Rahul Sood on Blackbird's long upgrade path

Rahul Sood explains why HP's Blackbird doesn't offer the latest and greatest hardware components.

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
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Rich Brown
2 min read

In our recent review of the Dell XPS 730 H2C high-end gaming PC, we said the following to explain why we didn't include HP's competing Blackbird 002 in that review's performance charts.

HP's Blackbird 002 has lagged behind its competition in offering the latest PC hardware. CNET

"The reason is because HP hasn't moved to keep the Blackbird's specs up to date. We loved that system then, but we'd definitely think twice before purchasing one now...Until HP updates the Blackbird's configuration options, we can't take that system seriously as a high-end gaming PC."

As Rahul Sood tells it, it's not an accident that the Blackbird has not kept up with the latest performance hardware.

"We acknowledge that we haven't announced a significant component upgrade in some time, but there is a reason. We take a very rigorous--and yes, sometimes time consuming--approach to Q&A before we announce any upgrades. We feel strongly that this strategy is in the best interests of our customers."

"That said, we are very passionate about making sure the Blackbird stays on top of the gaming PC heap. We'll do it methodically, and won't be forced down the "4 GPUs in a system" path unless we see some constant stability. We have full intentions to continue pushing the technology that we feel is worthy of our systems."

Rahul, if you're unfamiliar, is one of the founders of boutique PC maker Voodoo PC, which was acquired a few years back by HP. He still runs Voodoo PC, but he has also lent his company's expertise to HP's own product development, and the Blackbird 002 is the first result of that joint effort.

We can't say we've seen major stability issues with the few quad-GPU PCs we've seen, but we do find the idea of dropping $7,000 or more on a desktop just to play Crysis maxed out very narrowly-focused. You can spend half of that to get similar top-end performance on every other PC game out there. That said, there will always be well-heeled shoppers for whom both practicality and frugality are foreign concepts, and neither HP nor Voodoo (which also has no quad-GPU option) can serve them right now.

Even if HP and Voodoo are OK losing the business of a few lottery winners, it bears looking at the hardware that the Blackbird does currently offer. Spec out a Blackbird and an identical Ephex over at Maingear and the Maingear system comes in about $500 less, and with more up-to-date 3D cards and faster CPU overclocking. Perhaps you can let that slide if you find the Blackbird's imposing chassis worth a premium. You can also look forward to whatever updates HP might have coming down the pike, too. But as Blackbird currently stands, we liked it better when its specifications and price compared more favorably with the rest of the market.