Last week, at the 2012 Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), I wanted to try something a little different. Sure, I set up some new laptops like the Envy Sleekbook 6 and the new, beefy Pavilion dv7, but I also trotted out a couple quality desktops already in-the-market that got their game faces on: The Pavilion HPE Phoenix and the TouchSmart 520. Then a couple people came up to me during the course of the show asking, “So….HP is making gaming PCs?” My answer: “EVERY HP computer is a gaming PC these days! Best of all: It doesn’t take a ton of money to get a good experience.”
I’m going to try a little experiment here. I’m going to give you the same rap that I gave to journalists…..and tell you guys some of the comments / questions that I got from them.
You’ve gotta use your imagination here. Theater of the mind. Pretend that you’ve got a drink and you’re walking around a bunch of tables where companies are showing their wares. Then, you come to the HP zone and I start chatting with you, drink in-hand.
THE PITCH Hey, how you doing? I’m Darren, nice to meet you!
[This is where you tell me your name]
So, what we’re showing off today are a bunch of computers that won’t break the bank, but actually deliver GREAT gaming experiences. You see, a couple years ago, a gaming computer meant you had to drop at least three grand. These days, that’s overkill. With a single good, discrete graphics card and the some of the latest CPUs under the hood, you’re getting a rock-solid experience. Here’s the way I see it: Not everyone can needs a Ferarri – and if you own one, how often do you really use it to its full potential? What matters is that you want a good car you’ll use often. Sometimes they are affordable and functional (like say, an Ultrabook), maybe they got a little more flash (how about a sleek lines and touch screen on your desktop?), but everyone wants to do the same thing – the ability to pull into the fast lane and go…y’know a little over 65. Of course, I’d NEVER condone that behavior.
So I configured two laptops – a tricked-out Pavilion dv7 (with a 3rd-gen Intel Core processor and Nvidia GT 650M GPU) and an ENVY Sleekbook 6 (that is, a 15.6-inch screen in a slim frame that only weighs four pounds yet can still make room for optional discrete AMD graphics). On screen, I set up the game DiRT 3 – at 1900 by 1080 resolution on the dv7 and 1366 by 768 resolution on the ENVY. In both cases, I set the graphics to “Medium” settings and both looked great, running at about 35 frames per second.
In racing games, you can see if something isn’t looking “quite right,” and for the duration of the entire event, people jumped on to race a couple laps. Every journalist on-hand was pretty impressed with what they saw, performance-wise. In fact, a people stuck around after I walked them through the laptops, grabbed the gamepad I provided and just kept playing. (I’m looking at you, Ian Wilson over at populationgo.com).Many people, including Wil O’Neal from TechRadar thought that it looked great – and considering that the dv7 starts at $799, it’s hard to ignore.
Next up, we have the HP TouchSmart 520 and on-screen we’re showing the game R.U.S.E. Now, if you’re not familiar with it, Ubisoft demoed the game at E3 a couple years ago being played on a giant $100,000 Surface table. It was REALLY cool! But who has that? BUT, if you try playing on a TouchSmart, it’s a whole other experience from using a keyboard and mouse. Sure, you’re used to playing on tablets these days, but when an awesome 23-inch screen is staring back at you as you play….well, you just gotta try it for yourself.
Here’s a video of what R.U.S.E. plays like on a TouchSmart…
Most people got sucked in on this demo because if they have played RUSE before, did it on a plain ol’ PC. In fact, many of the attending journalists that stopped by, never played with the TouchSmart before or thought to try playing touchscreen games on them. I know that guys like Justin Garcia over at RagingNerds.com, were pretty impressed with seeing me be able to jump in-and-out of combat on-the-fly and play the game just by using my fingers on-screen.
Last, but not least, we pulled out the HPE Pavilion Phoenix – out of all these systems I’m showing, it’s the only system that we advertise as a gaming rig. It also happens to be a great solution for mainstream gamers that get the need for the power, but don’t need to fiddle with too much. What’s impressive for this tiny case is that it packs a 600-watt power supply and, because we rotated the motherboard inside the case, Phoenix can support a large, single card. For these demos, we even packed in an Nvidia GTX 680 just to prove a point.
Many of the journalists that I chatted with *totally* got this part. One journalist in a crowd pointed out that you hit this point of diminishing returns. People bought ridiculously overpowered systems to play Battlefield 3 – but they are overkill. Every single person I talked to agreed that a good power supply makes a world of difference. My take: The Phoenix is targeted to be the kind of machine that you – the average gamer without a ton of money, but will want to upgrade graphics down the road – want.
All right, that’s my spiel.
Any questions about the demos…or what I demoed? Let’s hear it!