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Computers / Hands-on Review

New HP Workstation Lets You "Z" Things Your Way

         

A few years ago, HP took on the daunting role of recreating its line of Z series desktops and mobile workstations to fit a very specific need—workstations that could handle the power and performance requirements of the creative professional. As the needs of 3D artists, CAD students, and digital engineers became more tech dependent, HP upped its game by introducing a line that used heavy-duty processors, high RAM load-outs, incredible graphics configurations, and other amenities that power players would appreciate in their desktop machines. Trying to unseat the Apple brand as the go-to machine for creatives, HP has done a worthy job of catering to high-end, high-level specialists who need a blazing-fast machine to handle post-production work, digital photography, and more. And now that virtual reality programming and gaming are finally going mainstream, the need for the superhero set desktops are even more relevant than before.  

"Try getting any video work processed... with a standard laptop or desktop, and you’ll know immediately why these machines fulfill a need."

Why does the creative professional care? Because nothing inhibits the creative process like a low-powered or insufficiently functioning machine. Try getting any video work processed and completed in full HD with a standard laptop or desktop, and you’ll know immediately why these machines fulfill a need. And HP does it at both the desktop level and the mobile level—its juiced-up laptops are some of the best (and truest) mobile workstations around.

Check out HP’s lineup of desktop and mobile workstations. HP recently added some new members to its family of workstations and mobile machines and took a lot of the guesswork out of buying both consumer- and professional-level computers, and offers options with a dizzying array of configurations that are sure to find a place in your home or office.

Desktop Workstations

HP Z1 G2 Workstation  HP’s Z1 G2 All-in-One workstations are already well known among pro users—we even wrote about them before, here—but the new G2 Workstations offer even more. In a nutshell, the Z1 G2 line now combines all new next-generation Haswell Core™ i3/i5/i7 or Xeon processors with large RAM load-outs, touch-capable glass or non-touch no-glass 27" screens with 2560 x 1440 resolution, and an easier-to-use rear I/O panel for speedier setup and accessibility. The line also offers an upgraded (optional) Thunderbolt 2 module, and four dual-channel DDR3 memory slots, along with a 3.5 and 2.5" hard drive, SSD, and newer mSATA slot options. Keeping the Wi-Fi current, it delivers 802.11ac along with Bluetooth 4.0. These workstations can come configured with NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards or just the integrated graphics controller on the chip, like Intel® HD Graphics 4400 or 4600.

HP Z230 Entry-Level Workstations and SFF Workstation  What sets the entry-level HP Z230 workstations apart from others in the HP family? These sturdy, reliable, yet powerful HP Z230 Tower Workstations are ideal as small business solutions. The series is defined by Intel Xeon E3 – 1200 v3 and 4th-generation Haswell Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors, along with five full-height slots (4 PCIe and 1 PCI) and up to 32GB of dual-channel DDR3 1600 MHz ECC and non-ECC RAM configurations. They feature new chassis designs, along with a new Intel micro-architecture (which improves factors like idle power consumption and makes room for newer next-generation CPU enhancements). You can also get these compact workstations configured with entry-level 3D graphics cards, like the AMD FirePro V3900 and NVIDIA Quadro K420, which allows you to drive up to five displays—perfect for a burgeoning 3D company with finite start-up capital. Other enhancements this series delivers include front-access USB 3.0, five SATA 6 GB/s ports (some configurations include up to 9TB of installed storage), room for two optical drives, and an optional 64GB SSD cache module. Ready out of the box, this hardy compact workstation can fulfill many of the tasks of a small business or home office.

Newer models, like the Z230 L9J81UT, feature a more power-efficient 400W power supply that boasts 92% more efficiency than previous models. Other recent additions to the line still feature plenty of muscle, like the Z230 L9J82UT, with a quad-core 3.3 GHz Intel i5 processor, 4GB of non ECC DDR3 1600 MHz RAM and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU. It also features a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive and a SuperMulti DVD optical drive. These ship with Windows 7 64-bit operating systems, but include a Windows 10 Pro 64-bit license.

The new HP Z230 SFF (small form factor) Workstation offers much of the same, but in a box that is 57% smaller than the HP Z230 tower—13.3 x 3.95 x 15.1"—yet still packs a formidable punch. It also features options that include Intel Xeon or Intel Core processors, up to 32GB of DDR3L-1600 MHz RAM, and three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs for integrated graphics, which means up to six displays for 2D graphics. It also includes four drive bays and five SATA 6 Gb/s ports, with room for an optical drive and an optional HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe SSD storage card.

The new models feature a standard-efficiency 240W power supply, but keep the  quad core 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7 Haswell or 3.3 GHz Intel i5 processor, 8GB of non-ECC DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM, and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU. These also feature a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive and a SuperMulti DVD optical drive, ship with preloaded Windows 7 64-bit, and include a Windows 10 Pro 64-bit license. Also updated is the L9K08UT, which features an Intel Xeon E3-1241v3 processor, 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA Quadro K1200 graphics card with 4GB of dedicated VRAM. This is one of a very few small-form-factor computers with this kind of muscle behind it.

