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Hardcore gamers get a chance to go greener, cut energy bills

Blaine Kyllo
For bchydro.com

Rahul Sood loves cars. He's got a thing for high-performance machines like Porsches and Ferraris and he drives a limited edition Ford GT, which reminds him of the old-school American cars.

Rahul likes his computers that way, too. Fast and furious. Tuned and overclocked so they perform better than expected. That philosophy goes into every computer manufactured by VoodooPC, the company Rahul founded in 1991.

Since then, the Voodoo brand is synonymous with high-end PC computers. Voodoo, Alienware and Falcon Northwest have been among the computers used by the kind of hardcore gamers that make a living playing video games.

Rahul sold VoodooPC to technology giant Hewlett Packard in 2006 and became chief technology officer of HP's gaming division. He spends his time thinking about designing awesome computer systems.

The first HP computer with VoodooDNA was the Blackbird 002. Released in 2008 it was a massive, powerful system that blew everyone away with its speed and graphical performance. Quite simply it was the coolest computer ever made.

But it was the size of a small house and required more electricity than the Paris Metro.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but the problem with a computer system like the Blackbird is that the majority of people never need – or use – the machine to its full capacity. It's like owning a Ferrari and only ever using it to drive to the grocery store.

From cars to cycles

As much as Rahul likes cars, he's also an avid cyclist. He took it up a few years ago, and it has become one of his favourite activities.

He's cycled stages of the Tour de France and ridden in the Swiss Alps, but his favourite route is the Banff-Lake Louise Parkway through the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Cycling is not only a way for Rahul to stay fit and healthy, but it's a chance for him to "think about new ideas, dream up new concepts."

He's written that "the road bike is the most efficient machine on Earth" and he's now bringing that philosophy into the world of high-performance computers.

Earlier this year at CES, the annual electronics trade show held in Las Vegas, HP unveiled the Firebird, a high-performance machine that is small, quiet and, most importantly, energy efficient.

"We took the gas-guzzling SUV and converted it into an energy efficient super car," said Rahul on the phone from Calgary.

"There used to be a day when people would go out and buy two or three of the most ridiculous video cards to put in their machine," he explained, "and that's starting to change. People are looking for more efficient ways to compute.

"They still want to be able to play games at high resolutions and enjoy them with all the details, but they don't want to have to have a power generator running their house in order to do so."

The HP Firebird uses less than a quarter of the electricity required by the Blackbird 002 (in a review, CNET suggested that "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").

The Firebird is configured with an Intel Core 2 Quad processor, an Nvidia Hybrid SLI graphics card, and two hard drives (250 gigabyte or 320 gigabyte). On his blog, Rahul wrote, "It's beautiful to look at, a dream to use, and I'm not kidding about the sound – it is QUIET."

Rahul asks why anyone would spend lots of money on a "loud, monster, powerholic, inefficient performance PC"?

Now that the HP Firebird is available, even hardcore gamers don't have to.

Blaine Kyllo is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and regular contributor to bchydro.com's youth section feature Static Discharge.