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First computer in a trunk I've seen
For hardcore computer gamers, there is no such thing as too much power when it comes to their personal computer; there is only the question: How much can I afford? The Blackbird 002 DE LCi is definitely in the “money is no object” category. Sporting dual ATI Radeon X2900 XT video cards, each with 512MB of GDDR4 SDRAM, an Intel Core2 Extreme Quad-Core 3.0GHz QX6850 CPU, 2GB 1066MHz Corsair PC2-8500 SDRAM, three hard drives in a RAID array, and liquid cooling for the video cards and the CPU, this PC is a gamer’s dream machine. And at about $6200, for many gamers, it will remain only a dream. HP loaned us a Blackbird 002 to review, and we just had to take a look inside.
The Blackbird arrived in a solid trunk — I never expected that. I guess FedEx and UPS could not be trusted.
The trunk filled with padding should protect the machine from almost any shipping bumps.
Opening the trunk to reveal the Blackbird 02 drew a crowd. The day I received it, I had to run guys off who were trying to ogle the Blackbird while I wasn’t around to maintain decorum.
Even the peripherals are well packed and protected.
The Blackbird has the look of a cast iron grill in many ways. The metal fins of the “grill” are most likely there to disperse heat. I know that when the Blackbird is on and doing some intense gaming those grill fins get pretty warm.
A first look
The HP Blackbird 02 is certainly eye-catching. The plate on the side displays a fractal-like image.
Two ATI X2900 XTs
There is nothing but DVIs out with Dual ATI Radeon x2900 XTs, each with 512 MB of GDDR4 SDRAM. In case you are wondering, that is some fast video memory.
The onboard sound on the NVIDIA nForce motherboard supports 7.1 speakers. Creative Labs must be concerned.
Any port in a storm
These high-end motherboards have support for Gigabit Ethernet, eSATA, USB 2.0, 1394 Firewire, and even SPDIF out.
The case door continues with the glossy fractal imagery.
No cup holders
The DVD Lightscribe drives have no trays — just slide the CDs in these slim slots.
The door opens
Access to the inside of the case is just a door latch away. There are no screws to contend with and the door is on a hinge.
For most of the components in the Blackbird 02 you do not need any tools. But for the few places where you might need a tool, one is provided along with some extra screws and nuts.
One of the first things you notice about the Blackbird’s interior is that some plastic pieces separate the air flow around the CPU from the air flow around the video cards. And this is even though everything is liquid cooled.
Plastic separator one
Removing the first plastic separator reveals the dual ATI video cards.
The last image was a little dark so I turned the camera flash on. Notice the Striker Extreme on the motherboard between the video cards. That is the moniker of the current hot nForce motherboard. I had one put in my new gaming PC.
Also notice that there are two power connections for each video card — they like’a the juice.
The HP Blackbird 02 is really a product of Hewlett-Packards acquisition of Voodoo Extreme and their telltale cabling artistic expertise is obvious.
Find the CPU
Underneath all of this cooling apparatus is an Intel Core2 Extreme Quad-Core 3.0GHz QX6850 CPU.
The Crossfire connectors allow the dual ATI x2900 XT video cards to act in tandem, which increases overall video performance immensely.
A better look
With another plastic separator removed you can get a good look at the video cards. Even in the era of huge video cards, these suckers stand out.
At 10,000 RPM, the WD Raptor drives are plenty fast.
Even if you wanted to put a standalone sound card in this machine, I’m not sure where it would fit.
Not ordinary RAM
As you would expect in a $6,200 PC, the RAM is high-quality, high-speed RAM from Corsair and each stick has its own heat sink.
The liquid cooling system is completely closed so there is no real chance of leaking — unless you start pulling things out.
In the good old days
I remember a time when I could put a PC together from parts in a single afternoon while drinking a few beers and hanging out with some like-minded computer geek friends.
Looking at how complicated this set up is — I would never try it now.
As you would expect, the Blackbird boots up quickly and is ready for a test drive.
By the way, we are using the iZ3D monitor I reviewed last year. I’m going to give it a go again to see if the experience has improved.
No PC these days is complete unless it has LED lights. From the front, the green lights of the Blackbird 02 are very bright — colleagues down the hall noticed it right away.
The LEDs on the DVD drive buttons is important, because the slots for the discs themselves are hard to see even during the day.
That is a Razor mouse and it is one of the best gaming mice around. I use a Logitech gaming mouse, but I think I like this one even more.
The keyboard has 10 programmable keys (5 down each side) that you can use for in-game commands. You can even change the keys to display icons that represent common game actions like reloading a weapon.
Here you can get a good look at the programmable keys. You can also see multimedia buttons for playing your favorite MP3s during your all night frag-fests.
This is a close look at the artwork on the side of the case. The photo cannot really do it justice.
As someone who is willing to spend extra bucks on a well-made, top-of-the-line gaming PC, I can appreciate the workmanship and awe-factor of the HP Blackbird 02 DE LCi. If money wasn’t an issue, I would buy one.
But money is an issue for most of us and I was able to get a very comparable gaming PC for about $3000. I’m not sure a $3000 premium is worth it for the aesthetics of the Blackbird case and the quality of the construction. But even with the price tag, the Blackbird 02 is one of the best PCs I have had the pleasure of cracking open and reviewing.