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Product: Z210 Small Form Factor Workstation
Company: HP
Website: http://www.hp.com
MSRP:
$1799 as tested (starting at $699)
Review By: Robert Stein

A few years ago I made a vow to myself that I would not invest in another desktop because the tradeoffs they required such as desktop real estate, weight, separate keyboard, mouse and of course a monitor were becoming too much. My belief at the time was and still is, laptops are getting more powerful each year and even some models from major brands such as HP could make a good desktop replacement. There is just one area laptops have not caught up and that is raw power. Desktops remain a good choice because of the choice components used and a little thing called expandability. This review takes a look at a system unit from Hewlett Packard, the Z210 Workstation which out of the box packs a punch in a sleek slim line unit that not only is perfect for cramped spaces but offers little compromise allowing you to easily add and upgrade components with its easy to open chassis. Letís take a look at the specifications:

  • Intel XEON E31245 CPU 3.3 GHz

  • 8 GBs of DDR3 RAM

  • 160 GB SSD Storage

  • Intel 3000 HD Graphics

  • 5 USB Ports on the front of the chassis, 6 at the back plus two USB 3.0 ports.

  • DVD RW optical drive

  • 5 in one card reader

  • Windows 7 Professional with SP1 64 bit

  • Weight 22 lbs

Setup & Installation

Setting it up was a breeze it came in a rather large box with input devices such as mouse and keyboard along with a couple accessories (DVI adapters). I was able to take it out of the box easily and removed the protective Styrofoam handles with one hand (in comparison with my HP XW4600 Workstation, I had to seek help removing it from the box, not to mention how heavy it is to lift when I need to tidy my workspace), the HP Z210 is the opposite, it is easy to move around.

What I find amazing about the HP Z10 are the specs, so much power is packed into such a small form factor. The Intel XEON class of processors is Intelís top of the line processors for workstations and servers which offers more capabilities than its consumer oriented siblings such as Core I series of CPUís. The benefits include its raw power and when teamed with components such as 8 GBs of DDR3 RAM, SSD storage, this system screams. You immediately see the difference when you boot up and shutdown this system, Windows 7 64 Bit boots in about 6 seconds and shuts down in less than 4 seconds. Thatís astounding when compared with my HP x4600 which takes at least a good 20 seconds to boot just to the welcome screen and another 10 seconds to get ready. You feel the performance benefits as it boots right to the desktop, the system is ready to use right away.

Design

The design of the Z210 is traditionally boxy, but makes up for it in its miniature form with a cool black finish which makes it easy on the eyes. The form factor provides option to display either as a standing tower or desktop. This should be an appreciative functionality which makes it great for cramped spaces. I was able to snuggle it into a cozy space next to my XW4600 workstation which already is home to two display monitors and a DELL Dimension 8300. In regards to the design itself, the front features a grilled front panel for proper airflow along with four USB ports and audio jacks located just below/side of the power button depending how you have it on your desk.

Performance & USe

The Z210 features the Intel Xeon E31245 CPU based on the Sandy Bridge-WS architecture running at 3.3 GHz built using the companyís 32 nm lithography manufacturing process. The XEON is Intelís workstation and server class processor which HP has managed to implement in a system that is un-workstation like in its design. The E31245 is a single socket unit featuring four logical cores. Features include Turbo Boost and vPro, Turbo Boost is an intelligent throttling technology which allows the CPU to reduce power for day to day activities, before task that might require the power of all cores at its full processor cycle Turbo boost will give it maximum speed. Some examples include rendering task in Photoshop or AutoCAD. vPro is Intelís enterprise hardware assisted virtualization technology which allows you to run virtual machines and efficiently manage them over your network securely. The power built into this system makes a great addition to any accountant, graphic designer, video editors toolset, itís a workstation after all. For home users with power user needs, the Z210 would make a great need especially for freelance graphic designers or video editors. I was able to run some standard processor intensive results and these are results below, I ran them on my old XW4600 (although there was just no comparison) but it was just a stark difference.

PCMark Score

4718

Productivity score:

4646

Creativity score:

7566

Entertainment score

3432

Computation score:

12509

System storage score

4610

 

Start up

6 seconds

Shutdown

4 seconds

Hibernate

4 seconds

Resume from Hibernation

5 seconds

 

Paginate 69 Page Document

Microsoft Word 2007

3.4 MB Document

HP Z210

10 seconds

HP xw4600 Workstation (Word 2010)

21 seconds

DELL Dimension 8300

20 seconds

Acer Ferrari 5000 (Word 2010)

17 seconds

 

Input/Output Performance Ė Copy to Disk Ė 3.5 GB ISO file USB 2.0

Z210

2 minutes 23 seconds

XW4600

2 minutes 8 seconds

 

Unfortunately I was not able to test USB 3.0 performance, when I plugged in my USB 2.0 storage devices I would receive an error that my device was not recognized. I will be giving this another try when I install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on the Z210 since it include class drivers for USB 3.0. Some interesting results though, when copying the same .ISO image to disk, the XW4600 actually beat the Z210 by 15 seconds under USB 2.0.

