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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  • rsvdhd - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Hi guys, there is a known bug with Crossfire 2900XTX and 3D Mark. There is a patch you can download to fix this issue.

    Thanks for the review, for more info check out http://www.hp.com/blackbird">http://www.hp.com/blackbird

    rs
    Reply
  • ddarko - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Raul,

    Why not offer a broader ranger of CPU choices for the Blackbird? The only quad core processor offered is the most expensive one, the QX6850. Why not also offer the Q6600 and overclock it? I dislike the tendency of only offer the most expensive part. Being a gamer doesn't mean you should have to spend the most money; price/performance is an important consideration, especially when, as this review demonstrates, increasing CPU speed produces diminishing returns. I don't mean the Blackbird should be offered with Celeron processors but when an option exists like the Q6600 that is economical AND offers great performance, why is HP ignoring it? I'm disappointed that the Blackbird seems designed to wrestle the most money out of the buyer's pocket.
    Reply
  • rsvdhd - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Good question,

    We are offering a series of choices, including a full line of Intel processors. We are also offering both Nvidia and ATI video cards (depending on your preference). Right now we have the "dedication edition" for sale starting Saturday - but if you want to create your own configuration then go to www.hp.com/blackbird and you can hook it up in early October.

    Thanks again, look forward to some big things -
    Reply
  • mcnabney - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - link

    72 pounds?!?!

    And a $6500 computer without a monitor included?
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - link

    The Blackbird was originally dubbed the RS-71. So how did it become the SR-71? Well as it turns out, it's Lyndon Johnson's fault. In a speech where he advocated the funding to finish development and purchase of this line of airplanes, he flubbed his lines and repeatedly referred to it as the "SR-71 Blackbird" instead of its proper designation of "RS-71 Blackbird." In order to avoid embarrassing the President, the good folks at Lockheed and the Pentagon decided to quietly change the designation.

    The pilot's manual for the SR-71 has been declassified and is available online. Maximum speed is Mach 3.3.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Where is the manual? That would be interesting to see. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - link

    Heh, I remember reading about the Blackbirds maximum speed when I was a kid, and I am now 41 . . . and no, no one I know works/worked for Lockheed Martin. Where did I read about it you ask ? In an illustrated Aircraft book bought from a local bookstore. This book also insinuated that mach 3.3 was its maximum *safe* speed, and that it actually could go faster. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - link

    The rumors are that it routinely broke Mach 3.6 and possibly even got near Mach 4.0 in certain tests. Maximum official altitude and speed records belong to the SR-71, but it's reasonable to say that the official records are likely lower than the actual maximums the plane achieved. Some feel that the SR-71 could have probably been pushed quite a bit further (rumor mongers and former pilots seem to think Mach 4.0 wasn't out of reach), but that this was never done because you pretty much don't mess around playing games with an expensive plane. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Supposedly this aircraft also leaked fuel while on the ground when fueled to full capacity. According to random 'literature' on the web, there were two reason why the Blackbird normally would not go faster than mach 3.2. First was shock waves which would narrow enough between mach 3.6-3.8 that could potentially narrow enough off of the nose to travel through the engines, thus stalling the aircraft. Second was heat, which would increase above mach 3.5 enough to effect the glass/windshield center divider. Reply
  • Inkjammer - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - link

    Y'know, it seems like these "high end gaming machines" are becoming more and more expensive with each company's new iteration, the high end edition always more expensive than the previous. The Dell 720HC, the HP Blackbird 002, Alienware's ALX. They're all good machines, but at a price points that get more and more ridiculous.

    My home machine has two 8800 GTX in SLI, 4GB of RAM and an OC'd E6600 to 3.2Ghz. Sure, it won't detonate charts and graphs, but it'll come close with even the baddest boys thes companies can throw out. I still have yet to run into a game that does NOT play smoothly at 1920x1200. And it cost about $2,800. Everything is OC'd just fine, too. A Freezone, 7 Scythe SFlex fans... and I still have room to grow.

    Yeah, yeah, it's always cheaper to build it yourself, that's an established fact. But these machines are coming out at 2 to 3x the cost of their components, and for what? Overclocked machines that use off-the-shelf Coolit Freezones and some fancy cable management? How much are you paying for design and name alone? For the cost of this machine I'd expect Mr. Freeze to personally hook up the cooling units himself and gaurantee absolute zero thermals. But not, y'know, before putting on a show and fighting Batman in my living room. For $6,500, I expect a show.
    Reply

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