Thursday, March 21, 2013

HP Envy Phoenix h9-1420t review: Gaming power in a subtle form

PCWorld - By gaming standards, the HP Envy Phoenix h9-1420t's appearance is positively subdued. This midsize tower PC has some red backlighting and a clear pane so that you can gaze at the liquid cooling unit, but aside from that it could easily pass for a conventional HP desktop. Although it doesn't have much in the way of bling, the Phoenix delivers better-than-average performance at a cheaper-than-boutique price. Down-the-road upgrade options, on the other hand, are limited by its decidedly nonenthusiast motherboard.

Components and performance

Our $1840 h9-1420t test configuration sported an unlocked 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-3770K processor. Thanks to the liquid cooling unit, the system had no problem maintaining 4GHz, and it likely has at least a little more headroom. The Pegatron (that’s Asus’s OEM arm) 2AD5 motherboard offers minimal overclocking controls in its BIOS, but it isn't completely locked down. You can set each core's maximum frequency multiplier separately, but you get no provisions for tweaking the operating voltage, for instance. The board also has just a single full-size PCIe slot, so you can forget any dual-card graphics upgrade via SLI or CrossFire.

Fortunately, HP picked a strong graphics card, inserting an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. With that card in place, the Phoenix managed a playable frame rate in Dirt Showdown right up to the 2560 by 1600 resolution of our 30-inch test display. The game wasn’t as silky smooth at that resolution as it was at lower ones, but it was certainly playable. Should you decide to buy an h9-1420t online, HP allows you to customize the configuration to a degree, but your options don’t include Nvidia’s best GPU, the GeForce GTX 690.