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HP Z1 Workstation: High-End Hardware In An All-In-One

Pricey, But Sleek, Unique, And Powerful

The HP Z1 is a unique all-in-one system that, despite its otherwise-limiting form factor, is fast enough to replace a pedestal-based workstation. You could even say that the sleek-looking platform is misleading. Rather than packing mobile-oriented parts to hit a low thermal ceiling, HP engineers the hardware intelligently to enable desktop-class processors, four DIMMs, potent graphics modules, and even multiple SSDs. Performance-wise, the only way to surpass it is with an LGA 2011-based box with much more expensive hardware.

Of course, part of the allure is HP's high-quality display. The Z1 is certainly capable of yielding professional image quality and better color than many monitors, making it suitable for business-class applications. But it isn't quite as good as some of the higher-end wide-gamut screens we've seen, some of which can do 100 percent of Adobe RGB.

On the other hand, the Z1 sports a far better display than most other all-in-ones, including competitors in the same market segment. When you think about what the Z1 costs (at least the first-gen model we're reviewing), remember that you'd need to spend at least $700 to equip another workstation with a comparable 2560x1440 monitor.

There are certainly form factor-imposed concessions. You're limited to mobile graphics, for instance. And there isn't a ton of room for storage. But HP's Z1 is still a surprisingly capable system made all the more impressive because it does fit into an all-in-one. The company further complements the hardware with service and warranty options, along with certifications in professional applications that other all-in-ones lack, all while facilitating the compactness you won't find in more conventional workstation builds.

  • blackmagnum
    Why should professionals buy this over an iMac or Mac Pro other than staying within the Windows environment?
    Reply
  • ubercake
    Most CAD designers in manufacturing aren't using Macs.

    The limiting factor here is how much less the cost of a standard workstation/monitor combo is compared to this AIO.
    Reply
  • Draven35
    1: To stay within the windows environment.
    2: Workstation graphics
    3: Better serviceability
    4: Better display panel (116.1% sRGB *measured*, versus 97.5% sRGB)
    5. Support for workstation applications under Windows, including appropriate certifications. (Which for certain applications is very important since they won't support problems with an unsupported system.)
    Reply
  • bambiboom
    Gentlemen?,
    As usual, a very thorough testing and well constructed description by Tom's of an interesting new system.

    However, in a fundamental aspect, the HP Z-1 needs to be considered in the reason for it's existence. Much effort was used to create a stylish, high performance all-in- one, but at 47lbs and $6,600, what is the market? It's not mobile given the configuration and weight, and it's highly expensive. Those needing mobility can obtain good performance from a Dell Precision M at a similar cost- though of course, the larger and 2560 resolution of the monitor is a big plus for the HP. More importantly, look at the configuration of the excellent performing HP Z820 possible for the same $6,600- this getting into dual Xeon E5 category- and today cores are king. Why not not make a compact desktop and set a standard monitor on top? If HP needs an idea, I have a 2006 Dell Optiplex 740 that raises a 27" monitor to the perfect viewing height- or can sit vertically on the desk or floor and can use a standard desktop Quadro.

    I don't know any professional office so pushed on space that would require this format for a workstation. Also, serious workstation users at that price will be looking for at least six or even eight-core CPUs- at least the LGA2011 socket to allow a change later. The memory bandwidth of Xeon E5 is more than double that of Xeon E3 as is the number of PCIe lanes. Think of the file size of impending 4K and 3D video when considering the amount of RAM, GPU's, peripherals, and file storage required.

    HP should know well enough that workstation users have to choose particular monitors for their applications and preferences, similarly GPU's, plus add non-proprietary PCIe RAID cards, special soundcard / interfaces, and often many HD's.

    The HP Z-1 is elegant but expensive and simply not flexible enough. Like the new Mac Dustbin Pro, the HP Z1 is, in my view, answering a question no one is asking.

