Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi Notebook Review

We would like to introduce to you another member of the Ferrari racing team from Acer. This time it is going to be an ultra-compact solution based on AMD Turion 64 X2 TL60 processor running at 2.0GHz that proved very functional, very fast, and... very expensive. Read more in our review!

by Alexander Britvin
06/12/2007 | 03:06 PM

Fast cars caught the spotlight at the middle of the last century and the ranks of lovers of high speed and racing adrenaline have been getting more populated ever since.

 

Formula 1 is not unrivalled among other kinds of racing, yet the army of Formula 1 followers is perhaps the biggest army in the world, even though it has been reporting desertions after the 7-times world champion Michael Schumacher left. The elite of car manufacturers, collaborating with the leaders in the area of electronics, are creating sports cars with unique speed and aerodynamic characteristics that excite the imagination of millions of fans worldwide.

The computer industry is not aloof to the racing spirit, but computer users get their thrill from the race for performance while PC manufacturers are racing for the users’ money, making their products attractive by means of chrome and carbon materials and eye-catching colors.

We well remember the beginnings of the Acer Ferrari and ASUS Lamborghini notebook series: they were virtually copies of top-end notebooks from other series with an addition of appropriate racing insignia and characteristic colors. They were gaining more individuality, eventually. The 4000 series from Acer Ferrari was instantly recognizable (for details see our article called Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi Notebook Review), and the last-year 5000 and 1000 models, running on dual-cylinder engines (the ASUS Lamborghini notebooks had two execution cores from the start, but didn’t support 64-bit extensions), had their own unique characters, too. The 5000 series notebooks were also ragingly fast in terms of graphics performance. The 1000 series just cannot accommodate a discrete graphics core due to its modest 12.1” form-factor.

So, this laptop remains speedy only when it comes to pure computing, but it is rather a midget racing car in its graphics performance and mass/dimensions parameters (302x221x34.5 millimeters and 1.6kg with a 3-cell battery)

The Ferrari team doesn’t meet any competition from Automobili Lamborghini here due to a lack of ASUS models in the ultra-portable sector. Thus, the Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi we are about to test-drive today is unrivalled as yet, and Ferrari is again the first to start out, this time in the ultra-compact sector. The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi will be opposed by the Dell Inspiron XPS M1210 that has the same form-factor and a similar configuration (for details see our article called DELL Inspiron XPS M1210 Notebook Review).

Package, Accessories

Acer’s Ferrari notebooks come in black boxes with an addition of the red color of the Scuderia. Instead of two isometric images of the notebook, like on the Ferrari 4005WLMi box, you can see the side radiator of the Ferrari 1005WTMi here. Unlike to Formula 1 cars, it serves to exhaust hot air from the machine’s internals rather than to take in cool air from the outside. Anyway, this is a cooling solution all the same. The manufacturer’s name is printed in bold white in the bottom right while the opposite corner is occupied by the prancing stallion, the emblem of Scuderia Ferrari. The name of the series is printed above the “radiator grid” in bright red. Box handling instructions are printed at the top of each side.

A rare thing with Acer notebooks, the box contains virtually everything you may ever want to use with your notebook. This is a special product series, after all. So, besides the notebook proper, we found the following in the box: one 3-cell 2000mAh battery and one 6-cell 5200mAh battery, a power adapter with a LED indicator and a cord brace, a modem cable (RJ-11), a Bluetooth mouse with two Duracell batteries, a Ferrari 1000 series box, an external optical drive, four leather cases with the manufacturer’s insignia to carry the notebook and its accessories, a Bluetooth VoIP Phone, a cleaning napkin in a kind of a powder-box, and a Quick Guide for the Ferrari 1000 series.

  

 

The Bluetooth mouse is noticeably different from the mice that used to come together with earlier “racing” notebooks from Acer-Ferrari. It looks more aggressive, demanding that you turn on the ignition (located on the other side of the mouse case together with the optical element and a Bluetooth activation button) and drive up to the start line. The mouse is decorated with a picture of the prancing stallion and with an Acer logo. There is also a Bluetooth activity indicator on it (the manual promises a battery charge indicator as well, but we didn’t find one). The mouse wheel bears a pressed-out name of Ferrari whose rough surface prevents your finger from slipping off. To access the batteries, you pull the back part of the mouse away from it. The battery sockets are painted red. Unfortunately, this mouse cannot be powered or recharged via a USB cord as the mice included with the 4000 and 5000 series could.

