It’s been almost 20 years since HP purchased the boutique computer maker VoodooPC, bolstering both its gaming and design offerings. And in 2009, that purchase bore fruit: The company’s “Blackbird” design was refined into a super-powered, super-modular microtower called the Firebird 803. On the latest PCWorld YouTube video, we’re joined by VoodooPC founder Rahul Sood (currently CEO of Irreverent Labs) for a personal tour of this incredibly unique desktop design.
Despite being incredibly compact and featuring several parts designed for laptops, the Firebird is designed to be modular in every way, with easy user access to all parts. That includes the dual mobile graphics cards, a pair of Nvidia GeForce 9800S GPUs in SLI. Both MXM cards were slotted into the motherboard under massive watercooling blocks, almost like oversized RAM DIMMs, user-accessible with no soldering.
The unique case deserves some attention. Despite visually resembling the Blackbird, it’s a complete custom design integrating a laptop power supply for a relatively tiny interior volume, though today the slot-loading Blu-ray drive seems a little dated. Around back you can see relics like Firewire and eSATA ports.
Sood had hoped that the Firebird would be the first in a series of designs focused on modularity and user customization, including a possible collaboration with LEGO on a full DIY build-a-PC kit. Alas, HP went in a different direction, switching to more conventional desktops and sleek laptops for the Voodoo sub-brand. Today, the Firebird’s reliance on MXM mobile graphics cards and a custom liquid cooling setup means your upgrade options are limited, even if you can track one down in working order.
But arguably, the Firebird’s very existence inspired a new generation of small form factor PCs that refused to compromise on gaming performance. For more deep dives on the history of computer design, subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.