HP z400 -- A good, low$, pre-owned Photoshop rig? -- Other recommendations?

I want to learn and use Photoshop / Lightroom / GIMP (as an amateur or hobbyist), and am looking for a relatively inexpensive desktop that will run Photoshop [say CS4 or CS5] without too much annoying delays [RAW processing of 16 megapixel images, and subsequent enhancing, filters, manipulation, etc].

What do you think of this HP z400 [$200 including shipping] as a possible candidate? . . . Are these generally regarded as durable, reliable machines? . . . How noisy are they compared to typical consumer-type desktops?

If I can do better than this model for this price range, please explain and make some suggestions. How would you rate HP z400 vs Dell t3500 vs Lenovo s20?


- Intel Xeon Quad Core W3530 2.8GHz, 4.8GT/s (8MB L3 Cache)
[Is this just as good as an i7-920 for my purposes?]
- 6GB DDR3 10600E, 1333MHz (2GB x 3 sticks)
Nvidia Quadro FX 380 . . . [Is this card good for Photoshop?]
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  1. Upgrader,

    Given the specification and the general good build quality and high reliability, the HP z400 is a very good value, keeping in mind the immediate need for an operating system, the eventual great usefulness of both more RAM (I'd have a minimum or of 8, but 16 is better to allow several simultaneous applications, and the great desirability of a better GPU and possibly a faster CPU.

    With an OS added, you would have a good system to learn the graphics applications you mentioned. Effects processing in 2D and rendering do require a fast CPU and healthy GPU, so beyond a certain file size and complexity, you may yearn to be an upgrader. Most Adobe products are CUDA accelerated so an Nvidia graphics card will help. Fortunately, if you believe you will be staying in the 2D realm, you can use an older Quadro - the FX3800 now about $60-80 is excellent in 2D, or indeed a good GTX like a 650 which will be very good in 3D as well. In all cases, check each application you think you might be interested in and check the manufacturers' recommendations. If the application stresses OpenGL, a GTX will be more useful, if you want the highest anti-aliasing, viewport, and error correction, it's a Quadro. When buying a workstation with a Xeon and ECC RAM, and running workstation programs, I would usually carry on through and buy a Quadro.

    The z400 is using an LGA1366 CPU at 2.8GHz, which is acceptable in your intended use, but a 3.2 or better wouldn't hurt. If you want, that system can use one of the best Xeon's ever made, the 6-core X5680 at 3.33 / 3.6GHz, but those are still very expensive ($900+). There are several LGA1366 CPUs that are not as terribly expansive used if you decide to upgrade.

    I really don't know Lenovo workstations, but I have had a couple of Dell Precisions and the Dell T3500 can be very good. They are generally a bit better performing than the HP and in my view have a better build quality than HP. They are also typically noticeably more expensive than HP's used.

    Buying a used workstation can be a bit tricky as adding an OS and better video card can quickly make the $200 system a $450 system and for $500 you can find >


    > which is (a completed sale) T7500 with a 4-core at 3.47GHz, 12GB RAM, and Win 7 Professional operating system. This would need a better GPU as well- say a $150 FX4800 (1.5GB) but this system could be expanded to run 2X 6-core CPU's, 192GB RAM, and has a 1000W PSU, so it's usefulness without changing systems could last for two or three years longer, be worth more when finished with it, and in the end- the system cost per year is less. I bought a used Precision T5400 for $500 in 2010, spent about $500 on it- (Win7 Ult 64, 2nd CPU, added 12GB RAM to have 16, and a Quadro FX4800), used it for almost 4 years and it is worth today about $800-900 which I think of as having a quite fast 8-core workstation for $50/year.

    It is complicated, but if you're in a hurry and funds are very limited, I 'd say get the z400, add Win 7 Professional 64 (+$140), and plan on buying soon (next two months) something like a good used 1GB Quadro- either a K600 or possibly a Quadro 2000 (+$80 to +200). When thinking about a replacement GPU, check the way your applications work and consider whether 3D is in your future.



