Easy access and a good view of the water cooled processor.

Late last year, I did post on the problems I had with my old PC. My wonderful wife got me a brand new HP Blackbird PC for Christmas. It is an impressive PC targeted at serious gamers. It just came out last November and was not even available outside of North America. So she had to order it in the US (Canada actually - the gaming PC company that hp bought, Voodoo Computers, is in Calgary). Then it was shipped to my dad's house. He just left it in the crate and shipped it to Singapore. I had checked that UPS would pick it up right at his house but somehow he took it in to the UPS store near his house. Since it took two guys to deliver it to our apartment I'm not sure how it got to UPS in the first place. But I was really excited when it showed up.

It uppacked and set up pretty easily. And before long I had it up and running and was happily playing Command and Conquer III. The graphics performance was great. But then after two days, all of a sudden I couldn't play a new game I had just loaded. It said I didn't have the original disc. Then I tried C&C III again and even an audio CD. Nothing doing. With toolless entry it is really to get into the Blackbird and work on it. I pulled out the CD/DVD drive and put in a different drive that I had from another PC (yes, I have spare CD/DVD drives around too). That fixed it. Sandy was on the phone to hp pretty fast letting them know that she wasn't happy about us having to repair an expensive PC after only two days. But it wasn't really that much work, I had the extra drive, and it has worked perfectly ever since. They did send a replacement drive, but it went to my dad's house as well (since that is where the system shipped to originally). I will pick it up this summer while I am in the US and bring it back here.

If my PC were a car...

The Blackbird is kind of a Lamborghini of PC's. The most significant thing about it is the thermal design. Heat dissipation is actually the limiting factor on most PC's. You could actually clock the processor or memory to go faster. It's just that when you do, they dissipate more power. And components fail much more quickly as their temperature goes up. If they get hot enough, they just don't work right and the system quickly goes unstable. So one of the most important things for a reliable system can actually be the thermal design. And here the Blackbird is exceptional. It has modular compartments with exceptional airflow. The whole PC is even elevated off the ground on a special stand to greatly improve the airflow (and it makes it look really cool). It has a very heavy aluminum chassis that conducts heat from hot spots quickly. And different sources of heat, like the motherboard, graphics card and storage subsystem all have their own separate airflows.

Besides that, access is easy with hinged side panels and toolless entry. So it is easy to work on and should last for a long time. Down the road a processor or graphics card upgrade could really extend the life of the system.

And it looks really cool. Like I said - if my PC were a car it would be a Lamborghini.

It really stands several inches off the floor

So heres what I have in my PC.

Dual Core Intel Core2 Duo 3.0 Ghz E6850. I've always been an AMD fan. My last system had an Athlon 64X2. But I have to admit that after many years Intel surged ahead in this generation of processor design. The Core2 Duo was a huge leap from the brute force Netburst architectures that the Pentiums had. I decided to go with a dual core rather than quad core though. Although multicore is all the rage now, I think it will be a long time before PC applications (and operating systems, no names) will really take advantage of multiple cores. I could get a faster dual core for less money than a quad core. I also thought about waiting six to twelve months for the new Penryn (Intel) and Phenom (AMD) processors to come out. But I needed a new PC and the big jump was made with the current generation, from the Pentium.

4 Gbytes of memory. It IS running Vista, you know.

ASUS Striker Extreme 680i motherboard. ASUS makes good mobos and I read a lot of good reviews of this one. The 680i chipset also has a good reputation. The board is stable, reliable and with lots of tools for the "enthusiast". So if I ever decide that my life is too easy, I can easily make myself miserable by overclocking my system and causing all sorts of problems. It's not like I never get a chance to work on computer problems.

160GByte 10000RPM disc drive and 1 TB 7200RPM disc drive. I am actually really pleased with this choice. I have a high speed disc drive which is small so I primarily have only the operating system on it. But it boots very quickly. And that has always been one of the most annoying performance areas for me. As much time as I spend on my PC, it seems like I am always standing around waiting for it to boot and for all the security software to load. My old PC actually took about five minutes to boot. My Blackbird boots in about a minute. And with the large, regular speed disc, I shouldn't run out of disc space anytime soon. When I joined hp in 1977 the first product that I worked on was a 5MB disc drive. Now I have a terrabyte drive on my PC. That's only an increase by a factor of 200,000. Wow.

Official HP publicity shot of the inside

nVidia GeForce 8800GTX with 768MB of GDDR3 SDRAM. I spent the most time researching this one. My last system had a GeForce 7600GT in it. And for a smaller display, that was fine even for graphics intensive games. But as soon as I got my new display last fall and went to 1920x1200, my old graphics card was completely useless. From all the benchmarks I read, it looked like a 8800GT would be sufficient. But I decided to go one level up and get an 8800GTX. I did not go all the way to getting two cards with an SLI configuration. Seemed like that would only be necessary for a 30 inch display. And I have been very happy with my new system and 24 inch display with newer games. But I will admit that once in a while it still seems to be close to its limit for graphics performance. It's pretty rare though. I guess I have learned that no matter what, you can't have too much graphics capability. If I ever go for a larger display I will probably need to upgrade to the GeForce 9900, maybe even two of them.

1.1kwatt power supply. Since two or three years ago most PC's came with 300 or 400 watt power supplies I thought I was way over the top. Now you see systems with 1.5 and 1.6kwatt supplies. It would be useful in Wisconsin in the winter to help heat the house.