HP Z1 All-In-One Workstation

12/8/2012 3:28:42 PM

A stylish and upgradeable all-in-one workstation

The HP Z1 All-in-One (AIO workstation is unique because it is targeted at prosumers and professional but more importantly, is also upgradeable. In fact, HP touts the Z1 as the world’s first upgradeable AIO workstation.

Aesthetically, the Z1 is stylish and would easily up the hip-quotient of any work desk. It has a clean, minimalist look, but it is also an imposing piece of kit thanks to its massive 27-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution IPS display. The unit weighs around 20kg, which is actually decent, considering it houses not only the screen but also all the components such as the processor, memory, heatsinks, graphics card, power supply and blowers.

HP Z1 All-In-One Workstation

HP Z1 All-In-One Workstation

The heft of the Z1 is supported by a cleverly-engineered stand which tilts forwards and black, and can also be adjusted for height. It also enables the Z1 to be folded horizontally flat, whereby users can then access the components of the Z1 by undoing two latches at the bottom of the screen. A damper helps lift the heavy screen up. Inside the Z1, you’ll find that the components are neatly compartmentalized and there’s a multitude of blowers to help keep things cool.

The Z1 is highly configurable and prices start a reasonable US$1,800. However, once you start selecting higher-end workstation-grade components, the price starts to increase dramatically. Our test system which comes with a Xeon processor, 16GB of ECC memory and a professional-grade Quadro 4000M graphics card came up to an eye-watering US$5,000.

Since the Z1 is the first of its kind, we decided to use a comparable desktop system that we assembled ourselves to serve as a point of reference, rather than an outright apples-to=apples comparison. Directly comparing the two would be missing the point, because the Z1 has an entirely unique form factor and comes with a comprehensive warranty and support. Our self-assembled system is instead here to provide a big-picture perspective of what you can expect in terms of performance if you are buying a workstation right off the shelf, as opposed to building one yourself.

In this case, we managed to almost match the Z1 spec-for-spec, save for the slightly higher-clocked Core-i7 2600k processor. Using these components that can be easily bought off the shelf, our system came up to slightly above US$2,300 – not even half the price of a similarly-specced Z1. To provide even more insight into the Z1’s performance, we have also ran the graphics benchmarks on our self-assembled system using a consumer-grade NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 and a workstation-class Quadro 4000, to see if there’s any discernible difference in performance.

While it is true that our self-assembled system is considerably more affordable, we must remember that the Z1 comes packaged as an upgradable AIO system and that in itself is why the Z1 commands a considerable premium. Granted, HP recommends that all upgrades should be performed by a qualified technician and some components (i.e. the MXM form-factor graphics card) are not readily available off the shelf. Nevertheless, the Z1 is still upgradeable, unlike AIOs of old where you’re pretty stuck with the specifications it came with. Furthermore, the Z1 comes with HP’s extensive warranty aspects for any business organization.

In terms of outright performance on CPU benchmarks such SPEC CPU2000, Lightwave 3D and Cinebench 11.5, the Z1 was a good match for our self-assembled system despite its marginally lower-clocked Xeon processor, and the fact that it is running on a power optimized platform, which usually compromises on performance. More revealing, however, were the graphics benchmarks and especially SPECviewperf 11, which tests a system’s performance in professional rendering tasks. On this benchmark, the benefits of a workstation-class GPU are telling, as it blitzed ahead on all except for one of the eight rendering tasks.

The HP Z1’s internals are neatly compartmentalized for easy upgrading and thermal management.

The HP Z1’s internals are neatly compartmentalized for easy upgrading and thermal management.

Using Cadalyst Systems Benchmarking 2011 to assess the performance of the HP Z1 on AutoCAD 2011, the last version of AutoCAD performance drivers from NVIDIA, it was disappointing to see that performance was no different even when using a regular GeForce GTX 560. This goes to show that the drivers must be properly optimized in order for the workstation-class Quadro cards to do their magic.

Nevertheless, the Z1 crams a lot of performance into its relatively compact form factor and is a system best suited for light rendering tasks and graphics work. Furthermore, the Z1’s sleek and sexy form factor lends itself well to such a work environment. We can totally see the Z1 being completely at home on a creative designer’s desk.

While the Z1 does have the brawn to match its winning looks, you have to be prepared to pay a price. As we mentioned, even our self-assembled system with a 27-inch IPS display and Quadro desktop graphics card only came up to around US$2300. And even if you equip a traditional Z420-class desktop workstation with comparable components, that will still be considerably cheaper at around US$3700.

Fortunately, if you like the Z1’s looks but have no use for all that workstation-class computing power, the Z1 is available in other levels of trim. The most basic Z1 that has Core i3-2120 processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 2000 goes for around US$1,899. To sum up, the Z1 is by no means affordable, but it backs up its exorbitant price tag with winning looks and very decent performance.


HP Z1: 4,519

Self-assembled System: 4,832


HP Z1: 5,939

Self-assembled System: 6,401

Lightwave 3D (Tracer-Radiosity) – 8 threads

HP Z1: 55.5 seconds

Self-assembled System: 50.0 seconds

SPECviewperf 11.0 (LIghtwave-01)

HP Z1: 40.94

Self-assembled System (GeForce GTX 560): 15.87

Self-assembled System (Quadro 4000): 36.88

Cincebench 11.5 – Multi-CPU

HP Z1: 6.59

Self-assembled System: 6.71

Cadalyst Benchmarking System 2011

HP Z1: 391

Self-assembled System (GeForce GTX 560): 458

Self-assembled System (Quadro 4000): 455


·         Processor: Intel Xeon E3-1245 (3.3GHz)

·         Memory: 16GB DDR3 - 1600 ECC

·         Storage: 1TB 7200RPM HDD

·         Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro 4000M

·         Price: US $4,932 (as configured)


·         Processor: Intel Xeon E3-1245 (3.3GHz)

·         Chipset: Intel C206 chipset

·         Memory: 16GB DDR3 – 1600MHz ECC memory

·         Storage: 1TB 7200RPM HDD

·         Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro 4000M

·         Optical drive: HP 8x DVD RW Super MultiDrive

·         Audio: In-built speakers

·         Display: 27-inch IPS panel, 2560 x 1440

·         Networking: Intel GB LAN, Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless LAN

·         Operating system: Windows 7

·         Rear I/O Ports: 4x USB 2.0, 1x RJ-45 Ethernet port, SPDIF, Subwoofer, DisplayPort in/out, Line-out

·         Side I/O ports: 2x USB 3.0, 1x FireWire 800, 4-in-1 Media card reader, Microphone, Headphones

Verdict: 8/10

·         Design: 9/10

·         Performance: 8/10

·         Features: 8/10

·         Value: 8/10


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