What's hot: Nice looking notebook, good multimedia power by netbook standards.
What's not: Keyboard keys are too flat, battery life could be better.
Reviewed July 26, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
AMD Athlon NEO CPU notebooks fill the void between netbooks and full sized notebooks. Think of them as the tweeners with higher resolution displays and more powerful CPUs than netbooks, but with greater portability and a lower price than mainstream notebook computers. If you remember the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e we reviewed earlier this year, you will know that the 11.6” ThinkPad ran on the AMD NEO MV-40 with integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. But there were some limitations: it was a single core CPU and many base models shipped with Windows 7 32-bit though the Neo CPU is a 64-bit CPU with virtualization support. To get a jump on single core Intel Atom netbooks, AMD released the Athlon 62 X2 L310 and L335 dual core processors that typically ship with 64-bit Windows 7. There aren’t a huge number of notebooks on the market with these CPUs, but the Acer Ferrari One is among them.
The Acer Ferrari One runs on the AMD Athlon X2 dual-core L310 CPU at 1.2GHz with support for AMD Hyper Transport 3.0 technology and AMD M780G chipset. Like with the Neo CPU, the Acer also has integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics with up to 2GB HyperMemory which translates to 256+128 MB of dedicated system memory and up to 1.66GB shared system memory. The Acer Ferrari One 200 comes with 4GB of DDR2 memory that beats out most netbooks’ 1GB or 2GB memory configurations, and a 250GB hard drive vs. the usual netbook 160 gig drive. The 11.6” widescreen display also has a native 1366 x 768 resolution for 720p content and an excellent audio package. And many CineBench numbers show that the AMD Athlon 64 X2 CPUs can run circles around the Intel Atom Z530 CPU and the Neo MV-40. The Ferrari One typically sells for $599.
Design and Ergonomics
The design of the Acer Ferrari One is eye-catching and masculine. The consumer-oriented design screams “look at me”, and won’t fit in well in corporate meeting rooms. It features a bright Ferrari red cover and a patterned wrist rest that matches some of Ferrari’s interior surfaces. The sharply cut corners amplify the style. The machine plays a racecar startup sound when entering Windows and it stands on 4 tiny rubber tires.
The Acer Ferrari One weighs 3.3 pounds with the 250GB HDD, and it feels sturdy and well built. The full size 84-key keyboard feels large for a small notebook, but the keys lack travel and feel very flat. It will take you a bit of time to get used to typing on this keyboard. The full size keyboard leaves a decent but not large space for the small trapezoidal touch pad, and the mouse button rocker sits on the edge of the notebook. The 11.6” display is interesting: it’s super bright yet looks a bit grainy and washed out. Viewing angles aren’t wide, but then they generally aren’t wide for machines in this price range. The screen is so bright that when the brightness slider is set in the middle, the screen is more than bright enough for movie watching. The Acer Ferrari One has a built-in webcam and mic above the display.
The Acer has a great set up for movie watching thanks to that bright screen and an excellent audio package. Unlike many netbooks, the Acer Ferrari One has two speaker grilles just under the front edge of the notebook with nothing blocking the sound. The front firing stereo speakers sound loud and reasonably full for a small notebook thanks to third-gen Dolby Home Theater audio enhancement that includes bass and high frequency enhancer technologies. The RAM slots are easy to access under the notebook, though you’ll probably never need to access them since the machine typically ships with 4 gigs of RAM.
Horsepower and Performance
The Acer Ferrari One 200 runs on the AMD Athlon 62 X2 duo-core L310 CPU at 1.20GHz with 1 MB L2 cache. It comes with 4GB DDR2 667MHz RAM in two slots and a 250GB hard drive. Since AMD owns ATI, the Acer Ferrari One 200 has integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics and the AMD M780G chipset. Though the ATI Radeon sounds impressive, the benchmark results (see below) show it didn’t add much to gaming power though movie streaming is quite smooth. For an 11.6” notebook, the Acer Ferrari One has a healthy collection of ports including 3 USB 2.0, VGA, Ethernet, mic in, headphones/speaker line out with SPDIF support and a media reader that works with most memory cards. The netbook has an ATI XGP port for external graphics though we haven’t seen anything available to make use of this feature. The Acer Ferrari One 200 doesn’t have a built-in optical drive, but it worked with all external DVD drives we tested it with. Software installation and file transfers feel fast via USB 2.0 from external optical drives.
As with many AMD powered notebooks, the Acer Ferrari One 200 runs at higher temperatures compared to Intel notebooks, but not by much. The notebook runs at about 38 degrees Celsius when running productivity applications including MS Office, Internet Explorer, Outlook and more. Streaming movies via Wi-Fi raises CPU core temperatures by 10-20 degrees. When playing a 1 hour Hulu movie, the Acer’s temperature rose to 43-53 degrees Celsius; playing movies via Netflix the Core temps went up to 40-50 degrees Celsius. Playing games raised the temps to 60 degrees Celsius. The Acer Ferrari One 200 also takes a bit longer to cool down compared to Intel based notebooks. The fan blows out on the left side of the notebook, and the air exiting the fan is hot when it’s running full blast.
