What comes to your mind when you hear the word Ferrari? It is associated with fast cars, speedy performance and good looks. Just apply this to the laptop world and you would naturally expect the netbook bearing the same name to share these characteristics. Acer turns heads with its Ferrari One notebook, which is a sleek system that is to the ultra portables, what the Ferrari F430 is to the Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Ferrari range of Acer has traditionally been made of the high end ultra-portables with expensive price tags to match. The Ferrari One is much more affordable, and hence brings the brand to the masses. In the following review, let us see in detail about the product. Designed to be fast, fun to use and good-looking, while remaining relatively affordable, does this mini laptop live up to the legendary Scuderia Ferrari badge, or is it just another lowly, under-performing hunk of cheap netbook plastic?
The sleek Ferrari:
If you are searching for proof that the netbook has become a fashion accessory as well as a mere computer, you need look no further than the Acer Ferrari One Netbook. With a lid coated in crimson and bearing the familiar logo of the Italian sports car manufacturer, this is one product that seems to put image before all else. Just like its siblings, the Ferrari One will polarise opinion. In many respects, it is one of the best looking netbook we have come across, and many will look upon its owner with an envious eye. Unfortunately, the not quite Ferrari red lid will attract plenty of negative attention too, and its large logo will mark you out as the sort of person that owns Ferrari key rings and baseball caps because they cannot afford the real thing.
Apart from the lid, the Ferrari One is a beautifully designed piece of kit. Other visual cues are taken from the world of motor sports too. Most of the plastic wrist rest is clad in a pattern designed to resemble carbon fibre even if it is nothing of the sort while a peek at the One’s undercarriage reveals four rubber feet shaped just like tyres. Though it is glossy and attracts a few smudges, the lid does not show them off too badly. Just keep the Turtle Wax handy for public exhibitions. There are red accents for the matte black of the deck and the notebook’s keys. The power button on the top right achieves a streamlined look with a backlit red glow and swoop. The wrist rest is also graced with a Ferrari logo and a textured pattern evocative of the checkered flag. The red accents continue on the left and right side; a red swoop peels around the VGA port on the left and the Ethernet port on the right.
The Ferrari One 11.6″ Laptop Netbook computer is slightly larger than most netbooks, but that is actually a good thing, because its extra girth allows for a huge keyboard, which is arguably easier to type on than that of almost any laptop of any size we have previously encountered. This is nothing but a miracle, given the Ferrari One’s 1.5kg weight, and dimensions of (H x W x D) 285 x 24 x 204mm. The keyboard, meanwhile, takes inspiration from Acer’s super-light Timeline laptops with tightly tesselated, broad, flat keys. The results are good and, while traditionalists may prefer the weightier action of the Samsung’s keyboard, there is little to complain about. The layout is sensible too, with a single-height Return key the only weak point. Each of its primary alphabetical and numerical keys is actually larger than you will get on a full sized desktop keyboard.
Acer Ferrari One’s 11.6 inch display is one of its most striking features. Not only is it larger than the 10” displays you usually get on the majority of its rivals, but it also has a higher than standard resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. The additional screen real estate is an added advantage, since the extra multitasking power offered by the CPU allows users to work with a higher number of application windows open. The glossy finishing of the screen limits the possibility of using the Ferrari One outside, but the display is noticeably brighter than that of most laptops, which helps its cause in environments where lighting is not perfectly diffuse. The only drawback is that increasing the brightness puts additional strain on the 4,400mAh battery.
Vertical viewing angles are good: we pushed the screen back as far as it would go about 150 degrees and only saw color distortion at the very edge of its range. Tilting the screen forward just a bit made the screen easily viewable again. Horizontal viewing angles are decent, but only two people can comfortably watch video side by side.
We like the touchpad’s trapezoid shape, but wish that the area was a little bigger. It is almost 3 inches wide at the top, tapering down to 2.3 inches at the mouse bar, and 1.6 inches tall. The surface is just rough enough for good traction. Applying anything other than the lightest of pressure causes your digits to skid jerkily across the surface, but it does offer support for multi-touch gesture inputs just like the Apple MacBook range. You will be able to pinch your fingers together or stretch them apart to zoom, twist them to rotate, and swipe to navigate forward or backwards through documents in most applications. This dramatically speeds up use of the device, particularly when browsing the Web.