  
Bluetooth mouse

The laptop being small and slim, it is logical that its optical drive is external, although there exist even smaller laptops that have an integrated DVD drive. There’s a stallion emblem in the center of the drive case. An activity indicator and an eject button can be found on the front panel. The DVD drive stands on three rubber feet which suppress vibration when reading bad-quality DVD media. The cord the drive is connected to the notebook with is rather stiff, so you cannot place the two close to each other. This is an inconvenience since the small size of the notebook suggests that it should require as little space as possible.

  
External optical drive

The above-mentioned accessories are often included with expensive enough notebooks, but the Bluetooth VoIP Phone is a special thing. It looks like a folding cell phone with an active flip. Connected to the notebook by means of Bluetooth and included software, it greatly enhances the notebook’s functionality. The phone has a Turn-on button, sound controls, buttons to enable Bluetooth and the speakerphone feature, and Power and Bluetooth indicators. On closer inspection, this phone proves to be an ordinary PC Card with a PCMCIA connector in the butt-end. This Bluetooth headset is recharged by being plugged into an appropriate slot with this connector.

 
Bluetooth VoIP Phone

Besides everything else, the Ferrari 1005WTMi offers Acer Empowering Technology for quick access to the most frequently used functions of the notebook. It is a panel (you can minimize it into a tiny window if necessary) providing access to the following utilities:

Design and Ergonomics

Acer’s designers and engineers have managed to convey the sports spirit of racing cars in their Ferrari 1000 series using strict yet smooth lines instead of wavy curves. The carbon fiber case, like that of the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi, has a glossy coating of the lid (it means the lid gets soiled easily) under which a finish-flag checkerboard pattern can be seen. The face part of the notebook looks like the nose of a racing car with a spoiler.

Placed in the center of the lid is the Scuderia Ferrari emblem. A non-chrome logo of the laptop manufacturer is in the top right corner. The rear part of the “hood” is separated from the glossy surface with a thin red molding. Such moldings go along the two sides of the display, too.

The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi is a rather small computer and there are few connectors and switches on its front panel (from left to right):

This group is bracketed within two stereo speakers, which are oriented upward at the user.

On the left there is a 5-in-1card-reader that supports Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro/MultiMediaCard/Secure Digital/xD-Picture Card.

A 1.3-megapixel Acer OrbiCam camera is centered above the screen. There are two wheels on both sides of it, stylized to look like car tyres, to turn the camera about.

This OrbiCam can be turned around within an angle of 225 degrees, thus allowing to shoot objects both ahead and behind the LCD panel. The camera turns around counterclockwise and captures images at an angle of 45 degrees. An activity indicator is located to the right of the camera eye.

A normal thing for ultra-compact models, there are no lid latches here. You just push the lid up applying some effort and here it is – the racing style of the Ferrari 1005WTMi at its best:

It is felt everywhere beginning with the rubber pads at the top of the black screen bezel whose purpose is to ensure softer contact between the lid and the notebook body. These pads are shaped originally, angularly on this notebook.

The buttons and indicators look like they’ve been taken right from a real Ferrari. A steering wheel is missing, though. Rather unusually, the Power button is placed on the left above the keyboard. On the right, there is a block of instant-launch buttons together with system indicators designed in the same dashboard style. These include (from left to right):

The instant-launch buttons can be reprogrammed by the user in the Acer Launch Manager.

The four remaining indicators, located on the notebook’s front edge near the touchpad follow the sports theme. These indicators remain visible irrespective of the position of the lid:

The display hinges stick out from the notebook’s body, allowing to unfold the notebook by a full 180 degrees and somewhat more.

