Acer – Ferrari 1100 review

flash but disappointing business laptop
Photo of Acer – Ferrari 1100

Let’s face it: if you roll up at your office car park driving the latest, top-of-the-range Ferrari, you’re going to make an impression. It’s no wonder, then, that Acer began a partnership with Ferrari a few years ago to produce an office powerhouse that would look stylish and be the envy of all your friends and colleagues.

Early models like the Ferrari 3200 from 2004 had the trademark glossy red cover, but the ultraportable 1100 opts for the more modern: a chic, jet-black carbon fibre lid with the logo in the centre and tapered corners. Although it only has a 12.1-inch WXGA LCD screen, the machine feels quite reassuringly solid (weighing 1.9kg).

Once you flip it open you’re faced with a well spaced and decent sized QWERTY keyboard (with the notable exception of the tiny Del key which is impractically positioned at the extreme top right), a large, red, back-lit power button lying next to a similarly lit ‘Empowering key’ (which links to a frequent use toolbar), a textured touchpad hovering above silver mouse keys and a Bio-Protection fingerprint scanner for fast start-up and added data protection. Oh yes, there’s also another Ferrari logo on the bottom right in case you’d forgotten the association.

And that really is the problem with this supposedly Formula One of business laptops: it’s hard to see where it stands out markedly from the other contenders on the starting grid. Yes, it has a Web-cam built into the lid (an Acer Crystal Eye video camera, no less, with a perfectly respectable picture quality) but so do virtually all the others in its class and below.

Under the bonnet is the latest AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core TL-66 (2.3 GHz, 2 x 512 KB L2 cache) alongside an ATI Radeon X1270 3D graphics card with up to 960MB of HyperMemory (64MB of dedicated GDDR2 VRAM and up to 896MB of shared system memory) with 4GB of DDR2 Memory and a more-than-sufficient 250GB hard drive. All well and good, but the Turions don’t seem to have the same multitasking abilities as the Intel dual-cores and performance seemed somewhat sluggish.

Of course this type of laptop isn’t principally designed as a games machine, but again it seems a shame to have included an excellent slot-loading DVD-SuperMulti in a system that delivers only above-average graphics when playing shooters like F.E.A.R., and good but not exceptional colour reproduction and clarity in DVD movies.

But even at its most basic there are sloppy design flaws. The mouse keys, for instance, are almost totally unresponsive unless you pummel them violently, thus forcing you to use the separately supplied mouse. Battery life, too, is hugely disappointing. We ran a DVD alongside the Web-cam and a single document and the power ran out after 65 minutes. It may seem flash to have a built-in Xpress VoIP phone and Acer Video Conference Manager pack but it’s of no earthly use if your video conference dies prematurely.

Company: Acer

Contact: 0870 900 2237

If we were running Ferrari we'd be worried that a potential poll position dream machine had slipped to the back end of the starting grid, due to careless design flaws and a lacklustre pre-race performance tune-up.