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Acer Ferrari One - 11.6in Netbook - Acer Ferrari One
What's really interesting about this machine, though, is its hardware. Indeed, the whole Ferrari branding is something of a distraction really; if judged alone without the prestige of the badge the Ferrari One holds its own both in performance and value.
It starts, of course, with the processor. With two cores running at 1.2GHz and 1MB L2 Cache between them, the AMD Athlon X2 L310 is still no powerhouse, but it does just enough and the extra core ensures it's significantly snappier than Intel's Atom. It's a fact helped by the presence of Windows 7, whose performance on this still limited machine bodes well for other netbooks. This processor is supported by 2GB of RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics, the latter of which is a decisive advantage over any Atom-based netbook.
We'll get into why shortly, but in addition to these core hardware features, you get a decent 250GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, Wireless-N Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth. Added to this is Dolby Home Theatre audio, which gives this machine an edge, especially when using headphones.
Most unusual, though, is support for ATI's XGP technology. XGP, for those who don't know or recall, was announced last year. On paper it's a very cool technology, enabling the use of external graphics solutions to be connected via the propriety port. Since it uses its own port, XGP isn't limited by the bandwidth of an ExpressCard slot like similar products.
Unfortunately, XGP has never really taken off and we can't see the Ferrari One sparking any revival. Innovative as the technology might be, it really needs to be applied to something with more all-round abilities than a netbook-cum-affordable ultra-portable. Moreover, its presence, we assume due to the size of the port, means there's no integrated HDMI port, which would prove more useful.
Particularly since the ATI integrated graphics is more than useless. Like the much hyped nVidia ION platform, it can decode 1080p video smoothly, with no dropped frames and minimal jitter. Depending on the source material it normally does this with around 50 to 60 per cent CPU utilisation, so it's a shame you can't stream audio and video to a TV or monitor through one cable, as an HDMI would allow.
This superior graphics capability extends to a modicum of gaming ability; in Track Mania Nations we managed a (just) playable 21.9fps at medium detail settings and a healthy 29.1fps at low. With enough tweaking you could even play the likes of Call of Duty 4 on this, so less graphically demanding titles (World of Warcraft, The Sims, Spore et al) should be playable. This is isn't a gaming machine by any stretch, but if you must, you can...just.