Product: Acer Ferrari One
System Specifications: Windows 7 Home Premium, AMD Turion 64 X2, AMD M780G Chipset, 250GB HDD, DVD drive, SD, MMC, MS, MS PRO, xD, 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 backlit TFT LCD screen, ATI Radeon HD 3200, Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1, WIFI, 3 x USB 2.0, VGA, Microphone-in jack, headphone, Li-ion battery
A FEW YEARS AGO Acer became a sponsor of Ferrari, and since then the computer company has capitalised on that deal by using the car company's name to rebadge a few of its devices, presumably increase sales and recoup some of the money it's shelled out to Ferrari. This formula has become increasingly common. Asus does the same thing with its Lamborghini laptops, although it seems Lenovo missed a trick when it backed Williams F1 and didn't capitalise on that partnership in a similar manner.
This latest instance of the brand coupling between Acer and Ferrari is a netbook, where in the past only Acer's mighty notebook proudly wore the Ferrari name. The first highly noticeable not-so-subtle product tie-in is the brightly coloured red lid in almost the same pantone shade that's synonymous with Ferrari, along with the instantly recognisable badge.
On booting the device the sound of a Ferrari screeching past is instantly audible from the speakers as a little gimmick from the performance car maker. This would have had a much greater impact if the sound wasn't so badly distorted from the system resource drain of the netbook booting up under Windows 7, but sadly this was the case and the impact was all but lost. Besides a Ferrari calendar as the desktop's backdrop along with the car maker's logo on the palm rest, apparently there really wasn't a great deal of involvement from Ferrari which is a shame, as the netbook could have used some performance tuning.
These days it's very rare to see anything but Intel Atom chips powering these mini-laptops, as those processors seem to be the choice of the masses with their well proven technology. Acer is one of those companies that does favour Intel, as its netbook One range are all driven by Intel processors, until now.
Here we may have detected a conspiracy involving multiple companies, or the following may just be a sheer coincidence, but AMD also sponsors Ferrari. All of Acer's Ferrari branded laptops feature AMD CPUs, just as this Acer Ferrari One netbook does as it now joints the family.
Powering the Ferrari One is the AMD Athlon X2 L130 1.20Ghz chip, making it one of the first dual-core netbooks to hit the shelves that's powered by a non-Intel processor. The netbook has the AMD M780G chipset, which has an integrated Radeon HD 3200 graphics system capable of playing games, albeit in a lesser graphical gaming mode.
The Acer netbook seems powerful enough for most tasks, but playing some types of video seems to be a chore for the system, as we surprising discovered. Despite the dual core processor, 2GB memory and Radeon graphics, the Ferrari One struggled with HD video. BBC Iplayer HD content was unwatchable and extremely jerky with a huge lag from the start, running in both Firefox and Chrome web browsers. Youtube HD video struggled with even loading, let alone playing on the netbook, so it puzzles us as to why a machine that looks this good on paper fails in reality.
On the subject of video, the netbook has only a VGA port but no HDMI socket. To get around this there is an ATI XGP socket, which can run a couple of monitors using some extra equipment that has an HDMI port. This will require buying a separate piece of kit for HDMI, which is something of a disappointment.
The audio quality is of a rather good standard, which is fairly unusual for netbooks - especially with this level of sound. Built-in third generation Dolby home theater speakers are mounted and even a set of Dolby 5.1 headphones is thrown in. We experienced the glory of this first hand, playing 5.1 audio from a movie in an MKV container, and that sounded great. This puzzled us even more, as the MKV movie file played fine but Youtube HD content couldn't be played, which struck us as all very strange indeed.
The screen is a nice size at 11.6-inches with a 1366x768 WXGA resolution that's sharp and large enough to display multiple windows, which is rare for netbooks due to their smaller screens. The nearest Asus netbook that has a comparable screen is the 1101HA in its Seashell range, which doesn't have nearly the processing potential of this Acer One model. However the Asus machine boasts a battery life three times that of the Ferrari One and it's priced at £150 less with fairly comparable dimensions and weight.
The Acer netbook is 285mm in width, 204mm deep and 24mm thick with the lid closed or 30mm open, and weighs 1.5kg. Just for a point of reference the Asus model is 286mm in width, 196mm deep, and 21.8mm thick or 36.2mm with the lid open, and weighs 1.38kg.
The keyboard is fairly similar to others in the Acer One range, with larger than usually seen keys for netbooks that have a good return when typing. We have a minor beef with its layout that we found irksome after some days of use. Although the Acer Ferrari One right-shift key is where it should be, located at the end of the last row of letters, it's almost the same size as the enter key and more or less where that key should be. More often than not when carriage returns were attempted they were unsuccessful, as the shift key was pressed by mistake which became extremely bothersome. It's a minor niggle, but after writing a few hundred words and then having to go back and add spaces, we found our patience wearing thin.
Gone are the days of Windows XP running on netbooks, as Acer has put Window 7 on the Ferrari One. There's a minor choice between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Basic, both of which seem to suit the system well as we had the 64-bit version running fine. We're curious why Window Starter Edition wasn't aired as an option, as we had thought that OS would be firmly aimed at netbooks.
In continuous use the Ferrari One didn't prove to have much battery life from its 6-cell power source, which we found a tad disappointing as we had high hopes for the device. On Windows 7 power saving settings with WiFi, Bluetooth and the webcam all disabled, and with the screen brightness set at around 40 per cent, the Acer netbook lasted just one hour and fifty-five minutes. At the Ferrari One's highest performance settings with everything powered up and the screen at its brightest, the netbook lasted just 10 minutes less. This is unusual for those two different power schemes. The device also took a good two hours and thirty minutes to fully recharge whilst not running, a long time we believe for the 6-cell unit.
In the past we've seen better battery and power management on other manufacturers' devices, in the higher and lower power drawing modes. There are a few schools of thought here, either Acer has left out good power management capabilities from the Ferrari netbook under Windows 7, or AMD hasn't really designed the Congo platform to be run from a 6-cell battery for very long. The last thought is that AMD has just enabled every part of the system to work well in a low powered state, just as it does in a higher power setting, but that could be wishful thinking.
The only reason this netbook really exists is for the Ferrari branding, that's the key selling point for the device. There will be those who will buy the Acer Ferrari One purely for the way it looks, and rightly so. It pains us to admit it, but it looks good for a gimmicky netbook and is ideal for car fanatics or 11-year old boys. Under the hood is a decent enough processor with great audio capabilities, although we can't help but think that the second generation AMD platform still needs some tweaking here and there, especially in power management, perhaps graphics power and also strengthening the dual core CPU performance of the system. It is let down somewhat by poor battery life, lack of HD video playback, the noise of the fan constantly running and the missing HDMI port. µ
Ferrari brand, dual core netbook, great audio.
Cooling fan's noise, lack of HD video playback.
Battery life, lack of HDMI port.