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HP Z1 27-inch AIO Workstation Review
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Date: Aug 12, 2013
Section:Systems
Author: Joshua Gulick
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Introduction and Specifications
Mainstream All-In-One PCs have become increasingly more popular in recent years, but AIO workstations remain a rare breed. After all, workstations typically require more horsepower than your average AIO, and IT folks demand better access to a computer’s internals than most ordinary AIOs allow. That makes HP’s Z1 workstation all the more attractive perhaps: it’s meant to give you the power and access of your big workstation box in a small footprint, with no (or few) compromises.

HP Z1 All-In-One Workstation

Before we dive into the Z1 specifications (and its gorgeous, 27-inch display), we should give some background. HP has been receiving critical praise of late for its Z220 workstations, which are minitower/SFF systems that squeeze workstation components into cases with small footprints. HP is building on that success with a new line (the upcoming HP Z230 series), but it also opted to branch out into the AIO workstation space with the Z1 we'll be showing you here. The result is that the Z1 is a reflection of the Z220 series, and that’s helpful if you’ve used a Z220 in the past. HP tells us that virtually all components available for the Z220 series are available for the Z1, and that you can expect the same level of performance from a Z1 as a similarly-configured Z220. And as it does with the Z220, HP is generally able to make the latest parts (most importantly, processors) available for the Z1 on day one of the part’s launch.

HP Z1 Workstation AIO
Specifications & Features
 Operating System:

 Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
 Display:
 27-inch LED IPS Display at 2560 x 1440
 Processor:
 Intel Xeon E3-1245v2 Quad-Core(3.4GHz, TurboBoost to 3.8GHz)
 Chipset:
 Intel C206
 Memory:
 16GB DDR3-1600 ECC (4x4GB)
 Graphics:
 NVIDIA Quadro K3000M 2GB
 Storage:
 1TB WD1000CHTZ 2.5-inch HDD
 Optical Drive:
 Slot Load 8X SuperMulti DVDRW
 PSU:

 400W HP 90% efficient
 Audio:
 SRS Premium Sound, Dual-Cone Speakers
 Webcam:
 1080p 2.0MP Webcam
 Ports:
 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, FireWire, DisplayPort In/Out, Subwoofer, Mic/Headphone, 6-in-1 Media Card Reader
 Connectivity:
 Gigabit LAN, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
 Cooling:
 Internal fans
 Software:

 CyberLink Power2Go, HP MyDisplay, HP Performance Advisor, HP Power Assistant
 Peripherals:

 HP Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
 Warranty:
 HP Three-Year Warranty
 Starting Price:
 $1,899
 As Configured:
 $3,344.80 MSRP - Currently lower on Amazon


For the purposes of this review, HP configured a relatively powerful Z1 designed for multimedia content creation. The system is configured with some high-end components, as is evident by its $3,344.80 asking price. As such, it has some heavy hitters on board, including a quad-core Xeon processor and discreet workstation-class graphics card, but not the top components in the Z series lineup.

That quad-core processor featured in the system is an Intel Xeon E3-1245v2, which is less than a year old. The CPU runs its four cores at 3.4GHz and has 8MB of cache. It supports error correction code (ECC) memory, which is ordinarily a tricky component to put in a slim computer, as ECC memory generally resides on full-height DIMMs. HP made room for the full-size memory in the Z1 series and installed 4GB DDR3-1600 ECC DIMMs into the system’s four memory slots, for a total of 16GB of memory.

Graphics are powered by NVIDIA’s Quadro K3000M, which is designed specifically for AIO workstations. It has 2GB of GDDR5 memory and 240 CUDA Cores, and has only a 75W TDP. This card is one step below the top of the line - the Q4000M takes that spot – but it’s plenty powerful for a range of uses.

HP rounded out the system with a 1TB Western Digital Velociraptor hard drive. The 2.5-inch drive looks tiny in the HDD bay, which is designed to accommodate full-size hard drives. The system also includes a 400W power supply, which is a fairly powerful PSU for an AIO.

The HP Z1 Workstation all-in-one has a clean look that makes it a fit for desks facing into a room.

