Gearheads, Rejoice!

Not everything is strictly standard design, however. The motherboard might be an ASUS Striker with an NVIDIA 680i chipset, but it does appear to have a customized BIOS. Besides the HP logo when the system boots up, there appears to have been some behind the scenes work in order to enable peer-to-peer writes on the PCI-E bus. Why is that important? Well, ATI CrossFire requires peer-to-peer writes in order to function, and ATI has always maintained that support for this feature is the only thing preventing CrossFire from working on other chipsets, like NVIDIA's SLI chipsets. Whether the work was done by ASUS, NVIDIA, HP, and/or AMD, the fact of the matter is that CrossFire and SLI both work on this motherboard. The version we were shipped includes two HD 2900 XT cards running in CrossFire as proof of this fact. That means that regardless of who takes the graphics performance crown in the future, users will have the ability to upgrade to the latest CrossFire or SLI configuration.

Getting back to the chassis, HP has also created a predominantly tool-less design. All major components can be upgraded without the use of any screwdrivers or other tools, although HP does include an Allen wrench as well as some extra bolts inside the case, apparently for mounting other motherboard sizes. Accessing the CPU socket and some areas of the water cooling system will also require tools, but the rest of the design is tool-less.

The case comes with a hinged door that easily opens, and due to the heavy-duty construction of the case, it swings easily and you never feel like it's going to bend or break. Installing/upgrading expansion cards and/or hard drives can all be done without ever having to lay your hands on a tool. The hard drive mounting cages in particular are pretty cool; designed for SATA drives, you simply install the hard drive into the cage and slide the cage into an appropriate bay. A board at the back of the hard drive bays includes all of the data and power connections for SATA drives - no messy cables! The handle on the front of the drive cage serves to individually lock the cage into place.

Dealing with expansion cards is similarly straightforward. A hinged plastic door helps to separate the internals of the case into various heat chambers, so for example the CPU and chipset aren't contaminated by heat from the graphics cards. Given that the system we have is water cooled, that might not be as big of a concern, but for the air cooled versions it could prove useful. The expansion slots have sturdy plastic-and-metal clips that individually lock each card into place.

Taken alone, all of these above features are interesting additions to any system, but simply having a lot of cool features doesn't mean a system is worth purchasing, especially when it carries a high price tag. The system we were sent for testing apparently will sell for around $5500 (Updated price), definitely putting it out of reach of many enthusiasts. However, the base model Blackbird 002 will apparently sell for around $2500, making it a lot more viable. Unfortunately, we don't know what the exact differences between the setup we were sent and the $2500 configuration are, and without such information it's difficult to determine whether or not there's enough value to warrant consideration. The custom chassis is certainly worth a decent amount of money on its own, at least for those looking to get a case that sets itself apart from the cookie-cutter designs. The Blackbird 002 will officially go on sale on September 15, and we will provide a follow-up article that takes a closer look at the options available at that time.

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  • Sabresiberian - Monday, October 8, 2007 - link

    Hewlett-Packard used to be synonymous with high quality small computing and scientific gear, but have become something less than that. It is nice to see them produce something that is once again aimed at the high-end market.

    I can understand why they didn't go with 64-bit, it's still early for that, but I agree it should have had 4GB ram. Easy to fix, but why should you have to fix anything in a $5500 system?

    I'd buy one just to support HP's efforts if I could afford one :)
  • strikeback03 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    No idea how great this encoder is (video isn't my thing) but">Super claims to convert to H.264
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 25, 2007 - link

    Seems to work fine, except it definitely doesn't support quad-core and possibly not even fully dual-core. :(
  • Zak - Saturday, September 15, 2007 - link

    Since when Radeon HD X2900 XT 1GB is the fastest card on the market? I'm confused. All reviews I read say that it's about as fast as 8800GTS 640MB. Because all that super fast memory doesn't give it any benefit since the GPU is lagging behind. It was beaten by 8800GTX and Ultra in all reviews, except for one game, I forgot which one. Can someone elaborate? I'm going to buy a new video card soon and I was intrigued by this card: 1GB of GDDR4 sounds impressive and the price is right. But then I started reading reviews and they cooled me off, this card is competing against 8800GTS, it's not even close to GTX or Ultra speed.

  • wolfman3k5 - Saturday, September 15, 2007 - link

    Regardless of what reviews say, because many reviewers are biased, I can tell you that I've tested a Sapphire HD2900XT 1GB GDDR4 and it's performance lies between a 8800 GTS 640MB and a 8800 GTX 768MB. Never mind touching the Ultra. Best bang for the buck is the MSI 8800 GTX, Anand will agree with me. Take care and good luck.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 15, 2007 - link


    Since when Radeon HD X2900 XT 1GB is the fastest card on the market?

    I'm not sure that I ever intended to give the impression that the HD 2900 XT 1GB is the fastest card on the market - in fact, at several points I specifically say the opposite. However, I'm sure that AMD CrossFire is merely an option and is not required. Obviously, the Dell 720 H2C comes out ahead in quite a few of the gaming tests, even with older drivers.

    Also, a">"special edition" Blackbird went on sale today for $5500, and only 518 (don't ask me why 518!) will be made. That version includes dual 8800 Ultra cards and the Half-Life 2 "Orange Box" bundle, plus pretty much everything seen here. Not a bad price for the components, really, but still more than most people are willing to spend.
  • Zak - Sunday, September 16, 2007 - link

    Thanks. I was just confused. I thought I missed something. Also, thanks to the other poster who replied. I will most likely get the 8800GTX then. 8800Ultra seems like a waste of money at $100 more. But I just got a 24" monitor, I may need all the graphics power I can get. SLI is out of question though, too expensive.

  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 15, 2007 - link

    Apparently I messed up the link. Let's try that again:">HP Blackbird 002 Dedication Edition
  • Zak - Saturday, September 15, 2007 - link

    I have to say I'm shocked to see this come out of HP, the most boring computer maker on the planet. The price is prohibitively high, but if I was on the market for computer of this grade I would very seriously consider this vs Dell or Alienware.

  • Toronto699 - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Blackbird Tech Support will be handled by Voodoo PC in Calgary Alberta Canada, Canadas Oil Capitol

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