HP Z1 Workstation: High-End Hardware In An All-In-One

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Nov 7, 2008
1: To stay within the windows environment.
2: Workstation graphics
3: Better serviceability
4: Better display panel (116.1% sRGB *measured*, versus 97.5% sRGB)
5. Support for workstation applications under Windows, including appropriate certifications. (Which for certain applications is very important since they won't support problems with an unsupported system.)

As usual, a very thorough testing and well constructed description by Tom's of an interesting new system.

However, in a fundamental aspect, the HP Z-1 needs to be considered in the reason for it's existence. Much effort was used to create a stylish, high performance all-in- one, but at 47lbs and $6,600, what is the market? It's not mobile given the configuration and weight, and it's highly expensive. Those needing mobility can obtain good performance from a Dell Precision M at a similar cost- though of course, the larger and 2560 resolution of the monitor is a big plus for the HP. More importantly, look at the configuration of the excellent performing HP Z820 possible for the same $6,600- this getting into dual Xeon E5 category- and today cores are king. Why not not make a compact desktop and set a standard monitor on top? If HP needs an idea, I have a 2006 Dell Optiplex 740 that raises a 27" monitor to the perfect viewing height- or can sit vertically on the desk or floor and can use a standard desktop Quadro.

I don't know any professional office so pushed on space that would require this format for a workstation. Also, serious workstation users at that price will be looking for at least six or even eight-core CPUs- at least the LGA2011 socket to allow a change later. The memory bandwidth of Xeon E5 is more than double that of Xeon E3 as is the number of PCIe lanes. Think of the file size of impending 4K and 3D video when considering the amount of RAM, GPU's, peripherals, and file storage required.

HP should know well enough that workstation users have to choose particular monitors for their applications and preferences, similarly GPU's, plus add non-proprietary PCIe RAID cards, special soundcard / interfaces, and often many HD's.

The HP Z-1 is elegant but expensive and simply not flexible enough. Like the new Mac Dustbin Pro, the HP Z1 is, in my view, answering a question no one is asking.


HP Z420 > Xeon E5-1620, 24GB ECC1600, Quadro 4000, Samsung 840 250GB, WD Black 1TB, M-Audio 192 > HP 2711x 1920 X 1080

Dell Precision T5400 > 2X Xeon x5460, 16GB ECC667, Quadro FX 4800, WD RE4 500GB, Seagate Barracuda 500GB, M-Audio 2496 > Dell 24"


May 16, 2014
I have a G1 Z1 and its great, you can find them cheap on ebay, mine was suppose to be refurb but it was brand new, upgraded to 5 year onsite HP warranty for 120 bucks, upgraded to 3770k and memory, you can put any nvidia gaming mxm card in this beast as long as you have the videocard enclosure, can get those as an HP part number if you dont have one to swap out.


Nov 7, 2008
I have to disagree on several of the points. First, this machine, as priced, is pretty much maxed out, not a starter machine. Seeing as how he even owns a Z420, he knows people buy non-socket 2011 workstations.

Many animation studios have their line animators and modellers working on single-processor machines. Higher end dual proc machines are usually reserved for TDs. Similarly, in compositing, paint and roto artists usually have lower machines, while the people building final composites get the higher end systems. People all over these roles need critical color matching as well, and the Dreamcolor display on the Z1 fits that well.

He completely glosses over the design studio and educational markets, where space is at a premium, and 'looking nice' is important.

I guess the Z1 not being needed in the market, and 'answering a question no one is asking', would be news to Dreamworks, who is actually buying them.

The 'storage problem' is easily solved on the Generation 2 Z1 by adding a Thunderbolt RAID.

Part of the reason for its weight is its serviceability. You don't need a weird suction-cup-handle gadget, and don't have to remove the screen, to swap drives on it.

Firstly, I am aware that people buy non-LGA2011 workstations- I have a dual Socket 775 Dell Precision. However, you imply that because I own an HP Z420 I should know this. My reply is that anyone interested in HP workstations should note that an HP Z420, that is Xeon E5, is LGA2011.