Updated HP Z440 Workstations  The new HP Z440 Workstations pump up the power a bit, and are more clearly defined for creative professionals. Although still technically a mini-tower, the newly redesigned chassis is more compact and includes integrated front and rear handles, so you can rack-mount these in server situations. They include high-end Xeon quad core processors, up to 16GB of RAM and support for dual mid-range 3D graphic cards that can power up to four displays. Also new are higher-performance and high-speed PCIe slots, three PCIe Gen 3 and two PCIe Gen 2, which will be ideal when pushing the throughput limits (like storage expansion) and cutting 4K video. These are areas in which you will need the utmost speed and power. These units also come with NVIDIA Quadro K4200 cards or a no-card option so you can raise the game with your own graphics card. For tiled or stacked displays (like those used in digital signage) these workstations can also drive up to eight independent displays. All are configured with USB 3.0, although Thunderbolt 2 PCIe is an option.

Several updated versions of these minitower workstations include a mix of E5-1607v3, E5-1620v3, and E5-1650v3 Xeon processors, 8-16GB of ECC DDR4 2133 MHz RAM, energy-efficient power supplies and, now, a Windows 10 Pro 64-bit license (Windows 7 Pro 64-bit is the pre-loaded operating system). Select models come with NVIDIA Quadro K620, K2200, or K4200 cards with 2-4GB of dedicated RAM, while some are left with open graphics options (no graphics card installed) so that you can customize the graphics to fit your needs. Also included on select models are the new superfast 256 and 512GB Turbo Drive G2 PCIe SSD for enhanced speed and productivity. Two of the models also include Thunderbolt 2 ports.

The New HPZ640 Workstations  HP also added a new, versatile and flexible mid-range workstation that has the power, speed, and performance you’ll need when editing in post or designing in 3D. The HP Z640 Workstations feature up to eight core Xeon processors (the F1M60UT model even features dual Xeon processors for more power), and up to 16GB of RAM. That’s 16GB of 2133 MHz RAM, the fastest RAM available commercially right now. They can come configured with NVIDIA Quadro K2200 graphics cards, but most leave the graphics card up to you, and come sans graphics option. They now include 5 PCIe and one PCI slot for better expandability options, and a redesigned chassis that fits in line with all the other Z series workstations and laptops. There’s even a recessed slot on top of the machine to hold external hard drives or peripherals. Front USB 3.0 ports give you convenient placement for your add-ons, as well, and there’s also a USB 3.0 charging port in front for your smartphone or tablet. To juice all that machinery, there’s an updated 925W power supply. The machine supports two 3D graphic cards so you can power up to four independent 3D displays, or eight 2D displays for stacked displays.

HP also updated B&H stock with six new Z640 workstations. They include multi-core Xeon processors (with select models carrying dual Xeon processors), 8-16GB of ECC DDR4 2133 MHz RAM and 1TB hard drives. Some models will also feature the new, blazing-fast Z G2 Turbo PCI-e SSD drive, which boasts speeds 4x faster than regular SSDs, and 16x faster than traditional hard drives, available in 256 or 512GB capacities. These also ship with Windows 7 preloaded and either a Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 10 Pro 64-bit license included. None of the new Z640s are offered with graphics options, to allow greater freedom in customizing your needs.

Top–of–the–Line Power and Performance: The HPZ840 Line  As you can imagine, the HP Z840 line of workstations caters to an even higher-end clientele: serious business professionals who need the utmost in speed, stability, and performance from their machines. We’re talking 3D graphic artists and critical post-production editors. As with all of the updated HP line, this chassis has been redesigned to fall in line with the other Z series, and is trademarked by the tool-less accessibility, which allows even a novice user to switch out key components like storage drives, memory, and graphics cards.

You’re going to want to explore your options with this setup. These monster machines feature next-gen Haswell series Intel Xeon six-, eight-, and ten-core processors, and up to 16GB of DDR4 2133 MHz RAM. With that kind of power, you’re going to want to shop around for your own high-end graphics controller, although the HP Z840 K7P07UT does come with an NVIDIA Quadro K4200 graphics card with 4GB of RAM. The updated Z840s include seven PCIe slots (with two processors, so the load is never on one bank of slots for too long) and an astounding ten 2.5" storage drives—incredibly efficient for RAID server applications or massive data archiving.

In addition to this lineup, HP also added six new workstations to this year’s roster. While keeping the multi-core Xeon processors—and in some cases, dual processors—some models now add the new Z Turbo Drive G2 PCIe SSD in 256 or 512GB capacities for incredible increases in workflows, including 4K video editing. Along with that bump, they also include 8-32GB of ECC DDR4 2133 MHz RAM, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the Windows 7 Pro 64-bit operating system preinstalled on select models, with a license for either Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 10 Pro. To help power all of that, up to 1125W power supplies are included. These six updated models also ship sans graphic cards.

