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Thursday, September 06, 2007
HP Unveils "Blackbird" High-end Gaming PC

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday launched a line of powerful new computers aimed squarely at gamers, in the company's latest step to court a small-but-influential audience.

The HP Blackbird machine is the result of combining the company's engineering expertise with the performance know-how of VoodooPC, a specialty gaming operation HP bought almost a year ago.

Named for its angular black aluminum case, the Blackbird carries the HP brand and fills a niche above its regular consumer-oriented products but below its ultra-high-end Voodoo line, which has been kept as a separate brand.

"We see the gaming market gaining significantly. We think there is significant opportunity in the market," said Philip McKinney, general manager of HP's gaming unit. "There are a lot of Ferrari fans, but not many people can afford a Ferrari."

HP on Wednesday also updated its iPaq handheld devices for corporate technology managers and unveiled new business and consumer computers and televisions ahead of the holiday season.

The lineup includes the Blackbird, wide-screen TVs, a home entertainment hub and new notebook and desktop computers.

The Voodoo branding strategy echoes that of rival Dell, which bought performance PC maker Alienware last year and also sells gaming computers under its own XPS label.

The Blackbird's case has fins that not only lend it a striking appearance but also help keep its innards cool, borrowing a page from HP's experience in designing server computers that run business networks.

The Blackbird can be tweaked easily. A latch gives quick access to the case, and parts can be removed or added without tools. Hard drives snap into a pull-out tray, saving the need to fuss with cables and screws.

The Blackbird also features a 1.1-kilowatt power supply and a liquid cooling system, and will cost from $2,500 to $7,100, depending on configuration. It will contain processors from Intel (Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz 4MB of L2 cache per processor) and AMD (AMD X2 Dual Core, Athelon AMD X2 6000+ 30GHz) and graphics chips from Nvidia (8600GT, 8800GTS, 8800GTX) or AMD (ATI RADEON X2900XT). It will also include a Blu-ray Rewriter and HD DVD-ROM Super multi-drive with LightScribe, Availability is slated for September 15.

At an event in New York on Wednesday, HP introduced a 42-inch MediaSmart TV available for $2,099 and a 47-inch model for $2,499. The TVs, linked wirelessly to home PCs, can show digital photos and videos and play music stored on computers in addition to traditional TV programming.

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