And yes, of course people do buy non LGA2011, it's only that they don't spend $6,600. How many Xeon E3 and especially "educational" systems are sold in that price range? Animators and modelers do use single CPU systems, and higher specification machines are used when all cores can be utilized. However, do "those lower machines" -and monitor cost $6,600?

Consider this system >

Processor: Intel Xeon Six-Core E5-1650 v2 3.5 / 3.9GHz LGA 2011 CPU > $590

Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS LGA 2011. X79 chipset,7X PCIe x16, 8X SATA III, USB 3.0 > $462

RAM: 32GB ( 4 X 8GB) Kingston 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR3 1866 > $396 ($99 ea.)

Graphics Card: PNY VCQK5000-PB NVIDIA Quadro K5000 4GB 256-bit video card > $1,800

Hard Drive 1: Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 250GB SSD > $139

Hard Drives 2,3: 2X Western Digital Black 2 TB SATA3 HD WD2003FZEX (RAID 1) > $294 ($147each)

Case: LIAN LI PC-A75 Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case $170

Power Supply: SeaSonic G-750 SSR-750RM 750W Power Supply $120

Cooling: Cooler Master Seidon 120M –CPU Liquid Cooling System > $70

Blu-Ray /DVD Burner: LG WH16NS40 - OEM $65

Total = $3,846

Add Windows 7 Professional and a good 2560 X 1440 27" QHD monitor on a budget of say $1,200 for a total of about $5,000- and that's purchasing the parts retail.

In your opinion, would the above system with a six core- (=+50%), Xeon E5 at 3.5 / 3.9GHz processor, X79 chipset board with 32GB 1866 RAM, and a Quadro K5000- one of the best workstation cards, perform better and be more expandable than the Z1- all for a price with enough left over compared to the Z1 to buy a Z420 like mine?

If I were to spend $6,600 I would spend it like this>

CPU> (2) Intel Xeon Processor E5-2637 v2 Four core @ 3.5 / 3.8 GHz 15M Cache > $1,992 ($996 each)

Motherboard > ASUS Z9PE-D16 SSI EEB Server Motherboard Dual LGA 2011 DDR3 1866 > $449

CPU Cooler > (2) CORSAIR Hydro Series H60 (CW-9060007-WW) High Performance Water / Liquid CPU Cooler. 120mm > $130 ($65 ea)

RAM > 64GB (4) Kingston 1X16GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Server Memory > $745 ($185 ea)

GPU > NVIDIA Quadro K5000 4GB GDDR5 Graphics card > $1689.

HD 1 > SAMSUNG 840 Pro Series MZ-7PD512BW 2.5" 512GB SATA III TLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) > $400 (OS and Applications)

HD 2 and 3 > (2) Seagate Constellation ES.3 ST2000NM0033 2TB 7200 RPM 128MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Enterprise HD > $374 ($187 ea) (RAID 1) (Files, system Image)

Power Supply > CORSAIR HX Series HX850 850W ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Power Supply > $160.

Optical Drive > Blu-Ray /DVD Burner: LG WH16NS40 $65

Case > Case Labs > Mercury S8 > with options about $380

OS > Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit > $190

Monitors > (2) ASUS PA279Q Black 27" 6ms WQHD HDMI Widescreen LED Backlight True Color Professional Monitor > $1,600 ($800 each)

TOTAL =$6,501

For about the same cost as the Z1, it's possible to have a dual Xeon E5 with 8-cores /16 threads at 3.5 / 3.8GHz, 64GB ECC 1866 RAM- expandable to 512GB (instead of the Z1 32GB limit), Quadro K5000, 512GB SSD plus 4TB HD space, two 27" 2560X1440 WQHD professional color matching monitors, and in a customized Caselabs case represents a substantially higher performance, higher expandability, and with the CaseLabs enclosure, even a more striking appearance- though definitely not a space-saver.

Sorry to labor this point, but I believe that describing first, the possibilities for a system of noticeably higher performance and flexibility for quite a bit less money with the E5-1650 v2 idea and then the potential for a system of about the same cost with very substantial advantages with the dual E5-2637 v2 concept, clearly demonstrates the relatively poor cost / performance and features of the Z1.

