Breathing life into Kaby Lake Refresh
So what does $700 to $800 buy you if you're shopping Core i5-8250Us? The company sent me three of Acer's 14" Swift 3 systems to provide as even a playing field as possible for discerning the advances offered by its eighth-generation Core i5s.
If someone asked me to describe the typical laptop computer in 2017, I'd probably sketch out something like a Swift 3. For about a $650 e-tail price, the base Swift 3 I'm testing offers 8GB of DDR4-2400 memory and a 256GB Intel 600p NVMe SSD to go with its Core i5-8250U CPU. It also boasts a 14" 1920x1080 IPS display, a backlit keyboard, and a Microsoft Precision Touchpad.
Intel also sent over a GeForce MX150-equipped Swift 3 with slightly different specs. Aside from the upgraded graphics card, that system comes with 8GB of LPDDR3-1866 RAM instead of DDR4-2400. Considering the reduced pressure on the integrated graphics processor to perform, that lower memory spec makes sense to me. LPDDR3 likely lets Acer both include the discrete graphics card and keep prices down all at once. The MX150-equipped Swift 3 runs about $730 on Amazon right now.
The final system Intel sent us to test with is a slightly older Swift 3 with a Core i5-7200U CPU inside. That chip comes paired with 8GB of DDR4-2133 RAM and the same 256GB SSD as its more recent brethren. Since this is an older machine, it's available at a discount from some retailers. Walmart has this golden wonder for $580 right now, for example.
While this review is primarily concerned with the performance of the CPUs inside the Swift 3s, I should take a moment to talk about the eighth-generation Swift 3 hardware itself. These machines are, in a word, solid. Their non-touch displays are neither the brightest nor contrastiest IPS panels I've ever laid eyes on, but their color accuracy seems reasonable out of the box.
The keyboards on the latest Swift 3s offer decent feedback with shallow travel, and there's no unwanted flex or slop in their action. The Swift 3s' all-metal chassis didn't offer a hint of flex, either. The Microsoft Precision Touchpads in these systems are responsive and accurate, and they handled multi-finger scrolling and gestures without a hitch. The only downside to the trackpad on all of these machines is a bit of a hollow sound when they're tapped, but that's a minor complaint.
In short, the basic Swift 3 design does everything you'd want from an ultrabook, and it does it all well. For their prices, these systems are thin, light, well-built, responsive, and a general pleasure to work with. They're pretty nice to look at, too. If this is the state of general-purpose computing devices in 2017, we're living in good times.