Published August 25, 2008 at 01:16:03 PM, by Blair Mathis
Car enthusiasts looking for a sleek and powerful laptop, rejoice! The Acer Ferrari 5000 features a sexy black Ferrari themed design with red trimmings, complete with a carbon fiber lid. It's no slouch inside either: the Ferrari 5000 packs a powerful AMD Turion 64 X2 64-bit dual core processor and ATI Radeon X1600 Mobility 256MB dedicated graphics into its 15.4" package. A new version of this laptop will support the brand new HD-DVD format, which can hold up to 30GB per DVD.
However, all this comes at a high price: our review sample, the Ferrari 5005WLMi model, clocks in at a price of over $2000. Is the laptop deserving of its premium cost? Read on to find out!
Measuring 14.33" x 10.66 " x 1.03-1.49" and weighing in at 6.6lbs with a 9-cell battery pack, the Ferrari 5005WLMi is still portable without skimping on the screen size. The Ferrari is average in weight and size compared to other 15.4" form factor notebooks.
Case and Design
The major selling point of the Ferrari 5005WLMi is certainly the case design. Acer paid close attention to both the style and the build quality of the laptop. The back LCD panel is constructed with woven carbon fiber, a material known for its light weight and high strength used frequently in race cars such as those built by Ferrari. The carbon fiber serves its purpose well, not only improving the laptop's looks but also reducing some weight. The typing surface is covered in a thin sleek black rubber coating, protecting the surface from damage.
The sides of the laptop are texturized and covered in Racing Red paint. Two Ferrari logos are present on the laptop: one on the back LCD panel and the other is inlaid in the right palm rest.
Aside from design, the build quality is excellent. Everything feels solid, from the LCD hinges to the palm rests, which is expected from a laptop of this caliber.
Like all Acer notebooks, the Ferrari 5005WLMi uses a special 88-key ergonomic curved keyboard, known as the Folio design. Key travel distance is average for a laptop: substantially less than that of a desktop but enough to type comfortably. The Page-Down, Page-Up, Home, and End keys are placed vertically on the right side of the keyboard. Like most keyboards, the numeric keyboard is activated with the Fn key.
In addition, there are function keys to adjust audio volume, alter screen brightness, disable or enable the touchpad, put the system to sleep, and more.
So how does the ergonomic keyboard differ from a standard laptop keyboard? After testing the keyboard for a while, I found that after a small learning curve, typing on the Folio design keyboard is akin to typing on an ergonomic desktop keyboard. The difference between the curved keyboard and a standard keyboard is not huge, but if you frequently type on the keyboard, the curvature may make a large difference. The curvature lets you keep your wrists straight, preventing your wrists from becoming sore.
The Ferrari 5005WLMi's touchpad is of average size and includes a 4-way scroll as well as the standard two mouse buttons. The buttons and the rim of the touchpad are a shiny gunmetal color. While there is no enable/disable button or switch for the touchpad, I found that the Ferrari's touchpad was quite excellent. In the past, I've found standard laptop touchpads to be too sensitive, and I would frequently move the mouse pointer to places that I did not intend to, especially when typing. I did not have this problem with the Ferrari 5005WLMi at all.
The Ferrari 5005WLMi comes with a multitude of ports, including HDMI, ExpressCard, FireWire, VGA, and more. DVI is also supported through the HDMI port with the appropriate cable. For those unfamiliar with HDMI, it is an all-digital audio/video interface capable of transmitting uncompressed streams and is a modern replacement for the older DVI digital standard. HDMI is an abbreviation for High-Definition Multimedia Interface.
HDMI to DVI cable included
On the front of the laptop there are the speaker holes, diagnostic lights, a 5-in-1 card reader, microphone, S/PDIF, and headphone jacks, wireless and Bluetooth on/off switches, and a Firewire port.
The back is kept simple, containing only the HDMI, Acer EzDock, S-Video, and AC adapter ports.
The right side of the laptop houses two USB2.0 ports, a large exhaust, Gigabit Ethernet, and VGA.
The left side contains an additional two USB2.0 ports, modem, a slot-loading DVD+/-RW DL drive, PCMCIA slot, and the ExpressCard34 ports.
Heat and Noise
Under normal circumstances, the Ferrari 5005WLMi runs fairly quiet and cool - just be sure not to block the exhaust. When I tried running two instances of Prime95, a program that maximizes CPU usage, CPU temperatures shot up to a bit more than 85C in fairly low ambient temperatures. Once the laptop reached 85C, the fan's maximum speed setting kicked in and temperatures stayed around 83-84C. Even at these circumstances, the bottom of the laptop remained only warm. However, the exhaust became very hot. Although the Ferrari 5005WLMi is considered to have passed the stress test, it is never a good idea to run a CPU this hot, as it would surely lower its life expectancy.
