Michael Schumacher sports an AMD logo on his crash helmet as part of his Ferrari Formula 1 sponsorship package, so you can see the connection that Acer has made -- a premium laptop with an AMD processor can use the Ferrari brand to push the performance angle, and it's also a useful excuse to push the price up to £1,699.
That sort of price demands a high specification, so Acer has loaded the Ferrari 5000 with features, including a high-resolution widescreen display, loads of memory, decent graphics, a built-in webcam and a Bluetooth VoIP phone. You also get the option of an HD DVD drive.
The styling of the Acer Ferrari 5000 is absolutely central to this laptop as you'll either love it or hate it. It's incredibly masculine and just in case the carbon-fibre lid, black and red colour scheme and yellow Ferrari badge slip past you, the F1 engine start-up noise for Windows will jerk you back to reality. It's the sort of joke that is funny, once, behind locked doors, but would be mortally embarrassing on a BA Club Class flight.
The chassis has been built around a 15.4-inch screen, so it's a reasonable compromise between size and portability at 364mm wide by 38mm thick by 271mm deep, and the 3kg weight means that you won't struggle to carry it over short distances.
We found the ports to be laid out very well. There are two USB 2.0, LAN and VGA ports on the right, then on the left you get a Kensington lock, a modem, two more USB 2.0, a slot-loading DVD drive, and PC Card and ExpressCard slots. On the front of the chassis there is a card reader, audio jacks, headphone S/PDIF, infrared, four-pin FireWire and control switches for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
At the rear it's practically bare apart from a docking connector, S-Video and HDMI, for which Acer includes an HDMI-to-DVI cable. On the top edge of the lid is a built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam. The keyboard is Acer's curved design, which is comfortable to use. We prefer to see the Enter key outside of the Page Up/Page Down keys, however. Try as we might, that is the only fault we were able to find with the layout.
The vast majority of laptops use a processor from Intel's range of Centrino products, but the stand-out technical feature of the Ferrari 5000 is its dual-core AMD Turion X2 processor. This TL-60 model runs at 2.0GHz and in our tests it was directly comparable with a 1.66GHz T2300 or T2050, so the performance is certainly there.
System performance is assisted by the use of 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 memory that runs in dual-channel mode. Socket 754 AMD processors run their memory in single-channel mode, but this version of the Turion X2 uses the new 638-pin Socket S1 which allows dual-channel, so in this case fewer pins means better memory access. Strange but true.
Unfortunately, the TL-60 is a relatively toasty processor with a thermal rating of 35W and our overriding impression of the Ferrari 5000 is of the cooling fan cutting in and out every few seconds, even during the lightest Windows desktop duties. The noise wasn't especially intrusive, but it was cumulative (like Chinese water torture) and the jet of hot air expelled from the exhaust vent on the right-hand side gave us a nasty surprise on a number of occasions as we reached for our editorial coffee. During gaming sessions the fan runs at full speed, as you would expect.
The ATi Radeon Xpress 1150 chipset is combined with an Atheros 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi chip, a Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet chip and an unspecified Bluetooth controller to give you a full choice of wireless options.
Instead of integrated graphics you get a Radeon Mobility X1600 package, which includes 256MB of dedicated DDR3 memory and we were able to play Far Cry at the full screen resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels with ease. The screen is quite bright and while we found it a little harsh under normal lighting conditions, the picture was undeniably sharp and clear.