Acer Ferrari 1100 Notebook PC - Review

Acer Ferrari 1100 Notebook PC - Review

Acer Ferrari 1100 Notebook PC - ReviewPros: Cool Ferrari styling will appeal to some; solid build quality will appeal to all; large hard drive and 4GB of RAM help justify high price; strong Photoshop performance; fingerprint reader; comfortable keyboard and trackpad; slot-loading DVD burner and Webcam; plenty of ports and connections.

Cons: Mediocre multitasking performance; disappointing battery life; weak speakers.

Bottomline: The Acer Ferrari 1100 is a stylish, full-featured ultraportable laptop, but its disappointing battery life won't sustain users who spend a lot of time away from the outlet.

Specifications: Processor: AMD Turion 64 X2 mobile technology (2.3 GHz); RAM installed: 4 GB DDR II SDRAM; Weight: 4.4 lbs

Acer Ferrari 1100 Laptop PC - ReviewWhen we looked at Acer's first Ferrari-themed ultraportable, the Ferrari 1000, we liked its car-themed style and strong performance, but were disappointed by its mediocre battery life. We opened the box of its successor, the Ferrari 1100, with some anticipation--this is, after all, a well-designed, full-featured ultraportable laptop that ought to impress. But alas: Despite its strong components, the Ferrari 1100 posted mixed performance scores and less-than-stellar battery life. Though we're thrilled that Acer has managed to squeeze a DVD burner into the Ferrari's compact and solidly constructed case, we're not convinced that anyone but the most fanatical sports-car enthusiasts will be thrilled to spend $1,800 on the Ferrari 1100; most people will be better served by the Lenovo 3000 V200 or even Acer's own TravelMate 6292.

It's no MacBook Air, but the Acer Ferrari 1100 is an astonishingly compact laptop, with a footprint that's just a bit larger than a piece of paper. However, the wow factor diminishes when you pick it up: At 4.4 pounds, the Ferrari 1100 veers into the territory of a thin-and-light laptop. However, it's about the same weight as other bulky ultraportables, such as the Lenovo 3000 V200. As you might expect from a heavier-than-average ultraportable, the Ferrari 1100 feels solid and able to stand up to the bumps and knocks of frequent travel.

The Ferrari 1100 includes a 12.1-inch wide-screen display with a native resolution of 1,280x800. While that sharpness occasionally results in text that's too small to read, we found it workable for everyday word processing and Web surfing. Mobile workers looking for a flashy productivity tool probably won't like the screen's glossy coating, which resulted in some reflections in our office environment; unfortunately there's no option for a display with a matte finish. But home users who want a highly portable media machine will likely enjoy watching movies on the Ferrari 1100. Above the display sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam with a single microphone for Web videoconferencing.

Like most ultraportables, the Acer Ferrari 1100's tiny case requires a compact keyboard. But we were surprised to find that typing for extended periods was easy, perhaps in part because the keys are slightly separated from each other and have a satisfying spring. The trackpad is likewise compact, but it has a textured surface, which provides enough drag to make the small area usable. The groovy metallic mouse buttons, engraved with "Ferrari 1100," have been placed right below the trackpad (an improvement over previous Ferrari models). Above the keyboard sit three glowing light-touch keys next to a Ferrari logo, all of which disappear when the laptop is powered down. On the upper left corner are a large power button and a smaller button that launches Acer's custom setup and configuration software. With the exception of the power button, all the keys above the keyboard can be programmed to launch the application of your choice. Below the keyboard, a fingerprint reader lets you log on to Windows and frequently used Web sites with the swipe of a finger.

The Acer Ferrari 1100's case is a little larger than most ultraportables, the better to accommodate the ports and connections you'd expect on a larger thin-and-light laptop. For example, it's the rare ultraportable that incorporates both S/PDIF and audio line-out jacks. The laptop's Dolby "virtual surround" sound doesn't do much for sound quality; though well-balanced, music and movies still sound thin. We were pleased, however, by the laptop's slot-loading DVD burner, which maintains the sleek case design and is easier to use in cramped spaces such as airplane tray tables. As with other Ferrari models, Acer throws in a Ferrari-branded mouse and a tiny, coordinating Bluetooth VoIP phone.

Currently you can buy only one fixed configuration of the Acer Ferrari 1100, the Ferrari 1100-5457, for $1,800. The configuration includes a 2.3GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-66 dual-core processor, an impressive 4GB of 667MHz RAM, and ATI Radeon X1270 graphics. That extra RAM greatly helped the Ferrari 1100 on the Photoshop benchmarks, where it outran a field of competitors that included the similarly configured HP Pavilion tx2000 and Acer's non-Ferrari ultraportable, the TravelMate 6292. The Ferrari 1100 fared less well, however, on the Multimedia multitasking test, where it trailed significantly behind the competition. We blame the processor; in general, we've found AMD Turion 64 X2 processors do not perform as well as than Intel Core 2 Duo processors when it comes to multitasking. That's not to say the Ferrari 1100 is a dog; we were able to listen to music and jump back and forth between multiple applications without any significant lag time. Without a better showing on the benchmarks, its hard to recommend the Ferrari 1100 over less expensive alternatives like Lenovo's own bulky ultraportable, the 3000 V200, or Acer's admittedly less stylish TravelMate 6292.

We weren't impressed by the Ferrari 1100's battery life. The laptop lasted just over 2 hours on our DVD battery drain test--quite a bit less than both the Pavilion tx2000 and the TravelMate 6292 (which incorporates an Intel Core 2 Duo processor). Our DVD battery drain test is particularly taxing, so you can expect a slightly longer battery life during typical use; still, we'd expect more from an ultraportable that's presumably designed for frequent use away from your desk.

Acer backs the Ferrari 1100 with a one-year warranty, which is standard for consumer laptops. Acer's tech-support phone lines are open only Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT. The company's online support could stand some sprucing up; though it does offer easy driver and manual downloads, it lacks such helpful features as forums and real-time chat with a tech-support rep.