capsule review

HP Blackbird 002 LCi

At a Glance
  • HP BlackBird 002 LCi

    PCWorld Rating

    This innovative, superbly designed power PC delivers admirable performance, but it doesn't come cheap.

Boasting distinct design features inside and out, the Blackbird 002 is a creation of boutique gaming PC maker VoodooPC, which HP acquired last year. Although it's designed with gamers in mind, the exceptional build quality of the quad-core Blackbird also makes it an excellent choice for other power users seeking a well-engineered system that remains cool and quiet while handling demanding tasks.

The $4900 Blackbird 002 LCi model we tested features Intel's 3-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU and comes with two Corsair Dominator 1GB RAM chips, a single 768MB EVGA e-GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics board, two multiformat DVD burners, and a 160GB (10,000-rpm) Western Digital Raptor hard drive. We found that amount of storage a little small for a machine that costs so much.

Our review unit shipped with Windows Vista Ultimate. In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 test suite, it earned a respectable mark of 123, a score just behind that of the 124 posted by the CyberPower Infinity Pro we also tested. The Blackbird 002 was quite strong in our graphics tests as well, achieving an average of 179 frames per second (fps) while running Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 with antialiasing turned on, well ahead of the eVGA e-GeForce 8800GTX-equipped CyberPower's result of 161 fps.

HP paired our system with its own LP3065 30-inch wide-screen LCD, which costs an additional $1399. The configuration brought our model's total cost to a hefty $6299 (as of 9/12/07), thousands of dollars more than other power-oriented PCs we've recently reviewed. If you substitute a less expensive display, however, the Blackbird is more in line with competing power PCs such as the $4999 CyberPower Infinity Pro, which includes 4GB of DDR2-800 RAM, the same quad-core QX6850 processor, and a 22-inch wide-screen LCD.

Starting October 1, you'll be able to go HP's Blackbird site and customize your system by choosing from a nice selection of industry-standard components, including the CPU (Intel or AMD), graphics board (nVidia or ATI), motherboard (Asus or Intel), and memory (Corsair, Hynix, or Samsung). The case itself is currently available only in black. Notably, however, you can choose to have any Blackbird 002 model equipped with an Intel Extreme processor overclocked by HP for free.

The Blackbird 002 LCi's unique exterior features a wedge-shaped, aluminum chassis that's supported a few inches off the ground by a sturdy cast-aluminum foot. This clever design lifts the PC up somewhat, like a monitor on a stand, and allows air to flow below the machine, giving the chassis six-way cooling (all of the sides have vents). A handy pop-up dock on top of the case provides a media reader plus USB, FireWire, and audio ports. The rear panel has four USB, one FireWire, and two eSATA connections but lacks legacy ports for older peripherals.

The side panel opens as smoothly as a car door and easily lifts up off the hinge. The well-crafted and uncluttered interior supports toolless upgrades (most everything slides in and out of place) and provides excellent thermal-management components, including a custom liquid-cooling system (codeveloped by HP and Danish outfit Astek), heat sinks and pipes, and separate chambers for the CPU, GPU, and 1.1-kilowatt power supply. One of the three external drive bays and four of the five internal drive bays are open, along with two PCIe x16 and two PCI slots on the 680i SLI-ready Asus Striker Extreme motherboard.

The impressive LP3065 display showed rich color quality and sharp text, and the extra screen space is great for multiple windows as well as for wide-screen movies, games, and graphics applications. I also enjoyed using the feature-rich Logitech G11 keyboard and cordless G5 mouse, both of which include programmable buttons and are excellent input devices.

A Blackbird 002 Dedication Edition (priced at $5500 without monitor) will be released September 15, and will come with a preset configuration that features liquid cooling for both the CPU (an Intel Core Extreme QX6850) and the dual EVGA e-GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics boards. Other key specs include 2GB of DDR2-800 Corsair memory, a 160GB 10,000-rpm hard disk coupled with a 500GB 7200-rpm model, and a Voodoo Razer gaming keyboard and mouse set.

The exquisitely designed Blackbird 002 has plenty to offer anyone who wants to invest in a cutting-edge system that combines solid performance with upgradeable ease.

Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This innovative, superbly designed power PC delivers admirable performance, but it doesn't come cheap.

    Pros

    • Innovative design, superior thermals
    • Quad-core processor

    Cons

    • Total cost can run high
    • Limited hard drive capacity
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