    1. HP z420 (2013) > Xeon E5-1620 quad core @ 3.6 / 3.8GHz > 24GB ECC 1600 RAM > Quadro 4000 (2GB)> Samsung 840 SSD 250GB /Western Digital WD1003FZEX 1TB> M-Audio 192 sound card > AE3000 USB WiFi // Windows 7 Professional 64 > AutoCad, Revit, 3DS, Inventor Pro, Solidworks, Adobe CS MC, Corel Technical Design, Sketchup Pro WordP Office , MS Office Pro [Passmark system rating = 3815, 2D= 712 / 3D=2044]

    2. Dell Precision T5400 (2008) > 2X Xeon X5460 quad core @3.16GHz > 16GB ECC 667> Quadro FX 4800 (1.5GB) > WD RE4 500GB / Seagate Barracuda 500GB > M-Audio 2496 Sound Card > Linksys 600N WiFi > Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit > HP 2711x 27" 1920 x 1080 > AutoCad, Revit, Solidworks, Sketchup Pro, Corel Technical Designer, Adobe CS MC, WordP Office, MS Office Pro (Passmark system rating = 1859, 2D= 512 / 3D=1097)
  2. I know this is an older thread, but I just wanted to add my two bits:

    After my third MacBook Pro died on me, I decided to ditch the Apple bandwagon altogether. Since Photoshop CS6/Lightroom 5 is my daily bread 'n butter, I needed something quick. I found an online retailer of used, off-lease equipment...and the Z400's they had in stock caught my eye.

    My particular model has the W3565 3.2GHz CPU and 12GB ECC-RAM. It came with a lowly little Quadro NVS 285 128mb GPU, but that proved to be woefully inadequate so I ran out to my local Futureshop and picked up a Radeon HD7750 for $99. All said and done, this is by far the fastest machine I've used for my editing. No hang ups...no waiting. Quite unlike my MBPs...

    Since I came across this thread while doing my research, I figured I'd give my real-world input for anyone else who might be looking at the same thing.

  3. EricLeRed,

    Good of you to share your experience. It would be interesting to know the benchmark results. You might like to try the free trial of Passmark Performance Test and you can see how each change improves the performance and compare it to other HP z400's. For example:

    Currently the top-rated z400:

    Xeon X5650 @ 2.67GHz / GeForce GTX 560Ti /Intel 520 180GB SSD

    Rating= 3104 / CPU= 7626 /2D= 508 /3D= 3773 /Memory= 1746 /Disk= 2613

    The Passmark top-rated z400's with a Xeon W3565:

    Top Rating= 2782 / Top CPU= 6168 /Top 2D= 508 (Quadro 5000) / Top 3D= 4498 (GTX 660) /Top Memory= 1776 (24GB) /Top Disk= 2682 (OCZ Vertex 4)

    Oddly, there was not one of the 36 tested z400's having the W3565 that was using a Radeon HD.

    And, you can search by each category of rating and component:

    > the highest CPU scores for z400: Xeon W3680 6-core @ 3.33 / 3.6GHz (8299), Xeon 5650 6-core @ 2.67 / 3.06 (7926)
    > the highest 2D scores:Geforce GT635M (678), Quadro 5000 (663), Quadro FX 4600, Quadro FX1800
    > the highest 3D scores: GTX 660Ti (4936), GTX 580 (4879), Radeon HD 7850. GTX 660

    As time goes on, I see more value in adopting orphan workstations for rehabilitation. As they are fully depreciated, when three years or more old, the price can be 1/10th the original cost. Plus, they can benefit greatly from upgrades with the high-end used parts from the same series. I was given a Dell Precision 390 from 2006:

    Orig: Core2 Duo 6300 dual core @ 1.86GHz, 2GB RAM, Quadro FX550 (128MB), 2X WD 320GB, XP Pro 32-bit:
    Passmark: Rating= 397 / CPU= 587 /2D= 339 /3D= 75 /Memory= 585 /Disk= 552

    Revised: Xeon X3230 quad core @ 2.67 , 6GB RAM, AMD Firepro V4900 (1GB) , 2X WD 320GB, Win 7 Pro 64-bit
    Passmark: Rating= 1458 / CPU= 3631 /2D= 423 /3D= 1341 /Memory= 854 /Disk= 582

    As I had the V4900 and a good deal on an unused Win7, the total cost was under $150 and as a backup system, completely adequate to my uses.

    As for your new system, it appears you've found a good performance combination and this kind of system is designed and made to run a long time at full bore. As you might know, CS6 is CUDA accelerated and can benefit from NVIDIA cards. If you at some point find the HD 7750 limiting, have a look at a used GTX 580 3GB: Top 2D score = 1247, Top 3D score= 6330 I see these on Ebahh these days (11.14) for $90-120. The GTX 580 is 384-bit, 512 CUDA cores, the 3GB GDDR5 and with a 192GB/s bandwidth has a great reputation for CS and as a video editing card.


  4. However. the 580 might be too much for the stock z400 PSU, and z series workstations use a proprietary power supply connection.

