Review: HP’s All-in-One Z1 Workstation may be One for All

The new HP Z1 all-in-one workstation combines elegant design and workstation performance.

The new HP Z1 all-in-one workstation combines elegant design and workstation performance.

By David Cohn

Back in June, we reported on the Las Vegas-based launch of the latest additions to the HP family of Z-series workstations. While the headliner was the flagship Z820, a workstation we’ll review in a future issue, the star of the show was clearly the new HP Z1 all-in-one workstation—and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one. That wait finally ended recently when HP sent us our own fully loaded Z1 to review.


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  There are other all-in-one computers out there, a design initially made popular by Apple’s iMac. But most pretty much lock you in—they’re a nightmare to upgrade. Not the Z1. Its tool-less chassis makes swapping out components nearly effortless. We were impressed when we first watched HP engineers do this in Las Vegas, and we were no less impressed when our Z1 arrived and we got to try it ourselves.

Sleek Setup

The Z1 arrived in a large, flat box, similar to what you’d receive if you bought a new flat screen display. And at first glance, it appears that the box contains nothing but a monitor on a folding stand. But pressing the green button in the center of the stand’s hinge releases the screen so it can swivel into an upright position. It takes considerable force and a bit of practice to expand the Z1 to its full,  upright position, but we soon got used to this maneuver.

Also in the box we found a 104-key wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, and a power cord. The receiver for the keyboard and mouse were already installed in the Z1’s internal USB port; both proved to be very responsive and comfortable to use.

The HP Z1 combines a sleek industrial design with workstation performance in a package that outwardly consists of little more than a display and keyboard.

  Fully extended, the Z1 stands approximately 23 in. tall, with the display panel enclosure measuring 26x23 in. and around 3 in. thick, little more than other LCD displays. The 16x13-in. base is a bit larger than the base of a typical monitor, however,  owing to the overall 47-lb. weight of the system.

While the Z1 looked beautiful sitting on our desk, with nothing but a power cord hanging almost unnoticeably, it was even more gorgeous once we powered it up. The 27-in. in-plane switching (IPS) LED backlit LCD provided one of the best-looking images we’ve ever seen. With a 16:9 aspect ratio and native 2560x1440 resolution, the monitor is big, bright and crystal clear—with a viewing angle of 178º, a contrast ratio of 1,000:1, and more than 1 billion on-screen colors when paired with a graphics card capable of outputting 10-bit content.

Neat Package

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

Along the right side of the panel, HP has placed the power button, hard drive activity light, a slot-load optical drive and eject button, a 4-in-1 (xD/MMC/MS/SD) card reader,  an IEEE-1394a FireWire connector, two USB 3.0 connectors, and headphone and microphone jacks. On the left side, a small plastic protrusion turned out to be a plastic serial number pullout card.

Across the rear of the panel, in a somewhat awkward position behind the hinge, the Z1 also provides a subwoofer connector, audio line-in and line-out 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’s also a slot for a cable lock in the lower-left corner of the case, and a handle centered across the top. The DisplayPort can be used to either enable the Z1 to power a second monitor or allow the Z1 LCD to serve as the display for a separate workstation.

Lifting the Lid

While we were anxious to put the Z1 through its paces, we also couldn’t wait to peer inside. With the Z1 folded down and locked into a horizontal position, you slide a pair of latches on the bottom edge of the panel to unlock the chassis. Once freed, the entire LCD panel hinges open to reveal the Z1’s interior, the panel held open by a hydraulic shock absorber.

And once open,  changing out components is a breeze. There’s barely a screw or cable in sight. Instead, green touch-points indicate where to grab and release components,  including the power supply, graphics card, hard drives, optical drive and cooling fan assembly. Blind mate connectors ensure that everything hooks up correctly. Just about everything in the well-organized interior, with the exception of the CPU, can be quickly and easily replaced.

The interior of the Z1 is uncompromising, with most major components easily removable.

  Speaking of CPUs, HP has ensured that the Z1 is a true workstation. Options include the 3.3GHz dual-core Intel i3-2020 in the base model, a 3.3GHz quad-core Xeon E3-1245, and the 3.5GHz Intel Xeon E3-1280 quad-core “Sandy Bridge” processor included in our evaluation unit. But while that CPU offers a maximum turbo frequency of 3.9GHz and an 8MB cache, it’s already a year old. It will be interesting to see whether HP offers the Z1 with any of the newer “Ivy Bridge” CPUs later this year.

While the Core i3 CPU includes integrated Intel HD graphics (and a Z1 so equipped starts at $1,899), that configuration would only be suitable for entry-level CAD. At that price, the base system also comes with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

For more serious users, HP offers four choices of NVIDIA Quadro graphics boards: the 500M,  1000M, 3000M and 4000M. All four are really mobile GPUs, but they’re mounted in a custom housing that makes the diminutive board look much larger. Our system came with the top-of-the-line Quadro 4000M, with 336 compute unified device architecture (CUDA) cores and 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory. Here again, it will be interesting to see whether HP adds the newer Kepler-based NVIDIA GPUs to the Z1 lineup.