On the outside are a total of 6 USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0. That’s a little disappointing; we’d like to see more USB 3.0 ports on new system like this. The upcoming Z230 towers, for example, will have four USB 3.0 ports (two up front and another two in the back), but it’s a minor quibble. FireWire, DisplayPort, and mic/headphone ports are available, as well as a 6-in-1 media card reader.

The Z1 features a gigabit LAN port, as well as 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity, but its Bluetooth 3.0 feature is a generation old. The biggest differentiator between Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 is the latter’s lower energy consumption, so it's not necessarily a problem with a desktop system such as this. The system will work with peripherals that have the newer Bluetooth standard, however.

Now, let’s dig into what makes the Z1 so interesting: its design.
 
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Design & Layout
Not surprisingly, the HP Z1 Workstation has a substantial stand that takes up much more desktop real estate than the stand of a typical monitor. The Z1’s stand offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to display height and tilt, and it’s very solid too. Once you have the Z1 where you want it, the system isn’t going to tilt or sink on its own.



The Z1 is a sharp-looking, but not flashy system. The 27-inch display is surrounded by a black, nondescript bezel that houses two dual-cone speakers, which are aimed directly at the user. The screen itself is an IPS display, which offer much better viewing angles and color reproduction than cheaper TN panels. That’s an important feature for you if you collaborate with nearby colleagues or are a content producer. The LED display has a 2560 x 1440 resolution, and offers bright, crisp images.

Most of the Z1’s ports are hidden in an area at the lower-back of the computer, making it easy to direct cables back behind the stand. The card reader, a couple USB 3.0 ports, the FireWire port and mic/headphone jacks are on the bottom left side the computer (your right, when you’re facing the Z1). Above them is the slot-loading DVDRW, as well as the Power button, which has a blue light that makes it easy to spot.


Power and Eject buttons (left) and a smattering of handy ports (right), as well as the card reader.


A wheel at the top of the system adjusts the webcam (left). On the right is one of the tabs you'll need to slide to open the Z1.


The button in the center lets you collapse the stand.

A 1080p webcam (capable of shooting 2.0MP still photos) sits atop the Z1’s display. Obviously, tilting the computer to best suit your view of the display is likely to point the camera too high or too low, so HP built in a wheel that sits discreetly at the top of the system for vertical camera adjustment.


USB ports, the Gigabit LAN port, and other inputs, just behind the HP Z1 Workstation's display.

One of the things we like about the Z1 is that you’ll rarely need to turn it around: most of what you need to reach is accessible from where you sit or stand. The system’s serial number and related info, for example, are on a small card that pulls out of the Z1’s right side, rather than being plastered on the back of the system. In fact, the back of the Z1 is so clean, you can easily put this system on desks that face into a room, rather than against a wall.

What will make administrators happy is how easy it is to access the Z1’s guts. Just push gently at the top of the system, and it will glide down until the Z1 is completely horizontal on its base. Push the two clasp buttons, lift the display housing, and you’re looking at the Z1s internals. A gas-based strut holds the display up and out of the way. We felt as though we had just lifted the hood of a car.


The HP Z1 Workstation, open for business. Notice the strut, which keeps the heavy lid up while you work.


The CPU is covered by a large fan (left), with the hard drive cage in the foreground. The memory (right) is full-height and standing straight up, which is unusual.


A 400W power supply and the NVIDA Quadro K3000M video card (left). At right is a large fan at the dual-cone speakers, below the slot-loading optical drive.

From here, reaching most components is easier than it would be in a typical PC chassis. You have unfettered access to the memory DIMMs and the hard drive tray. Should you need to remove the power supply or video card, those are exposed, as well. The processor is covered by a large, flat fan-sink assembly, with another fan nearby. Even the slot-loading DVD-RW drive is easy to reach. Closing the system and returning it to an upright position is surprisingly easy job too.
 
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Software & Accessories
Because this is a business-class computer, OS choice is important. HP ships the Z1 Workstation with Windows 7/8, or Linux (Red Hat and Suse, among others). Our test system includes an oldie-but-goodie: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.



The Z1 is mercifully light on installed applications. A smattering of CyberLink and HP utilities make up the bulk of the system’s third-party software. The workstation has webcam software, so you can start snapping shots right away, but security software is left to your judgment. That’s for the best – your business mostly likely has a security plan in place and uninstalling trialware would just waste your tech’s time.

