Acer Ferrari 3400 review: Acer Ferrari 3400

The Good Visually impressive.

The Bad Noisy optical drive.

The Bottom Line The Acer Ferrari proves that great looking notebooks aren't the sole province of computer companies named after fruit.

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There's a saying that if you want a car, the red ones go faster. Equally speaking, there's a theory that if you want to sell something, the brand matters as much as the features. These two factors combine in the Acer Ferrari 3400, a notebook that doesn't shirk on the features department, but equally continues Acer's relationship with the Ferrari brand with a notebook that bears more than a few black stallion badges -- and an awful lot of red. In a world dominated by notebooks in black and silver, with only the intermittent splash of Apple white, there's little better way to make your notebook stand out than by making it bright carmine. That innate redness -- leaving aside the shock of silver that hits you when you open up the notebook itself -- is continued with the included Ferrari mouse, which is, of course, also somewhat on the blood-tinged side.

Colouration aside, the Ferrari 3400's design principles make it look much like most other Acer notebooks -- there's the by now familiar "smiling" keyboard, a plethora of ports running down the left hand side and a multi-format slot-loading optical drive on the right hand side.

At a shade over 3kgs, the Ferrari 3400 isn't what you'd call a light laptop, and the unusual inclusion of a mouse solidly places this more in the desktop replacement/luggable category, rather than the portable one.

Under the racing hood (sorry) of the 3400 lies a mobile AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor -- not a terribly common component in an Intel dominated notebook world -- along with 512MB of memory made up of two 256MB PC2700 DDR-SDRAM banks. An 80GB, 4200RPM EIDE hard drive lurks within, and graphics are handled by an ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of memory on board. The 15" SXGA screen can handle up to 1400x1050 resolution, meaning that this doesn't just have to be a work-centric laptop -- although with somewhat weak speakers, you'd want to hook it up to something a touch better for serious multimedia/entertainment purposes.

The 3400's also well specified in connectivity terms -- although its slim base limits it to a single Type II PC Card slot, that's more than compensated for by four USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire port, integrated Wireless and Bluetooth solutions and integrated modem and network ports. The notebook also sports a multi-format memory card reader on the front of the laptop, right next to an infrared port that we can confidently predict will be the single least used connection port on this particular laptop.

We tested the Ferrari 3400 using BAPco MobileMark 2002, and the Ferrari 3400 acquitted itself pretty much as we'd expect. Its performance score of 164 was solid, but battery life wasn't quite on a par, at 169 minutes total in the performance test. We can normally expect a touch better performance in the less intensive reader test, but here the unit only managed an additional twelve minutes of runtime, for a total of 181 minutes. If you switch on the bluetooth or wireless connections, naturally, you'll get a whole lot less, especially if you're trying to use both concurrently.

We tested the unit's inbuilt 4x Multi-format DVD/CD burner using the software provided with the Ferrari 3400 -- namely NTI's CD&DVD Maker. Many might prefer burning solutions from, say, Nero, but if you're after a simple package for disc creation it's hard to criticise NTI's package too severely. While it burnt well -- topping out at a 4x write, so not terribly fast -- it was somewhat noisy with certain discs, while either reading or writing, which could be a concern further down the track, as it suggests that the discs within are vibrating a touch too much.

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