HP Z Series

July 1st, 2009 Computers, Desktop, Tech

Price: from $4,999

It’s risky rolling out a line of expensive workstations in times like these, so HP bought out a succession of customers who’d tested the Z series workstations at the launch earlier this year. Among many of the creative and data-heavy industry speakers, the semi-official consensus was that investing in the Z Series would result in productivity gains that would pay for the systems in just two months.

After a casual assessment Desktop can almost believe it. We tested it by comparing the result of a large Photoshop task to that of a 4 year old, 1.6GHz G5 system with 2.25MB of RAM, loading a 100Mb image into the liquify window and messing up the whole picture with a 300 pixel brush.

After opening the image in the blink of an eye (4 seconds on the G5), the Z800 took 3 seconds to load the image in the liquify window (42 on the G5) and just one minute to return the result (16 minutes on the G5).

The reason is the 3.20GHz Intel Xeon chip and the whopping 12GB of RAM in our test system (the price varies depending on the specs you need — our test model was priced at close to $18,000 so don’t expect this result from a base model). This oddly Mac pro-shaped device was clearly devised for heavy workloads. The handles on each end of the body make the not-inconsiderable 20kg machine easy to move around and with no rubber stoppers on the feet it’s easy to slide across flooring or carpet.

The design doesn’t stop at the eye-catching exterior however. Again like a Mac, you unlatch the handle and remove the side panel to reveal the innards, an extremely ordered patterns of panels that each sport a green ‘touch point’. Each one allows you to slowly and methodically disassemble the power pack, hard disks, optical drives, graphics and memory cards and fan array for replacement or repair.

There are no visible wires as all the finer details and motherboard on the far side of the body out of sight. Everything clicks neatly in and out of its slot and gives the Z series the most user-friendly interior we’ve seen in a computer system. Together with the seemingly endless expandability of components, making it so easy for you to manage them yourself is one of the series’ big selling points.

A lot of thought’s also been put into the environemtnal performance, and not just in earth-saving technologies. When you extract the power pack the airflow housing is all part of it, and rather than direct fans at hot components it’s has been designed so the fans draw fresh air in, direct it across heated areas and exhaust it at the opposite end. It means the Z Series requires much less cooling power which means a much quieter machine than so much processing grunt would ordinarily need, emitting no more than the vague hum or any consumer model PC.

Power saving credentials are part of the sreis too. The chipset has four working ‘states’ built in that adjust to your workload. It draws maximum juice when you’re asking a lot of the processor and winds right down to draw very little electricity when the systems’s idling.

There are always those who advocate going against the grain when the economy’s bad — spending more rather than less on marketing, launching a product rather than waiting, etc. HP have taken a leaf out of that book by launching a device that’s obviously enjoyed a lot of R&D effort. Your CTO or bank manager will be the biggest hurdle — the rest is a no brainer if you’re in a data-heavy sector


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