Power, Upgrades, Pricing and Final Thoughts
HP Blackbird 002 LC Gaming System Review - Systems 79

Compared to the DS Twister system, the HP Blackbird looks like a green-friendly computer!  But then again, having three 8800 Ultra cards will do that to you…  Either way the power consumption of HP’s system is very reasonable and compares well to our system with a single 8800 Ultra card that had only on hard drive and one optical drive. 


Let’s look at the performance of the HP Blackbird from a couple of different angles.  First, in terms of CPU power, it is among the best we have tested including our own test bed builds.  Yes have played with faster CPUs such as Intel’s QX9770, the 1600 MHz FSB 45nm part that isn’t available quite yet, and the QX9650 which is a 45nm die-shrink enhancement of the QX6850 used in the Blackbird.  The overclock of the 3.00 GHz CPU to 3.33 GHz is somewhat minimal though and we would have liked to see them push it a bit further, as Digital Storm did on their system build.  But of course, if a user were so inclined, they could do it themselves…

From a gaming perspective, this system is again no slouch.  Because we had just seen the DS Twister Extreme with 3-way SLI on it, performance of the HP Blackbird didn’t impress us as much as it should have, but the results speak for themselves.  The HP Blackbird is built to game.

HP Blackbird 002 LC Gaming System Review - Systems 80

But let’s be honest — all of the components that go into the PERFORMANCE aspect of the HP Blackbird are off-the-shelf parts that you can buy at your local Fry’s or online at Newegg.  This both a blessing and curse: it means that users can upgrade their machines and know what to expect in terms of performance but it also means enthusiasts might be inclined to just build an identical build on their own.  I still think that HP and Voodoo took the path that benefits the end-user the most, and for that they deserve a lot of credit.


As the photo above shows you, the Blackbird 002 is gorgeous.  The slight angles and subtle lighting that HP and Voodoo designed into the chassis jump out and give the appearance of a high quality product.  All that beauty, but it has brains too: the chassis is probably one of the most well engineered computer cases I have even put my hands on.  The hinged door, easily removable cooling compartments, integrated hard drive bays and completely accessible interior make this system build world’s better than anything I have seen from other boutique builders.


As we mentioned several times in the review, even with all the fancy chassis design, the Blackbird 002 system is 100% upgradeable should you decide to modify it.  The motherboard is completely accessible, as are the hard drives, video cards power supply.  The CPU is a bit more of a hassle with its water cooling configuration but you can still remove the water block and replace the CPU with some patience — check out Asetek’s website and you might find directions to a similar component.

HP Blackbird 002 LC Gaming System Review - Systems 81
I dunno about 300, but it can hold 200 lbs just fine…

Other reviews have made comments about the problem of using slot loading optical drives — it limits your upgrade options as slot loading drives are fairly uncommon.  While that’s true, I tend to believe that the optical drives are the LEAST frequently upgraded component of a system.  For me personally, I’ve had drives follow me from system build to system build for years without a change.  Besides that, the single 5.25″ bay on the case, which for us housed a Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo drive, allows for another upgrade path should the user require it. 

System Pricing

The build sheet I got with my test system had a total of $4,865 and if you remember, the Digital Storm Twister Extreme system we reviewed was priced at $6,755.  The only real differences between the two systems was the use of three 8800 Ultra cards instead of one in the HP Blackbird computer. 

Pricing out a system similar to the one of the HP Blackbird 002 at Newegg.com totals just about $3,800.  The major differences here include the Blackbird chassis that I have already expressed should be worth a pretty penny on its own right, an external versus internal CPU water cooling setup and the lack of any slot loading optical drives.  The difference then between HP’s Blackbird 002 and the custom system is something less than $1000 – not a trivial amount by any stretch.  However, you do get the security of a warranty from a respected company in the industry as well as the other extras mentioned before.  You really just need to judge the value of these incentives to you personally.

Final Thoughts

As with all custom gaming systems we have reviewed, the price is higher than we’d like, but the potential for value is easy to see with HP’s Blackbird 002.  With one of the best looking and best designed gaming systems we have ever seen, along with a enthusiast-friendly upgrade path and performance that matches anything else out there, the HP Blackbird 002 should be just about anyone’s top pick for a custom-built gaming powerhouse. 

HP Blackbird 002 LC Gaming System Review - Systems 82

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