The $1,799 MacBook Pro 13 vs. the $650 Acer Swift 3: Guess who wins?

Can a budget PC smoke Apple's new MacBook Pro 13? Yes, it can.

Credit: Apple

Apple's MacBook Pro 13 just came out, and it already has a tough adversary. That foe is not the usual high-end, high-priced Windows workhorse like the Dell XPS 13 we just tested, as great as it is. No, the reason Apple should worry is because based on our sister site Macworld's preliminary performance tests, this $1,799 premium laptop could be lapped by the $650 Acer Swift 3.

That's not a typo. The Acer Swift 3 costs just six hundred fifty dollars. But this budget laptop has a secret weapon: AMD's Ryzen 7 4700U. When we reviewed the Acer Swift 3, it surpassed all expectations by keeping pace with laptops far bigger and more expensive. And sorry to say, the MacBook Pro 13 is in the same pickle as those other powerhouses. Keep reading and weep, Apple.

13 inch macbook pro open Apple

It’s pretty, but is it fast?

What's inside the MacBook Pro 13

The MacBook Pro 13's spec list is first-class all the way, starting with a 10th-gen Core i5-1038NG7 with a base clock of 2GHz and boost clock of 3.8GHz. You’ve probably never heard of the chip before, and neither have we. You can’t even find it in Intel’s official database of CPUs. All we know is it’s an Ice Lake chip built on Intel’s most advanced 10nm process. It features four cores with Hyper-Threading and Iris Plus graphics. We can’t confirm it, but we strongly believe it to be a 28-watt TDP chip, which means it can generate nearly twice the heat of a standard 15-watt TDP Ice Lake chip and therefore, technically, run faster.

The rest of the MacBook Pro 13 is equally luxurious, with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a beautiful 2560x1600-resolution panel, 16GB of LPDDR4X/3733, and a 512GB SSD. Oddly, Apple gives you only Wi-Fi 5, which is inferior to Wi-Fi 6 when you’re using a Wi-Fi 6 router. Hey, but you do get that OLED Touch Bar that Apple users love to hate. All this can be had for a mere $1,799. It’s about as expensive and refined as a European performance car with bespoke leather interior.

acer swift 1 Gordon Mah Ung

The Acer Swift 3 costs just $650 but gives you an 8-core Ryzen 7 CPU and Radeon graphics.

What happens though, if you’re at a stoplight with your fine European performance car, and a primer-painted Datsun 510 pulls up and revs its engine? That would be the Acer Swift 3, a 2.6-pound, 14-inch laptop with Ryzen 7 4700U, 8GB of LPDDR4X/3733 memory, 512GB SSD, and Wi-Fi 6. Using published performance data, we can actually see what would happen.

MacBook Pro 13 vs. Swift 3 on Geekbench

The benchmark we have now is Geekbench 5. It’s a popular test that measures multi-core and single-core performance using various synthetic loops, which developer Primate Labs has modeled on real application use.

In Geekbench 5’s single-core performance test, the MacBook Pro 13’s Core i5-1068NG7 pulls out the win. That's no surprise, because Intel’s most advanced 10th-gen chip has many under-the-hood enhancements which Geekbench also takes advantage of. The Intel-powered Mac, in other words, has a decent edge here and gets to the next stoplight first. In real life, this might translate into a small edge for the Intel-based Mac in photo editing, browsing, or other optimized code that uses a single CPU core.

swift 3 ryzen vs macbook pro 13 2020 geekbench 1t IDG

Geekbench 5 gives the MacBook Pro 13 and its Core i5 the lead over the Ryzen-powered Acer Swift 3.

Geekbench 5 also measures multi-core performance. The Acer Swift 3’s 8 cores (even if they don’t have SMT turned on) easily outrun the MacBook Pro 13's 4 cores. This likely means the MacBook Pro 13 will be eating the Acer Swift 3's dust in video encoding, 3D modelling, or just about anything that relies on multi-core performance. 

swift 3 ryzen vs macbook pro 13 2020 geekbench nt IDG

The 8-cores of the Acer Swift 3 leaves the MacBook Pro 13 eating dust in multi-core performance.

The last performance test we have at this time is GeekBench 5’s OpenCL, where it uses the chip’s integrated graphics to perform several computing tasks. For the MacBook Pro 13 it’s Iris Plus, and for the Swift 3 it’s Radeon.

The Acer Swift 3 wins by a mile. That surprises us, because we’ve seen the Core i7-1065G7 perform in the 10,000 range from a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. The shortfall from the Core i5-1068NG7 means its graphics could be clocked lower than the Core i7-1065G7's, or perhaps operating system optimizations make Windows faster than MacOS.

swift 3 ryzen vs macbook pro 13 2020 geekbench opencl IDG

Despite costing almost three times as much, the MacBook Pro 13 eats dust and then has seconds against a $650 Acer Swift 3.

Need we compare the cost?

The last chart compares cost, but you don't need a picture to tell you that the Acer Swift 3 at $650 is over $1,000 cheaper than the $1,799 the MacBook Pro 13.

swift 3 ryzen vs macbook pro 13 2020 cost IDG

The $650 Swift 3 issues a crushing blow to the $1,800 MacBook Pro 3 in Geek Bench 5’s OpenCL test.

Of course, it’s not only the engine you’re paying for—you’re also paying for the build quality, the panel quality, the speaker quality, the keyboard quality—and the logo on the lid. That’s what we tell ourselves when the Datsun 510 leaves us so far behind at the light, we check to see if we had our luxury European performance car in reverse.

This is obviously just one benchmark on one laptop, so we’ll update the performance scores of the Swift 3 against more MacBook Pro 13 scores as they come out. But it's a bad start for the MacBook Pro 13, and a great one for the Acer Swift 3.

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Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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