Conclusion: Carving Out a Niche

What I think HP has done with the Phoenix is to essentially produce a commodity gaming system. To a certain extent the HP Phoenix is comparable with gaming machines from boutiques, but the limited expandability and tight thermal and power constraints of the Phoenix suggest something more akin to Alienware's X51 than something meant to legitimately compete with custom builds.

That in mind, HP is also in a certain way serving a market that has heretofore gone underserved: people who want to buy a PC off the shelf that can play games--not just some games at lowered detail settings, but all recent releases at Full HD resolution. Remember that most desktops in retail cut the GPU corner first and hardest and then almost never have enough juice in the power supply to handle a halfway decent dedicated video card should the end user want to make that upgrade. With the Phoenix, a customer can order a basic $999 tower and not have to worry about being unable to play anything or having to do any serious configuring.

Our review configuration is probably the least sensible build a consumer could order from HP. The vastly less expensive i7-2600 base model is, at $1,149, the sweet spot, though the end user would be advised to pay the extra $69 for the GeForce GTX 550 Ti (at $229 the Radeon HD 6850 upgrade isn't worth it). We'd also recommend waiting for the HD 7950 upgrade to become available if you're serious about gaming, as that should deliver performance similar to our test unit.

The strengths of the Phoenix are also its weaknesses, though. As I mentioned before, the expandability is pretty severely limited due in part to the small chassis. This isn't the hardest enclosure to work in, but really it's meant to be what you need it to be the day it ships. HP doesn't prohibit overclocking, but the i7-2600K/2700K is absent from the configuration options, while the remaining unlocked options (AMD's FX series and the Sandy Bridge-E i7 hex-cores) are already producing about as much heat as the cooling system can handle without serious stress. You can replace the video card, and HP does rate the case as being able to handle up to 250W from there, but that's about as far as you're probably going to want to go. Real estate inside the chassis is at such a premium that multi-GPU configurations aren't an option, and there's very limited space for adding hard drives.

Ultimately the Phoenix is a fine choice for anyone who wants a gaming system but doesn't want to deal with any of the potential hassles. Major vendors like Dell and HP are known quantities to most consumers, and the HP Phoenix is a ready-to-ship big box gaming system for cheap (discounting the SNB-E builds). While more serious users are probably still going to want to buy from boutiques (assuming they're not rolling their own), there's definitely a market for what HP has produced.

Build, Heat, and Power Consumption
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  • Dr0id - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    And it needs to lose the tacky stickers on the very plasticky case. Reply
  • marc1000 - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    this computer looks a LOT like my "ancient" mid-tower HP desktop, that i bought some 4-5 years ago. reverse-mounted motherboard, fan at bottom-back (but this time it is a liquid-cooler and pushes air out), and tilted hard-drive cage with only 2 3.5" hdd slots (but this time it is 2 2.5 and 1 3.5).

    the main difference is that this one is a bit bigger and has better looks. I can't fit a GTX580 on my case, but I have a 2500k with a 5770 here and for a small case it does a pretty nice job of keeping things cool. I just put 2 fans as intake (9cm and 12cm) on bottom back/right panels and they push all hot air out. no out-take fans for me.

    in general, i really like this design.
    Reply
  • IceDread - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    I don't think I've ever seen an uglier computer. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    I did, but that was in the 90's. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    I'm not sure if we're looking at the same case.

    It looks like any <INSERT PC MANUFACTURER HERE> generic PC in the last ~7 years or something, after they settled on fat plastic bezels that are black, and cheap looking steel panels.

    I also think the spec is a bit ridiculous.

    "When we asked why the 7970 wasn't being offered, HP's representatives said it was an issue of maintaining a price point."

    Wait, what.. you think someone who buys a 6 core Sandy Bridge-E with 16GB RAM gives two shits about the price point?

    I'd rather have a 2600K with a healthy clock bump, 8GB RAM, and a 7970.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    Sorry, that said, 16GB RAM is actually dirt cheap these days, but I still think it's basically pointless in the life of the machine for the AVERAGE user. Reply
  • Golgatha - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    "When we asked why the 7970 wasn't being offered, HP's representatives said it was an issue of maintaining a price point."

    That confused me too. I get the part about only using a single GPU because of the form factor and power supply, but someone buying an Extreme edition socket 2011 CPU isn't exactly looking at bang-for-buck ratios.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    HD 7970 is brand new and commands a price premium. It probably means that HP couldn't get as large of a volume discount as they'd like. AMD is basically selling all of the 7970 cards they make right now for full price, so why should they sell 50K to HP at a discount when they could just continue selling them to end users for more money? Reply
  • Herp Derpson - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    All prebuild PCs have horrible CPU\GPU ratio. In games Core i5-2500 will give you same fps and money could be spend on additional GPU. Hell, even i3-2100 will be the same in almost all games. It's like builders have no idea that GPU is always bottleneck.
    And of course nvidia bias. There is absolutely no reason to buy 580 now.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    That was one sweet case, I wish they sold that as a standalone. Also the last Voodo Omen. The Firebird wasn't as appealing since it had a smaller upgrade path but it could have been interesting to some people. Sucks that HP shut all of that down after buying Voodo out. Reply

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