The system can support up to 32GB of memory in four easily accessible memory sockets. Our Z1 came with 16GB of RAM installed as four 4GB DDR-3 ECC memory modules.

For onboard storage,  HP offers a choice of hard drives. The Z1’s 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 redundant array of independent disks ]RAID] 0 or 1 available for dual-drive configurations). HP offers 3.5-in.,  7,200 rpm SATA drives ranging from 250GB to 2TB, as well as 300GB and 600GB,  2.5-in., 10,000 rpm SATA drives. The company also offers Intel solid-state drives (SSDs). Our evaluation unit came with a pair of 300GB SSDs.

The final option is a choice of optical drives. The slot-load 8X SuperMulti DVD+/-RW drive we received comes standard, or you can choose a slot-load Blu-ray Disc writer.

Also hidden away inside are three miniPCIe slots, one of which housed a card for the integrated Intel 802.11 a/g/n wireless LAN and Bluetooth combo card that comes standard on the Z1. So if you don’t want to see a network cable hanging off the back of your Z1, you can go wireless.

Good Performance

Once we were done poking around inside, we closed the lid. Fear not, the hydraulic shock absorber ensures that it comes down slowly and safely, and the case shuts with a satisfying click. We then powered the Z1 back up and put it through its paces.

On the SPECviewperf test, which focuses only on graphic performance, our Z1 did quite well. It beat the results of all single socket-based workstations we’ve reviewed, except for those equipped with over-clocked CPUs. That’s quite a testament to the power of NVIDIA’s mobile GPU.

On the SPECapc SolidWorks benchmark, which is more of a real-world test (and breaks out graphics, CPU and I/O performance separately from the overall score), the results of the Z1 were also quite good. Because we previously tested systems using an older version of this benchmark under Windows XP, and have since moved to a newer release under Windows 7, the ratio results are not directly comparable. Looking at the times, however, the Z1 did well—again performing just a bit slower than systems with significantly over-clocked CPUs.

On the AutoCAD rendering test, however, the Z1 lagged a bit. Because AutoCAD’s rendering engine is multi-threaded, this test clearly shows the benefits of multiple CPU cores. Yet the Z1, with the equivalent of eight cores (with Hyper-Threading enabled), took nearly 88 seconds to complete our test rendering.

Style Worth Paying for

Our system came with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, although Windows 7 32-bit and several versions of Linux are also available. HP backs the Z1 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 is fully independent software vendor (ISV)-certified for most CAD/CAM/CAE software.

There’s a lot to love about the Z1, and we definitely fell for this amazing workstation. What’s more, at $1,899 for the base configuration, the Z1 is actually less expensive than a similarly equipped workstation tower and separate high-end 27-in. monitor. Of course, when you’re ready to retire most workstations, you can continue to use the monitor with its replacement. While you could use the Z1 as a monitor, that’s not as likely—one drawback of even this amazing all-in-one.

As configured, our Z1 priced out at $7,031, but an HP online discount that included free ground shipping dropped the cost to $5,625. Even at that price, the Z1 is still the most expensive single-socket workstation we’ve ever tested. But it’s difficult to put a price on style, and the Z1 is certainly stylish. There’s nothing else like it. I’d want one on my desk—and many design firms are likely to feel the same way. The HP Z1 is pretty revolutionary, and definitely sets a new standard for workstation design, performance and serviceability.

David Cohn is the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies. He also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA, and has been benchmarking PCs since 1984. He’s a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering and the author of more than a dozen books. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or visit his website at


More Info

HP Workstation Z1
Price: $5,625 as tested ($1,899 base price)
Size: 23x26x16 in. (HxWxD) all-in-one
Weight: 47 lbs.
CPU: Intel Xeon E3-1280 3.5GHz quad-core with 8MB cache
Memory: 16GB (32GB max) DDR3 1600MHz ECC
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro 4000M w/2GB GDDR5
Hard Disk: Two Intel 300GB SATA SSD
Optical: slot load 8X SuperMulti DVD+/-RW 
Audio: High-definition audio, dual-cone speakers, SRS
Premium Sound
Video: HD webcam
Network:  integrated Intel 82579 Gigabit LAN,  integrated Intel
802.11 a/g/n wireless LAN, Bluetooth
Drive Bays: two internal 2.5 in.; or one internal 3.5 in., one
external 5.25-in. bays
Ports (side): two USB 3.0, one IEEE 1394a, 4-in-1 Media Card
reader, one headphone, one microphone/line-in
Ports (rear): one DisplayPort, four USB 2.0, one RJ-45 to
integrated LAN, one subwoofer output, one optical S/PDIF output, one audio line-in, one audio line-out
Keyboard: 104-key HP wireless keyboard
Pointing device: two-button optical HP wireless scroll mouse

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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

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