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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  • 0roo0roo - Sunday, September 16, 2007 - link

    "
    quote:

    It looks like the high performance PC market is pretty profitable, and HP and other companies are going after the boutique manufacturers to try and take away what business is left. But if I want this kind of computer, I'd rather buy from Falcon NW, Puget or build my own. Sorry, not my cup of tea.


    eh, different strokes for different folks. falcon is more of the old type of boutique of mostly standard store bought items tweaked a bit that simply can't compete with this level of craftsmanship. the new case with its quality is quite nice, no shaving off metal thickness to save money there! just solid sweet aluminum. theres no way you could design a case like that yourself easily, let alone for that price. you'll just end up with a standard pc, save a little money but it won't match what hp is selling.

    quote:

    72 pounds?!?!

    And a $6500 computer without a monitor included?


    not all bad, if some brat tries to steal it they'll probably get a hernia while trying to run away lol:) as for the price, boutique computers cost a lot, just check out voodoopc or any other, they are high end stuff for people that want a high end pc that is top of the line and comes with tech support. not everyone enjoys the hassel of ordering 15 boxes of components through the mail then trying to slap it together and hope you don't have to rma anything.
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