Hewlett-Packard’s Firebird looks like any high-powered desktop computer. But it whispers at less than 30 decibels, while rivals are twice as loud. It gets its muscle from a high-power desktop CPU with four processors, but laptop-style components, including three graphics cards and a pair of hard drives, keep the Firebird cool, quiet and efficient.
1. Video on Demand
A graphics chip on the motherboard handles e-mail and Web pages. For 3-D gaming or Photoshop, turn on a pair of Nvidia GeForce 9800S cards. Built with chips that come from the factory with a thinner layer of metal-oxide conductor, the cards deliver about the same performance as standard models but use half the power.
2. Cool Drink
A water-alcohol blend runs through tubes that pass over the main processor and video cards. This absorbs heat better than blowing air around with noisy fans.
3. Center of Power
Laptop CPUs still can’t compete with desktop processors, so HP uses a chip for full-size models. The Intel Core2 Q9400 contains four processors, each running at 2.7 gigahertz, effectively providing the power of two standard PCs.
4. Less Juice
Moving the power supply [not shown] outside the PC helps make the system two thirds smaller than its predecessor and allows the surrounding air—instead of fans—to cool it. Thanks to all the laptop parts, the supply draws 350 watts, versus 750 to 1,200 in other desktop gaming PCs.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.