Check out our review of the new 12-core, water cooled, Z800 workstation.
When was the last time you looked at a computer and it caused you to utter the word “Wow?” When I was first introduced to the HP Z800 that is exactly what I said. This workstation is filled with all sorts of features that make life for computer users, and the people that support them, very pleasant.
- Powerful performance by design
Get massive, whole-system computational power from a workstation that optimizes the way the processor, memory, graphics, OS, and software technology work together.
- Sleek new look
The revolutionary industrial design features brushed aluminum side panels, integrated handles, visually cable-less engineering that maximizes airflow, modular component removal and reconnect, and optional liquid cooling (available 2H09).
- Expandability without comparison
Tackle the most data-intensive applications with massive data capacity and the ultimate in computing power and system expandability.
- Designed with the environment in mind
Minimize power costs with ENERGY STAR® qualified configurations, 85% or 89% efficient power supplies, and HP WattSaver, an energy-saving feature that, when activated, helps lower energy consumption in off mode.
- Do more every minute
Process more tasks—in less time—with the massive computational horsepower of the new Quad-Core Intel® Xeon® processors and Intel® QuickPath Technology featuring an integrated memory controller.
- Unrivalled ease of service
With its tool-less chassis, clutter-free internal design, and modular, direct- connect drives and power supplies, you can add or change components quickly and easily.
- Easy-to-use system diagnostics tool
Quickly capture complete system configuration data and share with IT personnel with HP Vision Field Diagnostics, an easy-to-use system diagnostics tool that runs outside the OS.
Packed with either one or two Quad Core processors and clock speeds between 2.00 GHz and 3.20 GHz the Z800 workstation is all setup to provide exceptional performance.
One of the things that impressed me the most about the Z800 was the design. To come up with the design HP employed the services of BMW DesignWorks.
The Z800 workstation offers a new level of expandability, if you are willing to pay for it. The system supports up to 192GB of RAM, but it does not come cheap. I could not find a configuration that allowed me to choose 192 GB, but I was able to choose 48 GB and that added $9900 to the price. I can only imagine that 192 GB would be a lot more (4 x $9900 = $39600).
The Z800 workstation is also built to be green. No, I am not talking about the color, I am talking about how energy efficient it is. I know that a workstation with 2 Quad core CPU’s and a 192 GB of RAM is not going to be a low power machine, but the Z800 does have an 89% energy efficient power supply.
One of my favorite things about the Z800 workstation is how easy it is to take apart. There are lots of easily removable parts, but the one I liked the most is the power supply. This power supply does not have any cables, so it is easy to pull out and replace if needed. I will talk more about the power supply below.
The whole case, inside and out, was designed by BMW DesignWorks. BMW spent quite a bit of effort making the case very easy to get into, easy to take apart, and quite and cool. There are no tools required to open the Z800 case, or to access each of the parts. When you look inside the case you will notice lots of green touch points. Each of these touch points indicate a part that can be moved or removed.
The front of the Z800 case has a simple design without a lot of frills. At the top is a single slot loading DVD, with an eject button just below the slot. Below that and on the right side of the case is the power button, 3 USB ports, a headphone and microphone jack, and a Firewire port. If you are going to add more drives it is best to order them from HP so they will match the look of the front.
The back of the Z800 case is fairly standard, it has 2 80mm fan on the right and on the left are a bunch of I/O ports. The I/O ports consist of a Serial port at the top, 2 PS/2 ports, 6 USB ports, a Firewire port, 2 Network ports, a microphone, audio in, and audio out jack. Below all that are the PCI card slots, in the machine I have there is a single video card with 2 Display ports and a DVI plug.
Now we get to the interesting part, the left side of the case. The left side of the Z800 case is mostly bare except for a small handle and a lock. When you lift the handle the side comes off very easily and we get our first view of the inside.
