When I first talked about the HP Pavilion HPE Phoenix, I don’t think there’s any question about who is being targeted: Someone that likes games and can appreciate power…..but doesn’t want to dig inside their PC all that often. In short, the Phoenix is built for a more mainstream crowd that is cool with a single-GPU system. You know, because maybe they are OK with playing games at 1920 by 1080 resolutions….
I took the HPE Phoenix for a couple quick tests and it performed pretty well. However, a couple questions kept popping up both in my head and in the forums: How tough is this thing to upgrade? How far can you really take the Phoenix? Why would I need to upgrade the graphics in this machine? Can my giant-sausage fingers fit inside this tight case? All fair questions…..that I'm about to answer with a quick video....
Q: How tough is this thing to upgrade?
In previous stories I've noted that there's this big crossbar that sits in front of the graphics card - it is there primarily to keep the card secure when it's in transit (whether it’s getting from the factory to your house or if you're lugging this to a LAN party). In order to do the card swap, it really wasn't too big a chore.
Undo the two screws keeping the retaining bar in place.
Remove the exterior plate that keeps the cards in place (another two screws).
Unplug power to whatever card you have in there.
Unseat the old card. (This is the only part that may take a second or two because you've got cramped quarters in a tiny PC and the cabling comes over the graphics card. Once you get past that, it's a breeze)
Plug in the new one.
All said and done, maybe two minutes of your time. If you don’t take a drink break. Like I did.
You know what? How about I just show you how it’s done, then you’ll see I’m not blowing smoke.
Q: How far can you really take the Phoenix?
Well, unlike competing small form-factor PCs I’ve seen lately, this guy has a 600 Watt power supply. That means it has ample horsepower to run your PC fast…and still handle a solid Graphics board. While the Phoenix’s case is a restructured HPE, it remains small and manages to squeeze in all the pieces you need. Recently I’ve been running tests and I’ve had no problem swapping in and out cards – like AMD’s Radeon HD 7950 and NVIDIA’s GTX 580. (As I just demoed in the video).
If you want, you can expand the RAM up to 16GB and there’s enough room to strap in 3 storage drives if you need to the room.
Q: Why would I need to upgrade the graphics in this machine? Hey I get it, not everybody plays games. If you’re not a gamer, your gut is probably telling you that you won’t need to upgrade the graphics. It’s true that you might not need it right this minute – gaming is constantly evolving and demanding more – but plenty of other demanding programs exist and Windows 8 is just around the corner with an even frostier interface that looks gorgeous. This is what can help speed along compressing / encoding video and the newest revs of Adobe’s creative suites are full of hooks into GPU-based processing, for example. Just throwing it out there
In short, upgrading graphics (and RAM) is just a smart way to prolong the PC you bought.
And if you really want to get more out of the graphics card you already have, I highly recommend you check out these common sense graphics card tips I laid out a little while back: Know Your Graphic Limits.
Q: Can my giant-sausage fingers fit inside this tight case?