Inspecting gadgets

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from the new Ferrari-branded netbook to the highly-awaited iPad.
Inspecting gadgets
Acer Ferrari One.
By Imthishan Giado
Mon 26 Apr 2010 04:00 AM

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from the new Ferrari-branded netbook to the highly-awaited iPad.

A Ferrari for all seasons

Ah, the power of marketing. In the parallel world of dull Atom netbooks, the Ferrari One you see before you is known as the Acer Aspire 1410 - hardly the stuff of which dreams are made. But give it a splash of Rosso Corsa paint, bung in an Athlon CPU and 4GB of RAM and decorate vigorously with some prancing horse TM logos and hey presto! You've got yourself a premium-priced mobile device.

Ok, so I'm being a little cynical. But it's hard not to be, considering Ferrari will happily provide its logo to anyone who can stump up its considerable licensing fees. As a result, you'll find that famous logo on everything from coffee mugs to USB keys and the brand does feel more than a little bit ubiquitous.

If you can ignore the in-your-face marketing, the Ferrari One is actually a very decently-specced device.  With a 11.6-inch, 1366x768-resolution screen, it's not as squint-inducing as the typical ultraportable, while the Radeon HD 3200 graphics subsystem ensure that you'll be able to at least manage a game of World of Warcraft in between meetings.

Otherwise, it's kitted out and performs much as you'd expect, with 3G, Draft-N Wi-fi and 250GB hard drive all along for the ride. Battery life is quoted at a medium 4+ hours - not the best I've ever seen, but good enough for most people to get through a busy working day. Hopefully, they'll also notice the one distinctive Ferrari touch: the  F10 key sports a tiny Maranello-branded F1 car icon and when combined with the Fn key, takes you to the Ferrari website. Perhaps they should have made it make V8 noises on startup instead.

There's little to criticise about the Ferrari One, but there's also precious little to recommend it - and at a listed retail price of $850, it's one very, very pricey netbook. Sorry, Ferrari - this one sputters on the parade lap.
Living on the Edge

In complete contrast to the flashy Ferrari One also featured on this page, the Lenovo Edge is eminently sensible, discreetly stylish and yet doesn't cost the moon and the sun.

Previous ThinkPads have tended to err on the side of conservatism. No, sorry - that makes conservatism look exciting. In fact, every previous ThinkPad except the netbook division has treated style like some sort of infectious disease.

So I'm not quite sure what to make of the ThinkPad Edge, which is now available in a range of glossy or matte finishes, as well as some eyeball-searing colours like flame red. It all feels a bit like your granddad getting up to sing at a family function. Inside, the firm's ditched its traditional keyboard for the currently-in-vogue chiclet-style keys which claim to offer a more pleasurable typing experience through a firmer, more predictable response. Considering how most laptop keyboards are almost an afterthought, it's nice to see one of the big boys investing in this most crucial of interfaces.

When it comes to kit, the Edge is available with dual-core CPUs from either Intel or AMD, the now-requisite 4GB of RAM to run Windows 7 Pro and a 320GB hard drive, although no optical drive is standard - this is an ultraportable, after all. Weighing in at a reasonable 1.7kgs, it's not going to strain back muscles either.

In fact, I like almost everything about this little beauty of a laptop - note that I said "almost". There is unfortunately, always a dealbreaker. For me, it's the presence of the trademark pointing-stick mouse - which is still as imprecise and awkward to use as it was 10 years ago. Ditch that - or get a high-res USB laser-based optical device - and the Edge is a real winner.
iPad, therefore iAm

Yes, I've studiously avoided mentioning the iPad in these pages up till this point. Partly because there's already been far much ink (virtual or otherwise) spilled about it and I'd rather not contribute to the world's already burgeoning landfills.

Nevertheless, it's clear that a lot of people are interested in it, even if they are not sure quite what it does - a recent poll suggested 59% of regional residents thought it could make phone calls. So what is the iPad really? Despite all the "magical" hype, all it really is a gigantic iPod Touch, down to the awkwardly placed home button at the bottom, with the ability to run a range of custom Apps.

And I mean gigantic - at 9.7-inches, the iPad's screen is significantly larger than the 6-inch ones that rivals like Sony and Amazon can muster. But it's so much more than just an e-book reader - think big-screen web browsing, media consumption, note-taking, the potential to run hundreds of thousands of third party apps - despite the earnest protests of Microsoft, it really is a new category of digital device, free of the limitations of being tethered to a immobile desktop.

But do people actually want one? That's the million dollar question and one that's actually quite difficult to answer.

Most enterprise development is presently centred around the Blackberry which has the level of security and control that CIOs are comfortable with. While the wireless ability of the iPad mean that it could be a useful tool for anyone who has to travel in the field such as salespeople or engineers, it remains to be seen if Apple can provide the kind of resilience, durability and support that organisations desire from their mobile devices.

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