REVIEW: HP Z820 Workstation

Definition MAgazine by Adam Garstone

You hear a lot at the moment about productions being ‘4k end-to-end’ – though that generally means that they are shot in 4k and the final conform is 4k, but the bit in the middle is usually 1920x1080. However, with the launch of the new Mac Pro – touted on its 4k abilities – we wondered if it is feasible for post-production to be truly 4k end-to-end.

In a forthcoming issue, we’ll look at the new Mac Pro, but we’ll start with the PC. HP’s Z820 is squarely aimed at high-end computing, so it seems a good machine to base a system around. Our configuration boasts two 3.1GHz Intel E5-2687W Xeon processors (8 cores each), 24GB of memory and an NVIDIA Quadro K6000 graphics card. The motherboard has a hardware SAS RAID controller on board so, as well as the 300GB system SSD, we added a couple more internal hard discs (there are 4 bays all together) and configured them RAID0 for speed, to act as video storage. A final addition was a Thunderbolt card, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but with hindsight…

The Z820 is a big beast, but the hardware is easy to configure – the side of the chassis comes off easily and the internal bays have clip-on plastic covers. It doesn’t exude the quality feel of the old Mac Pro line – the plastic clips feel a bit… er… plasticky (and cheap), but it works well and there is plenty of internal expansion space.

To configure the RAID you have to press a key combination during the boot process to enter the BIOS. It requires a fair amount of knowledge, and – like most PC BIOSes – takes you back to the 1980s in terms of UI design, but if you know what you are doing then it’s fine. The boot process sometimes runs up the internal fans to full speed, which is a terrifyingly loud noise! Booting (to Windows 7 Professional) is also pretty slow – remember we have an SSD as our system disc – but that’s fine ‘cos no-one reboots their computer, do they? read more...

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