Computers / Hands-on Review

HP Z1 All-in-Ones Wed Power and Style in One Package


Why do All-in-One computers hold such sway over desktop computer users? Is it because the clean lines of the old iMacs were so futuristic and forward-thinking that PC users wanted to adopt them like shiny new robot puppies? Or are PC desktop users longing for the day when they can break the surly bonds of tried-and-true tower workstations and keep their desktop systems out in the open for everyone to see?

"All-in-One desktops are post-modern artthe clean lines and absence of wires lets you display yours out in the open..."

The answer is all of the above. All-in-One desktops are post-modern art—the clean lines and absence of wires lets you display yours out in the open, and not hidden under the desk like in days of old. All-in-One desktops are functional—with the decrease in the size of hard drives, solid-state drives, optical drives and more, All-in-Ones are just as powerful as tower workstations (for the most part). But the reason All-in-Ones have really taken off is because now the home-based computer can be just as comfortable as your multimedia entertainment center, work-based desktop, or client-facing workstation.

Traditionally, however, most All-in-Ones lacked real processing power. At most, you could find a couple with Intel® Core™ i7 processors, which are powerful and perfunctory in their own right, but are not the ideal processor to handle high-end video and digital photography editing. Also, All-in-Ones traditionally keep their slim form factor by excluding dedicated graphics cards.

Along comes HP, which, according to the most recent IDC market share data, is the industry leader in the desktop workstation market. Their HP Z line has always offered some of the best post-production video editing workstations, and they now bring that dedication to a new line of All-in-One systems.

The HP Z1 All-in-One Workstations finally bring powerful processing and a hardcore work ethic and marry it with sleek aesthetics and slim form factors. For the first time, a true All-in-One computer has the chops to compete with desktop workstations, and include workstation-specific attributes like RAID storage options, dedicated graphics cards and high-level Xeon processors. These All-in-Ones also offer a unique feature that allows for more flexibility in upgrading and customization—a tool-less chassis and horizontally folding monitor that let you quickly access and replace components, including hard drives, RAM, graphics cards, and more.

To that end, HP introduces the HP Z1 G2 F1K83UT All-in-One. The HP Z1 G2 F1K83UT (and all Z1 AiO models) features a  27" anti-glare screen with 2560 x 1440 resolution, and really brings the noise with a 3.2GHz Intel Xeon E3-1225v3 processor. This quad-core processor with an 8MB cache can be clocked up to 3.6GHz with Intel’s proprietary Turbo Boost technology. The K83UT also includes 8GB of 1866MHz dual-channel DDR3 SDRAM, upgradeable to 32GB. But more importantly, the graphics processor is the Intel Graphics HD P4600—the “P” stand s for performance, and this chip certainly performs. Intel upgraded this GPU to handle heavy-resource tasks found mainly in post-production applications like AutoCAD and Adobe Premiere. It includes enhancements to the number of execution units, improved geometry performance, and additions to key 3D elements including Microsoft DirectX11.

The HP Z1 G2 FK184UT one-ups that with a 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E3-1245v3 quad-core processor with eight threads (the previous model was a four-thread processor). The extra threads simply mean that with Intel Hyperthreading, you can assign more processes per core, which allows smoother multitasking, especially when using programs or applications that involve high levels of computation. If you need that extra power, this is the unit for you. It also contains an 8MB cache for often-accessed data, and the speed of the processor can be clocked up to 3.8GHz.

Another difference in these units is the graphics option. This is the only All-in-One in the Z1 lineup that uses a dedicated graphics card, in this case an NVIDA Quadro K2100M with 2GB of dedicated RAM. It also includes a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive and the same optical drive, ports, and connectivity options of the previous models. It also uses the same 27" LED backlit display with the same 2560 x 1440 resolution.

The next in the lineup is the HP Z1 G2 F1K85UT Multi-Touch All-in-One Workstation Computer. It mirrors, right down to the ports and amenities, the F1K84UT model, but adds 10-point touchscreen functionality to the mix. With touchscreen functionality, this high-end workhorse may be better suited for presentations or digital artistry. Medical professions may also find the touchscreen helpful in day-to-day operations. It is also configured with the Intel HD Graphics P4600 controller, so AutoCad and Photoshop professionals can use this with confidence. It includes 8GB of RAM, which can upgraded to 32GB.

The last All-in-One in HP’s lineup offers certain perks that make it the best of the bunch. The HP Z1 G2 F1K87UT 27" All-in-One Workstation Computer starts with the 3.4GHZ Intel Xeon E3-1245v3 processor, with an 8MB cache.

First perk: It comes configured with 16GB of 1866 MHz dual-channel DDR3 RAM, upgradeable to 32GB. It uses the integrated Intel HD Graphics P4600 GPU, and is encased in the same 27" Led backlit 2560 x 1440 display.

Perk 2: It upgrades the storage with a dual setup. Inside this user-serviceable All-in-One is both a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive and a 256GB solid-state drive. A solid-state drive should always be your first upgrade when considering purchasing a post-production workstation. They’re faster, they produce less heat, and they are quickly becoming affordable.

Perk 3: In addition to the standard ports, including USB 3.0 and 2.0, this unit finally steps up to the plate with dual Thunderbolt 2 ports. That means that you now have a conduit for 20GB/s of bi-directional transfer speed, which is four times faster than USB 3.0, and twice as fast as Thunderbolt. When it comes to the streams of uncompressed video that professional video editors deal with, having something with that kind of speed is a blessing, and they know it.

Also available at the more affordable end of the spectrum, HP has the HP Z1 F1K81UT 27" AiO Workstation Computer. The reason it leans toward the consumerist end of the scale is because it uses a more common 3.4GHz Intel Core i3-4130 Haswell processor and Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU, but it does allow 1866MHz DDR3 RAM (4GB installed, and it can be upgraded). The screen is still a 27" widescreen LED backlit display, with native resolution of 2560 x 1440, which is perfect for clear web viewing and multimedia applications. It also includes a 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive.

A similarly loaded Intel Core i5 model is also available, the HP Z1 F1K82UT Workstation Computer, which uses a 3.2GHz i5-4570 Haswell with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 chip, so there is a slight boost in the graphics. This model also comes with 8GB of installed 1866MHz DDR3 SDRAM, also upgradeable to 32GB. The storage on this unit is a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive.

Both models are configured with a tray-loading Super Multi DVD R/W drive, and a variety of ports including USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports (one of which doubles as a charging data port), a DisplayPort for dual-monitor support, and audio ports like microphone and headphone input/outputs, and SPDIF output.

These two models also include Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, and the newer 802.11 ac networking protocol. Bluetooth 4.0 and an integrated front-facing 2.0MP webcam are also part of the package. 

Although not as powerful as their beefier cousins, they’re also suitable for light video editing and digital artwork, and they also use the same worry-free tool-less chassis and high RAM configurability.

It’s good to see that HP doesn’t just sit around and wait for the desktop market to die. They step forward and advance the role of desktops, producing workstations that would be just as comfortable in the living room as in the boardroom. But they understand the needs of professional users, and they’ve built a sleek, smart and stylish desktop that doubles as one of the most powerful PCs around. Good for them. And good for you.

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The real measure of a working computer's value is how long it keeps working after the warranty ends.

Funny. No one seems inclined to talk about that.