It should go without saying that whatever netbooks were in the beginning, they've changed a great deal since then. Not always for the better we might add, particularly where affordability is concerned, but any nascent product category is always going to evolve. Thankfully, with new netbook technology and platforms finally on the horizon, an end to the stagnant, phony war we have now is finally in sight.
Take Acer's latest effort, the Ferrari One, as an example. A product of AMD's and Acer's relationships with Ferrari's Formula One team, it's the first 'netbook' to use AMD's new Congo platform. However, with its new dual-core processor, 11.6in HD Ready display and HD capable graphics, it's arguable whether the Acer Ferrari One is a netbook at all. While its £399 MSRP is just about within the confines of netbook territory (only just), its hardware gives it more in common with ultra-low voltage laptops like the HP Pavilion dv2 and similar.
As such, for the purposes of this review, we've treated it like we would them, running our usual gamut of laptop tests - we'll save the larger debate for another time. It's worth noting the Acer Ferrari One isn't alone in treading this fine line, either. Dell's Inspiron 11z, another 11.6in 'ultra-portable', is already on sale and HP and Toshiba also have designs on this category. You can fully expect others to follow and a price war to begin.
Given its Ferrari association it's no surprise to see plenty of Scuderia inspired elements in the Ferrari One's design. Its scarlet red lid is a given, as are the famous prancing horse badges so iconic of the folks from Maranello. Other 'sporty' touches include the faux-carbon fibre on the palm-rest and, somewhat bizarrely, the tyre inspired rubber feet. In truth, though, due to the constraints on price this isn't the flamboyant, decadent product that past Ferrari-branded efforts were.
Fundamentally, then, this is good-looking, well-designed machine. It won't leave people gasping in admiration and inevitably some may dislike the connotations of owning a Ferrari-branded product, but it won't embarrass you either. Provided, that is, you remember to turn off the 'vrrrooooom' boot chime. Now that is embarrassing!
Where its design, or rather its size, is of particular benefit is the keyboard. Due to the 11.6in frame it is among the best 'netbook' keyboards around, with large, easy to use keys and a solid uncluttered layout. We're not totally sure about the curiously-shaped touchpad that accompanies it, but by and large the 1.44kg chassis treads a good line between portability and usability.