Though it's a familiar sight for PC and notebooks to be adorned with numerous logos it's a fair bet that a yellow one featuring a prancing horse and the initials SF are not usually among them. The initials SF stand for Scuderia Ferrari, one of the most famous marques in automotive history. So what, you may ask, is it doing on an Acer notebook? The reason it’s there is that Acer is the official equipment supplier to the Ferrari Formula One racing team. As such, Acer has clearly seen a marketing opportunity. Along with Michael Schumacher, Ferrari is on top of things in the motor sport world so clearly Acer is thinking that some of that success will rub off on its machines.
So has Acer produced a machine that is good enough to take pole position in your shopping list? Well let’s start with the most obvious feature – the paint job. The whole of the lid is decked out in the trademark Ferrari red, with the colour scheme extending to the side edging as well. Buy this and you’re likely to want to hand-wax your notebook to keep it nice and shiny. It’s undoubtedly striking, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Acer has even gone as far as to supply a matching red mouse. This is actually quite neat looking and is comfortable to hold and use. If you want your notebook to be noticed, whether it’s in the airport lobby or at your desk in the office, the Acer makes for a decent alternative to an IBM or Sony. Along with the red Ferrari livery, you’ll be treated to such luxuries as a Ferrari wallpaper and Ferrari themed screensaver. Wow…. In a crowning touch, the Windows startup melody has even been replaced with the sound of Formula One car speeding past. Yes, it’s that classy.
Another Ferrari sponsor is AMD, so it’s no surprise that the machine is powered one of its CPUs. Of course with a name like Ferrari, nothing less than a top-of-the-line Mobile Athlon 64 CPU would do. However, despite the machine being numbered a 3200, the CPU model is actually a 2800+. And though it's only running at 1.8GHz it’s certainly more than a match for the Pentiums of this world. The processor is a Low-Power Mobile Athlon 64 featuring 512KB of Level 2 cache. It's easy to forget that the Athlon 64 is a next generation CPU, just waiting for Windows and applications to become 64-bit compliant. This ensures that the notebook has a degree of future proofing built-in.
Acer has backed this with 512MB of RAM, though this is supplied on two sticks so there’s no further room for expansion in the current configuration, which is a bit of a shame. It’s also only DDR333 which makes it an odd match for the Via K8T800 chipset and CPU, which runs at 400MHz.
In terms of graphics horsepower, the Acer is well equipped thanks to a Mobility Radeon 9700 GPU with a full 128MB of dedicated memory. This can’t quite claim to the be latest thing in mobile graphics since the announcement of the Mobility Radeon 9800, but in terms of what you can buy right now that 9700 is still hot stuff. The 3DMark03 score of 3,160 may not seem that high but this is genuinely a machine you can play games on. I installed Unreal Tournament 2004 and was able to set the resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 and details levels to high and play with a smooth as silk framerate.
With a diagonal of 15 inches the display is on the generous side and the native resolution of 1,400 x 1,050 fits perfectly on this size. However, the quality of the screen itself is actually fairly disappointing. Though it’s reasonably bright it’s not evenly lit even when looking at it straight on. Horizontal and vertical viewing angles are also fairly poor, with the screen looking washed out at you move up and down and going dark as you move to the side. Sound quality from the speakers located at the front of the chassis however was also poor. Maximum volume wasn’t very loud and the sound lacked bass.