Enlarge /. The Swift 1 from Acer looks a bit more professional than the GWTN141-2 from Gateway – but not everything looks, as our tests conclusively show.

Jim Salter

We have been looking for good, but really cheap, laptops for some time. Acer's $ 650 Swift 3 is an excellent choice for budget laptops in the under $ 700 range, but we were really drawn to finding one in the almost non-existent under $ 400 category. To that end, today we're looking at two of Walmart's best – an Acer Swift 1 valued at $ 378 and a Gateway GWTN141-2 valued at $ 350.

Both are serviceable if cheap laptops, but the Gateway, while the cheaper model, will be the clear winner for most people. It's more powerful, more repairable, more upgradeable, and also a little more reliable in our tests.

Technical data at a glance: as checked
Acer Swift 1 SF114-32 Gateway GWTN141-2
operating system Windows 10 Home (S mode) Windows 10 Home (S mode)
screen 14 inch IPS FHD (1920 × 1080, 250 nits) 14.1 inch IPS FHD (1920 × 1080, 190 nits)
Central processor Pentium Silver N5000 Ryzen 3 3200U
GPU Intel UHD 605 AMD Vega 3
R.A.M. 4GiB DDR4 (soldered, not expandable) 4GiB DDR4 (soldered, with an empty DIMM slot)
hard disk 64 GB eMMC
(SanDisk DF4064)
128 GB NVMe M.2
(Netac S539N)
Networking Intel 9560
2×2 Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
Realtek 8821CE
1×1 Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports
  • 1x USB-C (data only)
  • 2x USB-A 3.0
  • 1x USB-A 2.0
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x SD card
  • 1x 3.5 mm audio combo socket
  • 1x DC barrel socket
  • 1x Kensington lock slot
  • 1x USB-C (data only)
  • 2x USB-A 3.0
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x SD card
  • 1x 3.5 mm audio combo socket
  • 1x DC barrel socket
  • 1x Kensington lock slot
size 12.7 "x 9" x 0.6 "
(323 x 229 x 15 mm)
13.1 "x 8.9" x 0.8 "
(333 x 226 x 21 mm)
Weight 1.3 kg 1.6 kg
warranty 1 year limited 1 year limited
Extras Fingerprint reader,
720P camera
Fingerprint reader (in the touchpad),
720P camera
Price as tested $ 378 on Amazon and Walmart $ 350 at Walmart

Acer Swift 1 SF114-32

  • Thankfully, that ugly dingy yellow POST logo won't be on your face for long – the Swift 1 will launch the desktop in about 11 seconds.

    Jim Salter

  • We found the keyboard to be fairly inconspicuous. The Swift 1's chassis is used to the max so it doesn't feel too tight. However, we already know that some of you will hate the layout of the compressed arrow keys.

    Jim Salter

  • DC barrel jack, full size HDMI output, USB-C, 2x USB 3.0 Type A.

    Jim Salter

  • SD card slot, 3.5 mm audio combo socket, USB 2.0 Type A, power and hard drive LEDs, Kensington lock slot.

    Jim Salter

  • If you want to get on the Swift 1, you'll need a set of torx bits. However, there is nothing to worry unless you replace the battery – or, as we suspect, the WiFi – since everything else is soldered to the board.

    Jim Salter

  • As soon as you lift off the rear wall (very carefully due to the thin aluminum side walls), there is not much to see – no active cooling and no sockets, except for Wi-Fi.

    Jim Salter

We didn't really intend to test or test the Swift 1 – we ordered a Walmart Motile 14 with a Ryzen 5 processor for just $ 350. But Walmart has the unfortunate tendency to bring in a similar product only when supplies are running low, and the Swift 1 has been shipped in its place – with no notification, either by email or on our Walmart.com account, and no Paperwork in the box either.

There's only a 30 day laptop return / exchange window at Walmart, but things came up and we didn't open the box until after that window was closed. When we found out that our Ryzen 5 laptop had magically turned into a Pentium Silver laptop (roughly in the Celeron class) and there was nothing we could do about it, it was no joy … but it still is a laptop under $ 400 We're here to test and review cheap laptops, right?

