HP Z1 Workstation: Review

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HP Z1 all-in-one raises workstation bar with feature-packed model

HP will define a new category of workstation computers when it releases the HP Z1 on 16 April. The HP Z1 Workstation is a 27-inch all-in-one PC with the compute power of systems that have heretofore been available only as tower systems.

I recommend the HP Z1 for those who run high-value workloads that demand large amounts of local processing power. While the HP Z1 will satisfy end-user computing demands, the device will also please IT managers because it has easy-access, field-serviceable subsystems and is dirt simple to setup.

Powerful

The HP Z1 Workstation comes in four configurable models with this advance review system configured with an Intel Xeon E3-1280 3.50GHz CPU, Nvidia Quadro 4000M graphics card 16GB DDR3-1600 ECC RAM, 2-300GB Serial ATA solid-state drives (SSDs), a Blu-Ray DVD+/-RW optical drive that runs Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

My test HP Z1 Workstation priced out at $5,673 (£3,577), with models starting as low as $1,899 (£1,197) for a bare-bones configuration. It’s worth mentioning that all models come with a 400-watt, 90 percent efficient power supply.

The nearest competitors in terms of compute power are tower systems made by Dell and Lenovo and of course, other HP models—specifically the Z210 series, small-form-factor tower systems. While Dell and Lenovo also make all-in-one systems, they are primarily high-end consumer devices.

Service-Oriented

I normally shy away from all-in-one systems because they can be a single point of failure that can take an end user from 60 to 0 the instant a single component fails. This is largely mitigated in the HP Z1 as it can be opened to expose everything from the display panel to the CPU, memory, drives and power supply, without any tools required.

Once the case is open, changing out some of the components, including the display panel, requires common tools. This is unsurprising given the precision of the components and the fact that the HP Z1 is designed to withstand being moved on a regular basis.

The setup experience is simplicity itself. I was able to get the HP Z1 up and running in under five minutes—including the time it took to read the one-two-three quick-start guide. The HP Z1 comes with an attached stand, which is sturdy yet also surprisingly easy to adjust. The display can be adjusted up and down just under 4 inches.

A noticeable exception to overall ease of use and elegant engineering is the location of the peripheral ports located in the bottom edge of the HP Z1. I had to use a flashlight and a great deal of contortion to even connect the power cord to the system. In fact, the hardest part of the entire setup process was finding and then connecting the power cord.

Performance

During tests, I used the Futuremark PCMark Vantage Professional benchmark suite to both test the compute performance and thermal characteristics.

Running with a display resolution of 1920 x 1440, the HP Z1 turned in an unremarkable PCMark score of 11,784 PCMarks. The performance was unremarkable because it falls within expected norms for a system configured with powerful CPU and Nvidia graphics card included in the test system. Running with a screen resolution of 1280 x 960, the system turned in a score of 18,340 PCMarks.

The recommended display resolution of the HP Z1 is 2560 x 1440, but the PCMark benchmarks I ran do not support this larger screen resolution.

After running benchmarks most of an eight-hour day, the HP Z1 remained cool to the touch and ran nearly silent. In a normal office environment it will likely be difficult to hear the HP Z1 above the ambient room noise.

Display

The 27-inch display is bright and clear, but one of the biggest problems I had during testing was getting far enough away from the screen to use it comfortably while also keeping the keyboard and mouse on a standard size office desk. While there are worse problems than having a display that is too large, it was definitely noticeable during use.

Also the protective, 2mm thick treated glass overlay that protects the display has the effect of somewhat diminishing the visual experience of using the monitor. Since the HP Z1 is designed to be moved around, the protective glass overlay is a necessary part of the system and isn’t much of a trade-off for the additional durability it adds to the system.

Although HP officials said that the chassis has the ability to support a touch-display, this iteration of the product does not use touch. In the past, when I’ve tested mobile workstation systems that had touch-screens, I’ve been an enthusiastic user of the feature for about a week before the novelty wears off and I revert to the touchpad.

However I would like to see a touch-enabled version of the HP Z1 in the future as the large screen lends itself to touch and gesture interaction much more so than a smaller laptop screen.

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