Test-driving the Acer Ferrari One Netbook

The new Ferrari One 200 from Acer takes a basic 11-inch Netbook shell and decks it out in official Ferrari red, with the automaker's iconic horse logo.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Outside branding on laptops is relatively rare, with occasional appearances by World of Warcraft or MLB baseball teams turning up in paint jobs, but little in the way of overall product design. A rare exception can be found in the race-car-themed laptops put out by Asus (Lamborghini) and Acer (Ferrari).

These product lines were typically slightly jazzed-up versions of standard laptops, but with inflated price tags and occasionally, branded accessories such as mousepads and cases.

The new Ferrari One 200 from Acer follows this trend, taking a basic 11-inch Netbook shell and decking it out in official Ferrari red, with the automaker's iconic horse logo. The internal components have also gotten a bit of an upgrade, with a dual-core AMD processor and 4GB of RAM giving us a lot more horsepower than a typical Atom-powered Netbook.

Of course, all this comes at a price, and at $599, we'd be tempted to just jump into a thin 13-inch Intel ULV model, such as the 13-inch Toshiba T135. At the right price, we'd be tempted to make this 11-inch Netbook-plus our go-to travel system, but as is, it's a tough sell beyond Ferrari fans only.

Borrowing from the existing line of Acer/Gateway Netbooks, the Ferrari One 200 has a slim chassis, also similar to the HP Mini 311, but with automotive-style glossy red paint on the lid and a textured black wrist rest. Yellow Ferrari horse logos sit on the back of the lid and the far right side of the wrist rest.

When open, only that wrist rest logo and a Ferrari imprint on the mouse button bar give away the system's provenance. From the back, however, the system screams out for attention, so be ready for friends, colleagues, and passersby to either ask about it or at least give you a funny look. There's also a preinstalled Ferrari Windows theme, which includes a desktop calendar.

Most of the interior real estate is taken up by the large keyboard, with flat, nearly edge-to-edge keys. We found the keyboard to be easy to use (for a Netbook-sized system), and appreciated the large Tab, Shift, and Function keys. The touch pad, on the other hand, was oddly angled--wider at the top and tapered at the bottom--which seems needlessly complex. We're also not a fan of the single rocker bar for the left and right mouse buttons, much preferring to have two separate buttons.

The 11-inch display has a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is the new standard for 11-inch (and a few upscale 10-inch) Netbooks. That's great for playing back 720p HD video, or even some light gaming (see our list of Netbook-friendly games), and gives you much more screen real estate than a traditional 1,024x600 Netbook display.

While not common in most Netbooks, a few higher-end models have started to include HDMI ports for easy hookup to a monitor or TV. The Ferrari only has a standard VGA jack, along with three USB 2.0 ports and an SD card slot. Also absent from the mix is Bluetooth--a shame for a system in this price range.

The real star of the show, even more than the race car branding, is the dual-core AMD Athlon X2 L310 processor. Like the dual-core Intel Atom 330, because of heat issues, you won't see this in a 10-inch Netbook. While the Ferrari One 200 is no speed demon, it's certainly much faster than your typical single-core Atom Netbook, and because it's dual-core, basic multitasking is a less likely to make you rip your hair out in frustration.

Keep in mind, however, that Intel's next generation of Atom chipshas just arrived, and even though they don't do more in terms of raw performance, they offer much improved battery lifethan either this CPU or the current crop of Atom N270 and N280 chips.

In anecdotal use, we found the Ferrari One to be much closer in performance to a dual-core ULV system than an Atom-powered Netbook, with little of the slowdown and stuttering we've become accustomed to from most 10 and 11-inch Netbooks.

We're currently running the Acer Ferrari One 200 through our suite of benchmark tests and will report on those results in an update.