HP's Z400 Workstation Runs The Tom's Hardware Gauntlet

HP's Z400 Workstation

The HP Z400 is the company's baseline single-socket workstation in the Z series. Below it is the smaller Z200 (and the even smaller Z200 Small Form Factor). Above it are the Z600 dual-processor workstation and the top-of-the-line Z800.

The Z400 uses Intel Xeon W35xx and W36xx processors running on a motherboard equipped with Intel's X58 Express chipset, while the Z200 uses the Intel 3450 chipset. The Z600 and Z800 use Intel's 5520, which is necessary to support dual-socket configurations. All of the Z-series systems are capable of using unbuffered 1333 MT/s DDR3 SDRAM, but come configured by default with 1333 MT/s ECC registered DDR3 SDRAM.

The Z-series enclosures were designed by the BMW Designworks in California. They're reasonably attractive (insofar as professional enclosures go) and essentially tooless cases. Levers and tabs retain most components, and the hard drives are held in by a pull-tab with rubber grommet-lined screws in the sides of each drive. These screws are the only parts requiring a tool when it comes to switching out components. The stock CPU cooler is actually supplied by Cooler Master.

All of the systems in the Z-series, except the Z200 SFF, are sized to fit into 19” racks, and there are rack mounting accessories available. The systems are all designed for front-to-back airflow, and only the Gen 1 Z400 (which is used for this review) is not shrouded to direct airflow inside the case. They all use 85% efficient power supplies, and were specifically architected for better acoustics than their predecessors from the xw-series. The fans on this machine were only slightly audible when the machine was under full load, though you can manually add quite a bit of fan noise by going into the BIOS and configuring the cooling subsystem for maximum duty cycle.

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HP Z400 Specifications
CPUIntel Xeon W3520 processor, 2.66 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 cache
CoolerCooler Master HL5-NWDSB-X1-GP
MotherboardHP Z400 motherboard, Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA 1366
RAMMicron 2 GB DDR3-1333 CAS 9 (x 3)
GraphicsAMD FirePro V5700 512 MB (RV730), 700 MHz GPU, 900 MHz GDDR3 memory
Hard DrivesSeagate Barracuda 7200.12 250 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3Gb/s2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB cache, SATA 3Gb/s in RAID 0 configuration
SoundCreative Labs X-Fi Titanium PCIe
NetworkIntegrated Broadcom 5764 PCIe LOMController
PowerDelta Electronics DPS-475CB-1A, 475W, 80 PLUS, Active PFC
OpticalHP Super Multi DVD Rewriter GL15L
OSWindows 7 Professional x64
Graphics Driver8.723.0.0
Audio Driver2.17.007
ASIO DriverASIO4All v.2.10 Beta 1
MouseHP USB Optical Scroll Mouse
KeyboardHP USB Standard Keyboard
Warranty and Price
Warranty3 years parts, labor and on-site
Price As Configured$3,298.00

Since the Z400 uses its own HP-sourced motherboard, we’ll need to look at that as an item also.

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HP Z400 Motherboard Features
ChipsetIntel X58 Express
Motherboard RevGen 1
BIOS786G3 v.3.07
Internal Interfaces
DDR3 Memory Slots4 (triple-channel; slots 3 and 4 are the same channel), Gen 2 boards have six memory slots
PCIe x162 (x16/x16)
PCIe x1/x40/2 (1 PCIe 1.0, 1 PCIe 2.0)
Legacy PCI2
USB 2.02 (four ports)
Serial Port1
Parallel PortNone
Ultra ATA-133None
SATA 3Gb/s6
SATA 6Gb/sNone
4-pin Fan6 (CPU, front and rear case fans, HP Liquid Cooling option connector, two additional)
S/PDIF AudioNone
Power ButtonNo
Reset ButtonNo
CLR_CMOS ButtonYes
Diagnostics PanelNo
I/O Panel Connectors
USB 2.06
Serial Port1 (Optional, uses motherboard header)
CLR_CMOS ButtonNone
Digital Audio I/ONone
Analog Audio3
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA6 x 3Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 10
HD Audio CodecRealtek ALC262 Audio
  • bitter
    So JF was right to say that HT should be disabled in some scenarios
  • haplo602
    hmm ... I wonder if you could make a D3D/OGL comparison test in some 3D modeling software ? I don't actualy know if any of them supports both APIs.

    BTW you dual PCIex16 comment is wrong. There were dual PCIex16 slots in HP workstations since xwX400 models (6400,8400,9400).
  • Draven35
    Some of the other models have dual x16 slots... but they are rare in baseline models. At some point we'll look at how well an SLI config works in workstation OpenGL tests.

    3dsMax uses Direct3D (and OpenGL), but prefers Direct3D (it is 'recommended' by Autodesk on my GTX 460-equipped primary machine...), but Maya does not, it requires OpenGL.