Rip from CD and Encoding Ė 73 Minute Audio disc Ė HP Z210

Rip using Media Player

2 minutes 51 seconds

Encode MP3 format at 128 Kbps using iTunes

55 seconds

 

Antivirus Scan Ė Microsoft Security Essentials

Quick Scan

16 seconds

Files Scanned

15,122

Full Scan

26 minutes

Files Scanned

587,731

As noted, the Z210 comes with a few USB 3.0 ports, I was interested to see if there are any performance improvements over version 2.0, I decided to do a basic copy and paste to and from a USB thumb drive to hard disk to measure performance. USB 2.0 supports peak transfer rates at 480 MBs, USB 3.0 is said to support up to 2 GBs. For the test, I used a 3.4 GB ISO file.

Servicing

The HP Z210ís compact design makes it quick and easy to service if needed. Just pop the hood and you are ready to make changes. As I noted earlier, its size makes it convenient to carry around, so if you have to move from a lab to a work bench, itís not heavy, so wonít feel like you are lugging with it. Inside the HP Z2010 components are neatly laid out for easy removal, I was able to easily remove components such as memory and hard disk with little effort.

There is still a small issue and that is upgradability, because of its compactness, it leaves little room to add components such as an extra hard disk. For instance, I would have liked to add a larger mechanical hard disk to complement the 160 GB SSD for storage, unfortunately, because the bay for such a drive is already occupied by the all in one card reader, you will have to carefully consider what is most important. Although the Media Card Reader is quite handy (I personally had to use it because my brothers new Olympus camera happens to use a Micro SD card, the HP Z210 was the only computer that happened to support it. If you are a home user needing the power of a work station, but want lots of storage, I would recommend sacrificing the card reader (buy an external one instead) and upgrade this with either a larger SSD or Mechanical Hard Disk.

There are other upgrade options available in the Z210 such as 3 low profile PCI Express slots, which could be excellent for a low profile discrete video card. Please note, you need install a low profile card since the machines dimensions do not support larger cards.

Operating System

The Z210 comes preloaded with Windows 7 Professional Service Pack 1. An excellent edition which I personally use on my other PCís, Windows 7 Professional includes all premium consumer features found in the Home Premium edition such as Media Center and HomeGroups. Windows 7 Professional adds some business oriented capabilities such as Domain Join, Remote Desktop, Folder Encryption, Group Policy, Network Backup, Location Aware Printing, Windows XP Mode support for legacy applications. Windows 7 Professional also supports up 192 GBs of RAM, so if you need more power in your Z210, you have that option.

One trade off though is support for some unique features only found in the Enterprise or Ultimate edition of Windows 7 and that is support for BitLocker Drive Encryption. Windows 7 Professional does not support the Trusted Platform Module which is supported by the Z210. TPM is a required component for BitLocker to work in order to decrypt an encrypted hard disk. For businesses that intend to purchase Z210 in bulk, you will likely already have a volume license contract which entitles you to the Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade license and the preloaded Windows 7 Professional already works as a qualifying license.

In addition to Windows, the Z210 also supports distributions of the Open Source operating system Linux such as Redhat Enterprise Desktop and Novellís SLES.

Final Comments

How It Grades

Setup: 95%
Features: 95%
Design: 90%
Ease of Use: 93%
Price/Value: 87%
Overall: 92%

The HP Z210 makes a perfect solution for any size business looking for a powerful desktop that is easy to manage, upgradable while providing significant performance. Features such as the Intel XEON Processor, 8 GBs of DDR3 ECC RAM and 160 GB SSD makes it a competitive value that can offer substantial savings in comparison to top of the line configurations. If you are working in fields such as engineering, accounting, free lance video editing, publishing or any other power hungry environments, the Z210 could be a welcome addition. Of course, there are some tradeoffs, you might want to outweigh whether the 160 GB SSD is worth it over a larger mechanical storage device, then again, the addition of USB 3.0 could make the investment in an external USB storage more convenient. If you are working with graphics, you might want to strongly consider adding a discrete graphics solution since the Intel HD 3000 only supports DirectX 10 and might not be powerful enough for certain jobs such as heavy  CAD and image manipulation. The Z210ís most prominent feature is the significant performance it delivers providing that appliance like instant on and off experience, itís certainly a pleasure to use day to day. Over all, itís a neat system and the compact form factor makes it a great addition to cramped spaces.

Specs & Package
Overall Score 92%
Version Reviewed HP Z210 SFF Workstation
Release Date Out Now
The Good Points
  • Small Compact Design great for cramped spaces

  • Fast Storage Technology (160 GB SSD) Ė Would recommend investment in an external storage device with lots of capacity that supports the USB 3.0 interface to complement the SSD or consider sacrificing the All in one card reader for a secondary mechanical storage solution.

  • Superior performance

  • EEC DDR3 RAM (8 GBs)

  • USB 3.0 support

  • All-In-One Card Reader

  • Easy to service

  • Enterprise Management features built in, V-Pro, TPM

  • Workstation class processor Ė virtualization, turbo boost

The Bad Points
  • Limited expandability

  • Limited storage capacity

  • Graphics solution limited for heavy 3D work, discrete graphics solution recommended.

  • USB 3.0 ports not working out the box (possible class driver issue with Windows 7)

In The Box HP Z210
Similar Product Other Z210 Configurations
Specifications

HP Z210 SFF 240W 90% Energy Efficient Chassis
Intel Xeon E3-1245 3.3GHz 8MB/1333MHz QC (with Intel HD Graphics P3000)
HP 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1333 ECC RAM
HP 160 GB SATA 1st SSD
16x DVD+/-RW SuperMulti SATA
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
HP Performance Advisor
HP USB standard keyboard
HP USB scroll mous
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