Can speed conquer all?
Recent research suggests that, despite massive media coverage at presumably massive expense, consumers are shying away from lithe, toned Centrino-style laptops. Intel have pushed and pushed their brand and, let's face it, the adverts make a decent case for computing on the move with wireless networking at the forefront of their focus. But that's only half the incentive to purchase. Centrino-style laptops are (more often than not) skinny, light and hugely portable, packing power into a pick up and go punch.
The thing is, consumers don't seem to give a monkeys. Sticking two fingers up at marketing and Intel's herding of consumers towards their new branded cash cow (now that Pentium 4 is slowly morphing into something else), consumers are ignoring the ability to carry a laptop under their arm without needing reconstructive shoulder surgery, instead saving a fat wodge of cash and picking up larger laptops that haven't been guzzling Silicon Slimfast.
Money again drives a market; consumers won't pay the money required for Centrino-like hardware. Tiny little laptops that run light, quiet and pack power into their diminuitive dimensions, simply aren't cheap. So the bigger laptops sell. And they sell well.
So skinny and lithe aren't considerations when forming your shopping list. You're leaning towards something with a bit of punch, something rivalling a desktop replacement perhaps. And then your mind wanders to the true powerhouses of the laptop world. Using proper desktop processors and the fastest mobile graphics solutions, vendors like Voodoo PC and Alienware laugh in the face of portability, battery life and heat, creating some truly monster 'portable' computers with masses of potential computing power. Alienware's range topping 'mobile' computer features Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors and swappable graphics cards for god's sake.
But Voodoo and Alienware aren't the only vendors of high performance mobile computing. Dell do a nice range of P4-based powerhouses, HP will do you some decent AMD-based hardware and traditional UK vendors like Time are also getting in on the act. It's Time, a UK vendor that's got its act together in recent times, one who's hardware we've covered before and found to be worth a look, that's given us their own take on the market for today's review.
Their own Athlon 64 Model 3200+ and Mobility Radeon 9600 laptop is surprisingly similar to the Voodoo PC m:855, and for good reason; they're the same model. Voodoo add a lovely lick of paint, but that's pretty much as far as the difference goes. Time and Voodoo (and others) buy the shell from a Taiwanese manufacturer, brand the lid and a couple of other chassis details, come up with their own documentation and voila, they have their own high performance mobile computer. So while Voodoo have a reputation for being 'leaders in the field', it's more down to quick fire press releases than any apparent innovation. You can get your mobile HPC fix from a variety of vendors, Time and Voodoo PC being just two from a wide range.
And so it's the Time variant I get to look at today - Tarinder gets the Voodoo PC - and you readers get our respective takes on their respective approaches. He's a long time laptop user, I'm a veritable laptop newcomer. It should make for some interesting reading.
Onwards to the base spec.