HP Z440 Workstation9 Jul, 2015 By: Alex Herrera
First Look Review: Desktop model offers excellent price-to-performance ratio for CAD users.
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Today's workstation market is diverse, with vendors building machines of various shapes, sizes, mobility levels, and of course, prices. One particular segment, however, outweighs all the rest when it comes to popularity among CAD professionals: the single-socket (or "1S," accommodating only one CPU) deskside tower. Vendors typically offer two models in the space, one focused on economy (Entry 1S) and one focused more on features and performance (Premium 1S).
As luck would have it, we've had a trio of Premium 1S machines come through our doors recently, one from each of three workstation vendors: Maingear's Quantum F131, Dell's Precision 5810, and HP's Z440, reviewed here.
The HP Z440 is the company's more expensive, higher-performing option of its single-socket tower workstation offerings. Image courtesy of HP.
Back in 2009, HP launched the Z workstation brand, pioneering many of the ergonomic features that are now common across its workstation line. The Z440 displays that heritage in elements such as chassis-integrated handles to ease transport. The Z line also raised the bar considerably with tool-free access to interior components, and the Z440 continues in that vein with color-coded tabs that make accessing storage bays and securing add-in card retention simple and painless. Of course, with the HP Z440's price point, it doesn't include all the bells and whistles available in some other members of the Z family, and there are a couple of significant omissions — most notably, the lack of a modular, easily swappable power supply unit (PSU). Most users would never need to swap out the capable, 85% efficient, 525-watt PSU, however.
Premium 1S workstations aren't designed to support the maximum number of the highest-performing (and power-consuming) components — that's what Premium 2S machines are for. But a Premium 1S machine such as the Z440 supports hardware configurations that will satisfy the vast majority of CAD professionals. With dimensions of 6.65" x 17.5" x 17", the Z440 comes in the minitower form factor common to most single-socket workstations. It can support a maximum of six PCI Express slots (two x16s for dual graphics processing units [GPUs]), 128 GB of memory, and more than 12 TB of storage — all figures typical of the class of machine.
Our review unit's configuration starts with Intel's Xeon E5-1630 v3 CPU (the "1" in the "1600" series denotes "1S"). The E5-1630 v3 represents a very sensible sweet spot, balancing the number of CPU cores (four) to speed parallel processing throughput with high-frequency operation (3.7 GHz), for fast execution of the single-thread code that's still common in CAD computing for such tasks as parametric computing. The other key system processor, the GPU, is a very capable NVIDIA Quadro K2200, a card smack in the middle of NVIDIA's professional graphics range.
The HP Z440 came configured with 16 GB of 2,133-MHz DDR4 memory, backed up by not one but two drives, the more notable of which was a high-performance, PCI Express–based, 256-GB Z Turbo drive for the OS and applications (the bigger 1-TB SATA hard drive typically takes responsibility for data storage). The presence of the Z Turbo drive requires one extra fan for additional cooling.
The Z440's connectivity specs are typical for a machine of this caliber and should be sufficient for most users. The front panel offers three SuperSpeed USB 3.0 interfaces, along with the expected analog audio-in and -out minijack ports. In the back, users can access four more USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, along with another set of audio I/O ports, two legacy PS/2 (mouse and keyboard) ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet interface. HP also supports Thunderbolt 2 and a 15-in-1 media card reader as options (though none were included in our configuration).
Our Z440's upgrades above the base configuration resulted in a final price tag of $2,887, as compared to the model's starting price of $1,299.