The HP Voodoo Envy 133 is a slick and shiny new ultraportable laptop, with just enough features to legitimise it as a slick business box as well.

Like the Apple MacBook Air, the HP Voodoo Envy 133 sports enough interesting design choices for it to be a genuine attention-getter. Unfortunately, however, it also shares the Air's anaemic guts and, in the US at least, high price tag. We don't yet have UK pricing.

Whereas Apple's thin-and-light is slightly curvy and well-rounded, the HP Voodoo Envy 133 is boxy - yet with its glossy sheen, it's still sexy. This Voodoo laptop measures 323x229x20mm (closely matching the Air), and it weighs 1.6kg without its unique power brick, which we'll go into more detail about soon.

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What we need to address first, though, are the HP Voodoo Envy 133's less-than-speedy components.

For starters, the NV4040NA HP Voodoo Envy 133 we tested (a configuration that HP says is suitable for the road warrior) comes equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz CPU (SP7500), 2GB of RAM, and a poky 80GB hard drive that spins at 4,200rpm.

You probably won't be shocked to learn that the HP Voodoo Envy 133 didn't exactly sail through WorldBench 6. It received an overall score of 64, and it ran single-digit slideshows in Doom 3 (7 frames per second at 1024-by-768-pixel resolution). Nobody will mistake this Voodoo box for a game machine.

And while the HP Voodoo Envy 133 doesn't have the worst battery life, its results in our tests were far from the best: lasting 2 hours, 39 minutes, it ran a little longer than the Apple MacBook Air but fell way behind almost everything else we've seen. (By comparison, the sexy Samsung X360 hung on for 7 hours, 36 minutes.) On average, laptops we test can run approximately 4.5 hours.

HP Voodoo Envy 133

NEXT PAGE: innovative design choices

The HP Voodoo Envy 133 is a slick and shiny new ultraportable laptop, with just enough features to legitimise it as a slick business box as well.

HP Voodoo Envy 133: innovative design choices

So, with those performance knocks against the HP Voodoo Envy 133, why would anyone in their right mind consider dropping roughly £1,070 for it? Let's take a look at some aspects of its design.

The HP Voodoo Envy 133 is an ultraportable that incorporates a number of genuinely unique ideas - stuff that we'd never seen before - and we applaud a few of them.

The slim, sealed case doesn't allow much room, so don't try looking for a lot of inputs. The HP Voodoo Envy 133 has one headphone jack and one USB port, and it makes a couple of nods to the high end with an HDMI-out and a shared eSATA/USB port. One interesting choice: the slot-loading external optical drive that sells with this unit plugs in with an eSATA cable.

No ethernet port on this machine? No worries. In a first-of-its-kind move, the HP Voodoo Envy 133 parks the ethernet jack in the power brick. Okay, technically it's a wireless access point built into the brick, but it works. And it makes a ton of sense. Leave the power supply at your desk, and it serves as a miniature docking station, providing both power and network access to the Envy.

We also love the HDMI-to-VGA connector that accompanied our review unit. It could've been a simple dongle, but it's a whole lot more. Once you plug the HDMI converter in, it instantly optimises the image for the VGA output and adjusts the HP Voodoo Envy 133's settings appropriately for giving a presentation. No extra buttons to press!

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We will say one thing for the HP Voodoo Envy 133: the lid is secure. The hinges stand firm, and the thick protective bezel encasing the screen isn't too distracting.

The glossy lid is smooth to the touch; and upon opening, it reveals a decent 13.3in screen. (That's the 133 in its name, get it?) In your standard-issue office - or most indoor locations, for that matter - the HP Voodoo Envy 133's screen is crisp and easily viewable, thanks to its 1280-by-800-pixel native resolution.

Since the screen is glossy, however, outdoors you must factor in sunlight, which makes the HP Voodoo Envy 133's display a little harder to see. You know the drill by now. We think Samsung did better with the sharp screens on its Samsung X360 and Samsung X460, which are viewable anywhere you set up shop.

NEXT PAGE: slight imperfections

The HP Voodoo Envy 133 is a slick and shiny new ultraportable laptop, with just enough features to legitimise it as a slick business box as well.

HP Voodoo Envy 133: slight imperfections

At first, we weren't quite sure how we'd feel about the HP Voodoo Envy 133's keyboard. It doesn't have any multimedia shortcuts (instead, they're all tasked to function-button combinations). It also sandwiches the power and Wi-Fi buttons into a corner, flanking the Delete key. To be honest, we were expecting to make many typos - and thinking we might turn off the laptop accidentally more than once. Using it actually wasn't bad, though. For one thing, you need to hold down the power button for a couple seconds before it will do anything.

The key spacing and key travel felt substantial and of high quality, enough that we could comfortably type this review without stumbling over the keys.

We wish we were as keen on the touchpad, which sits below the keys in the wrist rest. Or, at least, we think that's where it is. You see, in an effort to be supercool, the HP Voodoo Envy 133 has just a large area with divots that denotes the active mousing space. A tiny sliver of a plastic bar serves as your left and right mouse click, all in one. And we hate it.

We get how the touchpad stylistically matches the two speaker vents on either side of the keyboard. It just doesn't give me enough of a sensation that we're in a different area than the wrist rest. While we were typing, a stray finger or wrist more than once grazed the pad, and we unintentionally highlighted text or moved the mouse pointer. And, more often than not, we'd trigger one of the multitouch functions. The HP Voodoo Envy 133's designers need to do a better job of indicating the boundaries separating the keyboard, wrist rest, and touchpad.

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Another problem with the HP Voodoo Envy 133's mousing surface that's easily spotted: fingerprints. You'd think it was a smudgy, greasy crime scene. The shiny plastics that make this thing look so sweet end up attracting fingerprints instantly. And God help you if you're trying to eat Cheesie Wotsits while using the Envy 133. Oh, yeah, the case gets hot, too. While the end result isn't skin-scorching, the two side vents don't expel enough heat, so if you rest your wrists on the machine long enough, you'll notice it. we did.

The HP Voodoo Envy 133 speakers' sound quality is a pleasant surprise. You get some surprisingly clear and crisp audio from this ultraportable. Of course, you won't hear much in the way of bass out of the two tiny side-mounted speakers (there's no subwoofer to be found), but the sound is certainly good enough if you want to watch videos or play a few tunes while working.

The included software isn't as much of a big deal as is the Linux shell wrapped around Windows, dubbed Voodoo IOS. Upon starting up the HP Voodoo Envy 133, pressing Function-F2 lets you opt to do a couple other things before booting into Windows. These shortcuts allow you to use your laptop for web browsing, photo viewing, MP3 playback, IM chats (with support for everything from AIM to Yahoo Messenger), and Skype. It's a nice added feature - one that just so happens to work in the same manner that Asus's Express Gate software does.

HP Voodoo Envy 133: Specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz CPU (SP7500)
  • Windows Vista Business
  • 2GB RAM
  • 80GB, 4,200rpm hard drive
  • 13.3in screen
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 2.0 (x1), HDMI-out, eSATA/USB port
  • 323x229x20mm
  • 1.6kg
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz CPU (SP7500)
  • Windows Vista Business
  • 2GB RAM
  • 80GB, 4,200rpm hard drive
  • 13.3in screen
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 2.0 (x1), HDMI-out, eSATA/USB port
  • 323x229x20mm
  • 1.6kg

OUR VERDICT

In price, performance, and specs, it's more than fair to compare the HP Voodoo Envy 133 with the MacBook Air and Samsung's X360. All have their share of design pros and cons. However, a number of less sexy but more functional laptops have fared well in our tests, and cost less.

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