While we are appreciative of the mouse bar’s aesthetic, we still prefer two discrete buttons (as with the Aspire 1410). That said, the button is responsive and springy; we didn’t encounter any issues while we wrote this review and played a few games.
The Acer Crystal Eye webcam delivered good images while chatting on Skype. Colours were a bit washed out to start, but some quick fiddling with the settings in Acer’s webcam utility deepened the contrast and made the hue truer to life. Our friend noticed that the image blurred a bit when we moved quickly, but was otherwise clear.
Ports and Connectivity:
On the part of connectivity, the Ferrari One is mostly very good. It has two USB ports on the right, along with a five in one memory card reader, a mic jack and a headphone jack that doubles as an optical digital SPDIF audio output. On the left hand side, it has a third USB port, a D-Sub VGA video output port, and, there is also something that we have never seen before; an ATI XGP port. This ATIXGP port allows the Ferrari One to connect to an external graphics card, which, in turn, can power up to four separate monitors, run games and display high-definition video. All of this seems to be quite clever, but we just cannot remember the last time we needed to connect a netbook to more than one display, or when we last wanted to spend our extra dosh on an external graphics card. A simple HDMI port would have been far more useful, as it would have made the Ferrari One an excellent budget media centre laptop.
It is not all style over substance. In fact, if you strip away the boy racer baubles, you will find this is one of the most interesting netbooks of the past few months.
Processor – The processor is the focus of this innovation
The Acer Ferrari One does not use an Intel Atom CPU, so it stands out of the crowd like a sore thumb next to the vast majority of netbooks, which is actually good news. Instead, it uses AMD’s 2nd Gen Ultrathin Platform, previously known by its code name, Congo. AMD Athlon X2 L310 is the first chip we have seen from AMD’s new Vision platform, and the very first dual core netbook processor. Its advantages over AMD’s first-generation platform and, the netbooks that use Atom CPUs is a very long list. Chiefly, it has a discrete ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics card, which is a damn sight more powerful than the integrated Intel graphics chips that ship with most netbooks. A variety of CPU options are available with Congo laptops, but Acer has opted to put its new Athlon X2 L310 chip into the Ferrari One. This has a relatively modest clock speed of 1.2GHz but, as it is a dual core offering, it promises better performance especially in the field of multitasking scenarios. This is what that can be seen from some of the equivalent Intel solutions.
The inclusion of ATI’s integrated Radeon HD 3200-series graphics chip is another novel addition, and it lends the Ferrari a modicum of gaming performance. Discrete graphics chips tend to have the disadvantage of being large and power hungry, but AMD’s engineers have managed to reduce the size of the graphics adaptor in order to place it directly onto the AMD M780G chipset, helping the Ferrari One stay trim. The integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip does a fairly good job with video acceleration. It struggled a little on higher-bit rate 1080p video, but typical web flash and standard-def video and even 720p H.264 video looked clean and stutter free. This is a big step up from the Intel integrated graphics that most netbooks use. The Radeon HD 3200 also handles 3D graphics processing far more capably than the Intel alternative does.
The Ferrari One supports up to 4GB of RAM, 320GB of storage via 2.5-inch hard drives, outstripping the 1GB of memory and 160GB disk offered by the recently reviewed Samsung N510. It is disappointing there is no 802.11n, though, which is included in the Samsung. There is also the 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Gigabit Ethernet, all of which is considerably better than the netbook, and in many cases, laptop norm.
The Ferrari One comes with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), a 60-day trial of Office 2007, SQL Server 2005, and the Windows Live suite. Acer includes its usual array of branded software: eRecovery Management, Updater, CrystalEye webcam, and GridVista. The system also comes with eSobi reader software, Intervideo WinDVD player, and ATI’s Catalyst Control Center for fine-tuning the display properties under the hood, and a collection of Ferrari-themed wallpapers and screen savers.
