Every other notebook I have ever had pales in comparison to my new Ferrari-branded notebook from Acer. Since I brought my new purchase home, my IBM T-40 has been hiding in the corner, the Toshiba Tablet is putting up a brave front, the 17-inch Gateway is on the shelf looking the other way, and even the new Sony 505 looks abashed next to this stunning red box.
From its three coats of high-quality automotive paint and Ferrari branding on the case to its brushed silver interior and tastefully etched logos, this machine is a thing of beauty. When I walk into a room with this baby, even the Apple users join the throngs of admirers. However, much like owning an exotic car, there are some trade-offs to all of this fame.
For instance, I rarely let this laptop leave my sight. I am convinced that should it be out of sight for a moment someone else will touch, fondle or “borrow” it. And because I worry about the finish, I am constantly aware of what Im doing in the vicinity of the notebook. The dogs and cats know that it is off-limits, and I dont allow anyone near it with food or drink. I have a hard time thinking of putting it in a computer bag and have started to wish that I had a laptop cover, which, like a car cover, would protect it against unfit eyes, my laptop bag and the elements.
As you would expect, performance is very strong, but battery life isnt. Im getting around 3 hours of heavy use with the 802.11g network at full power. Of course thats the same trade-off with a car; you dont buy a high-performance car and expect to get good gas mileage. (I think I just heard a snicker from the IBM T-40, which gets around 7 hours.)
Part of me wishes this notebook was fueled by the Athlon64 rather than the Athlon XP-M chip because, like with the car, I want ultimate performance—but then I take one look at the machines lustrous coat, and somehow everything else seems trivial.
Other features include a 15-inch SXGA+ screen, coupled with 128MB ATI Radeon 9200 graphics, 512MB 333 SDRAM, a 60GB hard drive, DVD (+/-) RW, Bluetooth and 802.11g Wireless. No, it doesnt come with electric windows and air-conditioning; it does, however, have an extremely rare Ferrari optical mouse in Ferrari red, which will probably be in use years after the laptop goes to laptop heaven.
One impressive piece of execution is that when you fire the machine up it plays a WAV file of a Ferrari race car revving its engine. That alone is worth the relatively low $1,899 price of admission. (I found it priced as low as $1,725 at PCVideoOnline.) Even when Im in a meeting, I dont turn the sound off because of the unbridled envy that seems to show up in the eyes of my, granted mostly male, co-attendees. So far no one has complained.
The desktop screen also boasts a unique design, complete with a Ferrari racing motif and active calendar.
When talking about products targeted at individuals, I actually see a lot of IT value in the concept. A few years ago I was involved in a study to see why some firms experience failure rates that exceed 30 percent for laptop computers, and it came down to the fact that people simply were abusing their machines. If employees were given a product they were proud of as opposed to one purchased at a bargain basement piece, they took better care of it, particularly if they knew they could buy it after a reasonable two-year service life for a laptop computer.
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Executives often want products that are exclusive to them and are often more concerned with status than practicality, which means they often end up with products that cost up to twice what the company is deploying to the rank and file. With Acers Ferrari notebook, here is a product that has the same exclusive nature and may actually cost less than the standard product given to everyone else (that can be our little secret). How often is it you can make an executive happy and stay within budget? Using a product like this to save money, even in an enterprise, is hardly unusual according to eWEEK Labs.
However, the overall goal of a product like this is to enhance the brand and drive attention to the rest of the product line. This is called a Halo product because it tends to shed positive light on other products from the same company. Even if people dont buy the Ferrari notebook they will, after seeing or hearing of it, be more likely to consider an Acer product and think of the company in a more positive light.
Overall, this is one of the highest quality laptops I have ever had, and it should serve its purpose of improving Acers image admirably.
This idea of using another brand to enhance the value of an unrelated product (I have a Ferrari watch too) is far from unique, but Acer gets full credit for applying it to the PC market.
Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.