    BambiBoom
    HP Z420 > Xeon E5-1620, 24GB ECC1600, Quadro 4000, Samsung 840 250GB, WD Black 1TB, M-Audio 192 > HP 2711x 1920 X 1080

    Dell Precision T5400 > 2X Xeon x5460, 16GB ECC667, Quadro FX 4800, WD RE4 500GB, Seagate Barracuda 500GB, M-Audio 2496 > Dell 24"
    Reply
  • ubercake
    ^+1 What he said.
    Reply
  • rich1234
    I have a G1 Z1 and its great, you can find them cheap on ebay, mine was suppose to be refurb but it was brand new, upgraded to 5 year onsite HP warranty for 120 bucks, upgraded to 3770k and memory, you can put any nvidia gaming mxm card in this beast as long as you have the videocard enclosure, can get those as an HP part number if you dont have one to swap out.
    Reply
  • Draven35
    I have to disagree on several of the points. First, this machine, as priced, is pretty much maxed out, not a starter machine. Seeing as how he even owns a Z420, he knows people buy non-socket 2011 workstations.

    Many animation studios have their line animators and modellers working on single-processor machines. Higher end dual proc machines are usually reserved for TDs. Similarly, in compositing, paint and roto artists usually have lower machines, while the people building final composites get the higher end systems. People all over these roles need critical color matching as well, and the Dreamcolor display on the Z1 fits that well.

    He completely glosses over the design studio and educational markets, where space is at a premium, and 'looking nice' is important.

    I guess the Z1 not being needed in the market, and 'answering a question no one is asking', would be news to Dreamworks, who is actually buying them.

    The 'storage problem' is easily solved on the Generation 2 Z1 by adding a Thunderbolt RAID.

    Part of the reason for its weight is its serviceability. You don't need a weird suction-cup-handle gadget, and don't have to remove the screen, to swap drives on it.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    I was thinking "Man this machine rocks", then I saw the price and my little bubble burst.

    Completely and ludicrously overpriced.
    Reply
  • bambiboom
    Draven35,
    Firstly, I am aware that people buy non-LGA2011 workstations- I have a dual Socket 775 Dell Precision. However, you imply that because I own an HP Z420 I should know this. My reply is that anyone interested in HP workstations should note that an HP Z420, that is Xeon E5, is LGA2011.

    And yes, of course people do buy non LGA2011, it's only that they don't spend $6,600. How many Xeon E3 and especially "educational" systems are sold in that price range? Animators and modelers do use single CPU systems, and higher specification machines are used when all cores can be utilized. However, do "those lower machines" -and monitor cost $6,600?

    Consider this system >

    Processor: Intel Xeon Six-Core E5-1650 v2 3.5 / 3.9GHz LGA 2011 CPU > $590

    Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS LGA 2011. X79 chipset,7X PCIe x16, 8X SATA III, USB 3.0 > $462

    RAM: 32GB ( 4 X 8GB) Kingston 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR3 1866 > $396 ($99 ea.)

    Graphics Card: PNY VCQK5000-PB NVIDIA Quadro K5000 4GB 256-bit video card > $1,800

    Hard Drive 1: Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 250GB SSD > $139

    Hard Drives 2,3: 2X Western Digital Black 2 TB SATA3 HD WD2003FZEX (RAID 1) > $294 ($147each)

    Case: LIAN LI PC-A75 Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case $170

    Power Supply: SeaSonic G-750 SSR-750RM 750W Power Supply $120

    Cooling: Cooler Master Seidon 120M –CPU Liquid Cooling System > $70

    Blu-Ray /DVD Burner: LG WH16NS40 - OEM $65

    Total = $3,846
    Add Windows 7 Professional and a good 2560 X 1440 27" QHD monitor on a budget of say $1,200 for a total of about $5,000- and that's purchasing the parts retail.

