The keyboard isn’t quite as impressive as the screen, but it’s not a bad example. The keys are a decent size and most of the important keys have been given special attention. Both Shift keys, the Backspace key and the Tab key are large, but although the Return key is extended, it’s not quite the size I would have liked it to be. Also, the Spacebar is very small considering the size of this notebook, although to be fair I didn’t once find myself missing it. The cursor keys are set away from the rest of the keyboard, making it easy to use them, and just below them is a sticker stating “Powerful Personal Computer” in case you hadn’t already guessed. While typing, the keyboard does feel a little light and it does rattle a bit when typing at speed, but it’s not what I’d describe as a bad example. Finally, I had to get used to typing on a US spec keyboard, which has a slightly different layout to a British keyboard, but that’s something you’re going to have to accept if you order a machine from Canada.
Finally there’s the pointing device, and here Voodoo has gone for a touchpad rather than a trackpoint. Even though I prefer trackpoints to touchpads, this is a very good example of the breed and again reminds me of the HP nx7000 that I reviewed last year. Like the one on the HP, this touchpad has a scrolling section on the right hand side which allows you to scroll through web pages and documents without the use of buttons. The two selector buttons under the touchpad have a good tactile feel to them and click solidly in use.
Above the keyboard is an array of buttons which include shortcuts to Media Player, your email client, your web browser and the Windows search function. The power button is also located here as well as volume controls.
On the right side of the chassis you’ll find a DVD writer. Now although the DVD writer only has a DVD+RW logo on it, it is a dual format drive and will happily write to DVD-R/RW media as well. On the left there’s a single Type II PC Card slot, an SD Card slot, a CompactFlash slot, a four-pin FireWire port and two USB 2.0 ports. Finally at the rear you get an S-Video port, a D-SUB connector, a modem socket, an Ethernet port, headphone and mic connectors and the power socket. I have to say that I would have preferred to see the headphone and mic sockets at the front of the chassis for ease of access. If you want to connect the Voodoo without the use of wires, there’s also a built-in 802.11g WiFi adapter.
The AMD Athlon 64 3400+ is a very fast chip, although strangely, the performance results for the Envy M:860 weren’t as high as expected. The same situation was evident with the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo A1630 reviewed last week. The SYSmark 2002 score of 278 is actually slower than the last Voodoo notebook we had in the labs, and that model was only running an Athlon 64 3200+ CPU. That said, the PCMark scores are a lot higher on the Envy M:860 than on the previous Voodoo. The 3D tests were good, but not as good as the Rock Xtreme! tested last week. But there’s no doubt that this Voodoo makes a good mobile gaming station. I quite happily played Far Cry and Unreal Tournament 2004 on it for a while and as with the Rock, I soon forgot that I was playing on a notebook as I became engrossed in the game. Basically, playing any game at 1,024 x 768 will result in a decent enough frame rate for smooth play.