It's been a long time since we had a chance to review laptops powered by AMD CPUs, but Acer has now launched Acer Swift 3 supported by Ryzen Mobile, and we got a chance to see it. AMD has been having trouble in laptop space over the last few years, but with the release of Ryzen in 2017, they hope to change their fate. But most of it will make their partners pack Ryzen into high-quality laptops, so that's where Acer comes in.
The Acer Swift 3 segment is about the middle of their lineup, which includes Swift 1, 3, 5, and 7 models, and it is a broad lineup, with Swift 3 models in both 14-inch and 15.6-inch versions, with both processors AMD with Vega graphics, as well as Intel processors, and some of them come with an optional NVIDIA GPU as well. For this review, we'll see the SF315-41-R6J9, which is a 15.6-inch version with AMD Ryzen's top-end mobile processor on Ryzen 7 2700U.
AMD Ryzen 7 2700U is a quad-core processor with eight threads, and has a base frequency of 2.2 GHz with a 3.8 GHz boost frequency. It supports DDR4-2400 dual-channel, and has 384 KB L1, 2 MB L2, and 4 MB L3 cache. But perhaps the most interesting feature is the Radeon RX Vega 10 graphics, and at 2700U this is the largest GPU available with 10 GPU cores, and an increase frequency of 1,300 MHz.
The top AMD-based AMD Swift 3 models come with enough connectivity on the USB-C port (Gen 1 - 5 Gbps) along with two USB 3.0 ports, and a USB 2.0 port. There is also HDMI output with HDCP, and SD card reader, which is the number of solid connections on the laptop.
While 8 GB of RAM may seem a bit low, for this middle-class notebook, it seems enough. Acer also includes a fingerprint reader with Windows Hello support, and Wi-Fi based Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174A, which is a 2x2: 2 802.11ac wireless NIC with MU-MIMO support and Bluetooth 4.2.
Before we learn more about performance, we first learn about the design made by Acer for Swift 3.
GPU Performance: Vega at 15-Watts Laptop Acer Siwft 3e.SF315 Ryzen
We've been stuck in a bit of a habit with laptops these days. Intel has been offering solid CPU performance over the last few years, but their integrated graphics solutions, while excellent for media playback and desktop use, are fought under any kind of 3D load. Enter the Vega GPU in Ryzen.
Vega, if you follow the GPU, is the current generation GPU that AMD offers for desktops, but they also modulate it to pack it to a 15 Watt SoC. Ryzen 5 2500U and Ryzen 7 2700U are very similar on the CPU side, with only the 200 MHz frequency separating them, but on the GPU side, AMD offers 8 Radeon Vega CU at 2500U, and 10 Vega CU at 2700U. In addition, higher level models offer a higher boost frequency of 1300 MHz higher at 2700U versus 1100 MHz at 2500U.
This Vega is full as well. For a deeper dive, see Vega's launch article, but the U Series SoC offers the same features as larger desktop cousins, such as Rapid Packed Math, improved geometry engines, and of course, media blocks, such as 10-bit HEVC hardware offload, and VP9 hardware as well.
Acer Swift 3 runs through our standard GPU laptop suite, and unlike Intel 15-Watt, we run it through a full suite. We're in the midst of introducing the 2018 GPU laptop suite, but like a CPU test, it's important to have more data even though the games are older.
Looking at our comparison, we have a wide range. Surface Book 2 offers a powerful NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU, 15 inches in size similar to the Acer Swift 3. Tablet Surface Pro is one of several models we've seen with Intel's Iris GPU, offering a dual execution unit over the normal HD620 or UHD620 found on ASUS ZenBook 3.
Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
For a very long time, we wondered whether Intel GPU limits are due to architecture or TDP, as they have not really improved over the years. Even Iris graphics struggle. AMD has proven that the theory is wrong. While sharing only 15-watt between CPU and GPU, Ryzen 7 delivers good performance from GPU, allowing game on integrated graph with little success. No, it can not compete with GTX 1060 in Surface Book 2, but it outperforms GT 940MX in its original Surface Book. The GPU on Ryzen 7 2700U is impressive.
System Performance: Testing the AMD Ryzen 7 2700U
As happens on the desktop, AMD launched Ryzen Mobile as a turning point for their products. They offer full quad-core processors in their 15-Watt range, with eight threads. That's the same as Intel's just switching from dual to quad-core in U series. But while Intel still has the CPU advantage with Kaby Lake Refresh, they have been let down with their UHD 620 graphics. AMD on the other hand, is able to take advantage of their Vega graphics processor and pack it with Mobile Ryzen CPU.
AMD has also been able to move to the 14 nm FinFET process by GlobalFoundries, so they are no longer far behind on the foundry side as well.
With Zen core, AMD has been able to achieve low-power processor scalability such as Ryzen Mobile with one CPU Complex (CCX) from four lines, to a larger desktop processor. They utilize their Infinity Fabric for memory, I / O, and PCIe, but also for their SenseMI interconnection sensor systems that provide telemetry to quickly adjust the power and frequency of the processor. As we see on the second generation Ryzen desktop, AMD introduced Precision Boost 2 to the desktop, but the technology was first launched on Ryzen Mobile. Precision Boost 2 is a telemetry-aware DVFS system that provides better control over CPU core frequency, with 25 MHz additions. This new system makes it possible to raise levels below the multi-core load when overall workload is not so heavy, whereas in their native technology it only offers two levels of improvement depending on whether two or more of the two cores are loaded. The advantage of this new system is listening to telemetry to ensure that the CPU is raised to the highest level without being able to reach thermal, electrical, or utilization limits, which should improve slightly more performance than the original version.
AMD offers two versions of Ryzen Mobile, on Ryzen 7 2700U, and Ryzen 5 2500U.
Although the CPU frequency is similar, the GPU is a larger unit at 2700U, which is a model we have for review. It is also important to note that unlike Intel, AMD only supports DDR4 on Ryzen, which will impact on laptop power usage compared to LPDDR3 that we still see in most Ultrabook.
We have run Acer Swift 3 through our standard laptop suite. We will update our test series soon with some new tests, such as PCMark 10, and new web testing, but for this review it's important to have more data to reuse for comparison. If you want to check out Acer against any laptop we've tested
Cinebench is a pure CPU test, where higher IPC, higher frequency, and more core are the main ingredients for strong results. Thanks to four cores and eight threads, the multithreaded results are very good on Acer, and in fact despite not having a strong single-threaded performance like the ASUS Zenbook 3, it goes beyond multithread. AMD says they have "very efficient SMT implementations vs. other SoCs 4C8T" and it seems to be the case. Even compared to Surface Book 2 which has the fastest KBL-R quad, the single-threaded ratio to multi-threaded is higher on the AMD section. No, it can not achieve the same level of performance, but is significantly faster than the 7th generation Core results.
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