    In your opinion, would the above system with a six core- (=+50%), Xeon E5 at 3.5 / 3.9GHz processor, X79 chipset board with 32GB 1866 RAM, and a Quadro K5000- one of the best workstation cards, perform better and be more expandable than the Z1- all for a price with enough left over compared to the Z1 to buy a Z420 like mine?

    If I were to spend $6,600 I would spend it like this>

    CPU> (2) Intel Xeon Processor E5-2637 v2 Four core @ 3.5 / 3.8 GHz 15M Cache > $1,992 ($996 each)

    Motherboard > ASUS Z9PE-D16 SSI EEB Server Motherboard Dual LGA 2011 DDR3 1866 > $449

    CPU Cooler > (2) CORSAIR Hydro Series H60 (CW-9060007-WW) High Performance Water / Liquid CPU Cooler. 120mm > $130 ($65 ea)

    RAM > 64GB (4) Kingston 1X16GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Server Memory > $745 ($185 ea)

    GPU > NVIDIA Quadro K5000 4GB GDDR5 Graphics card > $1689.

    HD 1 > SAMSUNG 840 Pro Series MZ-7PD512BW 2.5" 512GB SATA III TLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) > $400 (OS and Applications)

    HD 2 and 3 > (2) Seagate Constellation ES.3 ST2000NM0033 2TB 7200 RPM 128MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Enterprise HD > $374 ($187 ea) (RAID 1) (Files, system Image)

    Power Supply > CORSAIR HX Series HX850 850W ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Power Supply > $160.

    Optical Drive > Blu-Ray /DVD Burner: LG WH16NS40 $65

    Case > Case Labs > Mercury S8 > with options about $380

    OS > Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit > $190

    Monitors > (2) ASUS PA279Q Black 27" 6ms WQHD HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight True Color Professional Monitor > $1,600 ($800 each)
    ________________________________________________________

    TOTAL =$6,501
    For about the same cost as the Z1, it's possible to have a dual Xeon E5 with 8-cores /16 threads at 3.5 / 3.8GHz, 64GB ECC 1866 RAM- expandable to 512GB (instead of the Z1 32GB limit), Quadro K5000, 512GB SSD plus 4TB HD space, two 27" 2560X1440 WQHD professional color matching monitors, and in a customized Caselabs case represents a substantially higher performance, higher expandability, and with the CaseLabs enclosure, even a more striking appearance- though definitely not a space-saver.

    Sorry to labor this point, but I believe that describing first, the possibilities for a system of noticeably higher performance and flexibility for quite a bit less money with the E5-1650 v2 idea and then the potential for a system of about the same cost with very substantial advantages with the dual E5-2637 v2 concept, clearly demonstrates the relatively poor cost / performance and features of the Z1.

    Certainly, the Z1 is stylish, beautifully engineered, and HP workstations have a very high build quality. Dreamworks may be able throw Billions about "looking nice" in their cubicle farms, but for most of the workstation market, cost / performance, and flexibility are overwhelming priorities to stylishness. Further, in terms of space-saving, the Z1 does not present a serious advantage over a desktop or tower system. If I set my HP Z420 on my desktop behind the monitor or lay it horizontally and set the monitor on top, the total footprint is only a bit larger than the Z1 when folded flat.

    My point in stating that the Z1 is,"answering a question no one is asking" is not that no one will buy it, but that those who buy it will do so out of response to the appearance and weren't thinking in advance, "Where can I find a quad-core Xeon E3 system that costs an extra $4,000 because it looks great and saves one square foot in the office?"

    There's nothing at all wrong with the HP Z1 that knocking $4,000 off the price wouldn't cure.

    Cost / Performance, Cost / Performance, Cost / Performance.

    BambiBoom
    Reply
  • ubercake
    The other thing is most people using high-end workstations also attach additional monitors across a large desk area and are not at a loss for work space whatsoever. I could see if this functionality was all in a laptop for the price maybe(?), but there is no real portability to an AIO. You just don't have to run as many cords and it looks nicer because of it. Other than that, the value proposition is low.
    Reply