Boasting distinct design features inside and out, the Blackbird 002 is a creation by 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 $4,900 (about £2,450) Blackbird 002 LCi model we tested features Intel's 3GHz 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 (10,000rpm) Western Digital Raptor hard drive. We found that amount of storage slightly 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. The Blackbird 002 was quite strong in our graphics tests as well, achieving an average of 179 fps (frames per second) while running Doom3 at 1,024x768 with antialiasing turned on.

HP paired our system with its own LP3065 30in widescreen LCD, which costs an additional $1,399 (£700). The configuration brought our model's total cost to a hefty $6,299 (£3,150), thousands of dollars more than other power-oriented PCs we've recently reviewed. It's not yet available in the UK but should appear over here in the future: watch this space for a UK price update.

From October 1, you'll be able to go HP's Blackbird site and customise your system by choosing from a nice selection of industry-standard components, including the CPU (Intel or AMD), graphics card (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, aluminium chassis that's supported a few inches off the ground by a sturdy cast-aluminium 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.

Next: Inside the chassis

Inside the chassis

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 (almost 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), heatsinks and pipes and separate chambers for the CPU, GPU and 1.1KW 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 colour quality and sharp text, while the extra screen space is great for multiple windows as well as for widescreen films, games and graphics applications. We 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 $5,500 without monitor) will be released on 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 cards. Other key specs include 2GB of DDR2-800 Corsair memory, a 160GB 10,000rpm hard disk coupled with a 500GB 7200rpm model and a Voodoo Razer gaming keyboard and mouse set.

HP BlackBird 002 LCi: Specs

  • Intel 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU
  • 2x Corsair Dominator 1GB RAM chips
  • 768MB EVGA e-GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics board
  • 2x multiformat DVD burners
  • 160GB (10,000rpm) Western Digital Raptor hard drive
  • HP LP3065 30in widescreen flat-panel
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123
  • Intel 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU
  • 2x Corsair Dominator 1GB RAM chips
  • 768MB EVGA e-GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics board
  • 2x multiformat DVD burners
  • 160GB (10,000rpm) Western Digital Raptor hard drive
  • HP LP3065 30in widescreen flat-panel
  • WorldBench 6 score: 123

OUR VERDICT

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.

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