HP Z420 Workstation Review: Competition Heats Upby Dustin Sklavos on May 21, 2012 12:00 AM EST
Application and Futuremark Performance
It stands to reason PCMark is going to have a field day with the fast SSD used for the system drive and the eight-core, sixteen-thread Intel Xeon that's powering our HP Z420 review unit. What should be particularly interesting, however, will be our CPU-isolated benchmarks.
The Z420 runs away with PCMark while even the 3DMarks see a slight boost from the extra CPU performance on tap. It's just enough to put the Z420 ahead of the T3600 in every chart. For comparison's sake, it's worth noting that boutique gaming desktops with consumer-class SSDs (tuned more for performance than reliability) pretty much start at where the Z420 lines up in PCMark, while even a 768MB GeForce GTX 460 offers a better gaming experience than the Quadro 4000. Bottom line: this is not a gaming system.
In single-threaded tasks the E5-2687W is certainly respectable, but the instant the extra cores can be leveraged it tears past the other test systems. It takes a 4.6GHz i7-3960X to even match or beat the Z420's E5-2687W (as tested here), but the fact that a hexa-core chip can beat an octal-core chip in these tasks is telling. The E5-2687W is probably going to be the fastest workstation chip you can find and the Z420 demonstrates that, but enthusiasts who've periodically looked at enterprise-class hardware are going to want to steer clear, as even modern video encoding tasks may not be adequately threaded to keep the E5-2687W working at full tilt.
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theSeb - Monday, May 21, 2012 - linkoops
"You're missing the whole point of a Xeon CPU and its uses."
mapesdhs - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link
That's a very good point to highlight - some users need ECC RAM
for their task, and of course pro systems tend to have much higher
max RAM limits than consumer boards (useful for medical, GIS, etc.)
My Dell T7500 just has 24GB atm, but it can take 144GB, though
if maxed out the speed is not that great. Still, the capability is there.
X79 solves the RAM problem to some extent on the desktop for solo
professionals looking for value without blowing thousands on a pro
system, but as you say it's a consideration each user must bare in
I recently built a system for use with AE for a solo artist guy, a blend
of consumer and professional hw, runs very nicely. i7 2600K @ 4.7,
16GB DDR3/2133, 90GB SSD, LSI 3041E-R, 2x73GB 15K SAS,
Quadro 600, ASUS Z68 board, Antec 300, Toughpower 750W PSU.
I sourced used parts where sensible, total cost less than 900 UKP,
saved him about 400 compared to buying all-new. Performance is
very respectable; compare the following numbers to the data in this
Z420 review (remember this is with a Quadro 600, so compare to
the Quadro 600 numbers in the review):
Interesting thing is though, for those who care about Viewperf 11,
these numbers are only about 1 or 2% quicker than the same
Quadro 600 running with a crazy cheap 4.7GHz i3 550 (ProE is
the exception, it gains 10% moving to the 2600K, ie. result with
the i3 550 is 10.84).
Be careful of Viewperf - it's probably not respresentative of pro
tasks which do impose a strain on the main CPU(s) aswell as a
heavy 3D load.
colonelclaw - Monday, May 21, 2012 - linkHi guys, thanks for a great review as always. Any chance that in the future you include a VRay benchmark please? It's very popular, cross-platform, and supported by nearly all the top 3D packages.
majortom1981 - Monday, May 21, 2012 - linkI am typing this on a z600. The z4xx series was originally the bottom of the barrel workstation.
The z6xx is a much better built workstation. So do not judge the whole z series based on the z420.
My z600 is all metal and is built like a tank and from pictures of the z620 it has not changed at all.
Please review the 620 if you can its case design is different.
Ytterbium - Thursday, August 2, 2012 - linkthis comment is true, I think the Z620 would be a better competitor.
The Z4xx to me is for someone who want's a entry level workstation
I have a Z2xx and the chassis is the same as the 8200 elite, just the motherboard is upgraded to C200 so it can run ECC ram.
trivor - Monday, May 21, 2012 - linkIt sure seems to me like a high end gaming rig (from a name brand manufacturer if IT needs it) would certainly be able to give these workstations a run for the money for a lot less money - say a core i7 3960 (6 core @ 3.3 GHz, SLI GTX 570s, 120 GB-240GB SSD with a 2 TB data drive) for around $3500-4000. I think the need for true workstations (Like in the 90s with Sun or Silicon graphics) for most people doing CAD or something along those lines can certainly be more cost effective than these workstations - but I may be wrong.
mapesdhs - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link
Gamer cards totally suck for most pro apps. The driver optimisations are very
different, as are the feature sets. In certain cases a gamer card can run a pro
app ok (Ensight is the ony example I know of), but pro apps usually run much
better on a Quadro. Likewise, gaming performance on a Quadro is terrible.
Games need features like 2-sided textures, pro apps need features like AA
lines; this is why the drivers & optimisations are different.
CPU-wise though, you're right, though an oc'd 3930K makes much more sense than
the waste-of-money 3960X.
However, as an earlier poster mentioned, remember the ECC RAM issue. If someone
needs this, then a consumer build is not an option.
sicofante - Monday, May 21, 2012 - linkI'd think HP has enough money to hire some designers, not just engineers.
This thing is vulgar as hell. I understand those worried by looks are not majority among the buyers of a workstation, but certainly industrial designers and media content creators are a target for these machines and they value the looks.
Gc - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link"Z420: 323"
"under load the extra 20 watts off of the processor, the closed-loop liquid cooler, and the four extra DIMMs all seem to take their pound of flesh. I have a hard time believing that accounts for a full EIGHTY watts of power" [emphasis added]
20 watts for the processor, ~10--15 for the water pump, ~8--10 for the 4 more ECC dimms, leaves about 16--23 watts unaccounted for.
Dustin Sklavos - Monday, May 21, 2012 - linkAw man, I suck at math.