The Ferrari 1005WTMi is equipped with a 12.1” LCD matrix that has a maximum resolution of 1280x800 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:10 (WXGA). The viewing angles are quite wide both vertically and horizontally. The display features Acer GridVista technology for organizing multiple windows on the Desktop. The LCD matrix was manufactured using Acer CrystalBrite technology that improves image quality and saturation. On the other hand, the “glassy” coating of the display reflects every brightly lit object behind your back, so you have to take care about proper ambient lighting before you sit down to work with this notebook.

We measured the brightness and contrast of the notebook’s display using a Pantone ColorVision Spyder with OptiCAL version 3.7.8 software. We selected the highest brightness setting before this test and it remained almost unchanged when the notebook switched to its battery. The contrast ratio didn’t change much, either:

AC power source:

DC power source:

The measured level of brightness is lower than declared. The lower value of the contrast ratio is partially due to the glare of the glassy matrix which increases the level of black under bright lighting and, as a result, lowers the contrast ratio.

This notebook’s 84-key keyboard lacks Acer’s characteristic FineTouch “smile”. The keys move quietly and softly and do not rattle. They are almost normal size notwithstanding the notebook’s form-factor. The Arrow keys are shifted below the keyboard’s baseline, reducing the risk of your pressing them accidentally.

PgUp and PgDn (they are duplicated as Fn+Home and Fn+End) are placed above the Arrow Right and Arrow Left buttons. The Fn button is located in the bottom left corner, second after the Control. This should be convenient for people who are used to shortcuts involving the Control key. Numeric buttons and two Windows keys are available: the Context Menu key is placed over one key to the right of the spacebar; the Windows Logo key is over one key to the left of the spacebar. The functional keys are smaller than others. Volume and brightness adjustments are made with the Arrow buttons. Num Lock and Screen Lock are combined with F11 and F12, respectively. Print Screen, Pause, Insert and Delete are placed in the same row with the functional keys. The letters are painted white and the functional keys are painted blue (you should press them in combination with Fn to access their additional functions).

The touchpad of the smallest of the Ferrari family of notebooks is yet another sample of the car manufacturing art implemented in a portable computer. The touch-sensitive panel is painted a classic black color and is not sunken deep into the notebook’s case. It has a special dedicated scrolling zone on the right with two white arrows. The two metallized buttons, working instead of the ordinary mouse’s ones, successfully imitate car pedals. The name of the product series is engraved at the top of the buttons where they are not yet separated. A scrolling joystick is missing here. There are rubberized surfaces on the sides of the touchpad that prevent your wrists from slipping off. They get dirty too easily, so you’ll have to clean the notebook often (using the included napkin).

The microphone hole is placed in the moving hinge section of the display and is only available when the lid is up.

The left side of the notebook offers the following components (from left to right):

An optical drive being missing here, the right panel of the notebook offers connectors, too:

Most of the notebook’s rear panel is occupied by the battery module. Besides it, there is a power connector and a 124-pin Acer ezDock docking station that will bring you even more ports and connectors.

The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi comes with two batteries: 2000mAh (3-cell) and 5200mAh (6-cell).

The small default 3-cell battery fits into the notebook’s dimensions perfectly while the larger 6-cell battery protrudes far out the case:

 

The following can be found on the bottom panel, besides the battery module: covers of the memory and HDD compartments, Acer Disk Anti-Shock Protection to protect the hard disk, two battery latches, and stickers with model information and with the OS serial number.

 

Acer DASP looks like a large rubber leg which it actually is.

There are two slots in the memory compartment. Both are occupied by 1024MB modules. This is half the maximum amount of system memory this notebook supports.

Configuration

The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi notebook features the AMD Turion 64 X2 TL60 processor with a clock rate of 2.00GHz. This CPU is based on the 90nm Taylor core and has a separate 512MB L2 cache for each of its execution cores.

 

This is a classic approach to making a dual-core CPU: each execution core has its own L2 cache and the two cores communicate with each other via an internal bus. The Turion 64 X2 is somewhat inferior to Intel’s Core Duo which has a larger and shared L2 cache that facilitates data exchanges between the cores and is capable of disabling unused cache segments to save power.

