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Review: Voodoo PC Envy m:855 laptop

by Tarinder Sandhu on 1 March 2004, 00:00

Tags: VoodooPC (NYSE:HPQ)

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Appearance and features I

First off, this (p)review isn't one that's indicative of Voodoo PC's retail laptops. Rather, it's a demonstration of what a high-end laptop is capable of. We were sent a bare laptop without the retail package's software trimmings. Those, really, are incidental.

The Voodoo PC in an ATI red. Voodoo PC allows the customer to choose from one of several colours at the time of purchase. This laptop was designed to showcase the power of ATI's Mobility Radeon 9600. The JPEG compression doesn't do justice to the Envy m:855's exterior, which can have one of five Voodoo PC graphics or tattoos placed on the top cover. A larger picture is available here.

A desktop replacement on, conveniently, a desk. Build quality was subjective good. The lid opened and closed with a smooth action, and there were no rattles or squeaks from the chassis. The m:855 isn't one for the mobile crowd, unless you don't mind lugging a 3.9kg laptop around with you. That's one of the obvious pitfalls of a power design that uses a large screen. The m:855 uses a 15" panel with a native resolution of 1400x1050 (SXGA+). That's just about right for this size of panel. An UXGA (1600x1200) screen would have been preferable, though.

Icons and text were generally sharp. Screen evaluation is a highly subjective issue. What looks good to one person doesn't necessarily appease all. The m:855's screen and image quality was compared to a Dell Inspiron 5150 running an UXGA panel made by Samsung. The latter's was brighter, sharper and more focussed, yet it lacked the Voodoo PC's colour richness. If you've tried TFT monitors yourself, it's like the difference between a Viewsonic and Samsung panel. Both have their positive aspects and both are more than acceptable for day-long work. We found the speakers to be on the tinny side, so that's one area we'd like to see substantial improvement in. In defence of Voodoo PC, we imagine that most users may opt for sound via headphones, and it's more than acceptable.

Volume can be controlled by an small wheel on the front. There's also handy headphone, microphone and FireWire plugs present, as well as a 4-in-1 card reader; a nice touch. The central section also has a button that activates and deactivates onboard 54g WiFi, and it glows a pleasant blue when in use. The right extremity houses an IR receiver. The keyboard falls into the love or hate categories. I found the keys a little too stiff for speedy touchtyping, but others may find them just fine.

The PCMCIA slot's blank cover has been left in that horrible shade of beige. We'd have hoped that Voodoo PC would have given it the matching paint treatment. There's also a removable 2x DVD-R drive, 2x USB 2.0, LAN and modem ports on the right-hand side.