by Alexander Britvin
03/24/2006 | 02:59 PM
The ranks of Formula One admirers are getting more and more numerous with each passing year, this kind of racing being highly popular all around the globe. Formula One is the roar of engines and smoke from the exhaust pipes. It is about power, speed, tough men and big money – can this leave one indifferent?
It’s not a wonder Formula One is associated in many people’s minds with Scuderia Ferrari rather than with Williams or McLaren. A long-time participant of the Grand Prix races, Ferrari is the most famous and legendary team that boasts the star driver Michael Schumacher who has 7 championships under his belt. The team dates its origin back to 1929 and it first took part in a Grand Prix back in 1950. Ferrari holds 14 drivers’ championship titles and 16 constructors’ championships. The 2005 season was somewhat disappointing after the team had had a six years streak of unrivalled leadership, but Michael has assured the fans of good work made in the off-season, so all the team are looking forward to win new titles this year.
Acer has been the official IT supplier for Scuderia Ferrari since 2003 and they released their Ferrari 4005WLMi notebook for the Monaco 2005 Grand Prix. An invaluable gift to the team fans, this computer, just like Acer’s previous 3000 series Ferrari, is designed like a racing car to give you the Formula One air of competition, speed and victory. The case is painted Ferrari’s traditional mix of black and red and uses carbon fiber.
Following the tradition established by its earlier “bolides”, Acer took an “engine” from AMD, yet another partner of Scuderia Ferrari. It should be noted that Acer is among the few companies who are not hesitant about using AMD’s processors in notebooks. This time, however, the notebook is based not on a desktop Athlon 64, but on a Turion 64 processor which had been announced not long before the announcement of the notebook itself. As the name suggests, this processor supports 64-bit addressing. The graphics subsystem and chipset employed in the notebook are ATI’s solutions.
In this review we are going to see the Ferrari 4005WLMi racing side by side with the ASUS A6Q00K which is the single notebook on the AMD Turion 64 processor that we have tested in our labs up to this day.
The box with an Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi is black and a little glossy, with the checkered pattern like the finish flag on the sides. The superb design is up to the price of the product contained within.
Somewhat expecting an engine to roar up, we roll the machine out of the box.
Well, the two teams of designers from Ferrari and Acer have really done well to convey the breathtaking atmosphere of car racing. The notebook is painted black with red inserts on the sides and at the front of the lid. The case is made of a super-robust carbon fiber – the same material they use in Formula One and in aerospace industry to achieve highest robustness at minimum weight. The ordinary magnesium alloys have nothing to do here.
The lid is something the designers can be proud of. It looks like the hood of a sports car and you can discern the same checkered pattern on it as on the sides of the box – like on the finish flag. The only problem with the lid is that it gets dirty just too easily, but there’s a special red napkin included with the notebook to do the cleaning.
Ferrari’s sign, the prancing stallion, has moved into the center of the lid and has acquired a copy under the keyboard. The manufacturer’s name is now in a corner of the lid. The display latch is placed on the red insert stretching along the notebook’s front.
The outline of the notebook’s case resembles other latest notebook models from Acer. The top and bottom surfaces run almost in parallel and are both rounded at the front and back, making the notebook look light and elegant.
When the lid is up, you can see that the color scheme changes to coal-black inside, except for the silvery touchpad and quick-launch buttons. The surface of the notebook’s top panel is rubberized so that your hands didn’t slip off the keyboard. It feels not unlike the tires of a racing car.
The widened touchpad is framed in a silvery bezel and is a little shifted to the left off the notebook’s center. It is not sunken too deep in the case. Below the touchpad there are two buttons that serve instead of the mouse’s right and left ones. A 4-positional joystick for scrolling text is placed in between them.
The 88-key ergonomic FineTouch keyboard from Acer is a little curved to minimize hand strain at text typing and is black like the rest of the notebook’s interior. The arrow keys are shifted downwards off the keyboard baseline to avoid accidental presses. The Fn button is conveniently placed second in the bottom row, to the right of Ctrl. This should minimize the risk of errors in such shortcuts as “Ctrl+C” and “Ctrl+V”. There are also numeric buttons and two Windows-oriented buttons here: the Context Menu one is in the bottom row of the keyboard, over the Alt key to the right of the spacebar, and the Windows key is over the left Alt from the spacebar. The functional keys are smaller. Sound volume and screen brightness controls are combined with the arrow keys. Num Lock, Screen Lock, Print Screen, Pause, Insert and Delete are located in the same row with the functional keys. The letters are printed in white and the functional keys in light blue (their additional functions are accessible by pressing them in combination with Fn).
