HP Z1 workstation review
Price: £2,099 plus VAT
Pros: Great for image-based creatives; 10-bit display; fast chip; ECC RAM; easy to upgrade and repair
Cons: Glossy screen; not suitable for most CG or VFX work
While the Z1 sits within HP’s Z-series of workstations aimed at CG, VFX and video pros, this all-in-one is more for designers, photographers and illustrators – albeit ones with big budgets. HP has taken Apple’s iMac and upgraded many of its consumer-level components to create a computer that could even tempt many away from the Mac platform.
The first noticeable difference is the screen. Unfortunately, like Apple, HP has plumped for a glossy sheen, but where the iMac’s 8-bit screen can output millions of colours, the Z1’s 10-bit display can produce over a billion. This means fine-tuning colours in photos or artwork is a lot more accurate – as long as your screen’s calibrated and the software supports it (Photoshop does).
Our test Z1’s Intel Xeon E3-1280 is a single-chip-only solution that – despite the name sounding like the entry-level Core i3 – is about as powerful as the i7 chips offered on the iMac. However, with a Cinebench score of 7.01, it’s well behind the overclocked processors offered on many desktop Core workstations. The Xeon chip allows for ECC RAM, which should help stability on long renders.
The choice of mobile graphics chips from Nvidia’s Quadro range means that the Z1 can’t be as proficient in 3D as a desktop machine – results in Cinebench and Maya were mediocre, but our test model’s 3000M Quadro chip worked fine for 3D in Photoshop.
As a piece of industrial design, the Z1 is both amazing and infuriating. The screen opens up like a book, providing easy access to components, but plugging the power lead in is fiddly and positioning the screen’s vertical angle requires a lot of heaving.
The Z1 is a grade above the iMac in performance, creative potential and, unfortunately, price.