Ferrari and Lamborghini are the automotive embodiment of speed, passion and testosterone. Little schoolboys point and stare, teenage boys glue posters on the wall and for those big boys with a surplus of cash and deficit of kids, they may be lucky enough to own one some day. For most, though, they remain an elusive dream.
Several Taiwanese manufacturers want to give you a little slice of the experience, and over the last couple of years we have begun seeing prancing horse and raging bull logos popping up on what were previously rather mundane consumer electronics equipment.
Acer Ferrari 3200
Acer was the first off of the block, debuting with the 3200 model back in 2005, which sported a 15-inch screen and a garish bright red paint job. The latest model in the range is the ultra-portable 12-inch Ferrari 1000 notebook. The low 1.75kg weight and small size make it very handy for popping into a bag and running out of the door, and thoughtful details, such as the way that the battery cover is rounded and textured, make it easy to pick up and carry.
The color is more muted this time, with the screen covered in woven carbon fibre and details picked out in red. Carbon is a material that appeared edgy and cool about 10 years ago, and in this application I am sure it serves no purpose beyond mere aesthetics. The impression of style over content pervades the rest of the product, and there is a very literal approach of suggesting the speed and excitement that defines the Ferrari brand. Vents, swooshes and angles pepper the device, bright lighting surrounds the keyboard making it difficult to watch the screen at night without distraction, and overall an impression is left that this device is aimed squarely at teenage boys.
Regarding the specs, the small size can be explained to some extent by the lack of DVD drive and low battery life, which is just over three hours and a result of using power-hungry AMD chips. Sony's TX series and Samsung's Q35 both manage to squeeze in optical drives and offer significantly longer battery life, and dubious styling apart, it is difficult to recommend this product when compared to its Intel-based competition.
Asus VX2 Lamborghini
Acer's archrival, Asus, teamed up with Lamborghini for the first time last year to deliver the VX1, and the pair are back again with the upgraded VX2 - this time in wide-screen. Following the color scheme of the cars, it comes in a retina-searing bright yellow (though a limited-edition carbon version is also available). It's certainly eye-catching, but I am unsure whether the glances were from distraction or admiration. The shape also follows the design style of Lamborghini, and features a creased screen cover with an indented mesh area.
So often, when you open the lid of an expensive notebook computer you get a distinctly pedestrian experience, but in this case the team seem to have put a great deal of effort into the interior. Best of all is the leather palm-rest area with stitching that, I am told, matches the interior of the real thing. Flipping it over, and I was surprised to discover the wheel from a scale model car had magically glued itself to the bottom. At least Asus is attempting to inject a little imagination into the design of the bottom casing - but why are they always so ugly?
The function key sits in the position I expect the control key to be, and right next to it I found that while the white LEDs were great in the day time, the brightness level at night was simply too high. The specs of the machine are reasonably good, but matched to the high-ish price tag I suspect most people might opt for other, more muted models in the range. For those guys (and I suspect it will be guys) who want a brash, yellow Ferrari-bashing notebook computer, this might just suit them down to the ground.
Ferrari-branded 'Visio' binoculars
The third Taiwanese brand to join the fiesta is Williams Optics, with its Ferrari-branded 'Visio' binoculars. Williams is a Taiwanese optics company that's working hard to raise brand awareness.
Following the launch of a pair of Ferrari-branded telescopes, these binoculars are aimed squarely at the consumer on the street. Beguiling their small size, they are reassuringly heavy and solidly built, and all the controls and adjustment are pleasingly damped in the way that expensive equipment always seems to be. The red paint and slice of carbon set atop the lenses leaves you in no doubt where the design is drawing its inspiration from, but the designers have restrained themselves from going too over the top with manic automotive detailing.
If I was going to niggle, the focus adjustment for the right eye seemed to interfere with the geometric adjustment that allows the lenses to sit straight to the face. I also might expect that they can be transported in something of higher class than a nylon case. Overall, though, I would say that if you removed the Ferrari badges, you would still be left with an appealing, well made product. For those that want to buy a pair of compact binoculars and fancy sporting a famous logo, these fit the bill nicely.
As Taiwan continues in its quest to build brands, you can be sure that more cooperation with unrelated Western companies will occur. It strikes me that, while it might be good for short term sales and visibility, it will mainly provide an advertising platform for the foreigners. But, if you fancy a slice of Italian automotive fantasy, and posters of erotically-lit Ferraris still adorn your wall, do go ahead and indulge yourself.
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