Raptor's Blackbird Arrives As The Most Open-Source Yet Fast Desktop System - Up To 8 POWER9 Cores, PCIe 4.0

Written by Michael Larabel in Computers on 28 May 2019 at 05:27 PM EDT. Page 1 of 1. 45 Comments.

The Blackbird has arrived for testing! As written about last week, the Blackbird has begun shipping and is in mass production as the micro-ATX POWER9 system that is the little brother to Raptor Computing System's long-standing, high-performance, fully open-source Talos II workstation. The Raptor Blackbird is lower-cost while being able to handle up to 160 Watt Sforza 8-core processors, dual DDR4 ECC memory modules, one PCI Express 4.0 x16 slot, dual Gigabit Ethernet, and other common features of desktop/workstation motherboards.

Raptor Computing Systems kindly sent over the Blackbird for review on Phoronix and will be used as part of our POWER9 Linux testing moving forward. The Blackbird just arrived this morning after having a shipping delay in transit, but so far it's powered up and beginning to run tests. (This review unit is the former demo unit from the Red Hat Summit, so pardon any blemishes in the photos, obviously the retail Blackbird units are in pristine condition when shipped.)

Like the Talos II, the Blackbird is backed by fully open-source firmware that is something that can't be said for any of the current Intel or AMD systems. These motherboards also continue to be assembled in the United States at the company's Texas facility. The next closest system that is fully open-source would be woefully outdated Intel boards and laptops from a decade ago that are without any binary blobs or similarly some sluggish AMD Opteron systems of a similar vintage. Hopefully Intel will go ahead and be able to open-source the FSP in the not distant future (though that still leaves ME - the notorious Management Engine) and we still haven't heard from AMD with any intentions to open-source their PSP.

Over on RaptorCS.com is the complete product information for those not already familiar with the Blackbird. There is also the hardware compatibility list outlining compatible memory, graphics cards, and other components.

While more affordable than the Talos II, the Blackbird still isn't as cheap as commodity x86_64 hardware. The Blackbird motherboard is currently retailing for $999 USD or $1279 USD for a bundle that includes a 4-core POWER9 CPU and there is also an 8-core option for a combined $1605 USD. Other offerings are outlined via the Raptor web store.

At this point I don't have much to add since I've just had the Blackbird now for hours, but it's up and running. Stay tuned for Raptor Blackbird benchmarks against Intel/AMD desktop CPUs in the days/weeks ahead along with testing of the Blackbird with different GPUs and other options for those that may be considering this solution for a fully open-source system down to the firmware/microcode.

For those with any particular test requests, let us know by commenting on this article on the forums or Twitter.

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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.