In our initial briefing with representatives from Hewlett Packard, one of the first things said was that "benchmarks didn't matter anymore." HP wasn't trying to tell us that the Blackbird 002 would be a dog in the performance department, quite the contrary, but rather that as long as they used the same components, performance among the gaming PCs offered by different companies wouldn't vary all that much. A Core 2 Extreme QX6850 is a Core 2 Extreme QX6850 no matter who sells it to you.
Instead of focusing on a just a select few hardware configurations and modding or customizing them for absolute peak performance and ending up with a system that would ultimately perform much like any other using the same parts, Hewlett Packard set out to build a fully customizable gaming machine that also happened to be low-maintenance and user-friendly. A decision was made to use standard components in the Blackbird 002. The motherboards, graphics cards, power supplies, and RAM available in the system are the same ones that you can purchase at retail. And potential consumers will be able to outfit their Blackbirds with Intel or AMD processors, and NVIDIA or ATI GPUs.
The enclosure is unique and has some HP-specific features, but it can still accommodate most standard components. The first thing you’ll notice about the Blackbird 002’s enclosure is its trapezoidal shape. The machine is more slender at the front and gets thicker and broader in back. Both sides of the case feature high-gloss inserts that are removable and will eventually be customizable. There are honeycomb vents on one side to help cool the expansion cards in the rig, and on the other there are four holes that’ll accommodate a standard monitor mounting bracket. The machine is super-heavy, but should users decide to use it as a LAN party rig, an LCD can be mounted right to its side.
The front, back, top, and bottom of the case are wrapped in heavy fins that help dissipate heat generated from components in the system, and the entire assembly sits atop a curved pedestal that lifts the machine a few inches off the floor. Lifting the machine in this manner helps improve air intake and also reduces the amount of debris sucked into the system by its fans.
On the top of the Blackbird 002 is a recessed panel that’s home to USB, Firewire, headphone, and microphone jacks, in addition to a handy flash card reader that can accommodate all of the most popular media standards. Travel down the front of the machine and you’ll see locations to two vertically mounted, slot-load optical drives. The machine we tested was equipped with a single DVD-R that featured HP’s Lightscribe Technology, but a Blu-Ray option is also available.
Power and reset buttons are located just below the optical drive bays and are backlit for better visibility. The buttons themselves are flush with the surface to prevent accidentally hitting them and shutting down or restarting the machine.