Acer Ferrari 3200 laptop - EXCLUSIVE review

4 out of 5
£1780

For

Powerful graphics – and just look at it!

Against

No 64-Bit Windows, pay a premium for the Prancing horse logo

What do you get the formula one racing fan who has everything? A Ferrari laptop of course. Scuderia Ferrari and Acer have joined forces to bring you the Ferrari 3200, a powerhouse of a machine with the style to carry it off.

From the outset you can see this is a machine that means business. The main styling's the shiny red highly polished case that sets the scene nicely. Of course in the real world it's going to be smudged with greasy fingerprints in minutes, but it's still a beauty to behold if you are into that kind of thing. Rather than just make a red laptop (why do laptops always come in black or silver) the tale-tell sign that money has been spent is the addition of the Ferrari logo that is sealed into the finish- no tacky stickers here please.

To match in with the top of the laptop the sides have also been painted red, however open it up and you're dazzled by the silver interior with the odd touches of carbon fibre to give you that racing car feel.

Mouse control is a touchpad as standard or using an enclosed standard optical mouse (also in red with the prancing horse logo). The keyboard has been slightly curved, presumably for a more ergonomic design and there are the usual Acer preset buttons to launch email, internet and two programmable options of your own.

Under the bonnet, you would be forgiven for thinking the unit actually is a Ferrari, it certainly has the performance and power. Running the latest low-power mobile AMD Athlon 64 processor 2800+ the machine is no slouch. With a very square and therefore large 15-inch TFT screen, an ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB dedicated video RAM, base system memory of 512MB DDR RAM, scaleable to 2048MB, and a 80GB HDD it all ensures a powerful machine inside, rather like the cars themselves.

The side of the laptop presents a slot loading DVD-Super Multi drive that supports DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM and the drive seems rather similar to the Apple PowerBook range tucked neatly out of the way.

For the photographer the machine also offers a 4-in-1 reader offering support for MMC/SD, SmartMedia and MemoryStick. Rather strangely the memory card reader doesn't include Compact Flash, used by most professional photographers or the xD Picture card used by Olympus and Fuji the number two and three in the market. Those ports are easily added via USB but it's a minor bugbear at having another piece of plastic to carry around.

Connectivity is offered via either inbuilt 802.11g wireless or Bluetooth while the machine possesses more input/output options that Michael Schumacher's podium finishes. As well as the DVD reader/burner and 4-in-1 memory card reader there's also S-Video out, FireWire/IEEE 1394 and four instead of the usual pair of USB 2.0 ports.

Obviously running the large screen, DVD drive and input/output ports has a heavy effect on battery life, but Acer still believe that the battery will give you around three hours of usage and so far in tests we have found this to be true. As long as you don't get too heavily involved in Command and Conquer Generals or Morrowind, even gamers should find this length of power satisfactory.

The unit runs Windows XP Home Edition and it's a shame that this laptop currently isn't shipping with either the Professional edition for the more network and business savvy or in actual fact the 64-bit processor version to take advantage of the AMD chip on-board. Admittedly through no fault of Acer, Microsoft is still to ship the 64-bit version of its OS, which is currently stuck in beta with a launch hopefully set for later on in the year. While the Ferrari 3200 works perfectly well with the OS at hand you can't help feeling that it's like one of the prized Ferrari cars merely with a speed restrictor enforcing an under 80 miles an hour limit- but the underlying specification seems like the ideal base for upgrading.

Verdict

This is a great machine that looks good and more importantly has the performance to match and a vast improvement on the previous Ferrari model that Acer launched. However, you will pay a premium for the Ferrari Red casing. If you are looking for even more power and technological whiz for your money there are better alternatives on the market. That said, nobody takes notice of a clapped out-mini do they? Gamers can still shortlist it thanks to a great graphics system, but had there been an OEM upgrade voucher for 64-Bit XP, that would have earned this an award.