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HP Expands iPAQ Line, Intros Gaming Rig

HP Expands iPAQ Line, Intros Gaming Rig

At a press event in New York, Hewlett Packard has announced its largest launch of iPAQ mobile productivity products aimed at business professionals. But it wasn’t all gear aimed at the suit-and-tie crowd: HP also took a note from its recently acquired Voodoo PC division and introduced the Blackbird 002 PC aimed strictly at gamers, and a new suite of mobile entertainment services.

The Blackbird 002 sports an aluminum chassis and a cast aluminum foot which, at first glance with the LEDs on, might make the system resemble a droid from one of the Star Wars films. But under the hood, the Blackbird 002 packs a maintenance-free liquid cooling for the CPU, motherboard, and graphics cards, and separate thermal chambers for graphics cards and power supply. A removable side panel offers access to folks who just have to tweak their systems, and tool-free upgradability will appeal to the less technical in the gaming community.

Spec-wise, the Blackbird 002 will be available in either AMD or Intel-based configurations, offering an AMD X2 Dual Core architecture or Intel Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Extreme configurations. The system supports up to 8 GB of RAM in four DIMM slots, offers two double-wide 16-lane PCI Express graphics slots with either Nvidia GeForce or ATI Radeon graphics cards, an Ageia PhysX accelerator card, and five independent SATA slot-loading drive bays supporting up to 4 TB of storage. An additional bay can support a Blu-ray writer or HD DVD-ROM super-multi drive, a selection of Creative audio cards are available, and the system sports a 15-in-1 card reader, half a dozen USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, S/PDIF optical audio in and out, two FireWire/IEEE 1394 ports, and Gigabit Ethernet.

HP will hand-build each Blackbird 002 will be hand-built in HP’s plant in Calgary, Alberta; pricing will vary greatly by configuration but should range between about $2,500 and $7,100. A pre-configured “Dedication Edition” goes on sale September 15; custom configs will be available beginning October 1.

HP also aimed to keep the business folk happy, with its largest launch of iPAQ portable devices aimed at mobile professionals, as well as new business-centric notebooks. HP’s new iPAQ offerings include two new 3G mobile phones (the iPAQ 900 Series and 600 Series), a personal navigation device (the iPAQ 300 Series Travel Companion), and two PDAs (the Series 200 and Series 100). The 900 and 600 series run Windows Mobile Professional 6, offer a 3 megapixel camera, and a touchscreen interface. The 300 Series Travel Companion also offers entertainment features, Web-based trip-planning services, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a 3D navigation interface on a massive 800 by 480 pixel, 4.3-inch LCD display. The iPAQ 200 PDA offers a 4-inch touchscreen with integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, while the affordable 100 Series is just 13 mm thick with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Availability and pricing will vary by region, although HP is happy to offer companies and organizations customized and pre-configured iPAQ bundles.

HP is also looking to tap into the mobile entertainment market via QuickPlay (PDF), enabling users to view live and recorded television programming on notebook PCs. HP QuickPlay integrates the well-regarded Sling Media‘s place-shifting player so users can access their home television and video libraries via broadband Internet, even when traveling. HP has also partnered with Next.TV, Margate Entertainment, and TVU Networks, and Starz Entertainment’s Vongo service to let users watch television shows and clips, as well as download movies within the QuickPlay application. Customers who purchased HP notebooks with QuickPlay and Windows Vista after January 31, 2007, will be able to upgrade their system to access the new features.

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