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Desktops

Photos: A tour of the HP Blackbird 002

Tennis suprema Serena Williams helped unveil the Blackbird 002, a pant-wettingly cool gaming PC that's set to take the high-end computing market by storm

Oh. My. Deity. We've just soiled ourselves playing with HP's new gaming desktop at a celebrity-spackled event in Manhattan, NY. Tennis suprema Serena Williams (and some other 'stars' only Americans would recognise) helped unveil the Blackbird 002, a pant-wettingly cool gaming PC that's set to take the high-end computing market by storm.

The Blackbird 002 is an HP-branded PC, that has what HP calls 'Voodoo DNA'. In other words it's inspired by the company's own high-end Voodoo brand, which is a direct competitor to the likes of Alienware.

But forget its rivals, at least for the moment. The Blackbird 002 is sexier and in some cases cleverer than any gaming desktop that has come before. The base unit sits on a hefty aluminium 'foot' and is subtly trapezoidal, tapering slightly from the rear to the front. It's massive, yes, but it's not something you'd want to hide away -- the turquoise lights on the front panel, vertical slot-loading optical drives and pretty panel artwork make it a feast for the eyes.

It's not just a pretty face, either. It's packed with an Intel Core 2 Extreme CPU, up to 4GB of RAM, multiple terabytes of hard disk space and twin-card graphics. The PC even comes overclocked and has a water cooling system to help prevent meltdown. It can be yours for between $2,500 and $7,100 (£1,250-£3,550, although UK prices weren't announced) depending on configuration.

We managed to tear ourselves away from Serena long enough to take a few snaps. Hit the 'Next Photo' link for a guided tour of what could ultimately become the desktop gaming PC of the year. -Rory Reid

The Blackbird 002 is a real looker. It's big and menacing, but has a contemporary style that should appeal to gamers and casual users alike. Note how the front panel's vertical ridges complement the vertically mounted optical drives towards the top of the unit.

The side panels use HP's 'Imprint Finish technology', or (in English) it has pretty squiggles. We're not sure what they call this particular pattern, but it looks as if a child has scratched an upside-down snowman into the side, using a set of car keys. These squiggles can also be seen on the inside of the PC, as you'll see later.

Note the gap between the base unit and the large cast-aluminium foot below it. HP says this separation helps airflow, as the power supply is located at the bottom of the chassis and not the top, as is normal on most PCs.

Accessing the components is easy. Just pull the metal clip at the front and the side panel pops open. We heard a few disgruntled mutterings that HP should have made the side transparent, and we tend to agree -- its innards are attractive, uncluttered and worth showing off.

We mentioned the Blackbird 002 has a predominantly tool-free design, but there are a few instances when you'll need an Allen or Hex key. Luckily, there's one living in a foam housing here on the side. It's a bit of a gimmick, but it beats hunting for a screwdriver or bread knife when you're in a rush.

Beneath the 'Voodoo DNA' branding, there are five hard disk drive bays, which let you configure the system with well over 3 terabytes of storage. Each of these pops out with ease, so you can swap them between machines very quickly. If this isn't enough, you can attach even more via USB and eSATA ports at the top and rear of the PC.

The CPU is water cooled. Okay, it's not as outlandish as Dell's two-stage liquid-ceramic system, but it's simple, elegant, and most importantly, prevents the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU from overheating. It's clocked at 3GHz by default, but has been ramped up to a monstrous 3.69GHz for even more frightening performance. Here you can also see 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR2 memory from Corsair.

The graphics cards are kept separate from the CPU and memory, in order to prevent heat escaping from one set of components to the other. In this case, HP has installed a pair of 1GB DDR4 ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics cards in a dual-card Crossfire configuration. Bizarrely, these cards are installed atop an Asus Striker Extreme motherboard with an Nvidia Nforce 680i chipset. But the ATI and Nvidia products work together just fine, and they have the backing of an Ageia PhysX card.

A gamer enjoys Gears of War on the Blackbird 002. He was actually rather good, wiping the floor with the rest of the mob, although that's not saying much. Most people at the Blackbird 002 launch event were either highly inebriated journalists or clueless liggers from the fashion industry.