It’s only been a couple months. But I’m back with another HP computer to temp your inner techie. This time HP sets its sights on the finicky and demanding gamer market with its HP Pavilion HPE Phoenix H9 gaming computer. If this isn’t quite your speed, take a look at our HP Omni 27 All-in-One PC review. It’s a nice looking computer with some meaty specs, such as a Intel Core i7-3770k quad-core processor and an AMD 7950 3GB video card.  But is it the lazy gamer’s dream box? Let’s find out!

HP describes the HPE Phoenix H9 as an affordable gaming desktop for those who don’t want to muck around with the minutia of self-building. In truth, as a system builder, I can attest, the actual “building” is my least favorite part of owning my own custom PC. So I applaud HP for targeting the ambitious and hungry slacker in us all.


The hardware hovers evenly in the moderate range. Again the processor is a speedy Intel i7-3770 quad-core clocked at 3.5ghz. The hard drive is a 2TB, 7200 rpm Hitachi HDD, making it modest in both storage capacity and speed. SSD HP?! There is a burly 12GB of system memory and a recognized performance GPU in the AMD Radeon 7950 video card.

The HP Pavilion HPE h9 Phoenix is also water cooled right out of the box. HP uses an all-in-one water cooling solution for the CPU only. It’s a great solution for the hands-off user. They can enjoy a quiet chilly PC without having to wrestle with algae, potential leakage and other maintenance that accompanies custom liquid cooling setups. The all-in-one solution really does keep the systems quiet as a church mouse. HP was also smart not to water cool the video card. This would have caused unneeded hassle for their target demographic and forced them to hike up the cost.  A GPU on air makes for easy upgrades and device “swappage.”

The case around it all, is nice looking with a windowed side panel, so you can appreciate the red LED glow within. But it’s not really eye-catching or innovative. It’s nothing like that original Blackbird gaming PC case HP launched a few years back. That thing was a runway showstopper. This chassis gets the job done and that’s it. I advise keeping your hands-on maintenance to a minimum. If you don’t, you’ll  be cursing HP’s name  each time you attempt to work within the case’s cramped space. This is not a builder’s delight in any way. The space works for what’s in there. But try swapping parts without drawing blood. It’s just too cramped in there. Again, though, this is a PC made for a gamer who wants to game and not play GeekSquad. All that said, HP does offer a bit of upgradeability in the memory (4DIMM slots avail) and two extra hard drive bays.

There are a few design pluses to this case despite the internal workspace restrictions. The red, black and chrome motif is again, nice looking if not stunning. But the top of the case features a type of concave reservoir behind the 2x USB 3.0 slots and audio/mic ports. Here you can easily store an external USB drive, iPod/iPhone or MP3 player. It’s smart and keeps the clutter around your computer down to a minimum.


Extra room is a blessing to any gamer and our army of desk-dwelling toys (game pads, world maps, various mice…etc.) It’s nice to have that space to get comfortable when time to sit down for a game of Battlefield 3, Skyrim or some good old Free-2-Play Tribes Ascend. I ran my these play tests at 1080p as this is the standard (sadly. 4k where are you?!).

As you see, Phoenix can game adequately, but it was still challenged a good deal by all our 1080p tests. The cool thing here. You could easily buy a better video card, either a GTX 680 or AMD equivalent and significantly kick up your gaming performance. The problem with that idea is cost. A GTX 680 would run you an additional $500, in which case you may want to go for a lower end HP Pavilion HPE configuration, with a underperforming video card. This would give you the headsroom to financially weather a significant video card purchase.


HP is definitely targeting a 1080p resolution with this peformance spec. It’s where the system shines. Here’s the run down at 1080p with 4x anti-aliasing: Batman Arkham City averaged 77fps, Tribes Ascend averaged 62fps, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim averaged 67.3 and Battlefield averaged 43.9. This is exactly where non-enthusiast system should set up camp. If you don’t want to build, chance are you don’t want to fight to get 60 frames per sec, minimum. This is golden sweet spot for gaming and the Phoenix H9 achieve this nicely in most at 1080p. Still that price…


I think this new line of Pavilions is a winner, just not at this configuration. There is a lot to like here for the casual-to-hardcore gamers who cringes at custom building their own PC. You get a solid gaming performer in most games at 1080p. There are plenty ports and connectivity options. The system is literally whisper-quiet while you work. Plus work itself is efficient with the zippy quad-core processor. You can’t expect bleeding edge performance with the choice of components. But I do expect a bit more savings.

So with that said, I would like to see some changes in one shape or another. The mouse and keyboard is wholly forgettable and will certainly be immediately swapped out for more tried and true solutions. At this point in HP’s career I’m surprised they don’ have custom designs and a line of gamer peripherals at the ready. Hit me with a real gaming worthy mouse and keyboard. Include some strong performing headphones and mic. Get creative with the case designs again. (Again, remember the blackbird!) While there is room to grow and expand, it’s not a great deal. There is no SLI support so forget multiple GPU setups. Finally a solid state for the system drive would go a long way to improve performance and speed even further.

