The HP Blackbird 002 Unveiled
When you hear the name Blackbird, you either think of a small flying avian species with a pretty song, or the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The SR-71 was a fine example of what an unrestricted spec ops project can accomplish. To this day, we still donít know how fast the SR-71 can actually go, or how high it can really fly. Hopefully, the aliens that helped us build it -- without any computers -- will give us the full spec sheet soon. We anticipate the Blackbird 002 to be the first of many Blackbird products from HP. Hereís what they have done with their first product.
The first aspect youíll no doubt notice is the case. In the anterior-posterior dimension it looks unassuming until you notice that it is elevated off the table by a solid metal foot. This is done to provide cool air for the system's power supply, which is located on the bottom of the chassis. On closer examination the case is made of solid aluminum, the only plastic external parts are the designer customization panels made of acrylic. The aluminum is painted, not anodized. It doesnít appear to use a unibody construction like the Silverstone TJ-07 case, but there is plenty of aluminum to go around. Compared to the Silverstone, which is my personal case, the Blackbirdís pieces fit together much better; the side panels donít rattle, and the fans are much quieter. The Blackbird case, fully loaded, weighs about 80 pounds.
The Blackbird 002 chassis is built around a standard ATX motherboard (manufactured by ASUS), with capability for an Extended-ATX board, a standard 1.1 kilowatt power supply, five hard drive bays, three optical bays, and top panel ports and a memory card reader. The entire system is upgradeable, no proprietary components are found inside.
There is great attention to detail with a combination of painted, polished, and matte finish aluminum. The case is for the most part tool-less, with very easy side panel access.
If you do need tools, there is a built-in area that can hold all the necessary tools. One great innovation here is the use of a tool-less and cable-less hard drive mounting system. The SATA drives simply pop into a carrier and slide into their slots.
The carriers are a little flimsy, but they are designed that way to allow you to ďpopĒ the drive into the carrier. Hot-swappability is not supported because of motherboard limitations.
There is also an LED light at the back of the case illuminating the connectors; itís amazing that nobody has thought of this yet. (Iíve been using my LED headlamp for the difficult connections in the back of my case.) The case includes multiple LED accent lights, white LEDs on top, cyan LEDs in front and on the bottom. HPís literature even says that there is an available snake light that will illuminate the inside of the case for maintenance, but this was not demoed.
Cooling is provided via three 120mm fans, one drawing air from the front, through the hard drives, and two fans supplying air up top. The area around the CPU and GPU is seperated into different chambers in order to prevent hot air from one component affecting the other. Air is then exhausted out the back of the chassis (VoodooPC founder Rahul Sood demonstrates this system in action in image 6 on the previous page).
Liquid cooling is available for the CPU and video cards. You get the same radiator and fan setup for both, but the fans are thermo-controlled (HP quoted a 500 watt capacity for this unit).
The power supply has modular power connectors and is sourced from Top Power, thatís reasonable. A PC Power and Cooling PSU could have possibly provide better power, but it wouldnít fit well into the Blackbird case given its size.
If youíre leery of owning a liquid-cooled system (HP insists that the liquid cooler is maintenance free), HP will also manufacture air-cooled Blackbird systems, but a Blackbird SKU with 100% passive cooling wonít be available. HP did not have any non-liquid cooled systems to play with at their launch event for the Blackbird, so we donít know what heatsink system they will be using.
HP is marketing the case as one big heatsink designed to radiate heat, but there really is no way to transfer heat from the components to the case, other than through the air by convection; certainly not the most efficient method. Some heatpipes from the chipsets and hard drives to the case would have been nice. The video card and CPU cooling is well taken care of though.