Finding the best lightweight laptops means comparing a lot of very different devices at a lot of different prices. You can spend thousands on cutting-edge tech crammed into cases thin enough to cut cheddar, but you can also spend a fraction of the money on lightweight laptops that are among the best budget laptops around.
There’s no better illustration of that than our current top choices. At the pinnacle sits the Acer Swift 7, a pretty and premium lightweight laptop that’s so thin you can barely see it from the side; but at number three the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i isn’t considerably bulkier and costs less than a third of the price. That doesn’t mean it delivers 1/3 of the performance, 1/3 of the portability or 1/3 of the value for money.
As we’ll discover here there are some crucial differences that justify the Acer’s higher price tag, but some of the differences aren’t quite as dramatic as you might expect. Let’s discover what your money buys you at two very different ends of the market.
Acer Swift 7 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3i: design and display
The Acer Swift 7 is 9.95mm thick and weighs 890g. Its display is a 14” FHD touchscreen protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 6. It’s an IPS panel with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and truly tiny bezels around it.
The Lenovo screen isn’t great. It too is a 14” FHD with 1,920 x 1,080 but with a brightness of just 220 nits compared to 400 for the Acer it’s going to be harder to read in bright outdoor conditions. It’s a TN panel, not an IPS one, so the viewing experience is not as good as the one you get with the Acer, and it isn’t a touch screen.
Neither of these laptops has fallen out of the ugly tree, but the Asus is much thinner – the Lenovo is 19.9mm thick – and looks considerably more expensive. Which of course it is.
Acer Swift 7 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3i: processor, storage and graphics
As you’d expect from the difference in prices, the Acer has a much better specification than the Lenovo. The Acer has a dual-core Core i7-8500Y, 16GB of memory, Intel UHD Graphics 615 and a 512GB SSD. The Lenovo has a Core i3-1005G1, 4GB of RAM, 10th-gen Intel UHD Graphics and a 128GB SSD. Clearly the Lenovo is not going to leave the Acer in its dust.
That said, the difference in pure processing power isn’t quite as dramatic as it might appear. The Core i7 is an eighth generation core processor and the i3 is tenth generation, so while the i7 will outperform the Lenovo the difference isn’t as big as it would be if it had a tenth or eleventh generation processor. Many of the Acer’s rivals such as the Dell XPS 13 already do, so this is not a case where you’re comparing a budget laptop against the very fastest premium options.
The Acer has a quoted 11.5-hour battery life. Lenovo claims 7.5 hours.
Acer Swift 7 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3i: connectivity
The Acer is designed for portability, not expandability. It has twin USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The Lenovo has one USB-C port, two USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI port and a headphone jack. Wi-Fi is 802.11ac and it has Bluetooth 4.2.
Acer Swift 7 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3i: price and verdict
Prices for the Swift vary by model but you can currently expect to pay around £1,450: just make sure you’re getting the refreshed version as some older ones are still around in the retail channel. There appear to be some stock issues in the UK and Australia.
The Swift is nice, super thin and looks fantastic, but for the same money you could buy three of the Lenovos and a really nice bag to carry them around in. The Lenovo spec we’re describing here is typically £399.
These laptops are clearly made not just for different budgets but for different people. The Asus is a premium laptop with a price to match, but its older processor means it’s not the flying machine you might expect for that amount of money. The Lenovo doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t: the fact it runs Windows S, the more lightweight version of Windows 10, demonstrates that it’s designed for everyday computing rather than anything particularly exciting. The Acer does it with a lot more style and a considerably better display, but the Lenovo is cheap, cheerful and a great little laptop for budget buyers.