capsule review

Acer Ferrari 3200

At a Glance
  • Acer Ferrari 3200 Notebook

Acer Ferrari 3200
artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Vroom. You always wanted a Ferrari.

If a notebook computer painted with the same high-gloss, red finish favored by the Italian race-car maker sounds like a reasonable substitute, then take the Acer Ferrari 3200 for a test drive. This machine is the second model in Acer's Ferrari lineup, launched last year after Acer became the official supplier of IT products to the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team.

With a sleek, flashy case measuring 1.3 inches thick, the Ferrari 3200 has attitude, but does it have speed worthy of its namesake? Not quite. With a 1.8-GHz Low-power mobile Athlon 64 2800+ processor, this notebook earned a WorldBench 5 score of 78. While respectable, that's still 14 percent slower than the top-scoring Dell Inspiron XPS, equipped with a 3.4-GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition desktop chip. We haven't tested other notebooks with the 1.8-GHz Low-power mobile Athlon 64 2800+, but we can say that the Ferrari 3200 is slightly speedier than the older Ferrari 3000, which used a 1.87-GHz Mobile Athlon XP-M 2500+ AMD chip; in speed tests, the 3200 performed comparably to notebooks with Intel's 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M processor.

Acer's first Ferrari came loaded with a DVD burner and almost every other notebook feature you could think of except a wide screen and a modular bay. The Ferrari 3200 is basically the same notebook with some improvements, most notably a slot-fed drive. Other new features include a bigger hard drive, a more powerful graphics chip (ATI's Mobility Radeon 9700), and a four-in-one card reader on the front of the case. The Ferrari 3200 also runs a tad longer on battery than the Ferrari 3000 did: 2.6 hours versus 2.2.

The Ferrari 3200's built-in Bluetooth and 802.11g components are conveniently controlled by their own on/off buttons on the front of the case. For the rest of your connection needs, Acer gives you four USB 2.0 ports, plus FireWire, S-Video-out, and parallel ports. Acer throws in a red USB mouse and, to keep your roadster looking good, a red cleaning cloth. One bone to pick: The $1999 price tag does not include any significant applications.

You may have to get used to the ergonomic keyboard, which sports Acer's trademark 5-degree upward bow. Luckily, the well-designed layout of four programmable launch buttons and a touchpad with four-way scroll help ease the transition. Like its predecessor, the Ferrari 3200 does not have particularly strong audio, but applications and DVD movies look good on the 15-inch screen at its native resolution of 1400 by 1050 pixels.

Memory and storage are fairly easy to upgrade. One of the notebook's two RAM slots is located in an easy-to-access bottom compartment. The second is hidden under the keyboard in a compartment that is difficult to reach without scarring the case with the screwdriver you need to pry up the keyboard. The notebook's hard drive is located in an easy-access bottom compartment, protected by a panel held in place by a couple of small screws.

The Ferrari 3200 comes with a good printed user manual, an electronic version of which you can download from Acer's Web site. While the manuals leave out some details, such as the existence of the RAM slot under the keyboard, they are otherwise complete and easy to search. The Acrobat manual provides a linked index.

The Acer Ferrari 3200 is not Ferrari-fast, but this fully loaded portable performs well and looks sharp.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Acer Ferrari 3200 Notebook

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