HP Z1 G2 All-in-One Workstation Review

HP updates the first all-in-one workstation to release the HP Z1 G2.

HP Z1 G1

In early January, HP unveiled the second generation of the world’s first and only all-in-one workstation, the HP Z1 G2. When we reviewed the original Z1 (DE, August 2012), we raved about its design and performance. With the next-generation Z1 again aimed squarely at CAD and graphic arts, we were anxious to set it up and put it through its paces.

Like the original, the HP Z1 G2 combines a sleek design with workstation performance in a package that outwardly consists of little more than a 27-in. display and keyboard. But while the monitor houses the entire system, swapping out components is easy thanks to the Z1’s innovative tool-less chassis.

New Touch Capability

The Z1 G2 workstation arrived in a large, flat box, similar to what you would receive if you bought a new flat-screen display. Once out of the box, however, the stand’s hinge releases and unfolds at the press of a button so that it can be swiveled into an upright position. Also in the box were a 104-key wireless keyboard and wireless mouse. The receiver for the keyboard and mouse were already installed in the system’s internal USB port. All we needed to do was extend the stand, plug in the power and turn it on.

Outwardly, the new Z1 G2 workstation looks nearly identical to the original Z1. With its stand fully extended, the system is about 23 in. tall. The display measures 25.75x17.75 in., but at 3.5 in. thick, it is a bit deeper than a standard LCD display. The 16x13-in. base is a bit larger than the base of a typical monitor as well, contributing to the overall 47-lb. weight of the system.

The 27-in. in-plane switching (IPS) white LED backlit LCD in the Z1 G2 also looked quite similar to the one in the original Z1, which is to say that it provided one of the best-looking images we’ve ever seen. With a 16:9 aspect ratio and native 2560x1400 resolution, the monitor is big, bright and crystal clear. But this time around, HP offers two options: a non-glare panel, similar to a conventional LCD, and an edge-to-edge glass panel.

Our evaluation unit came with the glass panel, which includes one of the enhancements over the original Z1—touch, specifically Windows 8-compliant, 10-finger capacitive multi-touch. Although the touch capability adds $400 to the system price, it is a nice addition, particularly when you consider that you can fold the system into a more horizontal position so that it functions much like a tablet.

Thunderbolt Option

Like the Z1, when seated comfortably in front of the Z1 G2, all you see is the monitor. But its other components are readily available. An HD webcam is centered above the monitor. A white LED lights up when the camera is active, and a dial on the top edge lets you adjust the camera angle. A pair of digital microphones is hidden to either side of the camera; two pairs of cone speakers below the display provide great sound.

Along the right side of the panel (from top to bottom) are a power button, hard drive activity light, a slot load optical drive and eject button, a two-in-one media card reader, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which is also a battery charging port), and headphone and microphone jacks. Our evaluation unit came with a Blu-ray Disc writer, an option that added $235 to the system cost. A more conventional DVD-RW drive is also available for $150.

But the other big addition to the HP Z1 G2 is an optional Thunderbolt 2 module. This $235 add-on takes the place of the optical drive, and provides a pair of Thunderbolt ports for connecting external devices. For those unfamiliar, Thunderbolt is a hardware interface originally developed by Intel. It first showed up on Apple’s 2011 MacBook Pro. A single Thunderbolt port supports up to six Thunderbolt devices via hubs or daisy chains. With full-duplex I/O speeds of 10 GB/sec, Thunderbolt delivers up to four times the bandwidth of USB 3.0. It is fast becoming a requirement for digital content creators, particularly filmmakers working with 4K video.

A serial number pull-out card is the only protrusion on the left side. Across the rear of the panel, positioned more conveniently than in the original Z1, the Z1 G2 provides a subwoofer connector, audio line-out and line-in jacks, a DisplayPort connector, power cord connector, four USB 2.0 ports, an optical S/PDIF audio port and an RJ-45 network jack. There is also a slot for a cable lock in the lower-left corner of the case and a handle centered across the top.

The DisplayPort is actually a bi-directional port, so it can be used to enable the Z1 G2 to power a second monitor—or allow the Z1 G2 LCD to serve as the display for a separate workstation.

Updated CPUs

Internally, the Z1 G2 is laid out much like the original Z1. With the system folded down and locked into a horizontal position, a pair of latches unlocks the LCD panel. Once freed, the entire panel hinges open. With the open lid supported by a single hydraulic shock absorber, you have full access to an amazingly well organized interior.

Once open, swapping out components is extremely simple. HP’s familiar green touch-points indicate where to grab and release components. Users can easily swap out the 400-watt, 90% efficient power supply, graphics card, hard drives, optical drive and cooling fan assembly. Blind mate connectors ensure that everything hooks up correctly.

There are also two miniPCIe full-length slots and one PCIe Gen3 x16 MXM slot. An Intel dual-band 802.11ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4 combo card comes standard on the Z1 G2, so if you don’t want to see a network cable hanging off the back of your system, you can go wireless.

The choice of CPUs HP offers in the Z1 G2 is also a big step up from the original Z1. The Z1 we reviewed in 2012 used Sandy Bridge processors. But the Z1 G2 we received came equipped with a fourth-generation Haswell CPU, specifically an Intel Xeon E3-1280v3 processor. This 3.4GHz quad-core CPU with a 4.0GHz maximum turbo frequency is the fastest available for the Z1 G2.

Other, less-expensive options include the dual-core i3-4130, the quad-core i5-4570 (which lacks Hyper-Threading Technology), and two somewhat slower quad-core Xeon CPUs. However, potential customers may want to consider these options, because the E3-1280v3 adds $975 to the base system price.