At this configuration, it plays things too safe for the cost of entry. It lacks innovation. My best recommendation is to aim for the lower end Pavilion and upgrade accordingly. But if that is still more work than you hope to take on and you have the disposable cash, the HP Pavilion HPE h9 Phoenix will easily help you get your game on quite efficiently!

Editor Rating:

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Very Good

Bottom Line: If you’re not an aspiring PC builder setting out to construct a bleeding edge “god box”, or you’re looking for a plug and play gaming box that won’t laugh at your bank account, then the HP Pavilion HPE H9 Phoenix gaming PC is a mildly overpriced gaming box that does what it says and stays silent while doing it.


  • Speed Intel Intel i7 3770 Quad Core CPU
  • Insanely quiet
  • Water cooled CPU (closed loop AIO)
  • 1080p gaming is GO!


  • Pricey
  • Limited expansion

You can buy the Buy the HP Pavilion HPE H9 Phoenix PC at Amazon. Configured spec – $1768

Shawn Sanders

Shawn has been writing about computer tech for longer than he cares to remember. He covers a wide variety of subject matter ranging from computer and laptop review to headphone and gaming headset reviews.

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  2. For the most part, I think Shawn was spot on with his review. He
    described me to a tee. I want to game now and then, and I kind of like
    higher-end components (like the i7 3770), but I don’t want to build
    anymore (I used to build my own rigs, before a wife, marriage, kids,
    dog, etc..). Now I want to buy a rig, already built and ready to go,
    and I want to be able to play BF3 at 1080p, and have decent frame rates.

    I did a lot of research and shopped around with the other boutique
    vendors (AVA Direct, Digital Storm, Velocity Micro, etc…), and a
    similar build would always come to $2500-$3500.

    With an on-line 25% off coupon from HP- I got my HPE Phoenix for $1100. And I addressed Shawn’s main complaint. I added a 160GB SSD. This baby boots in a matter of seconds from pressing the power button. And it is a FAST

    My original config is the i7 3770, a 160GB boot drive, a 1TB HDD, a GTX 550 Ti graphics card, and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. It came to $1129, with free shipping. I purposely went with the lowest end and cheapest graphics card they had to offer, because I already had a 2GB version of an XFX Radeon HD 6950 setting in a box not being used. The first thing I did was switch out the 550Ti for the 6950. Then I found out the HP motherboard is a special proprietary Z75 board which runs
    DDR3 RAM at two default speeds, 1333MHZ, and/or 1600MHz. Since RAM is
    so cheap, I bought 16GB (4x4GB sticks) of Crucial Ballistix 1600MHz RAM
    from Newegg for $80. I had a $25 off coupon with them, so I got it for
    $55 with free shipping!!!!! Since the Z75 mobo has 1600MHz as a default
    speed, I didn’t have to do a single thing other than plug the sticks
    in! When I plugged them in, the system recognized them as 1600MHz RAM
    with no adjustments.

    So for $1185 bucks, I got a screaming fast rig with a i7 3770, 16GB of DDR3 1600MHZ RAM, a overclocked “XXX” version of a Radeon HD 6950 graphics card, and a fast as lightning SSD to boot from (and with still enough room to hold BF3 and a few other games as well). This is a nice and cool looking rig.

    I have never has a HP pre-built before, but I can say I am very happy overall
    with this rig. I’ve had it for two months now and have not had any
    problems. And yes the liquid cooling is great and quiet as a mouse. I
    average about 28-30C idle, and hit upper 40’s to 50C at full load. No
    problem there for Ivy Bridge. I get right at 50-60FPS on BF3 with all
    settings maxed. I mean ALL settings, everything turned to the highest
    (Ultra) and Ambient Occlusion turned on. I can turn a few things down a
    little and easily get 70+ FPS.

    I did add a Razer Deathadder mouse, but the HP keyboard doesn’t bother me. And I am using a 22″ LG 1080p monitor/HDTV that was in our kitchen (it was actually a computer monitor that has a TV tuner, and we have been using it as a TV until I took it for this rig). I bought my wife a new smaller HDTV for the
    kitchen (its what she wanted) and this LG monitor looks freaking
    amazing. It’s connected using a DVI-D connector.

    Plus I have a two-year warranty from HP. There is something to be said about that as well. There certainly are better systems out there, and I know I
    cheated a little by already having a $300 graphics card…but its not
    too bad of a gaming rig. Not too bad at all.

    1. You are a smart man. That is exactly how I hope most users proceed when evaluating this new line from HP. It’s really great. But you need to be keen and not blow your load on the high end. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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