From many users’ perspectives, HP is the leading manufacturer of high-end workstations in the world with their acclaimed Z series of machines. Heavy 3D graphics and animation pros opt for their top-of-the-line Z8 which can lash together two Intel Skylake-SP Xeon CPUs with up to 56 cores in total and up to 3 TB of DDR4 RAM. Add in up to 9 PCIe slots along with optional Thunderbolt 3 and 10 GbE support via add-in cards and you’ve got one serious workhorse.
According to an article on Anandtech, while many workstations use one multi-core CPU to provide their compute horsepower, HP makes the Z series relevant for users who need maximum performance with dual CPU workstations.
There are those, however, who don’t need the dual CPU power of the Z8, or even the slightly less competent Z6 or Z4 (the next two machines down the line). Budgets and space considerations play a part in making the argument against installing such heavy iron. So what to do if you are an animator, artist, architect or entry-level user who wants a machine with a smaller footprint and a lessor price tag that can still offer the level of power and performance of a true workstation?
HP has your back: the Palo Alto-based company has just revealed the Z2 line of entry-level workstations. According to the company, this new lineup delivers powerful cost-optimized performance that is software certified for the apps you want to run, yet does not sacrifice graphics power, expandability or security.
The new workstations include the HP Z2 Mini, the HP Z2 Tower and HP Z2 Small Form Factor as well as the HP EliteDesk 800 Workstation Edition.
HP Z2 Mini G4
Let’s start with the HP Z2 Mini G4 Workstation. It’s small, real small. The “world’s most powerful mini workstation”, says the company. Compared to the previous generation Z2 Mini, this new incarnation improves things with twice the amount of graphics power via industry leading Nvidia GPUs such as the Quadro P600 or Quadro P1000. There is also an option for AMD Radeon Pro WX4150 graphics.
Super quiet, the Z2 Mini’s size allows you to save space on your desktop by mounting it behind a display, tucked under the desk or in a rack. With up to 56 HP Z2 Mini workstations fitting into a 42U rack, administrators will like how they fit into data centers and machine rooms.
With the right selection of graphics cards, the Mini can support up to six displays. Thunderbolt 3 support is welcome – the prior Z2 Mini generation lacked this high-speed connection. CPU configurations include Kaby Lake (14nm process) Core i3, i5 and i7. Need even more horsepower? The Z2 can also take claim as the only mini workstation with support for six-core Intel Xeon E3 series processors, making it suitable for serious production work.
Expect the HP Z2 Mini G4 Workstation to be available in late July 2018 for a starting price of $799.
HP Z2 Tower G4 Workstation
The most powerful of the new workstations, the HP Z2 Tower is designed to tackle complex production and post challenges including compositing, animation, color-grading and video editing. Advanced GPU options deliver 60% more processing than the previous entry level tower (the HP Z240), so rendering of 3D graphics using your favorite GPU render engine such as Octane or Redshift will go that much faster. As with the others in this series, you have a choice of the latest Intel Core and Xeon processors with six cores and full unthrottled performance. This is the machine to get if you are a new user and want to get the most bang for your buck.
The HP Z2 Tower workstation is the most powerful and
expandable workstation in the Z2 line. (Image: HP)
For storage, the Z2 G4 tower includes dual M.2-type storage which deliver super-fast data transfer rates beyond the 600MBs limitation of the traditional SATA bus. It also has four PCIe slots so multiple GPUs can be installed for extra-fast rendering.
The HP Z2 tower G4 Workstation delivers in late July 2018 for a starting price of $769.
HP Z2 Small Form Factor G4 Workstation
Like the Z2 Tower above, the HP Z2 Small Form Factor (SFF) workstation offers considerable processing power, though in a more compact package. Its six core CPU provides significant performance boosts, delivering 50 percent more processing power than the previous generation in the exact same compact size.
Like the tower model, the Z2 SFF has four PCIe slots and dual M.2 storage slots and due to its size has versatile mounting and installation options.
The HP Z2 Small Form Factor (SFF) workstation drops in late July 2018 for a starting price of $749.
The HP EliteDesk 800 Workstation Edition
While the three machines debut as part of HP’s Z Series workstations, the rollout also includes the HP EliteDesk 800 Workstation Edition. Think of it like a super-duper PC that is kind-of like a workstation, but is classified by HP as a PC, one that is the most affordable professionally certified “commercial” desktop. If you do a lot of spreadsheets, but also need to work on high-end graphics or video editing jobs as well, this might be a good choice for you.
Designed for 2D/3D design as well as drafting, this SolidWorks and AutoCAD-approved desktop gives users performance not available in a traditional business class PC. It is also optimized for leading VR engines, allowing VR development with enthusiast GPUs like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. The HP EliteDesk 800 Workstation Edition also includes specialized workstation customer support and has broad expandability.
Look for the HP EliteDesk 800 Workstation Edition in late July 2018 for a starting price of $642 which will include Nvidia Quadro P400 graphics.
Security & Management
HP has paid close attention to the security of all their workstations, including these new machines. To start, there is protection from malware threats with what the company claims is the first and only “self-healing” BIOS as well as unique HP endpoint security controllers: HP Sure Start Gen4 and HP Sure Run keep critical processes running, even if malware tries to stop them. Multiple machine management isn’t as difficult either using HP’s Manageability Kit Gen 2.
HP Performance Advisor is also available on the new machines to help you get deep insight into all aspects of your system and optimize software and drivers. Besides Intel i5 and i7 processors, you can opt for Xeon CPUs as well as ECC memory (error correcting memory adds computational reliability).
Constant improvement in CPUs, GPUs, storage and network interfaces mean that the entry-level computer you can buy today far outpaces anything comparable from even a few years ago. HP continues to do a great job in keeping up with the technologies and integrating them into one, coherent system.
So if you’re in the market to upgrade an aging rig, you’ll want to check out HP’s Z2 series. We’ll be reviewing in depth some of the workstations mentioned here in future postings. Visit HP’s site to find out more about the Z2 series.