Feature wise though, the Acer is very well equipped. Wireless connectivity is fully covered with 54G wireless, Bluetooth and infra red. The buttons for the the first two are easily accessible at the front so can be quickly activated or turned off as needed. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet connection, sensibly located at the rear so you don’t have to twist your cables to get to it. Next to this is a standard 56K modem for when you need to resort to dial-up. Also at the back is a parallel port along with VGA and S-Video outputs. Down the right hand side sit four USB 2.0 connectors all in a line, along with a single Firewire connection. However, this is only a mini-four pin size, so without a suitable adaptor it’s no use for plugging in devices such as camcorders or an iPod. There’s also a single Type II PC Card slot.
The keyboard on the Acer Ferrari is comfortable and firm. The keypad is laid out with a slight curve upwards, which is intended to make the keys fall more easily under the fingers. In truth it doesn’t make much difference and adds more to the look of the machine than to its usability. The trackpad is a little on the small side but does the job. In-between the mouse buttons is a D-Pad, which is actually very useful for navigating web pages or Excel spreadsheets. Above the keypad are four shortcut keys, which can all be configured to work with the applications of your choice. Unfortunately, this has to be done manually so you’ll have to know where applications are located if you want to get quick access to items such as the Windows calculator.
At the very front of the unit is a four-in-one card reader handling SD, MMC, Smart Media and Memory Stick – for Compact Flash you’ll have to get a PC Card adaptor. More permanent storage is in the guise of an 80GB hard disk drive, which is a pretty generous amount for the money asked. Other removable storage comes in the form of a superb slot loading DVD Multi-drive, able to write to both ‘Plus’ and ‘Minus’ DVD formats and even DVD- RAM though you’ll obviously only be able to use those discs without a protective caddy.
On the software side, there’s little to get excited about, with no office suite for work and no games for play.
So the Acer is clearly well featured, but you don’t buy a Ferrari for its features, you buy it for speed. Does this Acer deliver? On the whole yes. It’s not the fastest notebook we’ve seen – the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition powered Rock Xtreme! XTR-3.4EE makes sure of that, but it is nippy. The SYSmark score of 249 is very good, outpacing the higher specced Systemax Hurricane 6000.
At SYSmark, it also beats the HP Compaq nx9100, a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 powered desktop replacement notebook, by a few points, though fails to do so in PCMark04.
However, the Acer does fine in 3D thanks to the powerful ATI graphics. That said it’s not quite as fast as the Systemax Hurricane 6000, or inevitably, the Rock. At AquaMark however, it does slightly outpace the Systemax.
The only real area of disappointment performance wise is the battery life, lasting only 149 minutes in MobileMark 2002. This is reasonable for a performance machine but if working away from a power socket is a priority, you’ll be better off with a Centrino based notebook.
So the Acer has it where it counts for looks, features and performance. So why am I not so enthralled by the package as a whole? Well, for a start, underneath the red paint job the Acer isn’t actually that solid. Underneath, it looks like a fairly generic Taiwanese laptop, with none of the solid build of the better Sonys and IBM Thinkpads. It also runs very hot and will be too hot to rest on your lap after a while. You’ll want to keep it on a table to work on for longer periods. Weight wise, it’s 3Kg is reasonable though it’s more suited to a desk than a shoulder bag.
Then there’s the whole ‘Ferrari’ concept. As a potential purchaser, you really have to ask yourself if taking out a Ferrari notebook in public will make you look good, or, to be blunt, if it will make you look like a prat. The thinking goes something like this – Ferrari sports car – very cool: Ferrari notebook – well, not quite as cool. For example, owning this Acer, won’t make you appear rich and desirable to the opposite sex. You could actually buy about 50 Acer notebooks for the price of a second hand Ferrari 360, and I know which one I’d rather have. I may be an IT journalist, but it’s not the notebook computer.
The performance is generally excellent and it’s well featured for the price. The main caveats are an average display, poor sound quality and lack-lustre battery life. At the end of the day this Acer is more hot-hatch than a super car. However, you’ll not be buying it for the spec, you’ll be buying it for its looks and if you’re comfortable with, or even possibly keen on, the whole Ferrari badged scenario, the Acer has enough substance behind it to make for a satisfying purchase.
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