Just a few years ago, playing games on a laptop was a distant afterthought. Developers were more concerned with boosting processing power and increasing battery life than thinking about 3D graphics and frag counts. But now, as the line between laptop and desktop performance becomes evermore blurry, some developers are beginning to consider the entertainment side. While others, like Voodoo, are obsessing about it.
Voodoo is a Canadian company that specialises in lightning fast gaming machines. Since 1991, Voodoo has built screaming high end desktops, but things have become really interesting now that it’s got its hands on AMD’s latest 64bit mobile processors.
Well, cosmetically Voodoo has got off to an excellent start. The scarlet chassis is striking straight out of the box, and though the M:855 is also available in black, white, orange, yellow, and blue, I think the red would be my first choice. Our review machine also came with a distinctive, nay infamous “Voodoo Tattoo” across the lid (more of later), which drew a number of admiring glances.
At 330 x 43 x 280mm (WxHxD) and weighing in at 3.6kg, the Voodoo is not light, but it’s not excessively heavy either for such a performance orientated machine. In fact, its measurements are almost identical to Evesham’s 64bit machine, the Voyager 64 which we had in the labs towards the end of last year and it’s good to see manufacturers making an effort to keep the size down where possible.
Inside, as expected, Voodoo has gone to town. At the heart of the M:855 is an Athlon 64, 3200+ backed up by 1GB of DDR-333 RAM, and a 60GB Hitachi Travelstar 7,200rpm hard drive. For gamers the M:855 is fitted with an ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 chipset with 64MB of dedicated memory (this has since been upgraded by Voodoo to a 128MB 9600 Pro) and Voodoo’s own Envy SoundBlaster compatible 3D audio chip.
Adding further spice to the party is an almost limitless number of connection options. For dial-up there is the obligatory V.92/V.90 modem, and 10/100Mbit/sec Ethernet for home networks, as well as support for 802.11b and 802.11g WiFi standards. Like any well designed notebook, it features a handy hard switch on the front for turning the wireless adapter on and off. Alongside the wireless switch are FireWire, S/PDIF and microphone ports as well as a 4-in-one memory card reader. At the side and rear you’ll find parallel and serial ports, a Type II PC Card slot and a TV out connector. And being for gamers it comes with four USB2.0 ports for all those extra gamepads.
It’s worth noting at this point that the two-speed DVD writer supplied with our machine has since also been upgraded by Voodoo to incorporate a drive with four-speed DVD+R, 2.4-speed DVD+RW performance. The price at the top of this review includes all upgrades.
So how did it perform? Well, our obvious comparison point for the M:855 is the Voyager 64 which is closely specked, but as we expected, the Voodoo is a specialist machine and it triumphed in the majority of tests.
In PCMark 2002, the CPU scores were relatively close at 6,476 for the M:855 and 6,117 for the Voyager 64, but when it came to memory and hard drive scores, Voodoo’s machine simply blows the opposition away. Its memory score of 7,529 is the highest we have seen so far at TrustedReviews and a hard drive score of 820 is truly remarkable for a laptop hard drive, nearly doubling the Voyager 64’s score of 487. Nothing we have seen elsewhere comes close.