HP My Display is a handy tool that helps you optimize the display for certain activities, like working with text documents or watching movies. You can dig a little deeper into the settings if you have a particular task you want to configure the display for, but we suspect most people will stick to presets.


HP My Display

HP Performance Advisor is a utility with a slick interface. Some of the features provide the same info that Windows can (like the Windows Experience Index), but the interface makes it easy to find features you want. And, the utility has some useful tools, like the Memory Graph.


HP Performance Advisor

CyberLink Power2Go has some handy backup features, but not all of the features that appear in the main menu are available on the system free. It does have a DVD burning tool, however, which is worthwhile. A better program is the HP Power Assistant, which lets you set energy usage profiles and schedule automatic profile switching so your workstation (or workstations) conserve energy during down times.


CyberLink Power2Go



HP Power Assistant

HP also sent us a wireless keyboard and mouse, both of which are tied to a single, tiny transceiver. Plug the transceiver into a USB port, and you’re ready for action. The mouse is serviceable, but unexciting. The keyboard is also modest, but the keys are responsive and the layout felt comfortable.


Next up, we’ll take a look at the HP Z1 Workstation’s performance.
 
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Cinebench & SiSoft SANDRA
We started testing with two benchmarks that have been in our repertoire for quite a while: Cinebench and SiSoft SANDRA. We compared the HP Z1 Workstation to several AIOs we have recently tested, but keep in mind that these systems are generally targeted at consumers, whereas the Z1 is a pro workstation-class rig. Although this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, it should paint a pretty good picture of the Z1’s capabilities.

Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
Content Creation Performance

 
Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5 is a 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation suite used by animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.  




The Z1 kicked off our benchmarks by putting up some strong numbers in Cinebench. The 7.28 Multi-threaded score is tops for the AIOs we’ve tested and the rig also took the top spot in OpenGL test.

SiSoft SANDRA
Synthetic General Performance Metrics


SANDRA

 We like SiSoftware SANDRA (System Analyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) because its suite of benchmark tools lets us get a look at the performance of individual subsystems.We selected the CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia tests, as well as the benchmarks that stress system memory and storage capabilities.




The Z1's Xeon processor finished just behind the Core i7-3770K in SANDRA's processor and multimedia tests. Versus previous AIO systems we've tested, the Z1 fared well in the physical disks and memory benchmarks, besting all of the other AIOs we've looked at to date.
 
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PCMark & 3DMark Tests
Next, we fired up some benchmarks by Futuremark. The company, which is based just outside of Helsinki, Finland, started publishing benchmarks in 1998. Since then, Futuremark has developed tests for evaluating standard PCs and mobile devices and continues to update its flagship 3DMark gaming benchmark suite, and PCMark as well.

Futuremark PCMark 7
Simulated Application Performance


PCMark 7
 

Futuremark’s PCMark 7 benchmark includes a suite of tests designed to measure the way your computer would perform during typical tasks. It includes an Entertainment Suite, which offers gaming scenarios and tests its media playback capabilities. The benchmark also has a Creativity Suite, in which the system processes images and video. Other tools include the Computation Suite and the Storage Suite. The latter is capable of measure SSDs and hard drives, either individually, or as a whole.  



Interestingly, the Z1 didn’t take the lead in PCMark 7, bowing to the Dell XPS One 27, which has an Intel Core i7-3770S processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M graphics and a hybrid storage subsystem. It appears the 10K RPM HD in the Z1 couldn't keep up with the SSD/7200 RPM HD combo in the XPS One 27.

Futuremark PC Mark 8
Simulated Application Performance

 
PCMark 8

Futuremark recently launched PCMark 8, which has several separate benchmarks. The Home test measures a system's ability to handle basic tasks: video chatting, web browsing, photo editing, an similar day-to-day activities. The test is designed to be run on just about any Windows 7 or 8 computer. The Creative test offers some of the same types of tasks, but puts more stress on the system and is meant for mid-range and higher-end PCs. The Work test simulates the workflow of a typical office user. And the Storage test - you guessed it - benchmark's your computer's data storage performance. 









