Review: HP Z1 Workstation

Definition Magazine by Adam Garstone

Unless you’re using ‘Smoke For Mac’ is there any reason to keep loyal to the Californian badge anymore? HP reckon there isn’t and are aiming their mid-level workstation, the Z1, directly at the old Mac Pro market. We review a post production specced model and find an ingeniously designed all-in-one package.

The HP Z1 is heavy. Really heavy. I mean don’t-lift-it-out-of-the-box-on-your-own-without-good-medical-insurance heavy. The Mac started the All-In-One paradigm, and the latest 27in iMac weighs about 9.5kg. The 27in Z1 weighs around 21kg. Ouch!

It’s not fair to compare the Z1 to the iMac though – they are very different beasts. The Z1, although it’s an All-In-One design, is actually a mid-level workstation, sandwiched with a monitor and mounted on a detachable, folding stand. The stand allows the Z1 to fold down onto its back – flip a couple of latches and the screen lifts up on a gas strut, revealing the innards of the computer. The review unit was fitted with a Xeon E3-1245 processor (four cores at 3.3GHz with 8M cache), maxed out with 32GB of DDR3 memory and with a single 1TB, 6Gb/s SATA hard disc drive. This is the unit that HP are targeting at post-production, so it was fitted with an MXM NVIDIA Quadro 4000M graphics card with 2GB of on-board memory. The internal layout of the machine is very smart indeed – it’s very easy to change memory, discs and graphics. One feature I really liked was the inclusion of an internal USB2 connector, so you can use it to hide a software dongle inside the machine. There is only a single hard disc bay, though you could fit two 2.5in discs here, rather than the single 3.5in. This means you can RAID together a couple of Solid State Discs for much increased performance. There are three mini PCIe slots, one of which is taken up by the WiFi/Bluetooth module. There are several fans in the unit – in normal operation they are audible but not intrusive.

‘Put simply, I don’t know of any other all-in-one

computer that has the performance of the Z1’

Once the Z1 is raised into working position on its stand (which isn’t entirely straightforward, given the weight of the thing), there is an equally impressive array of external ports. The right hand side has the optical drive (DVD with Blu-ray as an option), a “4-in-1” media card (SD) reader, Firewire 1394a, two USB 3.0 ports and audio I/O. There is a 1080p webcam, mic and speakers on the front (as well as, obviously, the monitor – more on that later). The rear features the mains inlet, more audio I/O (including a line-level sub-woofer output and S/PDIF), four USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort I/O and an RJ-45 for gigbit ethernet. For some reason, HP chose to position all these rear connectors directly in front of the stand, so they are tricky to get at. In fact, the IEC mains cable has to bend to get around the stand as it exits the chassis. Life would have been much easier if they had just offset this panel to one side. read more...

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