Acer's likeable Liquid E has entered the pit lane for a fresh lick of paint and some new performance-enhancing bodywork, but the internals remain largely unchanged. With a deliberately toned-down CPU and Android 2.1 on board, the Acer Liquid E Ferrari Special Edition is easily lapped by the best Google phones available, but is sure to find favour with hard-core Formula One followers.
SIM-only, this unique handset retails from around £450.
The Ferrari Formula One team has had its fair share of bad publicity of late, thanks to nefarious tactics, such as resorting to outlawed team orders to influence the outcome of a race. With this in mind, one might question the sense of launching a mobile phone drenched in the famous red livery.
While Ferrari's reputation in sport may be experiencing a temporary blip thanks to the aforementioned rule-breaking, we imagine the Liquid E Ferrari Special Edition -- a re-badge of the already-available Liquid E S100 -- will still succeed in turning the heads of the tifosi.
Those of you wise enough to consult our review of the bog-standard Liquid E will be aware of our serious reservations regarding the phone's dimensions -- namely its incredible girth.
This Ferrari-themed edition has exactly the same issue, but it's somehow amplified by the brash colour scheme. Boasting the famous red hue of the Scuderia Ferrari, this handset will effortlessly grab the attention of others when you remove it from your pocket in public. It even has an air intake vent on the back, which doubles as a speaker.
Despite the showy aesthetics, there's a certain class to the Ferrari Liquid E which is undeniably attractive. The famous prancing horse logo on the rear, which displays just a tiny hint of carbon fibre around its edging, is instantly appealing.
A word in your ear
Acer has been kind enough to chuck a similarly branded Bluetooth headset into the box as well. Like the handset itself, this is clad in bright red plastic and boasts the Ferrari logo.
Call quality is encouraging, and those of you with abnormal lugholes will be pleased to learn the phone comes with a selection of ear plugs to ensure the most comfortable fit. Whether or not you want to be seen out in public with a bright red lump in your ear is another matter entirely.
Another design touch we can't help but fawn over is the illuminated icons that appear on the top of the phone, next to the 3.5mm headphone socket. These icons light up when you receive notifications such as text messages and emails. If you happen to have your phone in your pocket with the top edge visible, you can instantly see what's happening without having to remove it, which could come in handy considering the garishness of this device.
Under the bonnet, the story is exactly the same as it was with the original Acer Liquid E. The phone is packing a relatively unmolested version of Android 2.1, albeit with a few Ferrari-themed extras. As well as a dedicated photo and video gallery, the phone comes with exclusive wallpapers and atmospheric sound effects. When you get an email, for example, you are alerted with the sound of a high-performance engine being revved up.
The 89mm (3.5-inch) WVGA thin-film transistor screen makes a welcome return. While it can't compete with the latest Super AMOLED displays when it comes to colour depth and brightness, the 480x800-pixel resolution offers pin-sharp clarity that makes the on-screen imagery jump to life. Thankfully, the display is of a capacitive persuasion, although we noticed the responsiveness was a little lacking when compared to other leading Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Desire.
With 3G, Wi-Fi and 2.1 Bluetooth support, the Liquid E is certainly well-connected. The final piece of the hardware puzzle is the camera, which boasts 5 megapixels but lacks a flash. It also produces curiously middling images and struggles in both low-light and close-up situations.
Elsewhere, the Liquid E Ferrari retains the cool wheel-like widgets of the original Liquid E, which allow you to scroll through your photos, videos and bookmarked Web pages. Never one to miss a trick, Acer has dutifully included links to Ferrari's official Twitter feed, Facebook page and website, allowing fans to keep up to date with the team's fortunes on the track.
Ironically, for a phone that borrows so much styling from a world-renowned racing squad, the Liquid E is deliberately handicapped in the speed stakes. The Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon processor is the same as that witnessed in several other nippy Android challengers, like the Nexus One. In this case, however, it's been under-clocked at 768MHz, presumably in an effort to conserve battery life.
It's a noble gesture, but, when placed alongside a Nexus One running Android 2.2, the difference in performance is akin to placing a feeble 1.3-litre European compact next to a super-tuned, V8-engine F1 car. There's a chance the Liquid E will see a boost when (or if) it gets updated to 2.2, but, on a like-for-like basis, this device is left at the back of the grid by Froyo-packing Android smart phones.
Despite the slightly overpowering Ferrari branding and a smattering of superfluous apps, the repackaged Acer Liquid E Ferrari Special Edition is pretty much exactly the same as the original phone. The Bluetooth headset is a welcome addition to the bundle and the presence of the prancing horse is sure to turn heads but, unless you've got a burning desire to support the Italian racing marque -- not to mention an affection for gaudy consumer items -- there's little reason to pick this over the cheaper (yet arguably less unique) Liquid E.
Edited by Emma Bayly