The Turion 64 X2 allows its cores to be managed independently. This technology is called Multi-core Power Management. AMD Digital Media XPress technology means that this CPU supports MMX, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instruction sets (the same sets as are supported by Intel’s CPUs except for AMD’s proprietary 3DNow!). The memory controller can work with DDR2 SDRAM with clock rates ranging from 400MHz to 667MHz and supports dual-channel memory access. Like single-core Turion 64, this CPU supports PowerNow! technology for flexibly adjusting the frequency and voltage to save power. This technology features an additional power-saving mode called Deeper Sleep. For more information on the AMD Turion 64 X2, refer to the manufacturer’s website.

The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi uses a Mobility Radeon Xpress 1150 chipset from ATI. It doesn’t differ much from its precursor Mobility Radeon Xpress 200. The RS480M North Bridge and the SB400 South Bridge have been replaced with the RS485M and SB460 chips, respectively. ATI claims that the use of a thinner tech process helped reduce power consumption of the chipset. The North Bridge incorporates an integrated graphics core equivalent to ATI Radeon X300. It is clocked at 400MHz and can be allotted up to 512 megabytes from system memory by means of HyperMemory technology. The integrated graphics core supports ATI’s exclusive power-saving technologies.

Besides AMD Sempron, Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX and Turion 64, the Mobility Radeon Xpress 1150 supports dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 processors. The HyperTransport frequency is now 1000MHz. The South Bridge is pin-compatible with the SB600 (a kind of reserve for the future), but its functionality corresponds to the Mobility Radeon Xpress 200: one PCI Express x16 slot, up to four PCI Express x1 slots, up to eight USB 2.0 ports, up to four Serial ATA ports with RAID 0, 1 functionality, and two ATA/133 channels.

The notebook comes with a Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00 hard disk drive (2.5” form-factor, 5400rpm spindle rotation speed, 160GB capacity, Serial ATA interface) and a Matshita UJ-85JS DVD-drive with the following speed formula:

Reading:

Writing:

The notebook comes with DDR2-667 SDRAM, the fastest memory type available today. Both slots are easily accessible, and each is occupied by a 1024MB module. The maximum supported amount of memory is 4096MB.

We measured the temperature of the hottest spots on the notebook’s surfaces with an infrared thermometer after it had worked for half an hour in the Classic test mode of Battery Eater Pro 2.60 (the ambient temperature remained constant at 23°C during this test) and got the following numbers:

The next table lists detailed technical specs of the tested notebook in comparison with its opponent Dell Inspiron XPS M1210:

Test Methods

The notebook’s hard drive was formatted in NTFS before the tests. Then we installed Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2 with DirectX 9.0c, system drivers (downloaded from the manufacturer’s website), and Windows Media Encoder 9.0 with Windows Media Player 9.0. We also installed Windows Media Player 10.0 for such tests as PCMark 2005.

The following settings were used for the tests:

There were two exceptions: we returned to the Windows XP desktop theme for PCMark 2005 since the program required that. And for SYSMark 2004 SE to work normally, we had to roll each parameter back to its default (as they are set right after you install Windows).

Two power modes were used. First, we selected the Always On power mode for maximum performance and the shortest battery life. Then we switched to the Max Battery mode for the maximum battery run-down time.

Our tests:

  1. Performance benchmarks: synthetic (SiSoftware Sandra 2005, SiSoftware Sandra 2007, PCMark 2004 1.3.0, PCMark 2005 1.2.0), office and multimedia (SYSMark 2004 SE, Business Winstone 2004, Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004), and games (3DMark 2001 SE Pro, 3DMark 2003 3.6.0, 3DMark 2005 1.2.0, 3DMark 2006 1.1.0, Quake 3)
  2. Battery life tests (Battery Eater Pro 2.60)

There are three test modes in Battery Eater:

We used the first two modes as they are in Battery Eater, but in the Idle mode (when the test utility doesn’t put any load of its own on the notebook) we played a DVD movie.

The notebook wouldn’t run Quake 4 and would have very low results in Unreal Tournament 2003, so these gaming applications were excluded from our test program.

Performance

As usual, we will first run synthetic benchmarks.

