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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  • lightningz71 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    It appears that the Acer Swift design philosophy just doesn't translate for anything that requires a high steady-state power draw and thermal load. The Swift had the same issues with the 2XXX and 3XXX series chips as well, so this is nothing new. This is something that Acer has deliberately chosen to make a design trade-off for: sacrifice some thermal dissipation ability to keep the product in the size class that it is intended for.

    It will be interesting to see the benchmarks on the 4500U in this platform. It was shown in benchmarks of previous versions of the swift that lower end APUs actually performed better in gaming than the top end parts because the system was better able to manage the thermal output and the APU was better able to keep consistent clocks. While the absolute performance was still lower than notebooks with better thermal management implementations, it was a better gaming performer than the top end SKU.
    Reply
  • neblogai - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Generally, you are not complaining about Acer, but about U-series chips from both Intel or AMD. The philosophy of laptops with ~15W chips is that these chips are used in ultrabooks that are responsive and fast in short boosts, and not made for steady power (even if there are some premium devices that offer both). Reply
  • fmcjw - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    The 2019 Swift 5 and LG Gram series were matched to the thermal promises of Intel 10nm chips that took 2 generations to arrive, and maybe 5nm AMD SoCs in 2021 since AMD decided to rush to market with last generation GPU architecture in early 2020. Perhaps with software or AI based optimization, there can be a more optimal mix of processes split between the CPU versus the GPU for best performance within thermal constraints. Not every task is as clear cut as gaming routines, where more of the work is performed more efficiently on the GPU. I'm not sure that will happen though, as such software optimization has the least return on investment outside cloud and data center applications. Not even Apple wants to do it for the 2020 Macbook Air, thermally crippling a fine Intel chip and resolving the issue by sticking a more powerful cooling solution in a Macbook Pro (and charge more).

    For 2020, Acer managed to get the Swift 3 down to 1.2kg from 1.45kg of the 2019 model through the use of aluminum AND magnesium (not just aluminum as the article states). The 2020 Swift 5 maintains a 1kg weight while including a rare-breed matte touch screen. The Swift 5 is the model you want to get for 100% sRGB at a $300 premium. I think the only reason these fine machines sell for $600 to $900 for a mid-range configuration is the thermally constrained performance of the more stubbornly ambitious SoCs.

    Which if they can think outside the box can easily resolve by selling a fan-assisted cooling dock and unleash the full potential of the SoC we already paid for (and charge more).
    Reply
  • Fulljack - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    while Vega here is based on GCN 5 and not RDNA, it doesn't mean it's an outdated architecture. AMD did enhance the Vega arch for Ryzen 4000, with 56% improvement over Vega arch found in Ryzen 3000. overall, with enhanced arch, reduced core count, and higher clock, AMD did deliver 2020 Vega 8 that performs 28% better than 2019 Vega 11.

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/15324/amd-ryzen-400...
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, May 7, 2020 - link

    All irrelevant when the laptop's cooling is so pathetic:

    "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."
    Reply
  • csp4me - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Acer Swift 3 and 5 are in the market for lightweight, cool & quiet laptops within thermal constraints, thus ~ 18W tdp, and throttling under stress test.

    For the same budget of Acer Swift 5 ~ $900 you can find laptop models with the same quality display or better and also better thermals ~ 28W-35W at the expense of weight 1.3-1.4kg and noise/heat during heavy loads. Examples Lenovo Ideapad S540-13 both AMD or Intel, or Yoga Slim 7 both AMD or Intel.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    When you buy low power laptops - Y or U series TDPs - you are really looking out for these things

    1) Sustained Single Core Clock
    2) Sustained All-Core Clock
    3) Race-To-Sleep Single Core Turbo Boost (and the time it can sustain this)
    4) Race-To-Sleep All-Core Turbo Boost (and the time it can sustain this)

    1 and 2 are what your gaming sessions will occur in. 3 and 4 might help in some particularly CPU-heavy parts, but only for small periods of time.

    This is the problem Intel have with their 14++++ chips - 1 and 2 cannot be raised in the TDP they are restricted to (unlike desktop, where they can simply lie about the figures, in a laptop this will affect battery life and be easily detected), so they hype 3 and 4 to compensate.

    AMD on 7nm does well in all four measures, but you should never think you'll get long-term turbo clock performance from any mobile chip. I don't know if Renoir has a 4C turbo that can last longer than the 8C turbo for lightly threaded loads.
    Reply
  • fmcjw - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Can a Y or U series SoC be considered the equivalent of an H series SoC internally, with a beefier cooling solution and reduced I/O capabilities externally? I imagine not just the I/O or cooler but also the capacitors and power circuitry need to be higher specified for the higher sustained load.

    It's just that few makers even try to create a balanced system around the U or Y series, letting Turbo Boost go wild to impress for the first minute or two, or restraint the system thermally to achieve longer battery life even when you can plug it in.
    Reply
  • T1beriu - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    >the mobile chips here only feature half the L3 cache compared to its desktop counterparts

    Small correction. Ryzen 4000 actually has a quarter.
    Reply
  • ads295 - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - link

    Acer has consistently impressed me with their attention to detail. There are so many moronic OEMs that put in a single module of RAM but even my 2016 Acer E5-553-T4PT came with 2 modules of 2GB DDR4 RAM to enable the A10-9600P to run in dual channel mode.
    I suppose they don't get paid to debilitate AMD setups.
    Reply

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