    That said:

    MY current desktop is an off-lease z400 with a GTX 960 and 12 GB of RAM. My primary workstation (freelance 3d work and test development for the THG workstation test suite) is an off-lease z600 with 24 GB and a Quadro K5000. Either off-ease machine, even now, makes a great deal to throw together a system... (in my case, my USB ports were dying on my main desktop machine an i had to get something,and i needed a new case- on the bright side, it also meant i coul d move from a core2quad 8300 to a i7 for $200...)
  5. Draven35 said:
    However. the 580 might be too much for the stock z400 PSU, and z series workstations use a proprietary power supply connection.

    That said:

    MY current desktop is an off-lease z400 with a GTX 960 and 12 GB of RAM. My primary workstation (freelance 3d work and test development for the THG workstation test suite) is an off-lease z600 with 24 GB and a Quadro K5000. Either off-ease machine, even now, makes a great deal to throw together a system... (in my case, my USB ports were dying on my main desktop machine an i had to get something,and i needed a new case- on the bright side, it also meant i coul d move from a core2quad 8300 to a i7 for $200...)


    It's interesting to revisit this thread as your comments point out the very desirable trend of constantly improving power efficiency of GPU's. I've often found power ratings for GPU's to be a bit mysterious as of course, the draw changes according to load and apparently peak loads can be higher than the "rated" load. The GTX 580 is rated as requiring 244W- one of the higher ratings I know (a 6GB Quadro 6000 is 204W), and the dual GPU GTX 590- effectively 2X GTX 580 on one card is the highest at 365W.

    I never had a GTX 580, but it's always been described as working so well for video editing- and the prices for used ones remain relatively high that I keep in mind. But it does take a lot of power. When the GTX 580 was current, NVIDIA recommended a 600W power supply and of course, you're correct that an HP z400 falls short in having a 475W supply.

    The comment about proprietary power connection on the HP z400 has me wondering. I've had two HP z420's (600W PSU's) and in the first one (E5-1620) I used a Quadro 4000 (2GB) which at 142W drew 75W from the PCIe but needed a single 6-pin power connector. The z420 has 2X PCIe x16 slots and two 6-pin connectors on the harness, which were conventional and connected to the Quadro 4000.

    Since GPU's are evolving to use less and less power, the new z420 has a Quadro K2200 (4GB) which at 68W doesn't need additional power- amazing! the recent Quadro Kx200 series by the way is quite amazing as the K2200 outperoforms a K4000- the K4200 oes most task faster than K5000 and the entry K620 is certainly quite a bit faster than a Quadro 4000- which new cost about4X as much.

    You mentioned being able to move from Core 2 Quad to i7 so economically and I see what appear to me to be fantastic bargains all the time as systems depreciate so rapidly. For rendering I had a Dell Precision T5400 ( 2X Xeon X5460, 16GB, Quadro FX4800) and a couple of months ago bought a T5500 (Xeon E5620, 12GB, Quadro FX 580) for $171. I bought a Xeon X5680, 24GB RAM and used the Samsung 840 and WD RE4 1TB from my old z420 and for a total cash outlay of $650 have the 7th highest rated of 200 T5500's on Passmark. I found a NOS PERC H310 6GB/s RAID controller for $60 and expect to improve disk performance when I shift the WD Black from the new z420. The new z420 is getting an HP /LSI 9212-4i and 2X Seagate Constellation ES.3 1TB which have 128MB cache. I really recommend old Precisions as inenpensive but reliable systems to hand down components. The PC faster and cheaper world is amazing.



    HP z420 (2015) > Xeon E5-1660 v2 six core @ 3.7 /4.0GHz > 16GB DDR3 ECC 1866 RAM > Quadro K2200 (4GB) > Intel 730 480GB > Western Digital Black WD1003FZEX 1TB> M-Audio 192 sound card > Logitech z2300 > Linksys AE3000 USB WiFi > 2X Dell Ultrasharp U2715H (2560 X 1440) > Windows 7 Professional 64 >
    [ Passmark Rating = 4918 > CPU= 13941 / 2D= 823 / 3D=3464 / Mem= 2669 / Disk= 4764]

    Dell Precision T5500 > Xeon X5680 six -core @ 3.33 / 3.6GHz, 24GB DDR3 ECC 1333 > Quadro 4000 (2GB ) > Samsung 840 250GB /WD RE4 Enterprise 1TB > M-Audio 192 sound card> Linksys WMP600N PCI WiFi > Windows 7 Professional 64> HP 2711x LED (1920 X 1440), Dell 19" LCD (1600 X 1200)
    [ Passmark system rating = 3339 / CPU = 9347 / 2D= 684 / 3D= 2030 / Mem= 1871 / Disk= 2234]
  6. I prefer the z600/z800 over the Precisions largely because they run quieter. But if you need a workstation class machine and can't make the outlay for a new one, one of these off-lease machines from a few years ago is, I think, a valid choice.
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