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Wednesday June 11, 2008 6:21 am

Exclusive Hands On with the Voodoo Envy 133, MacBook Air Killer

Posted by Chris Cardinal Categories: Features, PC / Laptop

We’re live in Berlin, Germany at the HP Connecting Your World event. During yesterday’s keynote, Voodoo PC, HP’s enthusiast line, announced what’s essentially a competitor to the MacBook Air: The Voodoo Envy 133. The Envy 133 is just 0.7” thick throughout; the same thickness as the most thick points on the Air. (Just slightly under, actually.) It’s sheathed in a carbon fibre casing that allows them to bring down the weight to just 3.4 lbs. It features a 13.3” ultrabright backlit LED screen and a backlit keyboard, ambient light sensor and an enormous touchpad that’s multiple gesture-compatible.

Take a look at our first impressions and see what sets the Envy 133 apart, giving it what I believe is the upper hand against the MacBook Air.


What helps set the Envy apart are a few interesting, well-executed features that the Air lacks. For instance, instead of relegating ethernet to a USB dongle or some such, Voodoo has opted to put the port on the power brick, which itself features a mated 802.11n access point that connects directly to the PC; essentially, you’re carrying a secured wireless adapter with you everywhere you go. It also features an ultrathin, removable battery, so the battery can be easily replaced when the time comes.

The Envy is also strong on connectivity—it features Bluetooth and of course Wifi, and we’ve heard rumors of 3G/HSDPA connectivity in a future version. It also has an HDMI port directly on the unit as well as a shared eSATA/USB 2.0 port and another dedicated USB 2.0 port. It also comes with an external eSATA CD/DVD-writer. The benefit with the shared port is that most eSATA devices don’t require separate, additional power. Compatible devices are powered by the USB component of the port.

We’ve got our hands on it and it’s really a rather stunning device. It’s light and manageable but its also solid and holds up from any corner without flexing. It has a gorgeous, incredibly bright LED-backlit screen and a beautiful, graceful touchpad. The carbon fibre is a nice touch and users will be able to select any color they like.

The first impression I had of the Envy 133 is simply that they put a great deal of thought into even the smallest details. The touchpad deactivated, for instance, when your hands are on the keyboard—but it only does so when both hands are on the keyboard; since a typical users brings their dominant hand down to the touchpad, they often leave their other hand on the keyboard. (Watch your own behavior when you use your notebook and touchpad again.) The touchpad is oversized and a breeze to use. It’s responsive but not jittery and it’s built right into the carbon fibre, through perforations. It’s also capable of accepting multi-touch gestures, like the pinch option and chiral (circular) gestures. All these options are of course fully configurable, which helps for us power users.

Finally, the Envy features an Intel Core2 Duo 1.8GHz with 2GB RAM and a 60GB hard drive running Windows Vista. It also features Voodoo’s Instant On Solution, allowing for ultra-quick boots that push you to a Linux variant with some basic apps. They even managed to cram a removable battery in, so you can extend your usable battery life by carrying a spare. (Voodoo Chief Raul Sood’s Weblog tells us you can expect 2.5 hours with heavy usage—his real-world experience, not marketing speak.)

It will be available later this summer for $2,099, but we’ll have our hands-on video with the Envy uploaded very soon.

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