Since the Acer Ferrari One has built-in ATI graphics, we tested gaming. Bundled Casual games by Wildtangent worked smoothly, but FPS games with demanding graphics were unplayable. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 played at 10 fps with all effects turned off, and at that frame rate, the game was unplayable. Consider the heavier and more expensive Alienware M11x if you’re looking for serious gaming power in an 11” design. We also tested movie streaming on the Acer Ferrari One, and it handled it admirably. Netflix movies streamed over WiFi at solid 30 fps and looked smooth with audio in sync with video. If you install the latest Flash 10.1 with GPU acceleration, Hulu movies streaming over WiFi will play at 25 fps, which is very watchable. YouTube streaming over WiFi played at 25 fps at 480p resolution and looked smooth; but at 720p resolution YouTube videos played at about 18 fps and audio went out sync with video. All streaming movies we tested were playing in full screen mode, which reduces fps.
We put the Acer Ferrari One through PCMark Vantage X64 benchmark tests and provide a score comparison with the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e with the single core AMD Neo MV-40 clocked at 1.6GHz. The X100e has the same ATI integrated graphics.
PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results:
Acer Ferrari One:
PCMark Suite: 2122
TV and Movie Suite: 1251
Gaming Suite: 1573
Music Suite: 2359
Communication Suite: 2014
Productivity Suite: 2085
HDD Test Suite: 2508
Lenovo ThinkPad X100e:
PCMark Suite: 1591
TV and Movies: 827
The Ferrari One stands on 4 little performance tread tires.
The Acer Ferrari One has a 6-cell Lithium Ion battery that’s 5600mAh in capacity. That’s a high capacity battery for a netbook size computer, and the dual core AMD CPU needs it. With the power setting at Balanced and screen brightness at 50%, the notebook made it just past the 4 hour mark performing productivity tasks such as editing MS Office docs and surfing the Web via WiFi. The screen is bright enough at 50%; you don’t need to crank up the brightness. Streaming movies from Hulu or Netflix via Wi-Fi lasted 2:15 hours on a charge. The laptop doesn’t charge very fast with the included AC charger (100-240V), taking 2 hours to fully charge from 40% full. So users who are on the go will likely to need to charge the notebook overnight. Standby time is about 2-3 days.
The Acer Ferrari One comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and essential software for media playback and system recovery. Acer bundles its own webcam tool called Acer Crystal Eye and their own Acer eRecovery Management tool. For DVD playback, the Ferrari One 200 has InterVideo WinDVD. MS Silverlight and SQL Server 2005 are preinstalled. Like many notebooks, the Acer comes with the 60-day trial version of MS Office Home & Student 2007 as well as a McAfee Internet Security Suite trial. There’s some bloatware including toolbars, shortcut icons for Google, eBay, Norton Online Backup, Oberon Game Zone, eSobi and more. But fans of Ferrari will enjoy the included wallpaper, screensaver and the Windows startup sound bite of a Ferrari race car passing by.
Netbooks are the been there, bought that phenomenon of 2007-2009. There’s only so much you can do with a portable computer that has only 1024 x 600 resolution and not enough umph to play Flash video well. Enter the 11.1” to 11.6” class of smarter netbooks that have higher resolution displays, larger keyboards and better CPU + graphics combos to handle YouTube and Hulu (though still not as fluidly as full size notebooks). Acer was very smart to make a small Ferrari One edition based on this more powerful and somewhat more expensive platform. It has a higher resolution display compared to most Intel Atom netbooks, better graphics power for multimedia and more RAM out of box. Since it carries the Ferrari brand, the notebook has an eye-catching design that stands out, and it has a solid build. Think of the Ferrari One as the flamboyant counterpart to the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e.
Pro: Nice looking notebook, good multimedia power by 11.6” notebook standards.
Con: Keyboard keys are too flat, battery life could be better, fan is noisy.
Display: 11.6” widescreen backlit LED display, 1366 x 768 native resolution, 200 nit, Acer CineCrystal technology. VGA port but no HDMI port. Integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics with AMD M780G chipset.
Battery: 6-cell 5600 mAh Lithium Ion battery. Power supply: 100-240V, 50-60Hz, 65W (19V DC, 1.7A). Claimed usage time: up to 5 hours.
Performance: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core L310 CPU at 1.20GHz with 1MB L2 cache. 4GB DDR2 memory, 677 MHz. Two main memory slots, both may be occupied.
Size: 11.0 x 8.0 x 0.9/1.2 inches. Weight: 3.3 pounds.
Drives: 250 gig, 5400rpm hard drive. No built-in optical drive.
Webcam: Built-in webcam with Acer Crystal Eye software, built-in mic.
Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, USB 2.0.
Ports and Slots: 2 USB (one of them is eSATA and Sleep and Charge combo), VGA, Ethernet RJ45, mic input port, audio out port and multimedia reader. Multi-media card reader works with Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Mini SD Card, Micro SD Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Multi Media Card and XD Cards.
Software: Windows 7 Home Premium. Microsoft Silverlight and SQL 2005. Acer Crystal Eye webcam software, Acer Launcher Manager and Acer Video Conference Manager. InterVideo WinDVD. MS Office 2007 60-day trial software and McAfee Internet Security Suite trial.