    As for whether HT should be disabled? Still questionable. If you're doing animation, and have HT off, you'll gain some interactivity when working, but as soon as you need a test render you'll be losing time. If your 3D application does multithreaded interactiivty tasks, then you're better off with HT on- for instance, the VPR interactive shading mode in Lightwave 10. Its largely dependent on how your software responds to what, and hopefully we'll have more answers on that with the next workstation we look at.
  • ares1214
    Nice cable managment...
  • Draven35
    It came that way! The other models in the z-series have better cable management even, specially with the shrouds.
  • HibyPrime
    Lets see.

    2GB Ram - Not even close to be considered a usable workstation. - Nevermind, I messed up. I didn't see the (x3)

    250GB main/2TB raid 0 - raid 0 setups in workstations are used for scratch disks, and thats it - storage is too risky. 2x 250GB in raid 0 makes much more sense cost wise as you'll never use more than 500GB on a scratch disk, with a 1TB for temporary storage. I say temporary because a workstation is just that, once the work is done (and during) it's backed up and rarely used again.

    Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium PCIe - Any Audio professional needing sound quality is going to be using almost exclusively external hardware. The analog outputs all anyone else is going to need.

    Who ever chose the specs for this machine needs to be shot.
  • MU_Engineer
    This was an interesting review, but the real machine to test would have been the dual-processor Z800. The big advantages of a workstation are better reliability and stability than a standard desktop and the ability to use multiple processors and more RAM than a typical desktop. Perhaps a Z400 vs. Z800 test would have been interesting as there were a mix of poorly-threaded and well-threaded applications in the test.
  • warezme
    This machine is pathetic. Any decently configured OC'ed quadcore i7 will run circles around this thing, ugh.
  • Draven35
    It was agreed to start with a z400... the workstation tests were actually developed on this machine, hence why it has a Gen 1 board. Mayhap we'll look at a z800 later.

    Most video editors use a RAID array for their video files unless they are just editing DV. HD footage shot on a decent quality camera would quickly overwhelm your proposed 500GB array- the raw P2 footage alone for my film project was 350 GB, and that's before the scratch files generated for color correction and transition renders- and the P2 footage is pretty strongly compressed for semi-pro camera footage. (40 Mb/s) If you're editing uncompressed 1080 HD, you're dealing with 124 MB per second of video. With a larger array, a system like this could be set up for editing uncompressed HD with the simple addition of a BlackMagic Decklink in one of its HD flavors, or the HD version of the Avid Mojo if you prefer to work in something like Media Composer. With the transition of TV to HD, more and more projects are being finished for HD in an attempt to future-proof them- which has actually been going on for about five years before the transition. If you want to see something truly horrible, look at the data rates required for 2k or 4k playback...

    HP doesn't sell their machine configured with any kind of professional audio interfaces. They submit their machines for certification by Avid, and the 'full' Pro Tools (Pro Tools HD) comes from Avid on a z800.The audio interface choice for the system was either the Creative card, or the onboard RealTek codec, because that's what HP had and could configure a system with.

    You'll find a surprising number (like, most) audio guys including musicians these days working with a mix of software and hardware, and the mixing is done on a computer, not on external hardware. There are audio interfaces with two, four, six, eight and more inputs... my personal music workstation has eight analog inputs, plus ADAT and S/PDIF in. (Note, I need more like twice that in inputs.) You need all these input to capture multiple instruments on completely independent tracks simultaneously , so that they can be given separate effects and the mix can be adjusted on each track. (That's right, you can capture all those tracks at the same time.) Some of these audio interfaces are an internal card , some are an internal card plus an external breakout box (M-Audio Delta series, MOTU 2408, etc), and most are USB or firewire external (Presonus, TASCAM, Echo, Digidesign, Focusrite, et al) boxes with all the hardware located within it. In addition, many have PCI or PCIe DSP accelerator cards from UAD or TC electronic for effects processing and synthesis.
  • cadder
    The big advantages of a workstation are better reliability and stability than a standard desktop

    I'm not sure I understand this. A machine built with the best enthusiast-class hardware should be basically 100% reliable. The most unreliable part is the hard drive. This machine uses Seagate hard drives, probably the most unreliable brand of drives. This machine also uses an HP motherboard, and HP is below average in reliability in their retail products. Should we expect the workstation components to be better? As for stability, it's using the same OS that everybody else has access to.

    All of our CAD machines here use i5/750 CPU's, aftermarket coolers, 8GB, Gigabyte motherboards, a Velociraptor or SSD for the boot drive, a WD Black for the storage drive, ATI FireGL video cards, Win7 Pro 64bit. The machines run at 3.5GHz 24/7 with no problems. I add 2 cooling fans to each case and that in conjunction with the aftermarket cooler keeps things running real cool.