The Ferrari One is pretty quick and it felt faster and more responsive than any netbook we have previously reviewed. Running multiple applications simultaneously is not a great deal for the Ferrari One, as its plentiful RAM and dual-core CPU cope admirably with just about any sort of desktop application.
Even 3D gaming is a possibility. When we played the graphically intensive Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare at the Ferrari One and, after some admittedly dramatic reduction of graphical niceties, the game ran relatively smoothly. The same can be said for high-definition video. It cannot handle demanding titles such as Crysis; a frame rate of 14fps with all the settings turned down and at 1,024 x 768 pixels is not quite playable, but it will manage less intensive games such as Trackmania Nations Forever much better than the less-powerful Intel GMA 500 or 950 chips you get in most other netbooks. Frame rates judder annoyingly if your media is transcoded at too high a bit rate, as they would on almost any machine not built for viewing HD material, but the majority of our 720p movie files played immaculately. And although the Acer is not quite as proficient with streaming video, it could not handle the BBC iPlayer’s high-definition programmes; it played back YouTube HD content without any fuss. Again, it is very disappointing that the laptop does not have an HDMI output port.
Acer has taken a great deal of effort to highlight the Ferrari One’s audio playback credentials. It ships with a pair of integrated stereo speakers, which sound surprisingly good for a netbook, and its sound card can handle Dolby Home Theater v3, which features Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Pro Logic IIx and, more usefully for a laptop, a Dolby Headphone. The Dolby Headphone produces a fairly realistic 5.1 channel surround sound effect in any set of cans. The laptop’s lack of an optical drive cuts into the sound system’s utility, of course, but still TV shows on Hulu had surprising audio punch.
Though heat and high-octane performance often go hand in hand in the auto world, it is not exactly a desirable trait on a notebook. While writing this review we noticed that the underside of the Ferrari One got too hot for comfort. Even with a passive notebook cooler underneath, the excess heat continued to be noticeable. We let the Ferrari One sit idle for five minutes before streaming a YouTube clip at full screen. After fifteen minutes of playback, we measured the temperatures at key locations. The touchpad was an uncomfortable 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and the space between the G and H keys was 95 degrees, which is just on the edge of tolerable. Unfortunately, the underside of the machine got considerably hot; the left front side measured an unacceptable 110 degrees.
The six-cell battery sits flush with the system. Unfortunately, where battery life is concerned, things do take a light jolt. Acer’s website says that the Ferrari One’s battery will last up to 5 hours away from the mains. This is not good news as the Samsung N510 lasts considerably longer at over six hours and a typical 10” netbook can last several hours longer.
Warranty and Support:
Acer provides a one-year International Travelers Warranty, and toll-free phone support on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST).
The Acer Ferrari One is one of those mini laptops that can be blindly recommended. Its bold appearance may not be to everybody’s taste, but there is certainly no denying in the fact that it is easy to use, fast and versatile. If you like to make the Acer Ferrari One your one and only PC, you will probably find that it is a slightly small and underpowered to handle the job satisfactorily. If you think of it as an on the go companion PC, though, it is most impressive. The laptop’s slick design, solid features, and adequate performance for its size and weight make it a great buy. It is arguably one of the best laptop we have reviewed.
Acer Ferrari One Mini Laptop – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||Acer Ferrari One|
|Type||Ultra portable laptop/Netbook|
|Screen Size||11.6 in|
|Display resolution||1366 x 768 pixels|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||285 x 24 x 204mm|
|Hard drive Capacity||320GB|
|SODIMM sockets free||1|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
|Graphics hardware||ATI Radeon HD 3200|
|Processor||AMD Athlon X2 L310|
|Clock speed||1.2 GHz|
|Motherboard chipset||AMD M780G|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Video outputs||D-Sub, ATI XGP|
3 x USB
|Battery||4400 mAh Li-ion|
|Battery life||4hr 46min|
|Warranty||One-year international travelers warranty|