Certainly, the Z1 is stylish, beautifully engineered, and HP workstations have a very high build quality. Dreamworks may be able throw Billions about "looking nice" in their cubicle farms, but for most of the workstation market, cost / performance, and flexibility are overwhelming priorities to stylishness. Further, in terms of space-saving, the Z1 does not present a serious advantage over a desktop or tower system. If I set my HP Z420 on my desktop behind the monitor or lay it horizontally and set the monitor on top, the total footprint is only a bit larger than the Z1 when folded flat.

My point in stating that the Z1 is,"answering a question no one is asking" is not that no one will buy it, but that those who buy it will do so out of response to the appearance and weren't thinking in advance, "Where can I find a quad-core Xeon E3 system that costs an extra $4,000 because it looks great and saves one square foot in the office?"

There's nothing at all wrong with the HP Z1 that knocking $4,000 off the price wouldn't cure.

Cost / Performance, Cost / Performance, Cost / Performance.


The other thing is most people using high-end workstations also attach additional monitors across a large desk area and are not at a loss for work space whatsoever. I could see if this functionality was all in a laptop for the price maybe(?), but there is no real portability to an AIO. You just don't have to run as many cords and it looks nicer because of it. Other than that, the value proposition is low.


Jan 17, 2011
This does seem a bit odd. For the price and locked down component upgrades, I'm a bit puzzled as to who this is aimed at. I mean, are businesses really that limited on space? Although, I'll admit to being impressed at this custom chassis, component, and AIO set up! Pretty unique.
My first questions was when can we consumers get an AIO enclosure like this for home brewing? I know a lot of AIO chassis try to be as light, trim, and slim as possible. This type of design adds a little size for convenience in placing parts and giving a much larger thermal tolerance than normal.


Dec 8, 2005
Looking at the way that thing is setup, it be worried about the GPUs cooking the screen and screwing up the color calibration, or warping things over the long run.

Also @bambiboom -- your reduced price systems do not include the cost of support when something goes wrong.


Nov 7, 2008
His reduced price system also doesn't include that some high-end software just plain will *not* support a homebuilt machine. They will ask if the machine has their ISV certification, and when you say "no" they will say "Thanks for calling, we can't support this installation on that machine."

Also, do you know how many upgraded iMacs are sold to the educational market, that end up being in this price range? Oh, right, you can't upgrade an IMac to similar specs... but they are all over the edu market.
Kittle and Draven35,

Yes, very important points concerning workstation support and careful attention to components that are certified for particular applications. It would be useful to know which software firms will not support their software on homebuilt systems though of course there are those that require certified GPU's- such as Adobe, Desssault, and Autodesk.

Support is among the highest priorities in the firms that use workstations. I don't personally know any architectural, engineering, industrial design, or graphic design firm that use anything but proprietary systems certified for their applications. If you notice, I use an HP z420 and Dell Precision T5400 and do not suggest anyone should build a workstation that doesn't understand the careful research and risk involved in building a system that could affect software and hardware support. When I added RAM to the z420, it was ordered from HP using the z420 part number. I, as I think most firms do, consult the certification lists for both the systems and the applications used, for example, by Autodesk, Adobe, Dessault, and Microsoft whenever I make any changes. Here are a couple of examples of these lists- which I keep bookmarked in Firefox:



A lot of ISV certifications are for things like Java and network compatibility, but in the workstation world, much focus is on the graphics cards and drivers. I believe that Adobe will not support CS except on a workstation card.

As to the systems listed, these were proposed as demonstrations of the kind of higher performance and particularized component specification alternatives for both substantially less and the about the same cost as the HP Z1. They are, in other words, component listings to compare cost / performance, though of course, someone could build them if they accept the potential for support problems. I was recently at a wind tunnel, watching a test for a NASA project and the testing firm did have some special, non-proprietary Linux systems but as they had written the software themselves I think they weren't concerned about support. Every time I see someone building a workstation they understand the risks. I only see individual taking that risk with the assumption being that if they can understand it well enough to build it, they can fix it as well. As mentioned, I don't know of software makers that will deny support for non-certified systems, but only those that might in the case of graphics cards. I briefly tried a GTX 285 in the T5400 (it had the same GPU and 512-bit bandwidth as a Quadro FX 5800) and though that was listed by Autodesk without recommendation or certification, they did diagnose the problems in AutoCad and Inventor 2011) - and I went back to the Quadro FX4800. Perhaps this situation regarding systems is different or has changed without my notice as I always use certified systems anyway.

