HP Z1 all-in-one workstation review

HP Z1 workstation front view

HP's Z1 is an innovative system design that crams a workstation specification into an all-in-one chassis without making too many compromises on performance and flexibility. Buyers needing top notch performance may prefer a more conventional system, but the Z1 will suit the needs of many users.
Space-saving all-in-one design, tool-free easy access to internals, full Nvidia Quadro graphics
Limited to 2 Sata hard drives, single CPU socket, some I/O ports difficult to access
Overall Rating:
4 Star Rating: Recommended
Price: TBA (entry level model £1,349)
Manufacturer: HP
Model: HP Z1 Workstation
Operating System: Windows 7 Processional 64-bit
Processor: Intel 3.50GHz Xeon E3-1280
RAM: 16GB DDR3 memory (max 32GB)
Storage: 2 x 300GB SSD, slot-loading recordable Blu-ray drive
Display: 27in LED Backlit widescreen (2560 x 1440)
Graphics: Nvidia Quadro 4000M adapter with 2GB GDDR5 memory
Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, S/PDIF, DisplayPort, IEEE 1394, Card reader, audio jacks
Webcam: 1080p 2 megapixel 


HP's Z1 is claimed to be the first workstation configured as an all-in-one system integrated with a 27in display. The design is intended to offer the space-saving advantages of the all-in-one format without compromising too much on the performance and expandability that workstation users typically require.
Set to ship in April, the Z1 is aimed at users running applications such as CAD, engineering simulations or multimedia creation, but in a system form factor that is designed to save on desk space when compared with a conventional tower-format workstation chassis.

However, some compromises inevitably have to be made for a design like this, with the Z1 only supporting a single processor socket and room for no more than a couple of 2.5in hard drives, which is likely to have implications for some applications that potential users may want to run.
To set against that, HP has produced a unique all-in-one chassis that opens up to provide easy tool-free access to all components in the system, enabling everything from the memory to the hard drives to the graphics adapter to be swapped out or upgraded, if required.

Another key feature is that Intel's Xeon processors now support the firm's Active Management Technology (AMT), enabling workstations equipped with these chips to be managed in the same way as standard desktop PC systems.
Exact pricing for the Z1 line has yet to be set by HP, with only the start price of £1,349 for the entry model disclosed so far.
HP Z1 workstation
The Z1 is available with processor options ranging from a 3.33GHz Core i3-2120 with twin CPU cores, up to the Xeon E3-1280, a 3.5GHz chip with four cores and Intel's HT technology, allowing for up to eight simultaneous threads.

A maximum of 32GB memory can be fitted internally, along with one or two 2.5in Sata drives. HP offers 7.2k and 10k hard disk options, with Intel 160GB or 300GB solid state drives (SSDs) an option.
Unusually for an all-in-one, the Z1 can be also be configured with different graphics to suit the buyers' needs, using the built-in Intel graphics functions or a choice of Nvidia Quadro adapters, from the entry Quadro 500M up to the high-end Quadro 4000M.

Our review system came configured with the Xeon E3-1280 processor, 16GB memory and twin 300GB SSD drives (Intel SSD 320 Series), plus Nvidia Quadro 4000M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. There is also space for an internal optical drive, in this case a Blu-ray recorder drive.

This configuration should provide ample performance for many workstation applications, with the exception of the most demanding workloads that call for huge amounts of memory or very high disk performance, such as a Raid subsystem.

The motherboard chipset does support Intel's Rapid Storage Technology, which enables the internal Sata drives to be configured as a Raid array, but only Raid modes 0 or 1 are available with just two drives.

We tested the Z1 using Cinebench release 11.5 from Maxon Computer, which measures a workstation's CPU and graphics card performance while running 3D content creation processes.

In CPU performance it scored 7.03 points, rating it faster than the sample score for other four-core CPUs, and only marginally lower than the sample score quoted for a 12-core AMD Opteron model 2435. The Cinebench OpenGL score for the system was 58.71 frames per second (FPS).

In terms of the oft-quoted Windows Experience Index (WEI), the Z1 was rated highly on all components, with the CPU and memory both scoring 7.6, the graphics adapter 7.2 and the disk subsystem 7.7.
We also tested the Z1 using the SPECviewperf 11 benchmarks which measure graphics performance, with the following results:
CATIA 36.81
EnSight 24.96
LightWave 40.93
Maya 51.98
Pro/Engineer 10.82
SolidWorks 37.93
Siemens TeamCenter Visualisation 29.15
Siemens NX 26.6

While the Z1 may be an all-in-one system, it is probably best described as an "all-in-one on steroids" rather than compared too closely with consumer systems largely designed for gaming and home entertainment.
For starters, the unit weighs in at over 21kg, with a large adjustable stand that not only lets you alter the height of the screen, but also enables the entire unit to fold flat horizontally so it can be opened up for upgrades or maintenance.

As delivered, the Z1 is folded flat and you have to press a release catch on the hinge of the stand, allowing it to be raised and the screen rotated up to face forwards. The stand itself is very stiff and does not make it easy to position the screen just how you like it.
HP Z1 workstation
The 27in display itself has a native resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, which is more than enough for many of the intended applications of this system and brings the Z1 into line with Apple's much-praised 27in iMac. There is also a DisplayPort output, which allows for a second, external display to be connected.

We found that the LED backlit display produced an excellent sharp and bright image, enabling us to pick out the tiniest detail despite the large number of pixels. However, one oddity of the Z1 is that it lacks any buttons to adjust the display image, leaving the user to rely on the Nvidia control panel for brightness and contrast control.

Unlike many consumer all-in-ones, the Z1's display is not touch-enabled. According to HP, this is because touchscreens do not offer the precise input control required by applications such as CAD, although we believe it could have value for users to be able to manipulate 3D models using gestures, for example.

One neat touch is that the 1080p two megapixel webcam above the screen can be adjusted to compensate for the angle of tilt of the system via a thumbwheel on top of the case, or even rotated so the lens points down into the system unit for the camera-shy.

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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