At the top is the power supply. As I mentioned above I really like this part of the Z800 case. The power supply in the Z800 is very unique and it has several innovative design features. As you can see from the picture the power supply spans the entire length of the case. This was done so that the power supply can get its own fresh air from the front of the case and expel it out of the back. The second innovative feature is that this is a cable-less power supply. This means there are no cables directly attached to the power supply. This simple thing allows the power supply to be easily removed and replaced without having to unplug all the cables. Instead of the cables being attached to the power supply they are attached to the case. There are three plugs in the case that the cables are attached to and there are three plugs on the power supply that connect to the plugs in the case. The reason I like this feature so much is because I recently had to replace the power supply in my personal computer, so I know how much of a pain it is to remove all the cables.
Below the power supply is a removable panel that covers the memory slots and processors. When the panel is removed the first thing you see are two fans. Attached to the bottom of the fans is an air guide. This air guide keeps the hot air from the front CPU from going into the second CPU and overheating it. The fans help to keep the memory cool and to keep the air around the CPUs circulating. Each CPU also has a fan attached to the HeatSink so that the CPU’s will stay cool.
Below the CPUs is another removable panel. This panel covers the PCI slots. In my configuration there is only one video card, but there is room for another video card and anything else you may need. One upgrade I would probably recommend is a sound card. As you may have noticed, the motherboard does not have enough audio ports to support anything more than a 2.0 speaker system. If you are doing audio or video editing you are going to want more and so a sound card will be required.
To the right of the PCI card slots are 4 hot swappable Hard Drive bays. With my Z800 workstation HP filled the drive bays with 2 150GB 15000 RPM drives, and a single 1 TB 7200 RPM drive for my testing. The bays slide out fairly easily, but getting them back in can be a challenge. There is a lever on each drawer that needs to be lowered for removal and raised to lock it into place. If you happen to not get the drive pushed in all the way before locking the lever the hard drive will not be fully connected.
Above the hard drives are the 5.25″ drive bays. These bays a quite a bit harder to get to when compared to the hard drives, but the tool-less design helps to keep thing as easy as possible.
Overall the design is fantastic, as I said before it is very easy to get into and access all the various parts.
Even though the Z800 workstation is quite a site to behold, HP is not sitting around doing nothing. Sometime this summer they are going to enhance the Z800 with solid-state drives, a closed-circuit liquid cooling system and a Blu-ray Disc burner.
With a workstation like this, one would expect that the performance would be really good. So I was very interested in finding out just what the Z800 could do.
The first thing I want to mention is the boot time. Normally I don’t talk about the boot time, but with the Z800 workstation it seemed to take a really long time to start, so I timed it. It took 109 seconds from the time I pushed the power button until I saw the Windows desktop. For a desktop of this caliber I think this is unacceptable. Because it took so long I thought I would break it down for you. From the time I hit the power button until I saw the HP/BIOS loading screen was 14 seconds. Then the HP screen didn’t disappear for another 45 seconds. From that point until the Windows loading screen was another 10 seconds, and another 40 seconds until Windows was logged in. I noticed that right after the HP screen it checked both network adapters, the CD, any USB devices that may be plugged in, and just about anything else it could find for a boot device. This can be made quicker by having the machine boot directly to the primary hard drive rather than go through everything else first. However you won’t speed it up that much because the majority of the time was spent on the HP and Windows loading screens. I can only think that the reason the HP screen took so long was because it was checking the memory and because there is 12GB it must take a long time. For this reason, I recommend that rather than shut the machine down you just put it in sleep or hibernation mode.
Unfortunately, resuming from sleep is only slightly faster. The login screen shows up very quickly, but it takes about 40 seconds before the USB mouse and keyboard start responding to movement and key presses.
Next, I started the performance testing, the first test I did was 3DMark Vantage. This test puts all the components through different tests. Because the processors support hyper-threading I ran the tests once with it on and once with it off. The first image is the score with hyper-threading turned off, the second image is with hyper-threading turned on. The scores are decent, as you can see, but the most interesting thing is that when I turned hyper-threading on one of the CPU tests would not complete. I’m sure this is a bug in the test, maybe it is not setup to handle 16 threads at the same time.
