HP Z210 CMT Workstation

25 Nov, 2011 By: Art Liddle

First Look Review: Desktop system offers upper-midrange performance for an entry-level price.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Cadalyst magazine.

In spring 2010, Cadalyst Labs reviewed HP's then-new Z200 entry-level workstation. At the time, we wrote, "The HP Z200 has a lot going for it" and "is certainly worth your consideration." When HP offered us a chance to review the next-generation Z210 CMT, we jumped at it. And we were not disappointed; the Z210 CMT proves to be an excellent value.

The HP Z210 CMT entry-level workstation offers a wide range of configuration opportunities. CMT stands for convertible minitower, meaning you can configure the workstation to sit flat or stand up by rotating the hard drives 90°. For our review, we asked for an upscale configuration — in particular, a fast processor, extra system memory, lots of hard drive storage (RAID 0 enabled), as well as an upper-midrange 3D graphics card. As inexpensive as our review system is, we know that some of you may be on an even tighter budget. Be assured that HP offers a full range of options for your personally configured Z210 CMT, starting at $759. HP also offers a small–form-factor version, the Z210 SFF, which might appeal to those who don't need expansion capacity or don't work with 3D models.

System Features

At the heart of our HP Z210 CMT was an Intel 3.3-GHz Quad- Core Xeon E3-1240 CPU that offers a 3.7-GHz turbo mode when running a single-core operation. The Xeon series of CPUs supports error-correcting code (ECC) memory, which the Core i5 and i7 series processors do not. ECC memory is typically used for calculation-intensive applications, such as 3D modeling, and offers an extra layer of protection against random memory errors. Our review system was equipped with 8 GB of DDR3 1,333-MHz ECC memory using two 4-GB DIMM chips. This left two DIMM slots open for upgrading. The system supports a maximum of 32 GB of memory in a 4-GB x 8-GB configuration.

Our graphics card was the NVIDIA Quadro 2000, a midrange 3D GPU that offers very good value. It includes 1 GB of GDDR5 memory with 128-bit interface and supports a maximum resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. It supports multiple monitors with its one DVI-I and two DisplayPort connections, with any two active simultaneously. (As this article went to press, HP told Cadalyst that it no longer supports the NVIDIA driver due to customer complaints.)

Our operating system was Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

We rounded out our review system with a pair of 500-GB SATA (7,200-rpm) hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration. (RAID 0 splits file operations between two striped drives, which dramatically increases performance.) Designed to reduce total energy consumption, the Z210 includes a relatively large 400-W (90% energy-efficient) power supply and meets the Energy Star 5.0 TEC specifications, drawing a mere 0.5 W in off mode and about 25% less power, compared to previous models, in idle mode. A 16x DVD+/-RW dual-layer SATA optical drive, standard HP USB keyboard, and USB optical three-button mouse complete the hardware configuration.

The HP Z210 CMT (convertible minitower) can be configured to sit flat or stand on end by rotating the hard drives 90°.

On the software side, the Z210 includes a Swiss Army knife–like application, the HP Performance Advisor. With an elegantly designed interface, this utility lets you virtually peer inside your workstation to get real-time performance information as well as to optimize, customize, and troubleshoot hardware and software.

The black minitower case, measuring 17.6" x 7.0" x 17.9", weighs 26 lbs and is designed to allow easy, one-handed access to the interior. It includes nine external USB 2.0 ports — three in the front and six in the rear — as well as one IEEE 1394a port, two PS/2 ports, and a standard network connector. We were pleasantly surprised by the Z210's room for expansion. It comes standard with five accessible expansion slots on the motherboard and one 3½" and two 5¼" drive bays for additional storage. Remember, our system had two hard drives and a DVD drive already installed.

Test Results

We ran the Cadalyst Systems Benchmark c2011 v5.3b with AutoCAD 2011 configured for NVIDIA's NVG10.HDI-enhanced AutoCAD driver. As usual, we enabled hardware acceleration for AutoCAD and turned off vertical sync for the graphics card. We set the screen resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 and color depth to 32-bit. The Z210 CMT's scores for the c2011 benchmark were as follows: total index of 837, 3D graphics index of 2,613, 2D graphics index of 222, disk index of 229, and CPU index of 284. All these numbers are very good, and the disk index score is a new all-time high among systems tested by Cadalyst Labs. For the record, the HP Z210's total index score is more than 90% higher than the HP Z200 we reviewed last year.

In addition to the c2011 benchmark, we ran the SPECviewperf 11 suite of tests, single sample mode only, to gauge graphics performance. The weighted scores were as follows: 30.76 for catia-03; 21.01 for ensight-04; 56.74 for lightwave-01, 23.72 for maya-03, 11.37 for proe-05, 41.16 for sw-02, 26.58 for tcvis-02, and 22.58 for snx-01. These numbers are virtually identical to the closest competitor on price that we've reviewed, which shouldn't be surprising given that both included an NVIDIA Quadro 2000 graphics card.

Wrapping Up

The price for the HP Z210 CMT, as configured for this review, was $2,312. The HP Z210 offers excellent price/performance value; the only workstation we've seen beat its Cadalyst benchmark index score cost hundreds of dollars more. HP classifies the Z210 CMT as an entry-level workstation — and prices it as such — but the system's performance scores are more in line with what we would consider upper-midrange. Highly Recommended.

About the Author: Art Liddle

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