Computers / Hands-on Review

Hands-On Review: HP Workstation Z Turbo Drive G2 PCIe SSD

So you have a deadline, and you’re struggling to get your work together. You have a portfolio of (artwork, CAD drawings, RAW photo images, detailed presentations) to deliver to your client, and you have about an hour to do so. Your workstation is chugging along, processing your work—but you’re still behind because your storage solution only includes a couple of large-capacity 5400 rpm hard drives. Typical? There’s a way you can cut precious time from this workflow and see an immediate uptick in your productivity. That solution is an HP Workstation Z Turbo Drive G2, the latest product in the HP workstation family that will boost your clock and cut your wait time.

The new HP Z Turbo Drive G2 solutions, in 256GB and 512GB capacities, are twice as fast as last year’s model, which by themselves were already twice as fast as SATA SSDs. This means the new G2 models are four times faster than SATA SSDs, and 14 times faster than traditional 5400 rpm spindle hard drives.

The new HP Z Turbo Drive G2 solutions, in 256GB and 512GB capacities

Its M.2 form factor (actually an M.2 SSD attached to a more tradtional PCIe card) uses PCIe Gen3 x4 for added bandwidth and roughly provides double the improvement in sequential performance. In addition, the SSD uses NVMe controller technology, which provides three times the improvement in Random Read performance, as you can see from the chart below.

  HP Z Turbo Drive G2 HP Z Turbo Drive Standard SATA SSD Standard SATA 7200 HDD
Sequential Read 2150 MB/s 1170 MB/s 550 MB/s 150 MB/s
Sequential Write 1550 MB/s
(256GB version)
950 MB/s 500 MB/s 150 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 300,000 IOPS 122,000 IOPS 100,000 IOPS 46,000 IOPS

This is a Non-Volatile Memory express device (NVMe) and it’s the future for faster SSD storage. Standard SSDs use the SATA interface, which has a top interface speed of 6 Gb/s (SATA III) and an actual performance speed of 500 MB/s. This is across the board, meaning all SATA SSDs will benchmark at around these specs. SAS-controlled SSDs fare a little better, at around 12 Gb/s for the interface or 1.5 GB/s, but these are mostly used in server settings because they’re cost prohibitive.

"This is a Non-Volatile Memory express device (NVMe) and it’s the future for faster SSD storage."

NVMe devices basically go beyond the limitations set by SATA and serial attached SCSI (SAS) controllers—think of data flow in your computer running through pipes, and those pipes are serial interfaces. For hard drives, the pipes were sufficient, because a hard drive can only push so much data through the pipe. When SSDs came along, they moved data a lot faster, but they were built around the old pipe system, and those pipes were quickly getting clogged because of the advanced speed of SSD data transfers. Along came PCIe technology, which allowed the user to add cards to their system, which controlled mostly graphics (and Thunderbolt connectivity in some cases) and provided a much bigger pipe for the data to push through. Gen 2 PCIe allowed 500 MB/s per lane, and Gen 3 around 985 MB/s per lane. This card goes in a Gen 3 x4 slot, and now you’re looking at performance levels greater than 2GB/s. That’s a pretty big pipe compared to the 500 MB/s of SATA III. The old SATA standard also allowed only one queue with 32 commands per queue, whereas NVMe allows 64,000 queues with 64,000 commands per queue. That would stop IOPS bottlenecking that you might see in SATA SSDs, but it’s mostly a concern for server side and not consumer situations.

How does this affect your workflow? Getting CAD schematics drawn in a quarter of the time you spend now? Having speed and accessibility to your files that is 14x faster than your existing hard drive? Editing 4K video in real time?

For an added boost to productivity, you can even combine the drives, or use the Z Turbo Drive G2 with other high capacity SATA SSDs and hard drives. Use the Z Turbo Drive G2 as the boot or data drive, and add on SATA hard drives or SSDs for speed, or utilize software RAID programs to increase capacity (hardware RAID controllers are not available as of this writing).

Because these are proprietary controllers from HP, standard drivers for onboard storage controllers won’t work for this device (nor will the original Z Turbo Drive drivers, for that matter) and these new drives will only work in supported HP systems (HP Z440, Z640, and Z840 series) and can be found in newer HP ZBook mobile workstations. As of right now, these high-speed drives support the aforementioned HP Workstations running Windows 7 64, Windows 8.1, Windows 64, RHEL 6, SLED 11 SP3, and Ubuntu 14.04.

So, when you look into buying a high-powered HP workstation and you want the best performance from your storage, the HP Z Turbo Drive G2 is the solution for you.

Also remember, B&H Photo is an authorized HP reseller with professional in-house technicians available for upgrades and installations on these workstations and laptops. Many of the workstations are built with graphics flexibility in mind, as well, so that the end consumer can configure the graphics options to their needs, and each unit includes a 3/3/3 warranty—3 years limited warranty for parts, 3 years limited warranty for labor, and 3 years of repairs performed at customer site for those parts not eligible for Customer Self Repair (CSR). For 24/7 customer service, please call 1-800-334-5144.

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