by Tim Mavor
After 6 years of avid computer use, I recently bought my first laptop: the Acer Ferrari 3400. Obviously I went looking for reviews for the Ferrari 3400 but unfortunately I didn’t really find any decent reviews that got past talking about the looks of this Acer notebook. So, after buying one I decided to write my own.
Acer Ferrari 3400 Out of the Box (view larger image)
Dimensions and Weight
The Ferrari sits at 13.0′ W x 10.7′ D x 1.2′ H giving it a weight of 6.6LBS. I would say that’s not bad for a gaming laptop considering the newer Alienware or Dell XPS are around 12-13 pounds and look like a hummer took a dump. It fits nicely on my desk beside my desktop, or my lap when I’m in a cramped area, but is also big enough to play games and be able to actually see people. Ultimately it’s light enough that it doesn’t become annoying carrying it over the course of a day.
CPU: Low power mobile AMD Athlon 64 3000+ 1MB L2 1600mhz FSB
I was conflicted with this processor. On the one hand, it’s future-proofed as it’s 64 bit, and a 2 GHz processor, but on the other hand, I haven’t really been that impressed with the battery life. With a low power mobile processor I would think that I’d get more than 3 hours of battery life just sitting idle — but I don’t. Other than that though, it’s perfect for playing games, multi-tasking, and just all around computer use.
Memory: 512MB DDR333 (2×256)
This is one of the areas I think Acer skimped out on. I mean, they COULD have used PC3200, or even just added 1 dimm so there was room for expansion. The ram in it is adequate, but I’m likely going to buy a 1gig DDR400 dimm for it sometime in the near future.
GPU: Mobile ATI Radeon 9700Pro 128MB
The 9700 pro 128MB is a great card, there is no disputing that. It runs the latest games with a good framerate, which makes the laptop a fine gaming machine. Running aquamark 3 I scored 26,221 and scored 3105 in 3Dmark03. For playing newer games (e.g. Half life 2), the game is very playable on middle to higher resolution. Unfortunately though, there are few drivers out there adaptable to mobile graphics cards, so I ended up having to install an older set of catalyst drivers and using a mod tool to install them. The newer Catalyst drivers wouldn’t install.
HDD: 80GB HDD @ 4200rpm
This is where I think Acer skimped out the most. A 4200rpm HDD is definitely not what I would call “Top Speed”, and hardly worthy of the Ferrari name. When I received my laptop, I found that Acer already partitioned the harddrive for me into 40 gig sections. Whether you choose that to be an advantage or not is up to you. I’ve recently been looking into upgrading it to at least a 5400rpm one as it’s noticeably slower loading games and applications.
CD: 4xDVD+-RW and x16 CD-RW
What can I say other than absolutely fabulous. Being able to Burn DVD’s and CD’s on my laptop has been great as I’ve already burned probably 20 DVDs. Given that the Ferrari is an already expensive notebook, it’s nice to see where some of that money went.
OS: Windows XP Professional
I made the mistake of playing around on my computer at 5:00 a.m. in the morning and accidentally clicking “OK” to the Update section and then going to make myself a sandwich. Much to my dismay, I came back and found that I had accidentally installed Windows XP Service Pack 2. If I can give you one word of advice if you buy this laptop, stick with SP1, as having Service Pack 2 creates some minor, but irritating conflicts with the 64 bit processor.
Network & Interface: Wireless 802.11b/g, bluetooth, Four USB2.0, DC in, S-video TV Out, Microphone/Line-in, Headphone/Speaker Line-out, FireWire
I haven’t really had a chance to use the bluetooth yet but reading other reviews, I’ve heard that it’s quite handy. I might get a bluetooth keyboard so I can play first person shooter games more effectively, but for the time being it’s going un-used. Interestingly though, there is a button at the front of the laptop (accessible when even closed) that will enable or disable bluetooth. It’s definitely a neat function. Other than that, having four USB 2.0 ports is a great feature. Being able to plug in a digital camera, a mouse, and a printer with 1 slot left is very handy. These are the things that are commonly overlooked by laptop buyers.
Display: 15.0′ SXGA+ (1400×1050)
Beautiful would be the way to describe the LCD screen. Obviously not as bright as my desktop LCD, the Ferrari’s display is sharp, quick, and has a native resolution of 1400×1050 which makes playing those games with your 3000+ and 9700pro that much better.
Closeup of Touchpad (view larger image)
Above view of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Angle view of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Front view of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Above view keyboard of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Underneath view of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Left-side view of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Back-side view of Ferrari 3400 (view larger image)
Onboard Realtek sound comes stock with the Acer Ferrari 3400. I won’t lie, it’s not that impressive, and I find that watching DVDs or downloaded movies or television shows is tough if I’m not sitting relatively close to the laptop. The speakers aren’t that loud, and the game sound isn’t great either unless you’ve got decent headphones. So if you’re going to spend the $3,000 (Canadian Dollars) on this laptop as I did, get yourself a nice pair of Sennheiser 500+ headphones like I’m planning on doing.
Running programs like Speedfan, the laptop’s system doesn’t really get that hot. Sitting idle it heats up to around 40-45 degrees Celsius and perhaps 50 while playing games for an extended period of time. However on the downside, the side of the laptop where you’d rest your palm does get a little warm. It’s not unbearable by any means, but if you’re already feeling the heat outside, the heat on your palm won’t really be that pleasant. However, as it’s winter right now, I don’t mind a bit as it makes for a good hand warmer!
The touchpad is great. It’s quick, responsive, has a four-way scroll button, and is just as aesthetically pleasing as it is useful. What I did have to do though is go on the Acer site (www.acer.com) and download the Touchpad drivers so I could disable it while playing games or typing an essay. It got to be frustrating when I was typing and suddenly the cursor appeared somewhere else, or I was playing a game and my gun started firing every time I accidentally pressed on the touchpad with the palm of my hand.
Like I said before, given the mobile 3000+ I thought I would get a longer battery life. But 3 hours seems to be enough for whatever I want to do. I use my notebook for school and the longest lecture I have is 3 hours so for me, it works out perfectly. If you want more battery life though, you’ll have to go with an Intel Pentium M processor.
To me, this laptop has it above the rest. The Alienware notebooks do look nice, but on the inside, they look just like every other laptop. Acer definitely thought through everything when designing the Ferrari. Besides the nice red coat finish on the outside, the inside’s made of fibreglass, supposedly giving you that “Ferrari Feel”. The Keyboard is slightly curved making it a little easier to type and also looking just that much sharper. It does get annoying though and a little embarrassing when people come up to me and tell me that it’s cool looking. Occasionally it’ll be girls…but let’s not kid ourselves, maybe 1 in 4 will be a female. But if you want a laptop that stands out above the typical silver/grey/black look, then the Ferrari is definitely the way to go.
I’d have to give the laptop a 7 out of 10. The aesthetics of the laptop are obviously a reason that the price is slightly inflated, but also it’s a fast action paced yet smaller sized laptop. Being able to play games well, burn dvd’s, connect decently to wireless networks, and just have a nice overall looking laptop made it worth it for me. With all the high-powered desktop replacement notebooks that are out there, Acer managed to pull out a fast-action, half-life 2 playing notebook that’s half the size of others with its capabilities. And if that isn’t enough for you, they include a red Ferrari USB mouse with the Ferrari emblem to sweeten the deal!
Pricing and Availability