Though these were slightly casual, the components listed are certified by the important applications makers, for example the Quadro K5000, which you will find certified by Autodesk, Adobe, Dessault, and Microsoft. As the prices for the components were retail, I believed that might reflect overall the possibility of a total near a selling cost that included certification and support as averaged over all the systems.

If the HP Z1 were listed in the same way as the concept systems, it might look something like this >


Intel Xeon E3 1280 v2 (3.6 / 4/0GHz) > $660
Proprietary motherboard > estimate $400
4 x Micron 18JSF51272AZ-1G6M1 > $150
Quadro K4000M > $1340
HP Z1 integrated, 27”, 2560x1440 > about $800
2X Micron C400 256 GB > $240
HP BD DRV BD-5841H5 > $138
Delta Electronics DPS-400AB-15A, 90% efficient, 400 W > $110
Windows 7 Professional x64 > $140
Case / Stand > estimate $600

TOTAL = $4,578

Although this includes some rough approximations and at retail so as to try and make a better comparison with the system concepts, I feel more strongly than previously that the Z1 and AIO configuration in general is not appropriate at the high end. The parts that have to conform to the format are much more expensive than the desktop counterparts, for example a Quadro K4000M (mobile) costs $1340 while the desktop K4000 is about $760- almost exactly half. The elegant Z1 case is likely to cost about double a good desktop case, and so on. With a four core, LGA1150, one open slot, only 500GB in the HD’s, 8GB RAM, and a 400W PSU, the Z1 looks worse and worse value. To not be able to select/change the monitor, upgrade to six or eight core CPU, and spend an extra $760 on the GPU alone so it fits a slim case to me still seems intensely disproportionate.

Compare an HP z420 with an E5-1650 v2 and Quadro K4000 >


> which is $4,000 without a monitor. A z420 with six core, E5-1650 v2 (3.5 / 3.9GHz), 32GB RAM, Quadro K4000, 512GB SSD, 600W PSU, $800 professional monitor of choice, and ability to add more RAM and several TB's of HD’s, at around $5,000 still makes a lot more sense than the HP Z1- even if the Z1 were not $1,600 more. Crazy.

I would be interested to see upgraded iMacs for $6,600 for educational use- and the name of institution buying them- as that is as insane an idea as the HP Z1. Here's a randomly chosen site>


> on which the most expensive iMac, having an i7, 32GB, and GTX 780M, and costs $3,250, and already far exceeds the minimum specifications for certified iMacs for Autodesk applications. There is by the way, no Mac certified for Maya, they are only on the "recommended" list.

Good discussion!




Nov 7, 2008
There is no Mac certified for Maya because there is no current Mac that can be purchased with a Quadro or FirePro.

Having a supported *graphics card* doesn't mean a vendor will support your *system configuration*. Been down that road with a vendor before...

(Btw, yes i realize our baseline machine doesn't have any vendor certs. Well, it does for those that certify based on GPU etc...)

And yep, the 'very expensive' iMacs they were buying when I worked in the IT office in college are apparently gone. Interesting to note.

Yes, Adobe does support non-workstation GPUs. A list of those are on their site. Autodesk supports them as well (a lot of Max users run on game cards, especially those involved in game authoring.)


Jul 29, 2008
whats this now, mac wanna be, c'mon. just today i maxed out Houdini Mantra trying to render a huge asset, filling up 128 gb ram machine dual xeon but costs half of this machine does. I would never suggest this machine to my superiors.


Nov 7, 2008

Yes, but a line animator or modeller is not going to max out Mantra.

(btw, 128 GB of ram costs $1400 all by itself, but anyway)
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