HP Z800 Workstation Review

By on May 7, 2012
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An exceptional workstation that delivers industry-leading performance.

Good: Exceptional performance, brilliant chassis design, easy to access internals, variety of configurations available.
Bad: Boot-up a bit on the slow side.
Price: AED 14,600
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Over the years computing power has reached phenomenal milestones. I remember the day when the hottest topic was Intel’s 500MHz CPU, and how it was a ‘powerhouse’ for applications of the time. In today’s world, more and more people are putting their PCs through grueling tasks every day. Whether it’s a three hour gaming marathon with maxed out settings or trying to edit a 1048p home video, the demand for more computing power has risen greatly. At the same time, enterprise computing demands have also escalated. Companies now want faster machines for their employees, and want even faster servers to power their architecture. Engineers need to perform hundreds of calculations to render a single CAD diagram. Animators need to immediately see how a texture or light source affects their model. Producers need to scrub through hours of high-definition video without skipping a single second.

So where do they get all this computing power from? The answer lies in workstations – computers that harness server-level computer architecture in a form factor that won’t cave a hole in the floor. HP is one company who’ve got their own line of workstations dubbed as the ‘Z’ series. The Z series is a highly configurable range of workstations that can adapt to almost any scenario, be it for animation or complex financial calculations. I was lucky enough to tinker with the Z800 for a few weeks to see just how much of a punch this thing could pack. Needles to say, I was knocked out in round 1.

Build quality & design
The Z800 is the high-end model and the third of HP’s Z series lineup. The ‘entry-level’ Z400 is best suited for tasks such as simple animation and film editing, while the next model up Z600 can take on more processor-intensive tasks such as CAD. The Z800  can handle almost anything thrown at it, so if you’re in the market for a computing powerhouse, this is the model for you. It’s worth noting that all of the Z series have had a recent upgrade, so the Z420, Z620, and Z820 are the newer models available.

The first thing you notice about the Z800 is just how sleek and beautiful the design is – and that’s just from the outside. BMW Designworks helped design the new look of the Z series, and it’s a wonder to look at. Sleek grooves run across the front and top of the case, which help distribute heat and improve ventilation. There’s a sturdy handle integrated into the top of the case, which allows you to move the Z800 much quicker than trying to hoist it up and carry it at chest-level like a normal PC (this thing weighs approximately 22kgs, so the handle is a big plus).

At the front of the workstation is direct access to the optical drive, as well as a free bay slot for a second optical drive or additional hardware such as a sound kit. There’s a small power button and HDD activity light, as well as three USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, and a single Firewire port. The inclusion of a Firewire port on the front will make it easy for those working with video to just plug in their devices and download their video clips.

At the back of the workstation is a avalanche of ports, including six additional USB ports, another Firewire port, two Ethernet ports, COM port, audio in and out, and depending on your graphics card ports for DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort.

The spectacular design doesn’t just stop at the outside. One of the key features of HP’s workstations is the ability to open the case up and swap components around without needing a single screw. This tool-less entry is an absolute joy, and any components that you can remove on the inside are clearly tagged with a green marker, so you won’t go fiddling around unnecessarily. What’s even better is that the side panel has a full layout of the internals actually etched into it, so you can always use it as a handy reference point.

One of the standout features of the internals has to be the power supply. The 1,100W beast bears no resemblance to the PSU found in regular desktop machines, and instead opts for a slimmer, longer design that fits into the top of the case. The design allows cool air to be taken in from the front and pushed out the back, keeping everything at optimum temperatures.

Having the PSU away from the other components also means that HP were able to have enough room to improve circulation across other key components such as the CPU and memory modules. There are fans aplenty inside, providing cool air across the memory modules and the installed CPUS. It’s certainly a very unique design, and one that will pay off – HP stresses that they want to make their workstations as easy as possible for users to configure and upgrade themselves, and it shows through every inch of the Z800’s internals.

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A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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