HP adds to its Z line workstations, which also include the Z420, Z620, and Z820 series, by adding enhancements and flexibility in both design and functionality. But the company has also made a few changes to its mobile line of ZBook laptops.

Mobile Workstations

Updates First: The HP ZBook 14  HP applied to its mobile line the philosophy that a computer can be powerful and useful and still be stylish. While most mobile users may not appreciate the power behind the Zbook line, power players who use these as replacement desktops will. Take, for instance, the HP ZBook G 14. This 14" mobile workstation still includes the Ultrabook™ form but packs in serious computing power. Using updated Intel Core i5 and i7 next-generation Haswell processors (which promise lower energy consumption and extended battery life), they now additionally offer screen resolution up to 1920 x 1080. But what sets them apart are the dedicated graphics cards—AMD FirePro M4100—which enable high-end graphics processing without sacrificing the small form factor of this Ultrabook. It’s also tough-tested; it has undergone military standard testing for operational vibration, dust, shock, and altitude. Want a tough Ultrabook with serious graphics and processing power? Sounds like you may have a new assistant for shooting and editing in the field, photographers and videographers.

To update this series, HP now offers the ZBook 14 G2. These two new mobile workstations include newer dual core 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7 Broadwell CPUs, 16GB of non-ECC 1600 RAM, and AMD FirePro M4150 GPUs with 1GB of dedicated RAM. One version sports a 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive and comes with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit as the installed operating system, while the other comes with a 512GB Turbo Drive M2 PCIe (the mobile version of the G2  in a mini-card form factor) with the Windows 7 Pro 64-bit OS and a Windows 10 Pro license. 

Second-Generation ZBook 15 G2 Kicks it up a Notch  Looking for the same power in a slightly larger machine? Display size is important when wooing clients or showing your work, so HP redesigned its ZBook 15 line, which includes a 15.6" display and Intel Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core processors. You’ll notice right off the bat that HP gave the Zbook 15 a slight tweak in design—a new wedge effect that dispels the bland sharp edges of budget laptops. The company also offers (in some models, like the F1M39UT) a QHD+ display capable of 3200 x 1800 native resolution. The updated models can also hold up to 32GB of RAM, and include an NVIDIA Quadro K2100M graphics controller with 2GB of onboard memory. Three USB 3.0 ports and a Thunderbolt 2 port offer even more flexibility in connectivity, and they even go old school by still offering a Blu-ray burner as an optical drive. Also available are Z Turbo drives, which are incredibly fast PCIe M.2 drives that HP touts as the next gen in speed and accessibility. CAD students, engineers, graphic artists, and digital artists will all appreciate the power and graphics options of the HP ZBook 15.

So how did HP make it better? With new HP ZBook 15 and 15u G2 models. One of the three new HP Zbook 15 models now includes a dual-core 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7 Broadwell processor with 16GB of non-ECC DDR3 1600 MHz RAM, a 512GB Turbo Drive M2, and an AMD FirePro M4170 GPU with 1GB of RAM (no optical drive is included with this unit). The other two include quad-core 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 4710MQ CPUs, 8-16GB of non-ECC DDR3 1600 MHz RAM, an NVIDIA Quadro K1100M or K2100M GPU with 2GB of RAM, and either a 1TB hard drive or 512GB Turbo Drive M2. Both include Thunderbolt 2 ports and Windows 7 preloaded with a Windows 10 license.

Top-Tier Mobility? Look No Further

Finally, in addition to the changes and updates to the HP ZBook 14 and 15, HP introduces the newly updated HP ZBook 17. It starts big: a 17" display that will soon have an HP Dreamcolor display, and 4th-generation Haswell Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. HP has also incorporated the new wedge design in this model, as well, making it a little sleeker (and surprisingly, more comfortable to hold). It will have dedicated AMD or NVIDIA graphics options, Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, RAID support (and room for more than one drive), and will now be capable of holding up to 32GB of RAM. Thankfully, HP also announced that you will be able to use previous-generation docking stations with this updated unit.

To add to that lineup, HP now has the ZBook 17 G2. HP adds two new models, both using quad-core Intel Core i7-4710MQ processors, and either a NVIDIA Quadro K1100M or K2200M graphics option with 2GB of onboard dedicated video RAM. Again, one model includes 8GB of non-ECC DDR3 1600 MHz RAM and a 1TB 7200 rpm traditional hard drive while the other has 16GB of non-ECC 1600 MHz RAM and a 512GB Turbo Drive M.2 PCIe SSD. Both include Thunderbolt 2 connectivity and both are pre-loaded with Windows 7 Pro and include a Windows 10 Pro license.

So, there you have new updates from HP, having dedicated its line to serious professionals, and these updates reflect that dogma. You could buy a laptop to play with, or a desktop to surf and email, and you will get what you pay for. But with HP, you’ll buy confidence, knowing that these high-powered machines will outperform anything you’ve seen yet.

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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