Exclusive Hands-On with Voodoo’s Firefly Concept Gaming Laptop
Lots of neat and ground-breaking laptops will be on display this coming week at CES, and Voodoo may just lead the pack. The world has never seen the HP branded Voodoo Firefly prototype, dubbed the “HP Firefly with Voodoo DNA,” a laptop that features a uniquely positioned multi-touch touchpad, dual displays, and enough gaming muscle to tear through Far Cry 2 without a flinch. But here at LAPTOP we had a chance to play around with the behemoth of a notebook before it goes before the public eye in Las Vegas. It’s one of the most innovative gaming notebooks we’ve ever fragged on. Voodoo provided us with an exclusive look at what is only a concept notebook. However, that doesn’t mean some of this machine’s innovations won’t wind up in other HP or Voodoo PCs. Design Calling this titan a Firefly is like naming a rabid pitbull “Cupcake.” After all, HP tells us it weighs 13 pounds including a massive pound power brick, and looks a lot like the laptop version of HP’s Blackbird desktop system with Voodoo DNA. With a 17-inch screen, it isn’t as large as the 20.1-inch HP HDX, but its not a system you would want to carry on your back (nor do we think you could even find a bag for it!) The Firefly’s keyboard features customizable backlighting, much like the keyboards on the Area-51 m15x and m17x from Alienware. It also has HP’s QuickPlay controls for playing, skipping, and pausing music or video. There are toggle switches for wireless and audio mute, as well as controls for volume, treble, and bass levels. The entire notebook has the light etching and imprint design found on HP’s dv series notebooks. Multi-touch Invasion Pulling some features from the Voodoo Envy, the Firefly has a multi-touch trackpad. The Firefly’s pad is uniquely positioned to the right of the keyboard (sorry lefties) where gamers would normally keep their mouse. With three fingers on the pad, your left finger can be used as a left click, and your right finger as a right one. Hypothetically, this should mean that you could play a first-person-shooter quite well without a mouse. In Far Cry 2, however, we noticed that it was actually pretty hard to accurately aim. Moving around was easy, though, and much more efficient than trying to do so with a regular trackpad.
Double Vision Underneath the large 17.1-inch 1920 x 1200 display is a second 4.3-inch LCD with 800 x 480 resolution, similar to the Fujitsu N7010′s which is found above the keyboard. This dwarf display acts as a second monitor at all times, so you can easily drag any window or application right onto it. We loved having the ability to check our Gmail during a frag match, or watch YouTube videos while working on the bigger display. The secondary screen’s resolution was a bit too high for us, though. Text looked too small and we found that we were squinting on Web sites while trying to type in new addresses.
Loaded with Gaming Muscle Under the hood of the 17.1-inch Firefly we found a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad Core CPU, 4GB of RAM, a pair of ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 GPUs running in CrossFire mode, and a 7,200 rpm 250GB hard drive. The Firefly spec sheet said the machine is capable of overclocking, but we didn’t touch the BIOS. We weren’t permitted to run any benchmarks on the Firefly, since it remains a concept machine, but we did run Far Cry 2. We cranked the graphics up to Very High with Direct X 10 enabled and then went around setting the tall grass on fire with a flamethrower. Even with all of the effects on full blast around us—trees blowing in the wind, fires raging, enemies shooting—the game ran silky smooth. The machine consumes 170W of power; that’s not bad for a desktop, but quite the power sucker for a notebook. We did notice that the Firefly slowed down a good deal when we tried to watch a YouTube video on the small screen while we were running Far Cry 2, but gameplay was fine when we substituted another video site, Ustream.tv, for YouTube. X-Fi in the House The Firefly doesn’t have a set of measly speakers or a budget soundcard. It packs in Creative’s X-Fi audio technology, which features Dolby sound and support for 5.1 surround sound speaker sets. Music sounded excellent out of the two tweeters underneath the display, and blasting grenades were loud and booming. See in the Dark The Firefly is the first notebook we’ve ever heard of with a night vision webcam. Theoretically it should let you make video chats in complete darkness with your gaming pals, since it switches to infrared mode in low or no-light conditions. However, the software wasn’t loaded on our machine. We’d love to see HP include this kind of feature in al types of notebooks so we can test it in the real world. Final Thoughts Though the Firefly will not come to market, we’re glad Voodoo is attempting to push the gaming notebook envelope. Features like a backlit keyboard and the ability to overclock the system have been done before, but this is one of the first notebook with a secondary display directly beneath the primary LCD, which could be used for all sorts of applications. Moreover, the multi-touch trackpad was a stellar idea, and its placement is ideal for gamers, assuming HP and Voodoo can figure out how to make it work better for first-person shooters. Sure, the Firefly is not the sleekest concept we’ve seen, but we’ll be excited to see how Voodoo and HP leverage and tweak its innovations going forward.