In a never ending effort to always improve, HP has released a new version of their Z workstations. These new workstations are the Z1, Z210, Z420, Z620, and Z820. HP was good enough to send me the Z420, which is their Price/Performance Leader, and I am going to put it though its paces.
- Single Xeon processors
- Up to 64GB of memory
- Up to 11TB of storage
- Up to Quadro 5000
- Integrated USB 3.0
At first the Z420 looks just like every other workstation I have seen. However, HP has gone to great lengths to make this workstation easy to get into, maintain, and even upgrade. So lets start with a description of the the outside.
The front of the workstation may look normal at first, but take a closer look at the top DVD bay. HP has added an optional top bay handle. Their are still two more bays that can be used for a variety of things like a DVD or Blu-ray drive, and a media card reader. The rest of the front is standard, with a power button, 3 USB ports (2 of them are USB 3.0), a headphone and microphone jack, and a FireWire port.
The back also has a unique feature. If you look close you can see that above the PS/2 ports is a small power button. This is suppose to be useful for when the machine is rack mounted. Below the power button are two PS/2 ports (does anyone still use these?), a FireWire port, 6 USB ports (two of them USB 3.0), an Ethernet port, a microphone and an audio in and out jack.
The left side of the case has an easy opening door and gives great access to the inside. The initial view of the inside is great, HP once again shows off their great open design, and how good their cable management is. Inside is a single CPU socket, 4 memory slots (4 are hidden behind the fan on the left), 2 PCIe Gen3 x16, 1 PCIe Gen3 x8, 1 PCIe Gen2 x4, 1 PCIe Gen2 x1, and 1 PCI. The Z420 also has 3 internal 3.5″ internal Hard Drive bays. HP also installed its optional water cooling system for the CPU. The water cooling system is suppose to allow the machine to run with less noise; however, as I will talk about later, this is not always the case.
The Z420 falls squarely in the middle of the workstation line, so I don’t expect this to be a bleeding edge machine, however it still packs some powerful hardware, so I am interested to see what this machine can do.
The system I was provided came with a Intel Xenon E5-1660 3.30 GHz 6-core processor, 16 GB of RAM, all running on Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. The graphics card inside the Z420 is the NVIDA Quadro 4000. The hard drive consist of a standard 500GB 7200 RPM drive.
I started the performance testing by first running 3DMark Vantage. This test puts all the components through different scenarios. 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 I don’t personally but a lot of weight in 3DMark scores, especially with a workstation like this. 3DMark is a gaming benchmark, and the Z420 is not a gaming machine. However, it is still good to see the numbers so the Z420 can be compared to other machines.
The next test I ran was PCMark Vantage. This test does not stress the components as much as 3DMark, but it does give an idea of how the Z420 would handle productivity related tasks. Again I have two images, one with hyper-threading turned off, and the other with it on.
My third test is with a program called Cinebench. This program performs two tests. The first test is a real-time rendering of an animated car chase video, and the second is the rendering of a large graphic. The first test is mostly graphic related, so it mostly uses the graphics card. The graphic in the second test is rendered by splitting it up into many pieces and then assigning one piece to each thread. So when hyper-threading is turned on, 12 pieces of the image can be processed at the same time. I ran these test with both hyper-threading turned on and off. The images below show the test running in both situations. As you can see the CPU portion of the score increased with hyper-threading tuned on. Since the rendering of the image is very CPU intensive it is good to see that hyper-threading is beneficial.
The forth test is called SPECviewperf. This test is very similar to 3DMark except it focuses not on gaming, but on mechanical and architectural drawings. As you can see from the images hyper-threading did not provide much of a benefit in this test.
The last test I performed is called Crystal and it tests hard drive performance. Nothing too fancy here.
I also performed all the same test with a SSD that HP sent along with this workstation. Here are the screenshots of the results. As you can see most of the tests did not benefit from the SSD.
During all these tests, the hard drives and the CPU fan stayed very quiet. This in part was due to the water cooling system that HP installed. However, I noticed during the graphical tests that the fan on the graphics card got really noisy. Since HP does not offer any water cooling for the graphics card, it cancels out the benefit of the water cooling on the CPU. So if you plan on running graphically intensive programs with this machine you might as well skip the water cooled CPU and save the money.
Also the SSD didn’t seem to improve the scores on the tests much, so if money is a concern I would not use it here.
Support and Warranty
As I mentioned above, the HP Z420 is part of HPs long lifecycle program. This means that HP will support the workstation for a full three years, vs 2 years for the Z620 and Z820. They did this so that a company can standardize on this machine and not have to worry about upgrades and parts not being available.
This workstation also includes a limited 3 years parts, 3 years labor, and 3 years onsite service (3/3/3) standard warranty. This is a great warranty because it covers the machine for the entire lifecycle.
HP has done a great job of filling this workstation with great components, but still keeping the price low. If you are looking for workstation for your office then I recommend you look at the HP Z line of workstations. With such a variety to choose from it will be easy to find one that fits perfectly with your needs.
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