A group of main system indicators is located on the left, above the keyboard and next to the Power On/Off button. This group includes (from left to right):
Quick-launch buttons are placed on the right. These are programmed to start up the following applications:
The Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi is equipped with a widescreen 15.4 display with a maximum resolution of 1680x1050 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:10 (WSXGA+). The viewing angles are subjectively wide enough, both horizontally and vertically.
Most notebooks from Acer’s current series feature the Glare coating of the screen for higher picture brightness and contrast, but the downside is that you get more light glares on the screen. The new Ferrari from Acer, however, has a matrix with a classical matte anti-glare coating because the matrix itself boasts high brightness and contrast. It means you won’t have a chance to use the screen of this notebook as a mirror. :)
We measured the brightness and contrast of the screen using a Pantone ColorVision Spyder with OptiCAL version 3.7.8 software. These parameters don’t depend much on the power source as you can see:
The rest of the system indicators are located on the notebook’s front panel next to some interface connectors and in between two stereo speakers. These are visible irrespective of the position of the notebook’s lid. This group is shown in the next two pictures. It includes (from left to right):
The Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi has a great number of ports, connectors and interfaces which are conveniently placed around its case. The line audio input is perhaps the only one you may have troubles working with. It is very handy to have it on the front panel if you’re using headphones, but if you use any of the notebook’s several video outputs (see below) and have to connect a speaker system, too, you will have the computer’s front cluttered with the cables.
The following can be found on the left panel of the notebook:
The notebook’s right panel carries the following:
These three USB 2.0 ports are placed at a big enough distance from each other, so you can easily use them all at the same time. The optical drive is slot-loaded, which is handy, but you cannot use mini-discs in it.
And here’s the back panel of the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi:
It’s the first time we meet a DVI-D port in a notebook. Considering the very high price of this model, the designers must have intended it for those users who have also bought a Ferrari-style monitor from Acer.
The ezDock connector is required for a port replicator, although we can hardly think of anything the notebook’s own interfaces can be complemented with.
The battery has a slightly higher capacity than in the previous model: 4800mAh against 4400mAh. It perfectly matches the dimensions of the case and doesn’t spoil the overall sleek design of the notebook.
And here’s the notebook’s bottom panel:
There are two slots in the memory compartment occupied with 512MB modules. The maximum supported memory amount is 2048MB, so you can replace one or both of them with 1024MB modules to increase the amount of system memory.
You won’t find a lot of accessories included with the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi. Besides the notebook itself, the box contains a notebook battery, wireless mouse with a USB charger, two 1600mAh batteries for the mouse, three Recovery discs, one Norton Antivirus disc, AC adapter, phone cable, red cleaning cloth with the manufacturer’s logo, and accompanying documentation.
The single bonus here is the optical wireless mouse which is designed in the same style with the notebook and with the Ferrari Stallion in the middle. The mouse connects via Bluetooth interface, and you don’t have to attach a special receiver because the notebook features an integrated Bluetooth adapter. Of course, you can use the mouse with any other Bluetooth-supporting computer, too. If the mouse batteries run down, you can transform it into a wired one by connecting it to the computer with the included cable.
Like with a racing car, the engineer of an advanced notebook has to stuff high-performance components into the very limited room of the case. And the result must have a minimum of weight and consume a minimum of power so that you didn’t have to go for a pit-stop too often.
Acer did a good job here. The Ferrari 4005WLMi has a new Turion 64 series processor from AMD under the hood (as mentioned above, AMD is yet another partner of Scuderia Ferrari). AMD coined the word Turion from the word tour to convey the meaning of exploration, freedom, mobility and joy which are part of the experience of traveling users all around the world. The power consumption is almost two times lower than that of the 3000 series versions of the Ferrari notebook which employed desktop modifications of the Athlon 64.
The Turion 64 ML-37 processor has a clock rate of 2GHz, is manufactured on 90nm tech process, has a 1MB L2 cache, and supports 64-bit extensions and HyperTransport.
The system is based on the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset which features the following:
The Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi is equipped with a new discrete graphics controller from ATI, Radeon Mobility X700, which connects via PCI Express and has 128 megabytes of dedicated graphics memory.
The notebook uses an MK1032GAX hard disk drive from Toshiba with a capacity of 100GB and a spindle rotation speed of 5400rpm. For more info on this HDD model follow this link .
The new optical drive Matshita UJ-845S employed in the Ferrari 4005WLMi boasts the following speed characteristics:
The notebook comes with 1024 megabytes of system memory, and you can increase this amount further up to 2048MB. There are two memory slots here, both easily accessible and occupied with 512MB modules. So, you’ll have to replace one or both the modules to do the upgrade.
