Note: This review was first published on 22 May 2023.
16 is the new 15
If there’s an immutable rule in tech it is that display sizes will get larger. This is true for phones, TVs, and notebooks. 14-inch notebooks are fast replacing 13.3-inch ones and it appears now that 15-inch notebooks will soon be replaced by 16-inch ones. The benefits of a larger display are obvious but notebooks with large displays often come with weight penalties. Acer’s Swift Edge 16 notebook, however, bucks that trend because it’s even lighter than some 13 and 14-inch notebooks. How have they done it and can you really have your cake and eat it? Answers below.
The TL;DR verdict:It’s not without its flaws but if you’ve always wanted a notebook with a big display and without the associated weight penalty, this is one notebook you should definitely check out.
Good old magnesium alloy
Let’s cut to the chase. You want to know how much the Swift Edge 16 weighs. It’s a mere 1.17kg. That makes it easily lighter than most 13.3 and 14-inch notebooks. To give this number some context, consider that a MacBook Air is 1.24kg and an XPS 13 Plus is 1.26kg. It’s thin too – just 12.75mm thick. In the hands, it feels incredibly light, your brain almost can’t comprehend how a notebook of this size can weigh so little.
Unless, of course, you are familiar with LG’s gram lineup of notebooks. Acer isn’t the first to make a notebook of this size so light, LG has been doing for a couple of years now. The 16-inch gram 16 is also a mere 1.19kg heavy.
The two brands achieve these remarkable feats with engineering by using chassis made out of magnesium alloy. According to Acer, the Swift Edge 16’s magnesium alloy chassis is 20% lighter and twice as strong as aluminium. The one downside to it is that it feels somewhat plasticky and doesn’t feel quite as solid and as tip-top as aluminium.
The 16-inch display is OLED and has a high resolution of 3840 x 2400 pixels. It’s mighty sharp. Though the refresh rate is just 60Hz, it supports 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space and meets VESA’s standard for DisplayHDR True Black 500. Like most OLED displays, visually, it looks great and I think most users will have no complaints. However, having experienced many other notebook displays, I’d say the Swift Edge 16’s display appears very slightly less vivid and contrasty. Curiously, it's not a touch display. It doesn't bother me since I'm predominantly a keyboard-and-mouse type of guy, but I can see how it can be a dealbreaker for some people.
What powers the Swift Edge 16 is interesting because instead of a 13th Gen Intel Core chip, it uses a Ryzen 7000 series processor. This is AMD’s newest mobile chip and our test unit came with a Ryzen 7 7735U with 16GB of memory and a 1TB SSD. This is an eight-core chip with 16 threads and it also features a Radeon 680M integrated GPU. I can’t wait to see how it performs against notebooks with Intel’s new 13th Gen Core processors.
Though the Swift Edge 16 is thin, it has just about all the ports users would need. There are two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, a full-size HDMI 2.1 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. My only complaints would be that there’s no memory card reader of any sort and that the USB-C ports only support USB 3.2 Gen 2 and not Thunderbolt 4 or the newer USB4 standard.
Unlike most notebooks of this size, the Swift Edge 16’s keyboard doesn’t have a number pad. I think this arrangement is preferable for most people since it means the keyboard is centred. Of course, you might disagree if you have to work with spreadsheets daily and need to key in lots of numbers. The keyboard itself is decent, the keycaps are of a decent size and the key feel and travel is acceptable. The trackpad is quite large but doesn’t use Microsoft’s Precision drivers (ELAN, since you asked) so it feels imprecise and a tad laggy.