HP Marries Workstation Power with Ultrabook Portability

10 Sep, 2013 By: Robert Green

Company launches three brand-new ZBooks and introduces updated Z workstations and two new IPS displays.

HP today announced the expansion of its Z portfolio of professional workstation and monitors, including the first-ever workstation Ultrabook, the HP ZBook 14; updates to the company’s line of Z desktop workstations, now offering Intel’s Thunderbolt technology for high-speed data transfer; and two new HP Z displays.

Last week in New York City, the company hosted a preview event for the media, allowing attendees to get a firsthand look at the new products, pose questions to company officials, and hear from HP customers from a variety of industries.

Setting the Tone

The event keynote was neatly summarized by Jim Zafarana, vice-president and general manager of Commercial Solutions, when he stated, “Professional customers rely on trusted partners to provide technology solutions that are tested and certified for the mission-critical applications they run. The HP Z subbrand has become a hallmark for professional products engineered to the highest standards. The expansion of the Z portfolio demonstrates HP’s commitment to the professional market that many other vendors have abandoned.”

HP executive Jim Zafarana shows off the new HP ZBook mobile workstations during his opening address.

Right out of the starting gate, it was clear that this event would not be about consumer devices or providing cheaper computing tools to compete at the low end of the market. Rather, HP struck the tone that it intends to provide high-performance devices that improve productivity for demanding customers in engineering, architecture, and media who face critical challenges such as the huge data sets that lead to time constraints when undertaking rendering and analysis work.

Updated Z Workstations

The new line of Z workstations includes totally new ZBook mobile workstations; enhanced Z desktop workstations; and larger, more ergonomic monitors.

HP’s new product lineup was prominently displayed as the backdrop for all the presentations.

The big news across all new computing devices is support for new Intel processors, updated graphics capabilities, and Thunderbolt support for extremely high-bandwidth outboard peripheral support.


ZBooks: Highly Portable Power

HP really wanted to show off the new HP ZBook mobile workstations at this event, and thus spent a good deal of time going over the new machines. I was able to check out the new models and talk with Brian Allen, Workstation Solutions manager for for the Americas.

The HP ZBook 15, ZBook 14, and ZBook 17 deliver workstation power inside the form factor of an Ultrabook.

Compared with their predecessors, the new HP ZBook mobile workstations are thinner, sleeker, and easier to grip thanks to their wedged shape and rubberized bezel around the display panel. The ZBook family includes the new 14” ZBook 14 as well as the larger ZBook 15 and ZBook 17. While the ZBook 14 is designed for compact business travel, the ZBook 15 and 17 are all about power for processor-intensive mobile workers using CAD or video applications.

The HP ZBook 14 also comes with a touch panel option, which should allow it to be used with Windows 8 to deliver a work experience akin to that of a super-high-performance tablet. The unit’s processor specs defy its light weight and sleek design.

All the ZBooks feature fourth-generation Intel Haswell dual- and quad-core processor options and next-generation graphics technologies from NVIDIA and AMD. The 15” and 17” models also include a high-bandwidth Thunderbolt interface port. Although light, the ZBooks sport the same ruggedized design of prior generations of HP mobile workstations. Finally, the ZBooks have adopted the tool-free chassis design of their desktop big brothers to make upgrading them substantially easier.

HP Z Workstations: Desktop Models Updated

HP Z desktop workstations — the HP Z420, Z620, and Z820 that were introduced last year — have received performance-oriented updates to processors, RAM, and external I/O support.

The workstations now offer the latest Intel Ivy Bridge Xeon E5-1600v2 and E5-2600v2 families of processors running 1866-MHz ECC RAM for 16% higher memory access speed, HP reports. The workstations also add a high-speed Thunderbolt 2 port (as fast as 20 GB per second) to enable high-speed external devices such as cameras or expansion drives to massively expand storage for large data sets. The advantage of Thunderbolt can’t be understated for users who need to capture huge data sets in the field and move them rapidly to desktop machines back in the office.

Other highlights of the Z Workstation updates include the following:

Z420: Now supports up to 8 cores, 64 GB of ECC memory, up to 12 TB of total storage (both mechanical and solid state), and one NVIDIA K6000 (6 GB), one AMD W700 (2 GB), or two NVIDIA K2000 (2 GB) graphics cards in a mini-tower form factor.

Z620: Now supports up to 24 cores, 192 GB of ECC memory, up to 12 TB of total storage (both mechanical and solid state), and one NVIDIA K6000 (6 GB) or two NVIDIA K5000 (4 GB) graphics cards.

Z820: Now supports up to 24 cores, 512 GB of ECC memory, up to 15 TB of total storage (both mechanical and solid state), and up to two NVIDIA K6000 (6 GB) graphics cards in a full-size tower.

Z Displays

In addition to providing a four-way adjustable stand (with greater vertical adjustability) on existing displays, HP also introduced the new HP Z27i and Z30i IPS displays, giving designers and engineers better ergonomic control of their working environment and more screen real estate. The displays have quick-disconnect stands, so placing them on standard VESA mounts for multiple monitor tiling or wall mounting is easy.

The updated HP Z family, including new 27” and 31” monitors (far left and right).


A thin-client mount is also available for the H27i and Z30i monitors to allow a HP Thin Client module to be mounted directly to the monitor — an option likely to be most popular in financial markets where screen size rather than processing power is of paramount need.

The new thin-client mount.

The new Z displays use IPS Generation 2 panels, which yield a quoted 37% (ENERGY STAR–qualified and EPEAT Gold–certified) power savings over the prior generation of Z displays with the same color accuracy over a 178-degree viewing field. Taken together, the new displays can perform better in a variety of environments while using less energy and providing a greater degree of viewing field for collaborative uses such as design reviews or demonstrations.

Customer Stories

A variety of HP clients from industries as diverse as video production, aerospace engineering, and automotive design discussed their use of HP desktop and mobile workstations. In what must have been music to HP’s ears, the video production and film users raved the most about Thunderbolt support for the huge data loads produced in digital filmmaking and said they’ve turned in their Mac computers for HP Z820 workstations.

None of the customers talked about wanting cheaper computers; they all talked about wanting reliable workhorse machines that could handle big computing loads and data sets without breaking a sweat. More than one commented, “I don’t care what the workstation costs so long as it is fast and doesn’t break!”

HP customer Sage Cheshire Aerospace chronicled its analytical applications for design of the crew capsule for the Felix Baumgartner Red Bull Stratos jump using various software platforms on Z420 workstations.

Pricing and Availability

The HP ZBook 15 and 17 mobile workstations are available worldwide today, and the HP ZBook 14 is scheduled for release in late October. Pricing was not released. The enhanced HP Z420 ($1,399), Z620 ($1,689), and Z820 ($2,439) are planned to be available in October, as is the HP Z27i (starting at $729). The HP Z30i is available today (starting at $1,329).

Summing Up

It was fun, if just for a couple of days, to be in a place where computing performance was celebrated and no apologies were made for wanting a supermachine on every desktop. And based on the metrics of quality, raw power, and massive data bandwidth, it seems HP has delivered a big performance upgrade across its Z product family lineup.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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