HP Z6 Work­sta­tion

★★★☆☆ £8,649 • From store.hp.com

Computer Shopper - - REVIEWS - James Archer

VER­DICT

Dual CPUs give the Z6 in­cred­i­ble power, but you’d have to be rich or mad to buy it

IT MAY LOOK sober and sen­si­ble on the out­side, but the Z6 Work­sta­tion is hid­ing a big se­cret: dual 14-core In­tel Xeon pro­ces­sors, which along­side 96GB of DDR4 mem­ory de­liv­ers a level of per­for­mance that makes In­tel Core and AMD Ryzen-pow­ered ‘work­sta­tions’ look like toast­ers.

Just look at its scores in our 4K bench­marks: 474 in the video-en­cod­ing test and 595 in the mul­ti­task­ing test, both record-set­ters, as is its over­all score of 479. Its im­age test score of 144 is the lone hum­drum re­sult, though not a ter­ri­bly sur­pris­ing one: it re­lies pri­mar­ily on sin­gle-core strength, and while you do have a to­tal of 28 cores from the two Xeon Gold 6132 CPUs, each one runs at a mod­est 2.6GHz. Still, for any­thing mul­ti­threaded – which, these days, is al­most any ap­pli­ca­tion that might ac­tu­ally chal­lenge your PC – the Z6 Work­sta­tion is phe­nom­e­nally adept.

You also get an Nvidia Quadro P4000 GPU, which pro­vides hard­ware ac­cel­er­a­tion for bet­ter per­for­mance in many de­sign pro­grams, such as the Adobe Cre­ative Cloud suite. Un­like many of Nvidia’s older pro­fes­sional-grade graph­ics cards, it’s also not bad for a spot of off-duty gam­ing; on maxed-out set­tings and 1,920x1,080 res­o­lu­tion, the Z6 scored smooth frame rates of 83fps in Dirt Show­down and 60fps in Metro: Last Light Re­dux.

TWIN­NING FOR­MULA

To fit the dual CPU setup into a rea­son­ably sized mid-tower case, rather than a hefty dual-cham­ber chas­sis, HP uses a smaller, hor­i­zon­tally ori­ented cir­cuit board con­nected to the main mother­board like an ex­pan­sion card. The pro­ces­sors and RAM slots – 12 in to­tal – are split evenly be­tween the two boards, and while this ne­ces­si­tates things such as large plas­tic sup­port­ing brack­ets and rather small CPU cool­ers, there is a def­i­nite sense that the whole thing has been made more com­pact than it could have been with an in­fe­rior de­sign.

Even so, there’s still easy ac­cess to the ac­tual ex­pan­sion card slots, with a nicely var­ied mix of two PCI-E x16 slots (one of which is oc­cu­pied by the Quadro P4000), one PCI-E x8 slot and three PCI-E x4 slots.

How­ever, this is also where upgrad­abil­ity grinds to a halt. That’s not an is­sue for, say, the RAM, where we’re per­fectly happy to have all 12 slots filled al­ready, but it’s un­usual at the very least for a work­sta­tion to have only two trays for 3.5in or 2.5in drives, and stranger still for them to be filled with merely a SATA-based SSD and a me­chan­i­cal hard disk. This seems es­pe­cially true when the sys­tem costs the best part of £9,000.

PANIC STA­TION

In­deed, the one thing that man­ages to over­shadow dual CPUs is the amount you have to pay to get them. To be fair, you can cus­tomise the Z6’s specs be­fore you buy, and ba­sic con­fig­u­ra­tions start at a much more ac­ces­si­ble £1,700, but for the horse­power on dis­play here, it’s sev­eral mul­ti­ples of that. And that, un­for­tu­nately, de­mands a rais­ing of stan­dards that leaves sev­eral of the Z6’s other com­po­nents look­ing al­to­gether less im­pres­sive.

Take those stor­age drives: a 500GB SSD and a 1TB hard disk would be a great com­bi­na­tion on, say, a £1,000 gam­ing PC, but on a top-end work­sta­tion it’s thor­oughly medi­ocre. The lack of a sec­ond hard disk in RAID is a par­tic­u­lar draw­back for photo and video edit­ing, where sav­ing backups is es­sen­tial.

Phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity is mixed, too. Hav­ing four Eth­er­net ports at the back and two USB Type-C con­nec­tors at the front is nice, but that’s with just a mid­dling eight full-size USB3 ports in to­tal (six at the back, two at the front). There’s not much in the au­dio de­part­ment, ei­ther, with ba­sic line in and line out 3.5mm jacks but no optical out­puts or sur­round-sound speaker jacks. The in­clu­sion of a DVD-RW drive but not a Blu-ray drive is also a weirdly stingy de­ci­sion, given the price.

The built-in speaker, which pipes sound out through the top of the front panel, re­sem­bles some­thing from a bud­get PC. It can’t go very loud, but still man­ages to sound dis­torted when you crank up the vol­ume; it’s so bad that dia­logue in films can sound, lit­er­ally, phoned in.

CASH­ING OUT

In the end, as fre­quently great as the Z6 Work­sta­tion is from a tech­ni­cal stand­point, it’s not some­thing you should se­ri­ously con­sider buy­ing. The Chill­blast Fu­sion Photo OC VIII (Shop­per 358) scored 322 over­all in our bench­marks, much lower than the HP sys­tem, but it did so while cost­ing a com­par­a­tively af­ford­able £2,250 – and that per­for­mance is still more than good enough for high-level CAD work. Even if you up­grade the Fu­sion Photo OC VIII to a Core i9-7980XE and 128GB of RAM, clos­ing the gap even more, it would still be more af­ford­able at £4,880.

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