in terms of just straight-up performance, this round goes to the Zenbook 3.

WinnerAsus Zenbook 3

Display

Hands-on--Acer-Swift-7_0055
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

We, as users, often cut laptops some slack when it comes to display quality – after all, you’ll be looking at the screen in a variety of different lighting conditions, so sometimes it’s not going to look great. Luckily, display quality has made leaps and bounds over the last couple years and the Acer Swift 7 and Asus Zenbook 3 really raise the bar for laptop display quality.

Starting with the Acer Swift 7, the quality of this display really cannot be overstated. It’s gorgeous. Crisp, clear, vivid, with surprisingly deep blacks. According to our tests the Swift 7’s contrast ratio came in at a stellar 830:1, and its color accuracy is near perfect.

The only downside is the relatively low pixel density, the metric which determines how “smooth” a display looks. The Swift 7 has about 167 pixels per inch, which means you’ll be able to discern pixels even at a reasonable distance. It’s not great, but the color accuracy and contrast more than compensate.

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The Asus Zenbook 3 is no slouch either. With an overall contrast ratio of 900:1, colors, highlights, and shadows all look fantastic on the Zenbook 3’s 1080p display. Unfortunately, the color accuracy is a little off, and it shows. Red and blue hues looked a little weird, just slightly off. To compensate, the Zenbook 3 does have a slightly better pixel density than the Swift 7, with around 176 pixels-per-inch.

This round is close, both displays look good, and both have their flaws. But the Acer Swift 7 comes away with the victory due to a good contrast ratio and near-perfect color accuracy.

Winner: Acer Swift 7

Portability

Acer Swift 7 SF713-51-M90J
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Just looking at the Asus Zenbook 3 and the Acer Swift 7 it becomes immediately apparent that this round will be very, very close. These are extremely thin laptops, and they are very light. Toss one in your bag and you might forget it’s there.

The Swift 7, in particular, is so light and insubstantial that it’s easy to forget it’s as light as it is. The Asus Zenbook 3 is actually lighter, but it feels a little more substantial. That’s because it’s smaller, and as a result, denser.

Comparing size, the Zenbook 3 is smaller, but only by fractions of an inch. The Swift 7 weighs about a half pound more, but it’s hard to tell when you pick it up. It’s a little wider, but thinner, so the weight is spread out over a larger area. While the Zenbook 3 is about half an inch narrower and about .07 inches thicker, it just feels ‘weightier.’

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To be fair, neither one is going to weigh you down when you’re out and about, and they’re both very portable laptops. When it comes to battery life, you might expect some differences, but despite the Zenbook’s superior CPU and RAM, both laptops produced almost identical scores in our battery tests.

The Zenbook 3 was capable of about 7 hours of heavy web use, and so was the Swift 7. This round would appear to be a draw, until you consider the fact that the Zenbook 3 gets comparable battery life with a much more powerful processor and double the amount of RAM under the hood.

So you’ll get the same amount of battery life on either one, but the Zenbook 3 comes away with a narrow victory because it’s capable of getting more done with that battery life.

Winner: Asus Zenbook 3

Connectivity

asus zenbook 3 2016
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

We all want our laptops to be smaller and lighter, but those size decreases come at a cost. Both the Asus Zenbook 3 and Acer Swift 7 feature support for the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth standards, but neither one has an excess of USB connectivity.

The Asus Zenbook 3 has one port, and a headphone jack. That one port is used to charge the device, and while it liberates the power-port from proprietary design, it limits functionality for anyone hoping to plug in even a single peripheral while you’re charging the laptop.

The Swift 7 doesn’t fare much better, offering up only two USB-C ports and a headphone jack, but at the very least you’ll be able to charge your laptop and phone at the same time. This round goes to the Swift 7 but not by much.

Winner: Acer Swift 7

Design

asus zenbook 3 2016
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Asus Zenbook 3 and Acer Swift 7 both feature avant-garde designs which eschew the typical laptop design language. Each company has gone its own way, improving on the standard premium-aluminum laptop design popularized by Apple’s MacBook Pro and miniaturized by the MacBook Air. Instead of using a silvery aluminum or matte black finish, these two ultra-portables take a different path.

A blue anodized metal finish is not something you see very often, even less often on a premium laptop. But the Asus Zenbook 3 somehow makes it work. With glossy gold accents around the edge of the display, the midnight blue Zenbook 3 is striking. It’s unusual, and it looks amazing. The fine details on the back of the display, a hairline spun concentric circle pattern, lends an air of quality to an otherwise peculiar design that could easily have come off as tacky.

The Swift 7 also strikes out on its own, offering up a black-and-gold package that just screams premium. With the Swift 7, Acer elevates a color scheme that we’ve seen before, and puts it’s own spin on things. The gold finish is only found on the interior of the device, while the back of the display is an attractive matte-black with gold accents. The interior, where the keyboard and trackpad rest, is decked out in a matte-gold finish with a luxuriantly large trackpad.

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Unfortunately, the Swift 7 doesn’t feel quite as durable as the Zenbook 3. It feels airy, almost insubstantial, particularly when compared to the solid heft of the Zenbook 3. It’s lighter, but because it’s a little smaller than the Swift 7, it feels very dense and durable. In your hands, it just feels like a high quality piece of machinery.

This one is very subjective, and while the Zenbook 3 might put some users off, the design is just a little higher-quality than the Acer Swift 7. The fine details on the back of the laptop really push it over the top, offering a premium chassis that looks and feels the part.

Winner: Asus Zenbook 3

Pricing

Price, on the other hand, is not anywhere near as subjective as design. This one is very straightforward. The Asus Zenbook 3 starts at $1,600, while the Acer Swift 7 starts at $1,100. You do get more for your money with the Asus Zenbook 3, and you can spec it up further if you want to, but the Swift is $500 cheaper, and that’s tough to ignore.

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The Swift 7 wins this round with a much lower price, but if you’re looking for a new overall workstation, you might be better off going with the Intel Core i7 version of the Zenbook 3. It’s pricier, but a lot more capable.

Winner: Acer Swift 7

Conclusion

If you’re keeping score, they’re tied. Three wins for the Acer Swift 7, and three wins for the Asus Zenbook 3. So which one comes out on top? It’s tough to name a winner, but taken as a whole the Asus Zenbook 3 comes away as the better buy.

With a more capable processor, more RAM, storage, and a high-quality design, the Asus Zenbook 3 edges out the Acer Swift 7, despite its shortcomings.

More: Curious about how we test these laptops? Check out our full breakdown here

It is more expensive, and the heavier price tag doesn’t do the Zenbook 3 any favors, but you’ll get a lot more out of it than you would the Swift 7, and it just feels like a more substantial offering. Pick it up, feel it, and you’ll be able to see why. It’s a premium product and it not only performs like one, it feels like one.