The SiSoftware 2007 suite features an updated enhanced-functionality interface, runs on three platforms (Win32 x86, Win64 x64, WinCE ARM), contains 13 tests and 34 informational modules, and supports a large range of devices thanks to the developer’s collaboration with Intel, AMD, ATI, SiS and VIA. The program is supported in six languages and has a free Lite version for personal and educational purposes. SiSoftware Sandra measures overall performance of the system as well as that of each of its subsystems.

PCMark benchmarks computer performance in office and office-related applications and also produces performance scores for the main subsystems (CPU, memory, graphical, and disk subsystem). PCMark 2005 carries on the tradition of complex benchmarks of the series and uses fragments of real-life applications as tests. This makes it somewhat more relevant for end-users as opposed to fully synthetic benchmarks. After running a series of 11 tests on the different components of the system, the program calculates an overall performance score in units called PCMarks. PCMark 2005 can check a computer out at processing HD video and encoding audio, and offers enhanced tests of the CPU and hard disk under multi-threaded load. The overall score is calculated by the formula: PCMark Score = 87 x (the geometric mean of the basic tests), where the geometric mean is calculated as (Result 1 x Result 2 x…)/the number of results.

A 0.33GHz advantage in the clock rate is not the only factor why the Intel Core 2 Duo is superior to the dual-core processor from AMD. The Turion 64 X2’s separate L2 caches perform slower than the shared cache of the Intel CPU and its total amount of cache memory is only one fourth of the Intel processor’s cache. The Turion 64 X2 fails the multimedia tests from SiSoftware Sandra completely. When the notebook switches to its battery, PowerNow! technology lowers the CPU clock rate to 800MHz as opposed to the Core 2 Duo’s 1GHz. The Turion would be slower anyway even if their clock rates were the same. Intel’s CPU delivers a higher performance-per-megahertz ratio.

The memory and hard disk tests produce expectable results. The integrated graphics core from the Mobility Radeon Xpress 1150 chipset is comparable to Intel’s Graphics Media Accelerator 950 when powered from the mains. When the notebook switches to the battery, the graphics subsystem suffers a threefold performance hit. This will be even more conspicuous in the gaming tests below.

The Business Winstone 2004 test runs scripts of the following real-life office applications, several scripts at a time to simulate multi-tasking: Internet Explorer, Outlook, Word, Excel, Access, Project, PowerPoint, FrontPage, WinZip, and Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition.

The Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 test evaluates performance of a computer in the following multimedia applications: Windows Media Encoder, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere, NewTek LightWave 3D, Steinberg WaveLab, Micromedia Dreamweaver MX, and Micromedia Director MX.

The following table and diagrams show the outcome of these tests:

It’s no secret that PC Magazine ’s benchmarks put most of their load on the CPU, so the results are expectable. When working on the batteries, the notebooks suffer a twofold performance hit roughly proportional to the CPU frequency drop.

SYSMark 2004 SE is intended to reveal a system’s performance under different types of load. It simulates a user who is solving practical tasks in a few popular applications. Multi-threading is taken into account. The benchmark issues a few ratings that are indicative of the system performance under different loads. SYSMark 2004 SE is mainly positioned as a tool for testing desktop systems and includes applications that are not often run on mobile computers. That’s why the results for each test load are shown separately:

The 3D Creation script simulates a user who is rendering an image into a BMP-file in 3ds max 5.1 and is also working on web-pages in Dreamweaver MX. After these operations are done, a 3D animation is created in a vector graphics format.

Most of the SYSMark 2004 SE tests are CPU-dependent and the Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi is lagging behind its opponent. When working on their batteries, the notebooks perform slower due to the CPU frequency drop. The aggressive power-saving settings of ATI’s graphics solutions also contribute to the performance hit.

The 2D Creation script simulates a user creating a video out of a few RAW-format fragments and audio tracks in Premier 6.5. Waiting for the operation to complete, the user is also modifying an image in Photoshop 7.01 and then saves it to the hard disk. When the video clip is ready, the user edits it and adds special effects in After Effects 5.5.

It’s like in the previous test: the racing notebook is an outsider in this competition. It is very slow when working on its battery.

