Almost two years ago to the day, we had a chance to check out Acer’s Swift 3 laptop featuring AMD's first Ryzen Mobile platform, Raven Ridge. Acer has been a strong partner for AMD, generally being one of the first out of the gate with new designs featuring AMD’s latest platforms, and this year that partnership has played out again. Today we are taking a look at the newest AMD APU offering, the Ryzen 4000 "Renoir", which is at the heart of Acer’s latest iteration of the 14-inch Swift 3. With a brand-new AMD processor and some innovations in the Swift 3 design itself, both AMD and Acer have made some tremendous improvements for 2020.

Ryzen 7 4700U

The big news for 2020 is AMD’s new APU platform, codenamed Renoir. Selling as the Ryzen 4000 series, these new APUs bring a number of major updates to AMD's platform, as the company further sands down the rough edges from the Ryzen 3000 Picasso series. Key to this is a much-needed jump from GlobalFoundries' 12nm process to TSMC's class-leading 7nm process, giving AMD a much-wanted boost in transistor performance and overall energy efficiency. Coupled with a number of further optimizations at the chip and driver level, and AMD's latest APUs are proving far better suited for thin-and-light mobile designs than their predecessors.

Under the hood, like AMD's desktop processors introduced last year, the new Ryzen 4000 series APUs are the first laptop-focused products from AMD which feature their Zen 2 CPU cores. Designed hand-in-hand with TSMC's 7nm process, the Zen 2 architecture has further boosted AMD's performance across both IPC and clockspeeds, and the small cores have allowed AMD to get away with 8 of them in even a laptop APU. Meanwhile the iGPU is based on the same Vega architecture graphics as both the 2000-series and 3000-series APUs, but in a new configuration. Thanks to TSMC’s 7nm process, AMD has been able to crank up the GPU frequency much higher than before – so much higher that they’ve actually scaled back on the number of GPU compute units, while still promising improved GPU performance over the previous generation of APUs.

Ian had a chance to take the new Ryzen 4000 platform for a spin in early April, although that sample was the 45-Watt H series. Many of the concepts carry across though, so if you’ve not yet had a chance to catch up on Renoir, be sure to check out the Ryzen 9 4900HS review. The 45-Watt processor range is pretty much the standard in high-performance notebooks, but the vast majority of laptops on the market stick to the lower-powered 15-Watt range, which is what we have in the Acer Swift 3.

Acer has opted for what is likely to be one of the most popular SKUs in the AMD Ryzen 4000 range, the Ryzen 7 4700U. AMD has gone a very non-traditional route for this part, offering eight physical CPU cores, but disabling simultaneous multithreading (SMT). All of AMD’s H-Series lineup of 45-Watt processors do offer SMT, but only two of the new U-Series provide this, with the Ryzen 5 4600U offering 6 cores and 12 threads, and the Ryzen 7 4800U providing 8 cores and 16 threads, all in the 15-Watt thermal design power (TDP) that is so common on laptops. In the typical 15-Watt laptop space, AMD is the first to offer 8 cores, just not always with SMT.

On the GPU side, the Ryzen 7 4700U offers 7 Vega-architecture Compute Units (CUs), with a maximum clockspeed of 1600 MHz. Compared to the previous generation Ryzen 7 3700U, the GPU drops three compute units, but bumps the maximum frequency from 1300 MHz to 1600 MHz, so we shall see where this plays out in terms of performance.

The Acer Swift 3

Acer has managed to bundle a lot of product into the Swift 3. The 14-inch notebook features a 1920x1080 IPS display that, albeit lacking touch support, does get showcased well thanks to the Swift 3's thin bezel surround. The laptop ships with 8 GB of DDR4-3200, and though we would have loved to see LPDDR4X, the capacity is what is important here, and 8 GB is a good amount for a budget-friendly laptop like the Swift 3. Also, Acer has managed to outfit this notebook with a 512 GB SSD, which is fantastic. They will also be offering a less-expensive version with a Ryzen 5 4500U, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD.