As you know, racing cars are very, very noisy and their motors run very, very hot. Is it also the case with Acer’s Ferrari? Fortunately, not. Despite the powerful configuration, the engineers came up with a very efficient and quiet cooling system.
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 at 22°C during this test) and got the following numbers:
The next table summarizes the technical characteristics of the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi with those of the ASUS A6Q00K as we are going to compare these two models in the testing section of this review.
The notebook’s hard drive was formatted in NTFS before the tests. Then we installed Microsoft Windows XP Professional with DirectX 9.0c, system drivers (from the included CD), and Windows Media Encoder 9.0 with Windows Media Player 9.0.
The following settings were used in the tests:
Two power modes were used. First, we selected the Always On power mode for the maximum performance and the shortest battery life. Then we switched to the Max Battery mode for the maximum battery run-down time.
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.
So, we are ready to start, and the race traditionally begins with the synthetic benchmarks SiSoftware Sandra 2004 and PCMark 2004. The former benchmark measures the overall performance of the system as well as that of each of its subsystems, while PCMark 2004 measures the performance of the computer in office and multimedia applications and also produces performance scores for the main subsystems (CPU, memory, graphical, and disk subsystem).
The ASUS A6Q00K enjoys a certain advantage in the processor test when the power source is AC just because it has a faster CPU inside. When the notebooks are powered by their batteries, their CPUs perform similarly as a consequence of the reduction of the CPU clock rates down to the same frequency to save power. The memory performance of the two notebooks is similar irrespective of the power source. The Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi leaves the ASUS A6Q00K behind in the HDD and graphical tests.
The Business Winstone 2004 test runs scripts of the following real-life office applications, several scripts at a time: Internet Explorer, Outlook, Word, Excel, Access, Project, PowerPoint, FrontPage, WinZip, and Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition.
The Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 test determines the performance of a computer in the following multimedia applications: Windows Media Encoder, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, NewTek LightWave 3D, Steinberg WaveLab, Dreamweaver MX, and Director MX.
The results of these two benchmarks are presented below:
It is the central processor that largely determines the overall performance of a computer in these benchmarks and this explains the advantage of the ASUS A6Q00K whose CPU clock rate is 200MHz higher than that of the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi. The performance of the notebooks lowers by half, when we switch over to their batteries.
The Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi and ASUS A6Q00K are equipped with quite advanced discrete graphics solutions from ATI and NVIDIA, so we decided to check them in 3DMark 2003.
The 3DMark benchmark uses 3D scenes rendered by its own engine to reveal the potential of the computer’s graphics subsystem:
It could have been predicted beforehand that the newer graphics solution from ATI would be head above NVIDIA’s graphics core irrespective of the power source. We’ll see the same in the rest of our graphical tests.
Next, we tested the sub-notebook in Quake 3 , in two modes:
The notebooks have similar results at the low quality settings, but the Radeon Mobility X700 wins the test for the Ferrari at the higher settings. The results of the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi are no worse than you get with some desktop gaming computers!
The results of the Unreal Tournament 2003 test confirm our point that the new Ferrari from Acer is quite a gaming computer.
In the world of Formula One the pilot has a higher chance of getting to the podium if his car consumes less fuel and he has to drop in for refueling less often. Let’s see how it is with the Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi. How long will it last without refueling its battery?
The test was performed at the maximum screen brightness in the following modes:
Well, this notebook will have less frequent pit-stops than a real racing car. Although the numbers may not seem too high in the era of Centrino/Sonoma, they are still quite impressive for a high-performance multimedia computer. The opponent from ASUS does much worse in this test due to the different configuration. So, we can see that different implementations of the Turion 64 platform may have dramatically different power consumption. It’s not the same with Centrino/Sonoma which are shipped in a single version.
The battery discharge graphs are presented below:
The joint team of designers and engineers from Acer and Ferrari who created the Ferrari 4005WLMi notebook did well to convey the atmosphere of Formula One racing. The technical characteristics of the new computer match well its stylish appearance and proud name. It is in fact among the fastest and most powerful notebooks of today. A unique product in design and materials, the Ferrari notebook is not just a computer, but an expensive accessory of a stylish and successful person.
Like any premium model, the notebook boasts high performance, wide communicational capabilities, and superb functionality with all sorts of connectors, ports and interfaces you may want to have. You can perform any task on it, but get ready to be always in the focus of attention as this machine will certainly attract other people’s amazed stares. The single drawback of this model is its high price, but it would be ridiculous for a Ferrari to be cheap, don’t you think?
The new Formula One season has already begun – is it not a good reason to for new high-speed creations from the two renowned brands to appear? We’re waiting for them!