A powerful rig that is perfect for out-of-the-box gaming.
I spend a great deal of my time playing video games. Not just because it’s part of my job, but because I’ve been gaming for as far back as I can remember. To this effect, I have to confess that I’m a console gamer, simply because I don’t have a rig that’s powerful enough to run the latest games with all the bells and whistles. So my colleagues take it upon themselves to regularly poke fun at my dinky 11” laptop and how great their awesome custom-built machines are at playing games. Well, this week I had the last laugh as I unboxed the HP Phoenix HPE h9 PC, HP’s foray into the world of PC gaming.
Build Quality & Design
The HP Phoenix PC comes in a rather compact case, so sized up against some of the mammoth PCs setup in our office, it looks quite diminutive. However its smaller footprint means that it’s easier to hide under your desk or out of sight, although its sleek design ensures that this is one PC you might want to keep in the spotlight.
The Phoenix PC features red lighted accents around the case, as well as a transparent window on the side to showcase the PC’s internals, also illuminated with red lighting. The front of the machine features glossy black plastic, which melds well with the overall design, but somehow makes the PC look a little bit cheap. Plus it’s a great fingerprint and dust magnet over time. In terms of ports and connectivity, you’ll find USB ports and Beats-powered headphone jack at the top of the case, however these are strangely hidden from view and are set at a bit of an incline. The bottom part of the front panel slides down to reveal more USB ports as well as slots to read various memory card formats. At the back you’ll find more USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports as well as the standards such as audio, Ethernet, and video connectivity options depending on the cable being used. The Phoenix also surprisingly ships with built in Wi-Fi, which performed with little to no lag when setup a short distance from my router.
Overall the build quality is quite good, with the metal case being fairy easy to open via one thumbscrew at the rear of the case. Removing the side cover uncovers the unique setup that HP has opted for this PC. For one thing, the motherboard has been turned around so that the video card and expansion slots are near the middle of the case, while the processor sits towards the bottom. No, this wasn’t a design hiccup but the alternative arrangement means that air can flow more freely over the processor, which is essential in keeping this PC as cool as possible. Where the case does have a hiccup is with the metal bar that runs across the length of the inside – this makes it awkward to reach the motherboard or swap around components, so although this bar was made to reinforce the case, it just gets in the way of things at times.
Tucked away at the bottom of the case I was able to spot two hard drives – one SSD for the operating system, and a large XXXXrpm drive for programs and storage. This setup proves to be fairly effective as given the installation size of most PC games, you wouldn’t want your primary drive to be loaded down with gigabytes of game data.
HP bundles a very ordinary keyboard and mouse with this PC, which is a bit odd as you would think they’d like to include some sleek gamer kit instead. While the keyboard is average but usable, the bundled mouse is absolutely horrific and really cheap. Any serious gamer wouldn’t be caught dead using these peripherals, so make sure you have your swanky gamer hardware ready to plug in. Bundled software comes in the form of Norton Internet Security, Cyberlink Power DVD, as well as HP’s Magic Canvas software for touch-equipped monitors.
Since the HP Phoenix is meant to be a gaming PC my review unit came packed with a fair amount of power under the hood, but you can order one with different specifications if you need to.
Benchmarks & Gaming Performance
Of course the truth lies in how the Phoenix actually performs, and since it’s dubbed as a gaming PC we threw in our gaming benchmarks as well.
The tests speak for themselves – the HP Phoenix was able to get through most of our tests with ease, clocking up some decent numbers on each of them. The machine has a Windows Experience Index of 7.7, so it was a no-brainer as to how the results would turn out. For gaming benchmarks, we ran through a series of games and customized tests to see how frame rates would turn out as well as whether or not the Phoenix stayed cool, which is especially important for overpowering games.
One of the important factors to consider with PCs is cooling, and the HP Phoenix did a fairly decent job at keeping things cool and quiet. The fan hardly made any noise during the stress tests, and even the GPU fan was quiet most of the time. Even though this system isn’t water-cooled, temperatures stayed between 28C on idle to 49C during the tests.
The important conclusion to draw here is whether or not the HP Phoenix PC is a worthy competitor to a rig that’s been built from the ground up. The answer is in short, yes. While the price tag may be a bit high, for an out-of-the-box gaming rig this is the perfect deal, and coupled with full HP support it’s an easy purchase. HP might have just hit the mark with the HP Phoenix PC, and for anyone who isn’t keen on building their own rig and looking for some basic overclocking functions, this is the PC to get.