The Ferrari name is associated with fast cars, speedy performance, and good looks. Apply that to the laptop world and you'd naturally expect a notebook bearing the Ferrari name to share these characteristics. Acer certainly turns heads with its Ferrari One notebook ($599 as tested), a sleek system that is to traditional ultraportables what the Ferrari F430 isto theMitsubishi Eclipse. Packed with an AMD Athlon CPU (instead of an Intel ULV processor) and ATI Radeon graphics, Acer's Ferrari One obviously wants to set itself apart from the crowd. But will it speed past the competition to the checkered flag or end up in a twisted wreck on the side of the track?
The Ferrari One looks like the sportier bad-boy twin of the Acer Aspire 1410. The chassis is nearly identical, but the Ferrari One adds an extra cut to the front of the system for an aerodynamic look. The lid highlights the notebook's sports car motif with its Ferrari racing red color and the company's canary yellow emblem embossed into the plastic. Though it's glossy and attracts a few smudges, the lid doesn't show them off too badly. Just keep the Turtle Wax handy for public exhibitions.
The similarities with the 1410 continue under the hood, but with key differences. For starters, there are red accents for the matte black of the deck and the notebook's keys. The power button on the top right achieves a streamlined look with a backlit red glow and swoop. The wrist rest is also graced with a Ferrari logo and a textured pattern evocative of the checkered flag. The red accents continue on the left and right side; a red swoop peels around the VGA port on the left and the Ethernet port on the right.
The six-cell battery sits flush with the system. Overall, the Ferrari One gives an impression of sleekness and speed.
Though heat and high-octane performance often go hand in hand in the auto world, it isn't exactly a desirable trait on a notebook. While writing this review we noticed that the underside of the Ferrari One got too hot for comfort. Even with a passive notebook cooler underneath, the excess heat continued to be noticeable. We let the Ferrari One sit idle for 5 minutes before streaming a Hulu clip at full screen. After 15 minutes of playback, we measured the temperatures at key locations. The touchpad was an uncomfortable 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and the space between the G and H keys was 95 degrees, which is just on the edge of tolerable. Unfortunately, the underside of the machine got considerably hot; the left front side measured an unacceptable 110 degrees.
Keyboard and Touchpad
We've long been fans of Acer's FineTip keyboards, and the layout on the Ferrari One is no exception. The keys offered good travel and spring; it took no time to get up to our normal typing speed with few errors. Key size and placement are both good, including those on the left and right edges, which should please shortcut users. The usual suite of extra functions are available from the F key row along the top. Generally the F10 key is unmarked on the Acer systems we've seen lately; here the key sports a stylized Formula One car icon with Ferrari printed on its side. Pressing the Fn key and F10 simultaneously launches the Ferrari Web site.
We like the touchpad's trapezoid shape, but wish that the area was a little bigger. It's almost 3 inches wide at the top (tapering down to 2.3 inches at the mouse bar), and 1.6 inches tall. The surface is just rough enough for good traction. The multitouch functions are pretty basic--pinch and zoom, rotate, flip, two-finger scroll and sidescroll--and the touch surface itself isn't too sensitive. We found it somewhat daunting to execute the gestures at first, but didn't accidentally activate them as we did on the Dell Inspiron 11z.
While we're appreciative of the mouse bar's aesthetic, we still prefer two discrete buttons (as with the Aspire 1410). That said, the button is responsive and springy; we didn't encounter any issues while we wrote this review and played a few games.
Display and Audio
Click to enlargeThe 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 CineCrystal LED-backlit screen displayed bright colors and decent blacks. We downloaded 720p trailers for "The Discoverers" and "The Living Sea" from the Microsoft WMV HD Content Showcase and they played back smoothly with excellent clarity. The glossy screen threw back reflections under normal fluorescent lighting both while watching the dark opening scene of the Torchwood: Children of Earth episode "Day One" and when scrolling through Web pages. The glossy bezel was also a bit distracting.
The depth of color on the Ferrari One wasn't as full as we like to see on HD screens, but watching video was a pleasant experience overall. Vertical viewing angles are good: we pushed the screen back as far as it would go (about 150 degrees) and only saw color distortion at the very edge of its range. Tilting the screen forward just a bit made the screen easily viewable again. Horizontal viewing angles are decent, but only two people can comfortably watch video side-by-side.
