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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  • gdinero79 - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    The last-generation SSD seems like an odd choice for a system like this. Reply
  • spencerp - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    That sucks. I really like my Blackbird and was hoping to continue its lineage. Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    3G SSD?
    What were they thinking of

    No overclocking

    Limited GPU options

    No crossfire/SLI (not that I am a fan of either)

    What market is this aimed at?

    And how noisy is it
    Reply
  • dave1_nyc - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    There are cases that I don't personally find attractive, but I understand why others do, and I'm sure the same. And if one likes this case, then one likes this case, and that's one's right.

    But I've been looking at the photos for the last 10 minutes, trying to figure out how one could like this case, assuming of course that you would remove all the stickers. And I don't get it.

    This is too trivial to bother with, but I'd like to suggest a "who likes, who hates" survey - something that would help me suspend disbelief.
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    Very tactfully worded. Personally, I don't think many people would find this case more appealing than your average, cheap-looking $20 computer case. There are uglier cases, but this certainly isn't a looker. Reply
  • GuyIncognito_ - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    > This is too trivial to bother with, but I'd like to suggest a "who likes, who hates" survey -
    > something that would help me suspend disbelief.

    I vote <hate>.
    Reply
  • Blibbax - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    If anyone is thinking of buying one of these, please get in touch with me. I can match the performance and beat the looks with an OCd 2600K and a 7950 in a Casecom matx case, for a substantially lower price... Reply
  • bhima - Thursday, March 01, 2012 - link

    For those that don't build their own machines there are other options than this proprietary HP. Just did a quick google, found Ironside Computers and built up a HAF 922 with an i7-2600k, SSD, regular HDD, 8GB ram, AMD 7970, Corsair Enthusiast 650w for about $1,900.

    Of course I would personally never purchase bleeding tech like the 7970 because the cost isn't worth its performance, but hell... for $600 cheaper than that HP you have a system with parts that aren't proprietary and the best single GPU on the market.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, March 01, 2012 - link

    cases are too plastic and boring. not really bad looking exactly, but not so interesting either.
    i'd rather have an old grey 386 case with it's clean minimalist look.
    also, HP uses a bunch of proprietary SD card readers and they put an a$$ load of metal brackets and header patch cables inside, the end result being that the inside is extremely cluttered and it's difficult to work on.
    they are not upgrade friendly. :(
    Reply

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