Outside of management of these heat/power/noise tradeoffs, Dell and HP again evidence sharp design philosophy differences. The XPS 720 H2C intentionally incorporates several non-configurable components, including a proprietary Dell BTX motherboard, nVidia SLI graphics cards (rather than ATI’s Crossfire), a Blu-Ray drive (rather than HD DVD) and an Intel (rather than AMD) CPU. In contrast, the HP Blackbird 002 is much more flexible and totally configurable using industry standard components and a motherboard with an open BIOS. In reflecting on these machine-specific design differences, Dell might be focusing on eking out the best price/performance ratio, as proprietary components and special arrangements with parts suppliers can lower production costs, whereas HP seems to be placing more emphasis on innovations in engineering, customizability and differences in customer needs.
Sood says, “There are many features in the Blackbird you won’t find in other PCs, like the tool-less entry, removable tool-free cards and the ability to swap a hard drive in 10 seconds.” The Dell philosophy better suits gamers who lack technical expertise or don’t want to spend as much time evaluating components, while the HP philosophy better suits gamers who are extremely particular, want to control every choice involved in their rig, and would like to upgrade the moment new technologies emerge.
FUTURE IMPLICATIONS FOR GAMING PRODUCERS AND CONSUMERS
Given the mainstreaming of boutique gaming computers, one might wonder how game developers and publishers will be affected in the coming months, and how customers’ expectations will change about the games they play. One possible fear about developers and publishers is an increase in minimum system requirements for PC games that could cause players on a tight budget to be excluded from enjoying demanding titles such as first-person shooters. A potential concern about customer expectations is that an insatiable demand for premium games that fully utilize their high-quality hardware could lead to dissatisfaction with solid titles that don’t make the most of their rigs. Both Dell and HP predictably discount these concerns and see a rosy outlook:
“We don’t think high-end systems will ever push people out of PC gaming. Keep in mind that while the introduction of new technology often carries a price premium, within six to 12 months, the price of that same technology generally will have dropped due to the growing volume of unit sales. The availability of high-end gaming systems frankly encourages some publishers and developers to create games that use every measure of power and technology that has been placed in those systems — like multi-core processors to handle multithreaded applications and SLI technology to join GPUs to support gameplay at higher resolutions on bigger screens. It also stretches the imaginations of developers in that they can design on these systems as well, creating experiences that perhaps they couldn’t create for the gamer a year earlier. With gamers demanding great games to play on their great hardware, developers will create games with richer features, ultimately forcing PC makers to create more powerful machines that will be purchased by gamers who will demand better games to play” (Kittleson).