Just underneath the front of the deck sits the Dolby Home Theater speakers. They produced decent sound at 50 percent volume while playing music, enough to fill a small room and cover the sound of a high-powered fan. However, when watching episodes of M.A.N.T.I.S. on Hulu (where the sound tends to be a bit softer), we had to turn the speakers up to 100 percent to hear the show.
Audio quality was about what we expect from systems of this size. Songs with high, strong guitar riffs such as Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" sounded a bit tinny, but were still enjoyable. Bass was weak, a fact that was particularly noticeable on songs like "Remember the Time" by Michael Jackson where the bass provides the distinctive funky lilt to the beat. While listening to Kerry Ellis' rock-flavored rendition of "Defying Gravity," we also noticed that audio was somewhat muddy.
Ports and Webcam
For the most part, the Ferrari One has the usual array of ports: Ethernet, two USB, power, Kensington lock slot, headphone and mic ports line the right, along with the multi-memory card reader. The remaining USB port is on the left side, along with the VGA port.
The Ferrari One offers something different than on the Aspire 1410. Instead of an HDMI port, which is becoming standard on HD notebooks, Acer included an ATI XGP connector, which lets you connect to ATI's eXternal Graphics Platform, a device that offers a higher level of graphics output to up to three external displays via HDMI, DVI-I, and DisplayPort. This is arguably more versatile than an HDMI port, but hooking an ultraportable up to an external piece of hardware and then to another display seems like an unnecessary extra step and hindrance. Plus, the device is not currently available in the U.S.
The Acer Crystal Eye webcam delivered good images while chatting on Skype. Colors were a bit washed out to start, but some quick fiddling with the settings in Acer's webcam utility deepened the contrast and made the hue truer to life. Our friend noticed that the image blurred a bit when we moved quickly, but was otherwise clear.
Click to enlargeThough the Ferrari One is listed as a netbook on Amazon.com, the 1.2-GHz AMD Athlon X2 L310 processor qualifies it to race with ultraportable systems. But to see how much of a nitro boost AMD's CPU provides, we'll also compare it to netbook averages.
The AMD processor and generous 4GB of RAM earned the Ferrari One a score of 2,110 on PCMark Vantage, which measures overall system performance. Compared to a single core ULV system like the $479 Toshiba Satellite T115, the Ferrari One comes out 657 points ahead of that notebook's score of 1,453. The system also easily trounces the netbook average of 1,131 and the HP Mini 311 from Verizon Wireless (1,227). However, the Ferrari One's score is more than 600 points behind the ultraportable category average (2,766), and is bested by the $399 Acer Aspire 1410 (2,475), $683 Dell Inspiron 11z (2,442), and the $549 Gateway EC1430u (2,700), all of which are equipped with dual core Intel ULV processors.
The 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive booted Windows 7 Home Premium in a swift 59 seconds, two seconds under the average. The Aspire 1410 and Gateway EC1430u were both slightly faster at 55 and 50 seconds, respectively. The Ferrari One proved faster than the average ultraportable running the LAPTOP Transfer Test, completing the time trials in 3 minutes and 29 seconds for a speedy transfer rate of 24.4 MBps. Not only did it zoom past both the average netbook (15.3 MBps) and the average ultraportable score (20.9 MBps), but it trumped every other ULV notebook in the race, including the Aspire 1410 (19.6 MBps), Inspiron 11z (21.9 MBps), and the Gateway EC1430u (22.2 MBps).
Transcoding slowed the Ferrari One down a bit, with a final time of 16 minutes and 33 seconds. That's about 3 minutes behind the average ultraportable (13:39) and behind the Aspire 1410 (12:47), Inspiron 11z (13:11), and Gateway EC1430u (11:33). It still bested the average netbook's time of 29:42.
The Ferrari One's ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics card earned a score of 1,077 in 3DMark06, easily besting the ultraportable average of 857, the netbook average of 160, and lapping the competition handily. The Toshiba Satellite T115 and Acer Aspire 1410 scored 635 and 595, respectively. Compared to the HP Mini 311's Nvidia Ion LE-powered graphics, the Ferrari One can't quite keep up with that netbook's score of 1,386.
