Although primarily known for its no-frills, low-cost notebooks, Acer’s crown jewel Ferrari line of portables has always turned heads. The Ferrari 1100 is the first 12-inch Ferrari to include a built-in optical drive. While we love the speedy performance and sporty, sophisticated design, we wish this notebook had a little more endurance.
The 1100 falls between the ultraportable and thin-and-light categories because it has a small 12-inch screen, but weighs a relatively hefty 4.4 pounds. But, unlike Acer’s Aspire series, whose dated beige color scheme is supposed to resemble the interior of a BMW, the Ferrari 1100 looks and feels like its namesake.
The lid has a fine black-and-gray racing check pattern with Ferrari’s small yellow insignia stamped in the center. The rest of the carbon fiber chassis is matte black with glossy gray accents, except for the glossy bezel and area above the keyboard, which houses launch points for Outlook 2007, Internet Explorer, and Acer’s Launch Manager. Flanking the stiff touch buttons are tapered speakers. In a clever touch, the power button looks like an ignition, and the touchpad has the same checkered design as the lid.
Driving the Acer Ferrari 1100
The keyboard is comfortable for intermittent typing, but we wouldn’t use it to pound out documents on a long flight. The 1100 has three USB ports, as well as FireWire, ExpressCard/54, VGA, S-Video, headphone, and mic ports; Ethernet and modem jacks; and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. It also includes an 8X DVD burner and 1.3-megapixel webcam, which delivered mediocre lighting and color but good detail considering its VGA resolution.
The 1280 x 800-pixel display delivered bright color when we watched "The Chappelle Show" on DVD, but the reflective screen made for limited viewing angles. Then again, you’re not likely to watch a movie on a 12-inch screen from several feet away. Despite their Dolby branding, the speakers were weak and tinny—par for the course for small notebooks.
Under the Hood
Those who can afford the $1,999 price tag will enjoy the Acer Ferrari 1100’s high-end components: a 2.3-GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-66 processor, 4GB of RAM, a huge 250GB hard drive, and 802.11n wireless. We were not surprised that this system easily zipped through everyday tasks. Out of the box, the 1100 took just 39 seconds to boot up Vista Ultimate. Launching Microsoft Word took 2 seconds, and opening Internet Explorer from the launch pad took 3 seconds. Multitasking was a breeze: We were able to install Vista updates, scan our computer for viruses, and surf the Web at the same time, with little lag.
Indeed, the 1100’s benchmark scores were above average for its class: It garnered 2,683 on PCMark Vantage (about 200 points higher than the HP Pavillion tx2000’s score, which costs $700 less but has the same processor and screen size). For graphics performance, it managed 1,765 on 3DMark03 with its ATI Radeon X1270 GPU and 512MB of shared video memory, putting the 1100 squarely in the middle of the ultraportable and thin-and-light averages. You won’t be doing any hard-core gaming with this system, but it should be able to handle most other apps just fine.
The 802.11n connection delivered throughput of 23.2 Mbps at 15 feet but notched only 5.7 Mbps at 50 feet, even after repeated attempts. Moreover, the battery lasted 2 hours and 9 minutes on our DVD rundown test, which is right on target for a thin-and-light and should translate to at least 3.5 hours during regular tasks. Unfortunately, there’s only one preconfigured SKU for the 1100 right now, and no additional batteries are available.
Acer Ferrari 1100 Verdict
This notebook’s sophisticated design will impress when you travel, and thanks to a fast processor, plenty of RAM, and Windows Vista Ultimate, it delivers plenty of power for mobile users. We’d prefer a lighter weight and longer battery life, but the Acer Ferrari 1100 is a good choice for executives who want to stand out in the crowd.