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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

HP Z1: Brilliant All-In-One Workstation

March 15th, 2013 by Jeff Rowe

A little over a year ago, HP introduced a workstation-class computer that it said would revolutionize the computer world with its all-in-one Z1. It  the Z1 certainly wasn’t the first or only all-in-one computer available, as the iMac G3 was introduced in 1998 and has evolved significantly since then. What really sets the Z1 apart from the desktop workstation crowd are two things —  its easy, no-tool access to its internals for swapping out or upgrading components, and its gigantic, brilliant display.

The display measures 27 inches diagonally, so that’s big. Too bad it’s not a touchscreen — maybe the next iteration/generation will be. Also, this big guy is relatively heavy at almost 50 pounds. However, the Z1’s articulating base and mechanism are robust and more than adequate for handling the weight. When you need to access the inside of the Z1, just lock it down with the display in a horizontal position, release a couple of slide latches, and lift the display up, much like lifting the hood of a car, to access internal components, such as hard drives, RAM, etc. Keep in mind, too, that a unit this big requires a good amount of space, so be prepared to offer it adequate real estate on your desktop.

About the only deficiency I experienced with the design of the HP Z1 was the port placement. Although there are some ports on the right side of the unit, several ports are located on the back side of the unit, with the unit’s base interfering with access to the ports.

The HP Z1 received had the following specifications as supplied:
CPU: Intel Xeon E31280 V2 (Sandy Bridge)
Memory: 16 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K3000M
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
Connectivity: 2 USB 3.0,  7 USB 2.0,  1 4-in-1 media card reader,  1 headphone,  1 microphone,  1 IEEE 1394a,  1 DisplayPort,  1 RJ-45,  1 optical S/PDIF,  1 subwoofer out,  1 audio line in,  1 audio line out
Display: 27″ diagonal IPS LED Backlit HP Widescreen Monitor (2560 x 1440) with up to 1.07 billion colors supported.
Dimensions: 26 x 16.5 x 23 in (66.04 x 41.91 x 58.42 cm)
Weight: ~50 pounds
Warranty: Protected by HP Services, including a limited 3 years parts, 3 years labor, and 3 years onsite service (3/3/3) standard warranty.

Measuring Performance
I ran both objective (formal documented generic benchmarks) and subjective (actual design and engineering software applications) tests for measuring performance.

However, as I always do, the tests were performed with the HP Z1 “out of the box,” as received – nothing was tweaked or optimized to distort the performance numbers (such as enabling multi-threading) in a positive or negative direction. As usual, I actually get more out of the subjective testing because it’s more “real world,” but the raw numbers from the benchmarks are also useful as a means of objective comparison with other machines in the workstation class. Your evaluations would probably differ from mine, but they do provide a point for comparison.

For objective testing, we ran two benchmarks NovaBench (geared more toward overall performance) and SPECviewperf 11 (geared more toward graphics performance).

NovaBench Benchmark Test
16311 MB System RAM (Score: 247) – this was comparable to recent desktop workstations evaluations

  • RAM Speed: 14,062 MB/s

CPU Tests (Score: 815) – this was better than most recent desktop workstations evaluations

  • Floating Point Operations/Second: 206,094,816
  • Integer Operations/Second: 944,481,128
  • MD5 Hashes Generated/Second: 1,340,110

Graphics Tests (Score: 317) – this was much higher than other recent desktop evaluations, due to graphics card used.

  • 3D Frames Per Second: 903

Hardware Tests (Score: 54) – on par with recent desktop evaluations

  • Drive Write Speed: 207 MB/s

Total NovaBench Composite Score: 1,433

The 1,433 composite score is impressive because it is the best score of recent desktop workstation evaluations.

SPECviewperf 11 Benchmark Test
The scores for the various demanding SPECviewperf 11 suite tests (CATIA, SolidWorks, Lightwave, Ensight, NX, and Pro/ENGINEER) run at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution (without multi-threading enabled) were among the best I have ever seen on any workstation that I have benchmarked and reviewed.

Subjective Test:
For subjective testing, I ran Autodesk Alias Design, Inventor, SolidWorks, and AutoCAD. I used data sets of standard models that I have created over the years for this testing, including a model with 70,000+ parts, renderings of complex surfaces, and animations. The HP Z1performed very well and did not seem to grind through any of the subjective tests. To get a better feel of performance I prefer to do it over the course of several months with newly released MCAD, CAE, and visualization evaluations/reviews, but time constraints didn’t allow that with the HP Z1.

Final Thoughts
The HP Z1 proves that there is still certainly a case to be made for stationary desktop workstations, especially with the unique form factor and upgrade potential. While this machine can get expensive if you need the fastest and biggest components, a basic unit could be configured at a reasonable price. To keep costs down, though, be honest about what your real needs are. Overall, the HP Z1 is a well-conceived and well-executed all-in-one workstation for running engineering software.
HP Z1 Workstation
Pros: Excellent internal accessibility for changing out components, brilliant monitor screen, good performance.
Cons: Placement of some ports/connections difficult to access, a little pricey, no touchscreen.
Price (As configured for review): $4,791
Starting at Price: $1,663
Maximum Configured Price: $8,361
Final Grade: A-

For More Information:  HP Z1

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