Hands-On: Acer Ferrari One 200 Netbook in Review
The little red.
The collaboration between Acer and Ferrari has tradition: Acer sponsors the Scuderia and in turn uses the famous logo of the prancing horse for selected high-performance notebooks. Now Acer wants to provide speed in the netbook sector, and draws upon the good name from Italy once more. We have had a closer look at a pre-release model of the Acer Ferrari One 200.
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Punctually with the release of Windows 7 on the 22th of October this year, the red netbook should be available in shops. Acer plans to provide several variants, which should only be differentiated with respect to their communication features, such as Bluetooth and UMTS, not by processor or graphics card: the CPU is an Athlon X2 L310 from AMD with 1.2 GHz clock speed, and the pixel calculations are performed by an ATI Radeon HD 3200 onboard graphics chip. Acer will offer the Ferrari One 200 from 499 Euros.
Case & Design
Naturally for a netbook carrying the name Ferarri the corresponding color scheme is Ferrari-Red, and thus the lid, lettering on the function keys, as well as several of the accents are luminous "rosso".
The power button on the top right above the keyboard shines in the typical red. In two places the famous Ferrari logo was additionally integrated: in the middle of the lid, and bottom right on the hand rest area.
With 1.5 Kilos weight the Ferrari One is pleasantly light, and the Acer engineers also saved space: not even 2.5 cm height is measured at the thinnest point.
The chassis reminds of the shortly tested Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ, of which we have very fond memories: everything was built solidly on the 1810TZ, the design was nice to look at, the materials were pleasing, and nothing rattled or warped.
And also the Ferrari One appears to be without faults at first glance: The keyboard sits firmly and does not bend through, and the chassis can be described as rigid. The only smaller weak spot is the display lid, which allows through moderate pressure from behind to the display.
The hinges are tightly adjusted and make it difficult to open the netbook with a single hand, but in turn hold the display without teetering in one position. Above the keyboard a large hole gapes open when the battery has been removed, since the battery pack has been seamlessly integrated into the design, and isn't located on the bottom of the case.
The design was somewhat refined in contrast to the 1810TZ: with rounded edges, a handball rest with a nice checkered pattern, the chrome-plated touchpad button, and several red accents on the sides, Acer builds a nice and sporty, but not excessively styled netbook.
Once again the 1810TZ sends its greetings, since all the connections are located on both of the sides of the Ferrari One 200 netbook: on the right from front to back there is a 5-in-1 card reader, which can read SD, MMC, Memory Sticks, Memory Stick Pro and xD Picture Cards, followed by a 3.5 mm headphone output, as well as a microphone input, 2 USB 2.0 ports, the power inlet, a Kensington-Lock, and the LAN port with a dashing red border.
On the left side Acer has emplaced a further USB port, the ventilation vent as well as a VGA port at the far back, once again with red accents. Between the ventilation vent and the VGA port is situated one of the great features of this pre-release model: an XGP (eXternal Graphic Platform) port, with which it is possible to connect an external graphics box which contains a powerful graphics card.
Thus it is possible to attain significantly more graphics power, for instance for games, from a little netbook. Acer named the possible content of such a graphics box as a Radeon HD4670, but also states that a market release is not yet certain. It will be interresting to see whether an XGP port will really be built into the final release model of the Ferrari One 200. A similar concept was once already also offered by Fujitsu with the Amilo Booster - Find the comprehensive review here.
The rear side merely contains the battery socket, on the front side are two switches for activating WLAN and Bluetooth. Otherwise, located under the front edge, are the loudspeakers.
Acer has constructed the connections and plugs on the Ferrari One in such a way that all cables should automatically be directed to the back, and disturb neither right nor left handed people. In this respect the power adapter has a right-angled plug, with which the cable lets itself be guided to the back. Something that will likely not be possible with standard USB plugs though...
Since there are USB sockets on both sides, there shouldn't be a problem connecting a mouse for left handed people. Although one would have to live with the air stream from the interior of the netbook, which is however hardely noticeable with the tested device under a moderate load.
One point for criticism on the Acer 1810TZ was the touchpad, which was haptically difficult to find, since it barely defined itself from the hand resting area. Thanks to the changed design, this is no longer a problem with the Ferrari One 200: the touchpad is both optically as well as haptically easily discernable from the surrounding area. Acer has opted for a slightly forward narrowing design, with a continuous chrome button with "Ferrari One" engraved.
The touchpad can be described as smooth-running and pleasant, and supports diverse gestures, with which it is possible to scroll and also zoom and turn pages in some applications.
