There are few things more important to the digital artist than the very machine used to create. Power, speed, and the ability to upgrade with ease...and there you have the things that matter most when looking for that new machine. What I am very excited to be talking about is the HP Z-Series of workstations. It may even help that this series is quite pleasing to the eye as well.
Now, I could try to do a complete "geek" review of one member of the new HP Z-Series of workstations, but I must admit I'm not entirely "geeky" enough to get too technical. It just so happens that in order to do a good assessment of the new 3ds Max 2010 (coming soon), I wanted to try a better machine than what I had. So HP, through a partnership with Autodesk, provided me the means to do that testing - the HP Z800 workstation.
In my own work I would not consider shelling out the cash for the top of the line Z800, as I would not normally use it to its full potential anyway. However, I am very impressed by the Z-Series overall. And in this article I will share a bit of my findings with the Z800, as well as what I have learned is available across this line of workstations.
HP provided me with a Z800 complete with 2 Intel® Xeon® W5580 processors at 3.2GHz , 12GB RAM, a NVIDIA Quadro FX4800 video card, and running with Windows Vista. Also including a 250 Gb program drive and a 1 Terabyte data drive.
First, the Z800, with its brushed aluminum sides, is a really sharp looking workstation. It is quite heavy, but there are built-in handles in the top, which is very smart, and makes it easy to move, thankfully. Now, one of the first things I was told by a representative of HP prior to receiving this machine, was to 'feel free to take it apart.' Hey, just like the kid I'll always be, you don't have to tell me twice. So, that was, of course, the very first thing I did. You'll see some of my exploration in the pics that follow here.
The side panel comes off easily via a handle, and even includes a key lock. Inside, you get a look at just how well this case was designed. The green strips indicate what can be opened/removed. The top part that stretches from end to end is the Power Supply and can be removed effortlessly via the pull-down handle in the center (just pull it down and slide out that whole modular piece)...brilliant. The drives are removed in the same way (no chance for cable crimping here either!).
The interior design of the HP Z800 is just simply outstanding. It's also easy to see just how well it allows for airflow to keep cool.
So, now that I was able to take it apart and put it all back together just as easily, and without tools, I powered it on and began to play. Okay, not too much play yet, as I wanted to load up some programs first. This, of course, is never a fun task. However, loading it up was very fast.
You might expect that with the power in this machine it might carry some noise...not true at all. In fact, it is very much quieter than my current PC, or any others I have personally worked with. Even on start-up, though you are very aware of it at once, it wasn't nearly as loud as I would have expected it to be.
I must say I was surprised at how long it took to boot up, though that really doesn't bother me too much. Not that it was drastically long, just a couple of minutes, but I would have thought it would be quicker. However, the complaint I have is the delay in coming out of a sleep state. Again, not drastically long, but a bit irritating when checking on a render in progress.
Now, let me cover a couple of things about the HP Z800 workstation, as well as the rest of the Z-Series that really stand out. Because just as I was excited to take this review on, I became equally excited about the possibilities for others. Hey, if there was something I would be sure to recommend, then I wanted the task.
This is high on anyone's list when looking for a machine. I'll stop and say right here and now that depending on what you are needing, this line can quickly become expensive. However, many will be looking for something that can easily be upgradable, without going all out on a new purchase when the need to expand arises. The Z800 can ultimately be loaded up with up to 192 Gb RAM, and storage of up to 7.5 Terabytes. The Z400 can take on up to 16Gb RAM and up to 6 Terabytes storage, while the Z600 can hold up to 24 Gb RAM and 4.5 Terabytes storage. And, of course, the toolless design of this series is a real bonus.
The Z-Series has an 85% (up to 89% for the Z800) power supply efficiency rating, which is absolutely fantastic. These machines are also V5 Energy Star rated and are over 90% recyclable.
If you go to the HP website, you can custom build your machine for what you need. As I stated previously in this article, this can quickly become expensive. However, what you get for the price will end up saving you money in the long run anyway.
After loading up 3ds Max 2010, as well as the complete Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection, I found the Z800 responded very well with several programs running at once. I also test rendered several complex scene files and animation samples in 3ds Max 2010 and found it to be very quick and utilize all eight cores evenly. This is indeed a powerful machine.
Again, I am very impressed with the HP Z-Series overall. Not only has HP been long enough in the business of providing quality products, but this series itself provides options for everyone across the board. That is, depending on your own needs, it is easy to see that you can purchase a model that fits those needs, and yet still provide room for easy upgrades. I highly recommend taking a look at what HP has to offer in its Z-Series. I know I'm going to be looking to purchase soon.
Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
September 8, 2009
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