New Ultra-Mobile Notebook Lives Up to Its Brand

Tagging a computer with the Ferrari label may seem a tad pretentious to some minds. Whether you’re of that mind or not, one thing is for sure — any product saddled with a prestigious name like that has mighty tall boots to fill. Actually, it’s more like filling hip-waders.

Nevertheless, since the introduction of its first Ferrari notebook three years ago, Acer has done an admirable job of creating an arresting line of laptops bearing the shield of the rampant black stallion.

Acer continues its winning ways with the introduction of its Ferrari 1000 line of ultra-mobile notebooks.

Anorexic Dimensions

What sets ultra-mobiles apart as a laptop class is their size and weight, which make them true portables and not luggables in notebook trappings.

The 1000, at 8.7 by 11.9 inches, isn’t much bigger than a manila folder, and at 1.4 inches thick, not much thicker than a 400-page book — and it weighs just 3.7 pounds.

To reach those anorexic dimensions, though, Acer, as have many ultra-mobile makers, had to remove the unit’s optical drive.

A speedy external optical drive is included with the notebook. It reads and writes CDs at 24x speeds; DVDs at 8x; and dual and double layer DVDs at 4x.

It has always seemed to me that external optical drives work against a notebook’s mobility. When someone is traveling, they want to lug around fewer items, not more, but apparently this problem has been a tough nut to crack for ultra-mobile designers.

Dazzling Display

Speaking of design, the matte black carbon-fiber casing of the 1000 contrasts nicely with the ebony weave pattern behind the clear plastic plate on the unit’s cover, which bears the Ferrari logo and a thin red racing stripe. Racing stripes also adorn the sides of the cover.

When the cover is opened, the eyes will be delighted by the Ferrari’s LCD screen. Every notebook maker seems to have a name for their display technology — Acer’s is CrystalBrite — but whatever it’s called, it ranks with the best I’ve seen.

Although the display measures only 12.1 inches diagonally, it compensates for its tight real estate with a high native screen resolution of 1280 by 800. That’s roughly the same resolution as my 17-inch flat panel monitor. The trade-off is that objects on the 1000’s screen are much smaller than they are on my full size display.

Turbo-Powered Turion

Under the hood is an AMD Turion 64 X2 dual core mobile processor running at 1.8 GHz. These chips really cook.

In addition to the AMD processor, the 1000 has an ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 graphics processor, which can support up to 512 MB of memory.

The graphics processor, however, uses shared memory. That reduces the amount of memory available for other tasks. For example, my review unit had 1 GB of memory but only 768 MB were available for general tasks because some of it was appropriated by the graphics processor.

The base allocation of 1 GB of DDR II 667 MHz SDRAM can be upgraded to a maximum of 2 GB of memory.

Mobility Without Compromise

Unlike typical laptops, the 1000 comes with the upscale version of Microsoft’s Windows XP Professional. When XP Pro’s successor is released next January, the 1000 should be able to handle the transition, as it bears the label Windows Vista Premium Ready.

Although some may find the keyboard on the Ferrari a bit cramped, I found its action comfortable and responsive.

The 1000 also has some nice extras, such as built-in Bluetooth (no need to buy a dongle that will tie up one of the unit’s three USB ports), support for next-generation WiFi (802.11n) and a Bluetooth mouse.

Just as you wouldn’t expect to pay Chevy prices for a Ferrari, the 1000 sells at the top of the notebook range — from US$1,800 to $2,000.

However, if you want mobility without compromise, you will find that this notebook is worth every penny.

John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].

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