The next test simulates the work routines of a professional web-master. The user unzips the content of a website while using Flash MX to open an exported 3D vector graphics clip. Then the user modifies it by including more pictures and optimizes it for faster animation. The resulting clip with special effects is compressed with Windows Media Encoder 9 to be broadcast via the Internet. Next, the website is compiled in Dreamweaver MX while the system is being scanned for viruses with VirusScan 7.0 in the background.

The Dell Inspiron XPS M1210 meets no competition here. The Intel Core 2 Duo processor triumphs over its AMD opponent.

The next script simulates an ordinary user who’s receiving a letter with a .zip attachment in Outlook 2002. While the received files are being scanned for viruses with VirusScan 7.0, the user looks through his e-mail, enters some comments into the Outlook calendar, and then opens a corporate website and some documents with Internet Explorer 6.0.

It is the overall platform performance that is important here and the Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi gets closer to its opponents when they are both powered from the mains. The Ferrari slows down greatly in the battery mode, which is an indication of aggressive power-saving settings of this notebook.

In the Document Creation script the user is editing text in Word 2002 and is also using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to convert an audio file into a text document. This text document is then converted into PDF format with Acrobat 5.0.5. And finally, the document is employed in a PowerPoint 2002 presentation.

The results are CPU-dependent again. The AMD Turion 64 X2 is on the losing side, again.

The final script from SYSMark 2004 SE includes the following: the user opens a database in Access 2002 and creates a few queries. Documents are archived with WinZip 8.1. The results of the queries are exported into Excel 2002 and are used to construct a diagram.

This test agrees with the results of the previous ones.

The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi and Dell Inspiron XPS M1210 are both equipped with integrated graphics cores, from ATI and Intel, respectively. We tested them in all versions of 3DMark: 3DMark 2001SE Pro, 3DMark 2003 3.6.0, 3DMark 2005 1.2.0 and 3DMark 2006 1.1.0.

3DMark uses a set of 3D scenes running on its own engine to load the graphics subsystem in various ways. Compared with the previous version, 3DMark 2005 uses Shader Model 2.0x/3.0 instead of Shader Model 1.x, provides full compatibility with Shader Model 2.0, includes more complex tests (over a million polygons per each frame), and employs normal maps. 3DMark 2006 brings support for HDR, Uniform Shadow Maps, and multi-core CPUs. It is overall oriented at Shader Model 3.0, but two out of its four graphics tests work within the Shader Model 2.0 framework.

The integrated version of the Radeon X300 is roughly equal to GMA 950 when the notebooks are powered from the mains, but the aggressive power-saving settings of the ATI solution slow the Ferrari notebook down in the battery mode. The graphics cores don’t have the functionality necessary to pass tests that require Shader Model 3.0 support. The Radeon X300 looks much better than GMA 950 in the Batch Size Tests, though.

Next, we tested the notebooks in two modes in Quake 3 :

The final gaming test proves that Intel’s GMA 950, announced over a year ago, still has no competitors in the integrated graphics sector. The Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi cannot be used for playing heavy games, yet it is quite capable of running some not very resource-consuming 3D applications.

The notebook’s battery life was measured with Battery Eater Pro 2.60. The test was performed at the maximum screen brightness in the following modes:

Notwithstanding all the power-saving measures, the 6-cell battery of the Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi gets depleted in 2.5 hours, which is too short for a tiny portable computer that is expected to be always about you on your trips.

Here are the battery discharge diagrams for the different operation modes.

3-cell battery:

6-cell battery:

Conclusion

Acer has brought the spirit of Formula 1 racing into the sector of ultra-compact laptops. The robust and stylish carbon case of the 1005WTMi contains a fast and functional configuration. Ferrari admirers are going to be crazy about this machine, even though it is far more expensive than ordinary products from the same class.

It was not easy to take engineering and design ideas from the two famous companies working in the fields of microelectronics and cars and embody them all in the Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi. Formula 1 is an example of a continuous introduction of new technologies and innovations which is the way to achieve new heights in every area. Engineers from each F1 team are trying to find the optimal balance between speed, power, weight, cabin robustness, fuel consumption, etc, but Ferrari somehow manages to do it better.

Highs:

Lows: