HP Z800 Workstation: First Take

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Upside

With a chassis designed by BMW Group DesignWorks USA, yet not shunning the HP heritage, the Z800 is a masterpiece of thoughtful design. The images, it must be said, do not do it justice.

Admittedly, we've seen a lot of what's been included here before in the enthusiast space, but this is the first time we've seen all these elements come together in the corporate world. From the quick release power supply which hooks straight into the motherboard with one push, to the hot-swappable hard drives, to the removable motherboard tray, this is the first machine we've seen that looks to be completely tool-less, despite previous claims to the contrary.

HP has gone to incredible lengths to make it modular, including a green "touch point" on each module to indicate it can be removed. Cables have been tucked away to the degree that even the extra power cable required by graphics cards is routed as close to the card as possible. By attaching a cable to the drive bay (others are secreted away as best as possible, or behind the motherboard tray), it makes the visible ones attached to the motherboard headers at the rear strangely unsightly.

HP's not just been interested in user maintenance, but also in portability — and so extra strong handles have been integrated into the chassis at the top. Gone are the rubber feet, too, to help with sliding the machine about for easier access. Airflow has been thoroughly thought through as well, from the front facing air intakes on the PSU, to the curved design of the baffle covering the interior.

Silence has been attended to, with rubber grommets attached to hard drives to lower vibration noise. A motherboard block diagram is etched onto the inside access panel of the machine — a stylish alternative to slapping it with a great big sticker.

Specs are equally impressive, supporting up to a dual-Xeon W5580 3.2GHz configuration, each powered by an Intel 5520, with six DDR3 1333MHz DIMM slots per CPU offered for a maximum aggregate of 192GB RAM. The monstrous Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 is available with its 4GB RAM, while an integrated, RAID 10 eight-channel SAS controller is on board, with an option to update to an LSI 8888 eight-port SAS controller, which supports hardware RAID 5. Dual-gigabit Ethernet is available, and it has more options than you care to count.

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It is, in short, a ridiculously powerful and sexy machine.

Downside

It seems the Xeon 5500 series-based products are taking their time to get to market, so we don't know when we'll see one of these in Australia. The US starting price of US$1800 doesn't translate here either, with the price commanding a frightening AU$3999 (keep in mind that this is for a significantly less specced system than listed above).

Outlook

HP has decided that the best way to punch through an economic downturn is to continue to invest in R&D, and the HP Z800 is a testament to this. It has the looks and the performance of a winner, and only a cataclysmic failure at the last minute will stop this having a huge impact on the industry. We look forward to reviewing the unit soon.

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