When playing World of Warcraft at a resolution of 1024 x 768, we were able to achieve 30 frames per second--not blazing, but enough for decent gameplay. Upshifting the resolution to the max and increasing the effects dropped the frame rate down to 13 fps. Up against other ultraportables, the system has a decent lead on the Satellite T115 (22 fps) and the Inspiron 11z (18 fps) at 1024 x 768. The real differences come when you compare frame rates at the maximum resolution (1366 x 768) and effects. Both the T115 and 11z fall way behind with average frame rates of 6 and 5 fps.
Though its overall performance is better when compared to the HP Mini 311, the Ferrari One ran on a par with the Ion-enhanced netbook (running Windows 7) in the W.O.W. test. The Mini 311 from Verizon Wireless managed an average frame rate of 14 fps at its max resolution of 1366 x 768.
Playing Flash games on Facebook produced mixed results. Our creature in Pet Society moved like a snail when we tried to play that game. Bejeweled Blitz moved faster, and it didn't lag or hitch as we blasted through the color matching game.
Flash Video Playback
While watching videos on Hulu, we experienced smooth playback at the normal video size but slightly choppy playback once we went to full screen. We measured the frame rates with the FRAPS utility and discovered that the Ferrari One was only averaging 11 fps when playing standard definition video. We also measured frame rates while playing the Star Trek movie trailer in HD on YouTube and Greedy Boy on Vimeo. The system scored 23 and 18 fps, respectively.
We then installed the beta of Adobe Flash Player 10.1, which provides a huge boost in video quality and frame rates for notebooks and netbooks that offer hardware video decoding. We watched the same videos again, but this time the Hulu episode ran at 23 fps and the Vimeo clip averaged 27 fps. The Star Trek trailer still played at 23 fps.
These frame rates were on a par with the HP Mini 311 from Verizon Wireless, which managed 11 fps playing the Star Trek trailer, and went up to 24 fps with Flash 10.1. Likewise, the Mini 311 notched 22 to 24 fps playing both standard and HD Flash video, a little under the Ferrari One's point spread of 23 to 27 fps.
Wireless and Battery Life
Click to enlargeWireless throughput at 15 feet from the router was a decent 19.7 Mbps for the Ferrari One, though this is a bit below the average of 20.4 Mbps. The 50 foot score of 16.4 Mbps is also slightly behind the ultraportable average (17.1 Mbps). You'll still be able to stream video from Hulu at this range, but may have to let the buffer fill a little before you can enjoy smooth playback.
Though the Ferrari One is a fast machine, it doesn't offer the best endurance in its class. The battery life of 4 hours and 41 minutes is decent considering the discrete graphics card. However, the HP Mini 311 from Verizon Wireless offered 4:52, eleven minutes longer than the Ferrari One. Still, at more than 30 minutes below the ultraportable average (5:24) and well behind the Acer 1410 and Gateway EC1430u (6:33 and 8:11, respectively), consumers will have to decide which is more important: graphics power or long battery life.
Software and Warranty
The Ferrari One comes with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), a 60-day trial of Office 2007, SQL Server 2005, and the Windows Live suite. Acer includes its usual array of branded software: eRecovery Management, Updater, CrystalEye webcam, and GridVista. The system also comes with eSobi reader software, Intervideo WinDVD player, and ATI's Catalyst Control Center for fine-tuning the display properties under the hood.
Acer provides a one-year International Travelers Warranty, and toll-free phone support on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST). Click here to see how Acer's pit crew did in our tech support showdown.
There are no other configurations of the Ferrari One available at this time.
It took the Ferrari One's battery 3 hours and 20 minutes to completely charge (faster than the average time of 3:42) and used a total of 7380.0 watts. It achieved a LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating of 26.3, which is less efficient than the average of 19.4 (lower is better). The Ferrari might be fast, but it isn't as eco-friendly as the Aspire 1410 (14.9) or the Gateway EC1430u (15.4). This notebook is not rated by EPEAT.
Just as with many sports cars, owners of the Acer Ferrari One will pay more than they would for a comparable, but less sexy system, and trade in better mileage for a sleek design. Most will choose this ultraportable because of the Ferrari brand and because it offers souped-up graphics, and the $599 price tag--$200 above the Aspire 1410--gives owners the aura of luxury. Consumers who are more interested in overall performance and longer battery life should opt for the 1410, but if aesthetics are a priority, then this is the right ultraportable for you.