Introduction

A few weeks back, we provided our initial review of HP's Blackbird 002. What we found was a very interesting and exotic design, but without more information on pricing and availability it was difficult to come to any final conclusions. In fact, we were almost left with more questions than answers, so we spent some time talking to HP Gaming's CTO (and VoodooPC founder) Rahul Sood and the Blackbird sales team. There are still some questions that we weren't able to get answered, but we did get a lot of good material and we felt it would be worthwhile to revisit the Blackbird as well as HP's Gaming division.

One of the first things that might be a bit confusing for some people is how HP Gaming relates to VoodooPC. While HP bought out VoodooPC last year, they continue to exist as a separate brand (though still under the HP corporate umbrella). You can still go out and purchase a VoodooPC computer, and you will get the same thing that you always got from Voodoo: extreme attention to detail, premium components, and prices that might just leave you gasping for breath. VoodooPC is as much a status symbol as anything, and while the performance and construction is definitely top-notch, the simple truth is that we just don't see many people being willing to plunk down as much as $10,000 (or more!) on hardware that is going to be second-tier performance in 12 months.

This gets into one of those dirty little secrets about computers that some companies don't like to discuss. AnandTech of course isn't one of those companies, so let's air the dirty laundry. There are a few truths about extreme performance computer hardware. First, naturally, is that it costs quite a bit of money. Second, you generally get rapidly diminishing returns as you move up the performance ladder. Third, newer and faster products are always just six to twelve months away. Finally, if you take the top performing parts currently on the market and slap them together in a system, the difference in performance between something manufactured by a boutique computer shop (VoodooPC, Falcon Northwest, Alienware, etc.) and something built in your parents' basement is, generally speaking, negligible.

These aren't the only truths, of course. Another point that frequently comes up in enthusiast circles is that overclocking - particularly of CPUs - can save you a truckload of money. Practically speaking, there is no difference in performance between a QX6850 running at 3.0GHz and an overclocked Q6600 running at the same speed (9x333). With the right cooling, you can most likely push both processors up to around 3.5-3.6GHz (9x400), and performance will remain equal. What you do get with the QX6850 is more flexibility and (typically) slightly lower voltages. The unlocked multiplier on the QX6850 (and all of the Core 2 Extreme line) means that adjusting front side bus speeds isn't only way to affect the CPU clock speed. However, it's difficult to find a good reason to spend over three times as much on the CPU just for convenience. The best reason to purchase a Core 2 Extreme is honestly if you're not planning on overclocking and you want the best possible guaranteed performance. In that case, you might be more interested in a factory overclocked - and warrantied - system like the Blackbird.

The take away from all of this discussion is that our real question in regards to something like the Blackbird 002 is: what can it add to the computing experience that isn't directly related to raw performance? With a bit more time using the system, more configuration options available, and a lot more details on pricing, we should be able to answer that question.

Blackbird 002, Take Two
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  • georgemag07 - Saturday, October 20, 2007 - link

    I spent some time with the Blackbird at the E4All Expo in Los Angeles. Here are some pictures I took to round out the article. I was inpmressed by the design and the eSATA ports that are standard with the Machine.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/8184625@N08/tags/blac...">http://www.flickr.com/photos/8184625@N08/tags/blac...
    Reply
  • newhit - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    I've already got a Blackbird. Where does the Exhaust go on this one. Twin Akropovich straight thru pipes should realease a few extra BHP. This ones not good for pillions though. Reply
  • nets - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    I might be nitpicking but I think your prices are a bit low. HP told me they use EVGA cards and I can't find any under $630

    But your biggest mistaske was forgetting to add the price of the case. Your parts came to $4,102 + $300 for the case is $4,402

    You said:

    "All told, it appears that the case, CPU overclocking, and system assembly carries a charge of around $1400 on the Dedication Edition."

    So -with- case the extra charge is $1,100 - or with prices I found at newegg closer to $1,000

    I say that ain't bad.
    Reply
  • nets - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    I just re-read your article and you considered the case IN the overcharge. I understand your point now. Still, if you assume a $300 case the overcharge for the COMPLETED machine is indeed $1,100 Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    $300 might also be a bit low for this case - I'd consider it "better" than something like a Silverstone in a lot of ways, so we could probably even go so far as to say it's a $400 or even $500 case. That's the price you pay for getting something "exotic", right?

    As for the 8800 Ultra, you're right that HP uses EVGA on their 8800 Ultra GPUs. Unless they're getting factory OC'ed models, though, there's no real difference between EVGA stock 8800 Ultra and "Brand-X" 8800 Ultra. They all use reference designs for cooling, RAM, PCB, etc., and since HP puts on water cooling (at least at the LCi/Dedication) the stock board seems to have even less meaning.

    That said, I know I saw a $590 Ultra when I put together the original price list, but the cheapest I'm seeing now is $610 (XFX). Since prices will fluctuate over time, I'll bump the price up a bit but over time the tables will undoubtedly be outdated.
    Reply
  • nets - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    I asked HP if they overclocked the GPUs and they said "they already come overclocked so we didn't mess with them."

    I think a $1,000 charge for what is essentially a boutique PC is a bargin (compared to Falcon, Maingear, etc.! From your review I think you agree.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    Definitely. As I tried to make clear, *IF* you're in the market for an "exotic" high-end PC, the Blackbird is a real bargain compared to most other offerings. Alienware is about $500 more at least - and personally I'm not a huge fan of the "Alien Head Case" design. Falcon is about $2500 more and VoodooPC is about $3000 more. But you do get additional attention to detail with the latter two companies (and I'm sure some others that I failed to mention).

    I have no idea which EVGA GPUs are used, as I have/had (FedEx is coming today... sigh) the CrossFire version. It will be interesting to see what the Blackbird comes with in early 2008 as well, as I expect quite a few upgrades to appear. Penryn/Phenom, X38 (or some other chipset), and new GPUs are all coming out soon.
    Reply
  • nets - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    I certainly agree about Alienware, I have always hated that case. Reply
  • EateryOfPiza - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    Anandtech should compare the Blackbird to a comparably equipped build-your-own system, with parts matching as much as possible to see how much the custom case, the professional wiring, and other junk VoodooPC and other high end PC OEMs like Alienware really add to the price. Reply
  • nets - Thursday, October 04, 2007 - link

    The price for your excellent budget system was $3,125 but you want HP to get the Blackbird under $1,500?
    That sounds unrealistic.
    Reply

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