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HP Z600 Workstation (2011)

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HP's newest workstation follows the DNA of its 2009 Z series launch, with finned design, top handles and aluminium chassis intact. HP sent us the third-biggest child in the family, the Z800, to spend a bit of time with.

Upside

The Z series workstations are still lookers, and their double handles can be tossed into a rack easily enough if you've got a spare shelf hanging around. It won't be optimal, as the power button, status lights and ports will be facing the sides of the rack, but it's certainly an option. Perhaps a Raven-esque approach would take HP there?

The quick removable PSU is still here, although in the Z600 it's rated at 650W and has been moved to the bottom of the chassis to enable better heat transfer out of the lockable case. The rest is par for the course upgrades; the sample that crossed our desks came with a Quadro 5000, 12GB RAM, dual Xeon X5650s @ 2.67GHz (24 threads with HyperThreading!), a DVD+-RW, 2TB 7200RPM Hitachi hard drive and a 160GB G2 Intel SSD. While the Intel SSD is no match for a modern Sandforce-based drive, all-up it's a reasonably powerful system and the ability is there to spec higher or run a different OS if required. Despite all this hardware, it stays reasonably quiet during operation.

Internally, things are kept neat, with cable-management rather well done — most cables are bundled above the PSU. It's not enthusiast-level cabling, but it's still more than acceptable and should greatly help airflow. Quick-release mechanisms are quite prevalent, from the handle that opens the case to the side-facing 3.5-inch drive bays to the clasps keeping the 5.25-inch drives in place or the swing-down clasp that's used instead of screws to hold in all of your expansion cards.

Downside

Expansion is the Z600's weak spot; while there's physical room to fit in two full-length graphics cards, the second PCI-E x16 slot is so close to the first that if double slot cards are involved, the first won't get proper airflow. There's also PCI-E x8 slots to the left and right of the first PCI-E x16, although both are electrically limited to 4x, and the one to the right is made unusable by a double slot card. There's also a pair of PCI slots, and three spare SATA slots once the optical drive and dual hard drives are taken into account. You won't get to use them, though, as there's only one empty 5.25-inch bay left to play within the aforementioned configuration.

Outlook

This looks like another fantastic workstation from HP, with the only downside being lack of expandability inside the case. But then, that's what the Z800 is for, right?

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