Because the benchmark is so new (the free version isn’t even available yet) we don’t have comparison data for PCMark 8 just yet. All the data from the benchmark's separate tests, which provide plenty of detailed feedback, is available in the chart above.

Futuremark 3DMark 11
Simulated Gaming Performance


3DMark 11

 As a gaming benchmark, 3DMark 11 puts extra emphasis on your system’s handling of DirectX 11. But it measures more than the graphics card’s performance (the processor can make a big difference to a score, for example) and is a good way to get a feel for a system both as a gaming PC and as a general-use computer. Futuremark recently updated 3DMark 11 to support Windows 8, so if you plan to run this test on your own Windows 8 system, be sure to get the latest version.




The Z1 reasserted its position at the top in this test, which isn’t surprising. That said, don’t expect the system to be much of a gamer – this workstation is designed to create content more than consume it.
 
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Gaming Performance & SPECviewperf
Obviously, the HP Z1 Workstation isn’t a gaming PC. But, who’s to say you won’t want to blow off a little steam at the office? To that end, we fired up one game and then got back to business with SPECviewperf.

Lost Planet 2
DX11 Gaming Performance

 
Lost Planet 2

We used Lost Planet 2 to test system’s DX11 performance. This game’s benchmark features soldiers attempting to take down a massive beast that seems to shrug off their firepower. There is a ton of action in the five or so minutes of benchmark run, and we’ve seen the test stutter when being run by lesser systems. We used Test B and set all graphics settings to High Quality. We also boosted the Anti-Aliasing setting to 4x before we ran the benchmark.  



The scores here prove that AIOs generally aren’t good gamers. Where gaming systems we’ve tested (with cards like the Titan for firepower) can score more than 100fps in this benchmark, the Z1’s best shot came in at a mere 34.2fps.

SPECviewperf 11
Computer-Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application


SPECviewperf 11
 

One graphics benchmark you won’t see in gaming system reviews is SPECviewperf. This is a solely workstation-oriented benchmark that runs the system through a number of pro applications like Lightwave and Maya (3D Rendering) and Pro/Engineer and CATIA (computer-aided design).  


As we test more workstations, we’ll have more data for comparison in SPECviewperf. For now, we'll let the Z1's results stand alone, and mention that the system provided scores that are appropriate for a workstation with similar hardware and specifications.
 
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Power Consumption & Noise
Most users shopping for a single system, may not consider power consumption when making a purchase, but admins looking to acquire many systems will certainly be interested in this data. We placed a power meter at the electrical outlet to catch the Z1’s power consumption at idle and while under a heavy load. To create the load state, we ran Prime 95 and Furmark simultaneously to whack both the CPU and GPU.

Power Consumption
Real-Use Testing


The Z1's power supply is rated to handle 400W, and HP assures us that the PSU supports all of the configurations it offers – easily. That seems to be in evidence here, as the system pushed only 213W at peak.

As for noise, the system is whisper quiet under load. When idle and even when doing basic tasks, the system’s sound never rose above our lab’s hushed environmental noise.
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Performance Summary & Conclusion
There’s a lot to like about an all-in-one workstation. AIOs save space and reduce clutter in your work area. They’re also easier to move around – just pick it up and you’re ready to go. But maintaining and upgrading an AIO can be difficult, particularly if it’s not built with easy access in mind.


The HP Z1 Workstation successfully juggles several balls. It provides solid performance for the price, offering serious power for under $3,500. The system also scores well when it comes to access – in fact, it’s easier to get to the Z1’s internals than it is to access the guts of many ordinary desktops. You won’t need a flashlight to find your way around this system’s interior either; once that lid goes up, it’s wide open. The Z1 also has a polished, professional look, even from behind, so it's going to look nice on the desktop as well. 

Given the Z1’s performance and accessibility, we recommend it to anyone looking for serious workstation. Check out HP’s website for configuration options – if you don’t need quite as much power as our review unit provided, you can reduce that price tag significantly by choosing less-expensive parts.


  • Bright, 27-inch LED IPS display
  • Solid performance for content creation
  • Clean professional chassis
  • No bloatware
  • Last generation Bluetooth
  • Fewer USB 3.0 ports than some similar desktop models



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