A base Z1 G2, starting at $1,999, lacks touch capability and relies on the Intel HD Graphics built into the Core i3-4130 CPU. At that starting price, you also get just 4GB of non-ECC memory, a 500GB 7,200 rpm drive, and a DVD-RW optical drive.

For more demanding users, HP offers four NVIDIA Quadro graphic board options: the K610M, K2100M, K3100M and K4100M. All four are really mobile graphics processing units (GPUs), but are custom-mounted for the Z1. Our evaluation unit came with the top-of-the-line Quadro K4100M, with 1,152 compute unified device architecture (CUDA) cores and 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory—an option that added an additional $900 to the system cost.

The Z1 G2 can support up to 32GB of ECC memory in four easily accessible memory sockets. Our evaluation unit came with 16GB of RAM installed as two 8GB DDR3 ECC memory modules.

Storage options are improved in the Z1 G2. The drive bay is yet another of those removable components, a special caddy that supports either a single 3.5-in. drive or a pair of 2.5-in. devices, with a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) 0 or 1 available for dual-drive configurations. HP offers 3.5-in. 7,200 rpm drives ranging from 500GB to 3TB, as well as 10,000 rpm drives of 500GB or 1TB. But our system came with a 256GB mSATA-3 solid-state drive (SSD) as the boot drive, along with a 512GB SATA SSD—a combination that added a whopping $1,465 to the cost of the system.

Great Performance

Of course, it doesn’t matter how good a system looks if it doesn’t perform. Once we were done poking around inside the system, we closed the lid—the hydraulic shock absorber ensures that the LCD panel closes slowly and safely, locking with a satisfying click. We then powered the workstation back up again, and loaded our suite of benchmarks.

On SPECviewperf version 11, the HP Z1 G2 outperformed every other single-socket workstation we’ve tested in the past two years, except for those with over-clocked CPUs. SPEC has recently released SPECviewperf version 12, and the Z1 G2 is the second system on which we have run the new benchmark. We are including the results of this new test, and will eventually switch over to reporting just the SPECviewperf v12 results once we have enough systems to compare.

The results on the SPECapc SolidWorks 2013 test were excellent, with the HP Z1 G2 outperforming most of the other workstations we’ve tested on the graphics components of the test, though it fell behind on the CPU composite portion.

On the AutoCAD rendering test, a multi-threaded test on which faster systems with more CPU cores have an advantage, the HP Z1 G2 did well. It completed the rendering in 45 seconds, faster than all but the over-clocked systems.

The Price of Style

Our system came with Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit. HP also offers Windows 7 as well as several versions of Linux. HP backs the Z1 G2 with a standard three-year warranty that covers parts, labor and support. Four- and five-year warranties are also available. Like other HP workstations, the Z1 G2 is fully independent software vendor (ISV)-certified for most CAD/CAM/CAE/DCC software.

We fell in love with the original Z1, so it is understandable that we became equally attached to the new Z1 G2. Budget-conscious buyers can purchase a base-level Z1 G2 for $1,999—an attractive price when you consider that you’re getting both a workstation and a high-end 27-in. IPS display. But the system we tested was anything but affordable. With nearly every top-of-the-line option available, our Z1 G2 priced out at $7,397, making it the most expensive single-socket workstation we’ve ever tested. Even with a 20% online discount, the price was still $5,918. We kept reminding ourselves that the price included a monitor.

And yet, it is still difficult to put a price on style. The Z1 G2 remains unique in the industry—a powerful all-in-one workstation sure to be the envy of those who walk into your office. And you could buy a Z1 G2 for thousands less by opting for a less-expensive graphics board and more conventional hard drives.

I wanted a Z1 the first time I saw one. Now I want a Z1 G2 on my desk, and I suspect many design firms are likely to feel the same way, in spite of its price. The Z1 G2 continues to set the mark for style and cutting-edge technology.

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or visit his website at DSCohn.com.

Single-Socket Workstations Compared

HP Z1 G2workstation(one 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E3-1280 v3 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K4100M 16GB RAM)HP Z230workstation(one 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E3-1245 v3 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K2000, 8GB RAM)Lenovo E32 SFF workstation (one 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E3-1240 v3 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K600, 8GB RAM)BOXX 3DBOXX W4150 XTREME workstation (one 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-4770K quad-core CPU over-clocked to 4.3GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K4000, 16GB RAM)Ciara Kronos 800S workstation (one 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-2700K quad-core CPU over-clocked to 5.0GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K5000, 16GB RAM)Lenovo E31 SFF workstation (one 3.3GHz Intel E3-1230 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 400, 8GB RAM)
Price as tested$5,918$2,706$1,479$4,273$5,714$1,093
Date tested5/3/1411/24/1311/10/137/31/135/31/1312/29/12
Operating SystemWindows 8.1Windows 7Windows 7Windows 7Windows 7Windows 7
SPECviewperf 12Higher
SPECviewperf 11Higher
SPECapc SolidWorks 2013Higher
Graphics Composite5.674.383.145.253.89n/a
RealView Graphics Composite6.164.693.095.384.1n/a
Shadows Composite6.134.682.965.364.1n/a
Ambient Occlusion Composite8.485.812.905.638.37n/a
Shaded Mode Composite5.554.753.255.123.79n/a
Shaded With Edges Mode Composite5.794.043.025.383.98n/a
RealView Disabled Composite4.083.353.314.743.15n/a
CPU Composite3.
Autodesk Render TestLower

Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results.


More Info

Watch a video HP created to unveil the Z1 G2

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About the Author

David Cohn's avatar
David Cohn

David Cohn is a consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, WA, and has been benchmarking PCs since 1984. He is a Contributing Editor to Digital Engineering, the former senior content manager at 4D Technologies, and the author of more than a dozen books. Email at [email protected] or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.

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