The sweet spot for a 13-inch laptop is between $500 and $1,000. In that price range, you’re getting a notebook with the latest hardware, far more capable than low-spec Windows machines and Chromebooks, but not quite on the level of high-end options like the MacBook Pro. There are two laptops that stand out for this price bracket: The Acer Swift 3 and Asus ZenBook 13 UX333.
We’ve compared the two spec for spec, covering design, pricing, performance, and more. Asus has a newer ZenBook 13 available, too, which we’ll bring in for reference at a few points.
Pricing and availability
Acer offers two versions of its Swift 3 laptop, one with a 16:9 screen and another with a 3:2 screen. The hardware inside is identical, sporting Intel 11th-gen processors. The 16:9 version starts at $699.99, while the 3:2 version starts at $799.99.
The ZenBook 13 UX333 is just over two years old at this point, released in 2019. Originally, it came with an eighth-gen Intel processor, but now has a 10th-gen one. Availability is limited given the laptop’s age, but if you can find one in stock, it’ll run you about $1,000.
However, Asus offers a newer, similar laptop: The ZenBook 13 UX325. It comes with one of Intel’s latest 11th-gen processors and starts at $750.
Asus’s latest member of its ZenBook 13 300-series inherits a high-end royal Blue color scheme with striking gold trim and iconic ZenBook swirl on the lid from its more expensive siblings.
Good looks isn’t all that the ZenBook 13 inherited. It’s also tested to MIL-STD-810g military standards for robustness, and it feels like it too, with no bending or flexing in the lid, keyboard deck, or bottom of the chassis.
It comes with some unique design features. First, it has an ErgoLift vent that props up a snappy and precise keyboard (with some funky key layout issues that you’ll have to get used to), and a Microsoft Precision touchpad that’s augmented by an LED inlay that provides a useful virtual numeric keypad. The Swift 3 doesn’t have any nifty technology in its equally snappy and precise keyboard and excellent touchpad, and so the Asus scores points for its extra design touches.
The Swift 3 still puts up a fight, though. The base model is just another silver, aluminum laptop, but Acer offers blue and orange variants, too, at least in some regions. We found the blue variant available in Ireland and available but out of stock in the U.K. The vast majority of models available are silver, which looks nice, but not as nice as the ZenBook 13.
The Swift 3 wins when it comes to weight, at least by a little. Both the 16:9 and 3:2 variants of the Swift 3 — more on that next — clock in at 2.65 pounds, while the ZenBook 13 is 2.8 pounds. You won’t feel that difference, but the Swift 3 is technically lighter. It’s slightly thinner, too: 0.7 inches thick compared to 0.63.
Connectivity is another area where the machines differ. The ZenBook 13 comes with a USB-A 2.0 port, USB-C 3.2 port, and a USB-A 3.2 port, along with an HDMI connection and a microSD card slot. The Swift 3 mirrors the connectivity minus a microSD card slot on the 16:9 model. The 3:2 model ditches the USB-A 2.0 port in favor of a second USB-A 3.2 port.
Both machines are built well and look nice, but it’s clear the ZenBook 13 is the winner here. The Swift 3 is negligibly thinner and lighter, but that’s not enough to close the gap between the two in terms of design. Plus, the overlay keypad is legitimately useful on the ZenBook 13.
The Swift 3 is a clear winner in this round, simply because it packs newer, better hardware than the ZenBook 13. Between both versions of the screen, the Swift 3 comes stocked with an 11th-gen Intel i7-1165G7, featuring Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics. Intel’s 11th-gen mobile chips are excellent, and the bundled Iris Xe graphics can even handle some light gaming. Acer pairs the processor with 8GB of LPDDR4X memory, and either a 256GB or 512GB SSD.
Unfortunately, the ZenBook 13 UX333 tops out with 10th-gen Intel processors, in particular the quad-core i7-10510U. The processor comes with Intel UHD 620 graphics, but there are also models with up to an Nvidia MX250. For storage and memory, Asus reaches slightly higher, offering up to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe SSD.
The UX333 is being replaced by the UX325, which is still a ZenBook 13 laptop. This model matches the latest Swift 3 with a 1165G7 processor, complete with Iris Xe graphics. It’s slightly lighter, too (around 2.4 pounds). We’re covering the UX333 in this comparison, but the UX325 is better in almost every way.
Overall, the specs are what we’d expect for a 13-inch notebook in this price range. A solid quad-core processor, decent onboard graphics, and a limited amount of ultra-fast storage is the name of the game, and both the ZenBook 3 and Swift 3 hit the mark. The Swift 3 has better hardware, but there are 13-inch ZenBook options that match Acer’s latest offering.
The two machines differ when it comes to the screen. Both laptops come with a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) screen with IPS-like viewing angles. However, Acer offers a version of the Swift 3 with a 3:2 aspect ratio like the Surface Laptop 3, with a larger overall resolution (2,256 x 1,504). Although 16:9 is the standard, 3:2 laptops work surprisingly well for work, as do 16:10 ones like Dell’s latest XPS 15.
Neither of these laptops is a burden to carry around, despite some minor differences in size and weight. If you tried the two machines and couldn’t directly compare them, it would be very difficult to tell the difference.
Battery life is where the difference lies. The ZenBook 13 lasted significantly longer in all of our battery tests, including almost two hours longer on our aggressive Basemark web benchmark, almost five hours longer when browsing the web, and two hours longer when playing our test video. The ZenBook 13 will definitely get you through a full working day, whereas the Swift 3 probably won’t — and that’s a big difference.
The ZenBook 13 lasts a lot longer on a charge, letting you leave your power adapter behind.
Two ultrabooks, but only one winner
There’s really no contest between the Swift 3 and ZenBook 13 UX333 in 2021. The Swift 3 has newer hardware, two different display options, and a slightly smaller and lighter overall build. The ZenBook 13 is the better-looking machine, but it doesn’t come with the latest hardware.
That’s against the UX333, however. Against a newer ZenBook 13 like the UX325, the Swift 3 lags slightly behind. In terms of performance, the UX325 and Swift 3 should perform almost identically. Asus’ design wins, though. Between the lifted hinge, virtual number pad, and beautiful color scheme, the UX325 puts the parts inside to better use.
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