Despite the problem above 3DMark is capable of stressing the hardware. As you can see from the images below I was able to get the CPUs to max out with hyper-threading on and off. Even with the CPUs maxed out the fans did not get really loud. I was very happy about this because it made things much more pleasant while working with resource heavy programs.
The next test I ran was PCMark Vantage. This test does not stress the components as much as 3DMark, but at least it did not fail when I turned on hyper-threading. However, I thought it was interesting that PCMark reported a higher score with hyper-threading off.
My third test is with Bapco’s SYSMark. This test is similar to PCMark in that it does not really stress the system. Instead it uses programs like Office and Photoshop to test and see how well the Z800 will respond to real world situations. Since this workstation is more likely to run those programs instead of games, this test is more realistic for buyers of this workstation.
The fourth test is with Adobe Premier. For this test I encoded a short, but complicated video to see how long it would take. Since I have not run this test on any other computer I don’t have anything to compare it to. To provide a comparison I ran it twice on this workstation, once with only 4 cores turned on and once with all eight. The first time, with only four cores, it took 1 hour and 34 minutes to encode the video. The second time, with all eight cores, the time to encode went down to only 51 minutes. Since there is a high probability that a workstation like this will be used for video production, I think this test is a good indication of how 8 cores can be a benefit.
So back to the first three benchmarks, I was very confused by the mediocre scores. When I compare them to the xw8600 workstation that I reviewed a year ago, the Z800 appears to get lower scores on every test. There are really only two differences between the two machines. The first is that the Z800 is running a 64-bit OS and the xw8600 was using a 32-bit OS. The second is that the Z800 has two quad core CPUs and the xw8600 only had one. So I decided to do a little investigation and see if I could figure out the problem. The first thing I did was start limiting the number of cores. I started with just 1 core, then moved to 2, and then 4. As you can see from the images the performance increased as the number of cores increased, but they never reached the xw8600 numbers.
So the only other thing I could do was load up a 32-bit version of Windows Vista and run the tests again. First I ran PCMark05 and then PCMark Vantage. As you can see the scores are much better than before.
Next I ran 3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage. Again these scores are much better than before and clearly indicate that these tests are not optimized for a 64-bit OS.
On a more positive note I noticed that during all these tests, even the CPU tests, the fans did not get any louder. The machine is not silent to begin with, but if you compare it to the HP m9600t desktop it is much more silent when under a heavy load.
I also noticed that the hard drives make quite a bit of noise when they are working. Some clicking from a hard drive is normal, but the 15000 RPM drives in the Z800 were especially noisy. I’m sure this is because of how fast they are spinning, but I was hoping that a high end workstation like this would have quieter hard drives. Oh, well it’s not the end of the world and with future support for solid state drives this will be a thing of the past.
Support and Warranty
The warranty that comes with the Z800 is a 3 years parts, and labor with onsite service standard warranty. There is an option to add onto that with additional coverage. The maximum warranty that I could find was for 24×7 4-hour on-site response – 5 yrs, workstation + monitor. The is a great warranty and it even has a great price, just $519. That may seem like a lot, but considering how much hardware you can jam into this machine and how much it costs, it is a really great price.
Support can be found with a quick visit to the HP website for drivers and other downloads. HP also has forums where you can ask questions that can be answered by HP staff or other customers. If you would rather talk to someone in person a call to their support reps can give you the answers you are looking for. Last but not least, you could send HP an E-mail.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, the first time I saw this workstation I literally said “Wow.” At the time I didn’t know anything about the performance of the Z800, I was just going off of the specs and the design. Now that I have seen how it performs my original opinion is much stronger. The Z800 has outperformed all the other workstations and desktops that I have reviewed. This is truly a fantastic machine with not only a one of a kind design, but also a fantastic level of performance and the potential for so much more. I am very confident in recommending this workstation for any shop that needs the best performance possible and they want a good looking machine to go with it.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|