When I think of racing, I think of ear-bleeding engine noise and fiery multicar pileups. Maybe that's why I initially steered clear of the Acer Ferrari 4000 with its black-checkered lid and "EAARRRrrrrrooom!" startup sound. (Acer said you can turn this off in Control Panel, Sounds and Audio Devices, Sounds.) But beneath its novelty exterior, this all-purpose notebook is well equipped, starting with AMD's cutting-edge 64-bit mobile CPU, the Turion 64.
The case, trimmed in Ferrari-red carbon fibre, is solidly built. The front is a jumble of multiple slots, ports, and lights; but it conveniently includes a five-in-one card reader, microphone and headphone ports, and battery and power status lights. The front also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi LED buttons, which are more convenient than software settings for controlling and monitoring your wireless connections.
The right side of the case contains a removable slot-fed DVD burner and three of the laptop's four USB ports. On the rear, sits a DVI port and a 124-pin connector for Acer's EzDock port replicator. The left of the case contains a standard VGA port.
Notable among the Ferrari 4000's multimedia talents is its ability to play good-looking DVD movies on a 1680 x 1050 pixel WSXGA+ 15.4-inch widescreen. Too bad the front-mounted speakers sound merely average and the machine lacks volume and other media-control buttons. Acer does include the handy GridVista utility, which lets you drag and drop application windows into one of four grid windows of preset size.
The Ferrari 4000 is the first Top 15 Notebooks candidate to have AMD's Turion processor - the 1.8 GHz Turion 64 ML-34. With that CPU and 1GB of RAM, the machine earned a respectable WorldBench 5 score of 85. By comparison, IBM's ThinkPad T43 - the best-performing notebook we've seen with a 1.86 GHz Pentium M 750 processor - earned a WorldBench 5 score of 84. The Acer's eight-cell battery is a big grooved power pack that forms most the laptop's rear; it lasted for three hours, a slightly below-average mark.
Like most other Acer keyboards, this one curves up 5 degrees on the ends - an ergonomic design intended to help typists avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. It's easy to get the hang of typing on the Ferrari 4000: Just swing your elbows out to get your hands positioned correctly. The only problem I encountered was that the touchpad's four-way scroll button on the test unit never functioned. The notebook comes with a Bluetooth mouse as well.
The Ferrari 4000 is pit-crew friendly, with memory slots and a hard drive that are accessible to and upgradable by users. They sit in separate bottom compartments under covers that are held in place by small screws. You can remove the optical drive, too; but Acer doesn't sell any other devices for the modular bay. Though we didn't receive any user manuals with our test unit, Acer said the notebook comes with an Acrobat manual on the hard drive.
ACER'S FERRARI 4000
This good-quality widescreen model bundles such extras as a wireless Bluetooth mouse; and racing fanatics will like the Ferrari motif.
Locally, there are two models available, the 4005WLMi and the 4002WLMi.
The notebooks are distributed by Ingram Micro, Bluechip Infotech, HiTech, Compu Wholesale and IT Wholesale.
RRP: 4005WLMi - $3999; 4002WLMi - $2999.