Review: hp Z840 + amd
price £2,190 and £2,998.99 (respectively) | company HP and AMD | website www.hp.co.uk, www.amd.co.uk
HP’S new Amd-powered workstation
Having become a staple in the high end business and graphics market, we took a look at HP’S Z840 Workstation and the Firepro W9100 it came with, and put it through a week in a freelancer’s life. Did it pass muster?
The first thing you notice about the workstation is how small it is, despite the power it packs under the hood. The second is how very silently it runs, until the GPU spins up. The Z840 comes with a dual set of E5 2.5GHZ Xeon processors and 64GB DD4 RAM, and OS of choice, which in our case was Windows 10. Despite its compact size, the chassis is actually a lot roomier than it looks, with plenty of space for additional drives, cards, and air circulation, even with a beast of a GPU like the Firepro inside.
After plugging it in and putting it online, I used it as my main workstation for a week, rather than putting it through yet another benchmark test. It was put through a typical 3D workflow instead: working with heavy poly 3D meshes, creating 4K texture sets and bakes in the Substance suite, to UV mapping a big mecha in Unfold 3D, in addition to Quixelling in Photoshop, and using the Firepro in Max, on V-ray RT, V-ray Advanced and Corona renders.
Everything went blindingly fast, most noticeably – and naturally – when working with heavy meshes and V-ray. This isn’t really a surprise, as the Firepro sports 16 GB GDDRS memory with a 512 memory interface and 320GB/S memory bandwidth, but it was nice to work in V-ray at the speed of minute intervals in the tweakrender-tweak cycle. That speed was also a very welcome experience as it tore its way through tweaking and auto-unfolding a poly-heavy robot in Unfold 3D – a task I’d been dreading on my lesser personal workstation. Baking sets of 4K maps in Substance Designer took about five minutes on medium poly meshes – and never longer than 1015 on the super heavy ones. It also goes without saying that anything requiring a framerate, from game engines like Lumberyard and Unreal to After Effects, ran and compiled super fast.
a few drawbacks
With the cost of workstations always on the decrease, would it be worth investing in something as big in this?
It depends on your needs. If you’re planning on a gaming/ rendering/modding hybrid, you might be better off building or buying a lesser workstation.
However, if you’re working on a pipeline, or a purchaser for a team on a pipeline, this combo is definitely worth looking into, especially now it’s matured in the market and any kinks have been ironed out.
It does, however, have a few drawbacks, provided you can afford the starting cost of £2,190 and £2,999 for the station and card respectively, the GPU’S fan is a bit louder than what you typically hear on Radeon or GTX cards, but not disturbingly so. In addition, despite fiercely competing with Nvidia’s Quadro range, it is ironic that the Firepro W9100, which can perform better than the K6000 Quadro in shader benchmarks, is not supported by Allegorithmic’s Substance suite yet. The suite worked well enough for me when reviewing Substance Painter 2 (page 96), in addition to finishing some client work, but if it started crashing, which it didn’t do often, only a reboot helped. The hassle was highly mitigated by the system coming back up almost immediately, but it was still hassle.
So did it pass muster? Absolutely. The few issues I had were outweighed by the setup’s speed and capabilities. Add to that ease of upgrade and you’re buying something that’ll last you a while.
Cirstyn advises this combo is definitely worth considering for those artists working on a pipeline It tore its way through tweaking and autounfolding a poly-heavy robot in Unfold 3D