Review Though it's a familiar sight for PC and notebooks to be adorned with logos it's a fair bet that a yellow one featuring a prancing pony and the initials 'SF' are not usually among them. 'SF' stand for Scuderia Ferrari, one of the most famous marques in automotive history and it's here because Acer is the official equipment supplier to the Ferrari Formula One team. Ferrari is on top of things in the motorsport world, and Acer hopes some of that success will rub off on its machines, writes Benny Har-Even.
So has Acer produced a machine that's good enough to take pole position in your shopping list? Well let's start with the most obvious feature: the paint job. The whole of the lid is decked out in the trademark Ferrari red, with the colour scheme extending to the side as well. Buy this and you're likely to want to hand-wax your notebook to keep it nice and shiny. It's undoubtedly striking, but it won't be to everyone's taste. Acer has even gone as far as to supply a matching red mouse. This looks neat, and is comfortable to hold and use. If you want your notebook to be noticed, whether it's in the airport lobby or at your desk in the office, the Acer makes for a decent alternative to an IBM or Sony. Along with the red Ferrari livery, you'll be treated to such luxuries as a Ferrari wallpaper and Ferrari themed screensaver. In a crowning touch, the Windows startup melody has even been replaced with the sound of Formula One car speeding past. Yes, it's that classy.
Another Ferrari sponsor is AMD, so it's no surprise that the machine is powered one of its CPUs. With a name like Ferrari, nothing less than a top-of-the-line Mobile Athlon 64 CPU will do. However, despite the machine being numbered a 3200, the CPU model is actually a 2800+. And though it's only running at 1.8GHz it's certainly more than a match for the Pentiums of this world. The processor is a Low-Power Mobile Athlon 64 featuring 512KB of Level 2 cache. It's also easy to forget that the Athlon 64 is a next generation CPU, just waiting for Windows and applications to become 64-bit compliant. This ensures that the notebook has a degree of future proofing built-in.
Acer has backed this with 512MB of RAM, though this is supplied on two sticks so there's no further room for expansion in the current configuration. It's also only DDR 333 which makes it an odd match for the Via K8T800 chipset and CPU, which runs at 400MHz.
In terms of graphics horsepower, the Acer is equipped with Mobility Radeon 9700 GPU with a full 128MB of dedicated memory. This can't quite claim to the be latest thing in mobile graphics since the announcement of the Mobility Radeon 9800, but in terms of what you can buy right now that 9700 is still hot stuff. The 3DMark03 score of 3160 may not seem that high but this is genuinely a machine you can play games on. I installed Unreal Tournament 2004 and was able to set the resolution to 1280 x 1024 and details levels to high and play with a smooth-as-silk framerate.
The 15in the display is generous and the native resolution of 1400 x 1050 fits perfectly on this size. However, the quality of the screen itself is disappointing. Though it's reasonably bright, it's not evenly lit even when looking at it straight on. Horizontal and vertical viewing angles are also fairly poor, with the screen looking washed out at you move up and down and going dark as you move to the side. Sound quality from the speakers located at the front of the chassis however was also poor. Maximum volume wasn't very loud and the sound lacked bass.