Also the keyboard feels pleasant: the chiclet design with the large individual keys and small separating spaces gives a good feeling while writing. The many special features which can be evoked in combination with the "Fn" key, are highlighted in red on the keys to stay true to the design.
As a small special feature, the red Ferrari logo is depicted on the "F10" key. Users which promise themselves a turbo-mode for processor and graphics card by pressing the combination of "Fn" + "F10" will however be dissapointed: this combination of keys merely directs to the Ferrari website - Hurray!
For the display Acer opts for a glossy 11.6 inch display with 1366 by 768 pixels resolution, which results in an aspect ratio of 16:9. As with all devices, Acer uses an LED backlit panel. This technology should provide a more even illumination while using less energy.
Our first impression of the display was positive: the colors appear crisp, contrasts are good and blemishes, which can occur due to irregular illumination, are not perceivable. Since Acer has fitted the Ferrari One 200 display with a glossy surface, outdoor use under sunny conditions should prove fairly difficult, and even in closed areas disturbing reflections can occur, which was already noticeable on the pre-release model.
The horizontal viewing angle is relatively large, we could see an unchanged picture from almost every angle. The vertical viewing angle come off marginally worse, but is still satisfying.
For the necessary Ferraripower an AMD Athlon 64 X2 L310 processor with a clock speed of 1.2 GHz and two cores is installed. Acer also opted for an energy saving dual core processor on the Aspire 1810TZ, although by Intel, and achieved respectable performance.
Reponsible for the graphics calculations is a Radeon HD3200 graphics chip which is integrated into the chipset, and borrows a maximum of 512 MB from the system RAM. The performance scores of this graphics cards are marginally better than, for example, Intels popular onboard graphics solution 4500MHD, but are barely sufficient for contemporary games and more demanding graphics work.
For someone who occasionally plays an older game or wants to watch family videos, the performance should be adequate. As previously mentioned, the XGP port allows the connection of an external graphics box, which will provide more gaming power on external displays. With the named ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4670 contemporary games should run smooth with good graphics quality. Further information regarding which games could be played, can be determined from our list of games.
4 GBytes of DDR2-RAM with a clock speed of 667 MHz are built into the Acer Ferrari One. To fully utilise this capacity a 64-bit operating system is necessary, otherwise only about 3 GBytes can be used. And indeed Acer includes a 64-bit operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
This allows the entire RAM to be used, although caution is advised: there is not a corresponding 64-bit driver for all hardware at present. One should hence check with the relevant manufacturer in advance, to make sure that the necessary driver for a scanner, printer or other is already available.
Apropos Windows 7, we checked out the Windows Experience Index on the pre-release model, which similarly to Vista, grades the performance of the netbook according to different tests: in contrast to the maximum score of 7.9 our system achieved 2.9 in total.
As the main storage device a Hitachi HT 545025BA9300 SATA hard drive with 5400 rpm and 250 GByte is installed.
During the presentation the fan of the Ferrari One 200 pre-release model was hardly hearable. However, we were not able to subject the netbook to a performance test. In this respect, the comprehensive test will have to show whether the device also stays quiet under demanding conditions. The hard drive was equally unnoticeable, and carried out its work almost completely silently.
When running office applications the netbook feels cool, a heating was not perceivable on either the top or bottom. In this case it will also require a performance test to ascertain whether the Ferrari One 200 is also cooled well under demanding conditions.
The loudspeakers are located under the front edge, and are Dolby certified, but still sound relatively thin, at least on the tested device. Little bass and relatively quiet volume could be bearable, but the positioning on the bottom lead to the sound being radiated away from the user, which could be particularly problematic during mobile use while placed on the lap. As for the "optimised sound quality" described in Acer's press release, we have yet to find evidence of this.
Acer has included a 6 cell battery, as already with the Aspire Timeline 1810TZ. Due to this for a netbook relatively potent battery the Acer can promise 5 hours of operation with a good conscience. This corresponds to our expectations considering the outstanding battery life of the 1810TZ, and the slightly changed configuration.
The name Ferrari promises two things: Quality and above all - speed! The first promise is definitely kept: already on the pre-release model everything gives a solid and rigid impression. Also the design proves successful, without being excessively over-styled.
The performance of the netbook should be satisfying considering its size: although we could not run any benchmarks on the device, the dual core processor allows working without delays in Windows 7 and the ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics card should also lure a few classic games.
Its nice of Acer to once again integrate a few clever details, and provide a powerful battery and good display. Merely the somewhat weak loudspeakers could be improved a bit more.
We are already looking forward to subjecting the Acer Ferrari One 200 to our comprehensive test parkour, and will then report again in with all the details, and to see whether it honors its name. The first impression is definitely promising though.