Theone Wilson reports on Hewlett-Packard’s latest offering, the Z1
For designers and engineers, it is important to have a well-organised workspace. Staff at Hewlett-Packard (HP) emphasised this when unveiling their latest creation, the HP Z1. Josh Peterson, manager of worldwide product marketing for HP, explains: “Less space to work in can stifle creativity.” HP pointed out that technology solutions are often large, requiring many cables and much equipment; this clutter hampers efficient working. Responding to this problem, the HP Z1 is an all-in-one which manages to be compact while still offering workstation performance.
The workstation - which unfolds on a standard VESA mount arm - has a 27 inch LED backlit IPS display with 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. Made from brushed aluminium, it weights 47lb and has a 400W, 90 percent efficient power supply. The design is sleek; the stand allows for a 100mm height adjust, with 30° tilt back and forward and a viewing angle of 178°. Its main selling point is that all the components usually found in the tower are in the chassis - yet it remains slim and aesthetically pleasing. It is, according to HP, “giving desk space back”.
The Z1 is aimed at a wide range of users: designers, engineers and architects who use CAD or who need high performance graphics solutions will all benefit. In particular, though, HP hopes that the Z1 will give small businesses an edge. Engineers especially may have need for such a portable workstation; the Z1 can easily travel to a construction site, and once on site HP promises that it will function reliably. HP also suggests that creative workplaces have to look the part when clients visit - the Z1 will shine in an environment where aesthetics are key.
Executive vice president Todd Bradley stresses that when developing this product the group aimed to put customers at the heart of its approach: “Last June we had a transition in the way we looked at our products. We want to develop a deeper relationship with our customers.” Consequently, the HP Z1 was developed by gathering customer insights, with feedback playing an important role in the design process. Major clients were invited to HP’s customer business centre to spend a few days discussing their needs and brainstorming possible solutions to problems that might arise. One important finding was that the Z1 needed to offer the same capability expected of any workstation despite being an all-in-one; there could be no compromise in its abilities. HP tags this as “All the power without the tower”; this emphasis on customer feedback means that HP is confident its product will meet the needs of its target audience.
The Z1 offers integrated Intel HD graphics on its base model. NVIDIA graphics are also available; in fact, HP undertook a two-year collaboration with NVIDIA to develop a new custom line of NVIDIA Quadro GPUs made specifically for the requirements of the Z1. These Quadro graphics aim to accelerate the workflow, giving faster performance in CAD, DCC and visualisation. Despite their high performance they are described by NVIDIA as “whisper quiet” - more energy efficient, they generate less heat so require less cooling than previous versions. Their 30-bit color fidelity (10-bit per component) gives a rich image quality.
There are a range of NVIDIA options available: at entry level the NVIDIA Quadro 500M is recommended, while for the mid range model Quadro 1000M is most appropriate, and at the high end Quadro 3000M or Quadro 4000M GPUs will work well. Additionally, the NVIDIA graphics are optimised for use with a wide range of applications including AutoDesk, SolidWorks and Adobe. The display itself supports more than one billion colours, meaning smooth representation and no banding on zoom in.
Other features of the Z1 include ECC memory and workstation class storage; there is ample capability to connect external devices. In terms of audio, the workstation offers SRS Premium Sound with front-facing speakers - although these take up more space than downward facing speakers, they produce a better sound quality. The workstation also has a high definition webcam that allows the user to record video in HD.
A major selling point of the Z1 is that, like many of Hewlett Packard’s other products, the chassis design is tool-less, meaning that the end user can easily service any of the components within the chassis: it is simple, for example, to swap the hard drive or to upgrade the memory yourself. HP has endeavoured to make the workstation highly accessible, using green touch points to indicate the user friendly areas. They refer to this as “intuitive design.”
Overall, the engineering of the Z1 has been well-thought-out. HP’s “whole system design approach” ensures that the processor, memory, graphics, operating system and applications work together smoothly. “We wanted to create something that’s really compelling,” says Chris Damir, director of research and development. Meanwhile, the minor details are also carefully considered. The case, which snaps shut, is designed to close at a slower pace for the last 10mm. The chassis has a Kensington lock so that the user can feel confident that their workstation is secure.
While there were many mechanical challenges involved in the design - including the challenges of opening the lid and creating a stand - HP emphasises the can-do attitude in the engineering department and the extensive testing in the materials science lab that the Z1 has undergone. Importantly, the workstation has ISV certification, meaning that any issues with the device are exposed during the rigorous testing stage, and are addressed by HP before it goes on sale. “That certification means reliability,” says Peterson.
Since it is early days for the Z1, the workstation does not yet offer everything. For example, there is no touch screen, although this is an area that HP may develop in the future. There is no option for a Mac screen, and the screen can only be used landscape as opposed to portrait. (The workstation cannot offer a portrait screen option because of its thermal cooling system’s configuration.) HP has considered hybrid drives, but does not currently offer these for the Z1 - whether they become available in the future will depend on customer demand and initial response.
However, the company’s 30-year history in workstations has clearly paid off. Jim Zafarana, general manager of HP’s workstation business, claims that the Z1 has “redefined the workstation experience”. Interested parties will have to find out this month - when the product ships - whether or not this is the case.
The new HP Z1 Workstation is available worldwide. Pricing starts at €1,599. For more information, visit www.hp.eu/workstations.
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