Upgrading and Expansion
Like most manufacturers, Acer allows you to easily upgrade RAM, hard drive, and the wireless adapter. However, also like most manufacturers, the CPU and graphics card is not readily available. On the underside of the Ferrari 5005WLMi, there are compartments labeled with icons to illustrate which component goes where, which can save you a lot of hassle by not unscrewing any unnecessary bolts.
Unfortunately, if you want to access the CPU or graphics card, you will need to completely disassemble the laptop.
The Acer Ferrari 5005WLMi comes standard with a 64-bit dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 processor. Processor speeds range from 1.6 GHz to 2.0 GHz. Although the processor is only built on a 90nm process instead of a 65nm process like its Intel counterparts, the process is specially designed to lower power consumption. According to AMD documentation, the Turion 64 X2 lineup actually uses less power in various sleep modes than Intel's Core Duo/Core 2 Duo processors. The Thermal Design Power (TDP) for the TL-60 model found in our review sample, which runs at 2.0 GHz with 2x512KB L2 cache, is 35W. Since the industry is moving towards 64-bit processing and away from 32-bit processing, choosing an AMD Turion 64 X2 over the 32-bit Core Duo is a wise choice. Note that Intel's newest processor, the Core 2 Duo, is also 64-bit.
The Ferrari 5005WLMi uses the popular ATI (now AMD) Xpress 200M chipset and dedicated Radeon X1600 Mobility graphics. The X1600 sports 256MB of fast dedicated GDDR3 graphics memory and also uses 256MB of system memory, for a total of 512MB.
Like its desktop counterparts, the X1600 Mobility has 4 pipelines with 3 shader units each, for a total of 12 shader units. This unbalanced configuration is optimal for providing the best performance in the latest games with the least amount of heat and power consumption.
On the memory front, the Ferrari 5005WLMi is outfitted with 2GB dual-channel (max 4GB) DDR2-667.
Our Ferrari 5005WLMi came with a 160GB 5400RPM 8MB SATA hard drive. Hard drive performance and acoustics seemed to be average.
Like many high end laptops, the Ferrari 5005WLMi is equipped with Realtek High Definition Audio drivers. Audio quality is excellent, with no background noise.
Unfortunately, like most current laptops, the default Windows installation was extremely bloated. There were simply too many desktop icons for apps that came preinstalled, as well as way too many programs set to load at startup. This caused startup times to be extremely slow. Users would do well to disable or uninstall most of the preinstalled applications to improve bootup speed.
The Ferrari 5005WLMi's display is very bright and crisp. The glossy WSXGA (1680x1050) CrystalBrite 15.4" widescreen display provides excellent contrast. Text is readable at the highest resolution, although some people may wish to increase the font DPI for improved legibility. With a 16ms response time, the LCD was able to keep up no matter the task.
However, the LCD's viewing angle was a bit poor: when your head moves out of the optimum range, a sharp drop in contrast is experienced. Also, the glossy coating may cause glare in bright rooms or when playing dark games such as Doom 3.
According to the Device Manager, the Ferrari 5005WLMi comes equipped with a MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ-85JS optical drive, supporting CD-RW and Dual Layer DVD+/-RW. Noise levels of the drive are standard.
Unlike most laptops, the Ferrari 5005WLMi uses a slot-based optical drive. In other words, instead of placing the CD or DVD on a tray, you simply push the media into the slot. The drive is also hot-swappable so you can remove it with ease.
VOIP Bluetooth Phone
Like it's sibling the Acer Ferrari 1000, the Acer Ferrari 5000 comes with a slim VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Bluetooth PC Card Phone. It allows you to video conference or hold conversations without a cell phone via the Internet. Since it's Bluetooth, you're not restricted to talk in front of the computer so you have the freedom to talk anywhere within Bluetooth wireless proximity. This phone supports echo cancellation and noise suppression to manage a clear broadcast.
It charges by sliding into the PC Card slot, and it's so small that you can leave it in there for storage purposes. The phone is adorned with the Ferrari logo which isn't visible here. The phone felt fragile to the touch, probably because of its extreme portability and ability to slide into a PC Card Slot. It was relatively easy to use and the sound quality was decent given the source.
Insert to recharge!
The Ferrari 5005WLMi uses an Atheros AR5006X wireless network adaptor. Acer prides itself in its SignalUp technology, which improves wireless signal reception by using the most efficient type of antenna (planar inverted-F) with the optimum placement. During testing, we found no problems with wireless connectivity.
The Ferrari 5005WLMi comes with a 9-cell 7800mAh battery standard. The battery lies flush against the back of the laptop. This is quite unusual for a high-capacity battery and is certainly testament to Acer's engineering ability. Even with the large battery, Acer only claims a 3.5 hour battery life, most likely due to the high-performance graphics card. There we no battery-related problems encountered during testing.
The Ferrari 5005WLMi's 90W AC adapter is an average sized power brick. The cords are long enough, exceeding a combined twelve feet. Thankfully, Acer built-in a velcro strap into the AC adapter for cable management. Having a big mess of tangled wires is not something any user wants to deal with, so this is a much welcomed feature.