Physically, the Swift 1 is very similar to a lower-priced Chromebook. It's not particularly light, but it's quite slim and its silver-skinned appearance is modest. On the plus side, it has a metal case, not plastic; On the minus side, the chassis is extremely thin and very easy to bend. When we disassembled the Swift 1, we bent the right side a little, although we were extremely careful and used a soft plastic spudger while we removed the back panel.

The best feature of the Swift 1 is its quick start-up times. You can expect a cold boot to hit the Windows 10 desktop in around 11 seconds, including POST. Unfortunately, the high performance ends there – the Swift 1's Pentium Silver CPU, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of eMMC storage make for a pretty poor experience.

Everything about the Swift 1 – with the exception of the battery and Wi-Fi chipset – is soldered on, non-repairable, and non-upgradeable. What you buy, you get, and it works until it breaks.

Gateway GWTN141-2

  • We have to give EVOO credit for one thing – they put this wallpaper on the gateway branding.

    Jim Salter

  • We have a feeling some of you will be delighted with this uncompressed arrow key layout.

    Jim Salter

  • The fingerprint reader on the gateway is integrated into the touchpad – this was a new one for us. Notice the dark square in the top left.

    Jim Salter

  • Kensington lock slot, DC barrel jack, USB 3.0 Type A, full size HDMI out, USB Type C.

    Jim Salter

  • SD card slot, 3.5 mm audio combo socket, USB 3.0 type A.

    Jim Salter

  • See, a mystery panel! At first glance it looks pointless, but there is actually an M.2 slot on top. I think I'd rather pull the whole thing back than try to play around with this tiny panel.

    Jim Salter

  • The gateway is very easy to disassemble. just Philips screws and pop things loose. The plastic case felt sturdy enough to withstand some disassembly.

    Jim Salter

  • On closer inspection, we see an active cooling system, an empty DDR4 DIMM slot, an occupied M.2 NVMe slot, an empty M.2 SATA slot and an unfortunately soldered Realtek WLAN chipset.

    Jim Salter

  • On the left we see the currently empty M.2 slot, which is only shown as SATA silkscreen. In contrast, the occupied M.2 (with drive C 🙂 is PCIE / SATA with screen printing.

    Jim Salter

We tested the GWTN141-2 with a mixture of excitement and concern – on paper, a $ 350 Ryzen 3200U system is a lot. In practice, however, we had found that the new gateway line – like the terrible EVOO EV-C-116-5 for $ 140 – was manufactured by Shenzhen Bmorn Technology and imported by EVOO.

We are happy to say that the GWTN141-2 is not a repetition of the history of the EV-C-116-5. The gateway's Ryzen 3 3200U CPU wasn't constrained by inferior thermal or factory underclocking, and works as you'd expect from public leaderboards. The gateway offers an even faster cold start than the Swift – we set it to eight seconds from the power button to the Windows desktop.

The 128GB SSD continues the gateway's story of "Hey! Not Bad" and may be an odd Chinese brand you've never heard of, but it's a true M.2 NVMe SSD that replaces or can be updated. Although the 4 GB RAM that came with the system is soldered to the circuit board, an empty DIMM slot is available. There's even an empty M.2 SATA slot with an easily accessible cover for that slot on the back.

The only real flies in the GWTN141-2's ointment are the cheap plastic housing and the equally cheap Realtek 8821CE Wi-Fi.

The plastic used for the case is noticeably softer than you would expect from a laptop. It feels more like a kid's toy than a real computer, and it even felt a little sticky the first time out of the box. (Your mileage may vary here – it bothered me, but the spouse's opinion was, “Anyway, it's fine.” Thin aluminum sidewalls.

The Realtek Wi-Fi can be serviced on Windows if it is slow. However, it is a major headache for anyone looking to install Linux. In contrast to most of the devices in the GWTN141-2, it is soldered onto the circuit board and is not interchangeable.

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