 
Acer Swift 3 SF314-42
  Ryzen 5 Ryzen 7
Model Reviewed
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
6 core 6 thread 2.3-4.0 GHz
2x 4MB L3 15W TDP
AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
8 core 8 thread 2.0-4.1 GHz
2x 4MB L3 15W TDP
GPU AMD Vega 6
6 CUs 1500MHz Boost
AMD Vega 7
7 CUs 1600MHz Boost
RAM 8 GB Dual-Channel DDR4-3200
Storage 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Display 14-inch 1920x1080 IPS
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
2x2:2 802.11ax
Bluetooth 5.0
Audio Stereo Speakers
DTS Sound
Battery 48 Wh Li-Ion
65-Watt Charger (barrel connector)
USB Power Delivery Support
Right Side USB 2.0 x 1
Headset jack
Battery Charge Indicator
Left Side USB 3.2 Gen 1 x 1 with power-off charging
USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C w/DisplayPort, PD
HDMI 2.0
Charging connector
Dimensions 323.4 x 218.9 x 15.95 mm
12.73 x 8.62 x 0.63 inches
Weight 1.2 kg / 2.65 lbs
Camera 720p Super High Dynamic Range
Extras Fingerprint Reader
Price (MSRP) $629 USD $649 USD

Despite the strong APU, RAM, and storage offerings, Acer is not done there. The Swift 3 also features Wi-Fi 6 thanks to Intel’s AX200 wireless adapter, which means 2.4/5.0 GHz wireless support with 160 Mhz channels if your router is has the correct capabilities. There’s also an integrated fingerprint reader for Windows Hello Support, and the entire package is contained in an all-aluminum chassis which weighs just 1.2 kg / 2.65 lbs. Considering the $649 MSRP, this is an incredible value.

Design
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  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, May 7, 2020 - link

    8 watts is not awesome:

    "The laptop really struggled with its thermals, dropping the framerate into single digits often. The device attempted to run at around 18 Watts of power draw, slightly over the 15 Watt TDP, but in fact only averaged around 8 Watts during this run."

    Not being able to cover the pathetic old sRGB color space with even a slight level of accuracy is not awesome.
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Thursday, May 7, 2020 - link

    It’s the heat issue on heavy load. Looking at HSF with the back cover opened on TH, I was thinking how to modify it for a better heat dissipation. There’s only one heatpipe running about 3 inches to the fins. I doubt repaste will help much. Reply
  • uzzi38 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Because battery life is also about the rest of the components in the laptop as well. The screen especially so. Those results are normalised battery size, not normallised with rest-of-system power draw in mind. Reply
  • Jorgp2 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Isn't that still up to AMD?

    Intel helped spec out low power displays to use with Athena devices

    They also make their own chipsets.
    Reply
  • SolarBear28 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    I don't think AMD has the bargaining power (or marketing clout) to force OEM's to use expensive, lower power components the same way Intel does. But they have done something similar by requiring certain specs with their HS series processors. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - link

    Not, it's up to the OEM.

    OEM's don't even *have* to use Athena, though it looks like they're being heavily "persuaded".
    Reply
  • yeeeeman - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    D'oh, obviously. That is where the 650$ price is. In cheap components. Reply
  • SolarBear28 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Exactly. The XPS 13 2 in 1 is one of the most efficient Intel devices out there due to its screen and other components. The Swift 3 beats the Yoga C930 in the normalized test, so AMD is roughly in the same ballpark as Intel on power consumption. But its up to the OEM's to do the rest. With their HS series processors AMD pushed certain requirements on ASUS and the ROG G14 provides great battery life. Also the leaked specs of some Renoir Thinkpads point to a proper lower power display being an option, I'm looking forward to seeing reviews of the T14s. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - link

    This. It's not entirely a fair fight. Reply
  • neogodless - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    If I understand correctly, we're talking about battery life from an 8-core processor being only 25% off that of a 4-core processor. That's actually pretty good. Reply

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