HP FireBird (VoodooDNA 803) review: HP FireBird (VoodooDNA 803)

We haven't reviewed a gaming PC right at $2,099 lately, so we've opted to compare the Firebird directly against the most recent one we've covered, Dell's XPS 625. Given the $600 price difference, we obviously expect more from the Firebird, and it delivers in features and in performance, as you'll see below. The key thing to point out is that there's very little in the Firebird 803 that we'd want to change out of the box. Even though it's small, it's not really a living-room PC, so you may not have any interest in the Firebird's wireless networking or Blu-ray capabilities. The $1,799 Firebird 802 lacks those extras, but it also has a slower quad-core CPU and smaller hard drives.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Predator
93 
Dell XPS 625
102 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Predator
125 
Dell XPS 625
140 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Predator
472 
Dell XPS 625
476 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Velocity Micro Edge Z55
17,055 
4,265 
Maingear X-Cube
14,791 
3,969 
HP Firebird 803
12,521 
3,461 
Dell XPS 625
12,449 
3,387 
Acer Aspire Predator
12,255 
3,479 

As you can see from our performance charts, the Firebird 803 is a completely capable desktop. It sits exactly where it should compared to other PCs in its price class, outperforming the less expensive Dell, and falling behind the Acer, Maingear, and Velocity Micro systems that all cost more. The multitasking test puts the Firebird behind its competition most dramatically, but considering that those systems are aggressively overclocked, the Firebird 803 has nothing to apologize for. We were afraid the 5,400rpm laptop hard drives might adversely affect its performance, but instead this system will handle every mainstream application you throw at it.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Maingear X-Cube
237 
267 
HP Firebird 803
128 
185 
Dell XPS 625
97 
146 
Acer Aspire Predator
96 
143 

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Maingear X-Cube
40 
44 
Dell XPS 625
24 
48 
Acer Aspire Predator
18 
37 
HP Firebird 803
17 
21 

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Maingear X-Cube
69 
77 
HP Firebird 803
35 
43 
Dell XPS 625
24 
48 

Our gaming tests do a better job of showing the Firebird's limitations. On even our high-resolution Unreal Tournament 3 test, the Firebird scored well above 100 frames per second. This indicates that for most current and near-future generation gaming titles, you should expect playable performance with decent image quality. For more demanding games, particularly more recent first-person shooters, you may have to compromise on the image quality, especially at high resolutions. We're not surprised this system had difficulty on our Crysis benchmark, and the Far Cry 2 test is probably more indicative of higher-end titles, even if it is more forgiving. On that game you can see that the Firebird came in right under 50 frames per second on our 1,440x900 test, so if you have a 19-inch LCD or smaller, you're in luck. Go up to a 24-inch display at 1,920x1,200 and things get choppier. Dropping the anti-aliasing, the overall image quality, or both, will usually improve the situation, but we'd expect better gameplay in general at lower resolutions.

Power consumption
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Load  
Idle  
HP Firebird 803
155 
84 
Dell XPS 625
284 
130 
Maingear X-Cube
512 
310 

Hard-core PC gamers will likely scoff at the idea of sacrificing frame rates for power efficiency, but given the general capabilities of the Firebird 803, its power consumption compared with other gaming PCs in its price class is nothing short of amazing. Whether the system is powered on but idle, or struggling to get through our Crysis benchmark, its power consumption was almost half that of the Dell XPS 625, and more than three times less than Maingear's most recent X-Cube desktop (the Velocity Micro and Acer systems both went back to their respective vendors before we could test them). If you swap this system in for a traditional upper-mainstream gaming rig, we expect you'd see a noticeable drop in your annual electric bill. And as added bonus, in addition to its great power efficiency, the Firebird is also whisper quiet.


The laptop-size hard drives play a role in the Firebird's outstanding power efficiency.

We went over the internal expansion limitations earlier, but you actually get a minor reprieve in that regard by way of an Express Card slot on the back of the Firebird. Again relying on laptop standards, by providing an Express Card slot, HP opens the door to adding a TV tuner, a sound card, or other extras not included in the system's core configuration. For the ports next to the card slot, highlights include an HDMI out, two eSATA ports, an optical S/PDIF output, and six USB 2.0 jacks. Of some concern is the single stereo audio output. If you have digital speakers, a digital receiver, or you intend to run the audio out from the HDMI port, you're fine for surround sound, but analog 5.1 or 7.1 speaker owners are out of

What you'll pay

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    Where to Buy

    HP FireBird (VoodooDNA 803)

    Part Number: GM339AA#ABA

    As shown: $2,099

    Check manufacturer's site for availability