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Issue: Volume 36 Issue 7: (Nov/Dec 2013)

Hewlett- Packard HP Z620

By: George Maestri

Hewlett- Packard HP Z620 Hewlett-Packard’s high-end workstations have always been at the cutting edge in terms of speed and power. These graphics powerhouses have been used in countless Hollywood productions, engineering groups, and scientific labs. The new HP Z620 mid-range machine offers a lot of graphics and computing power in a very nice package.

HP Z620

Left: Workstation has a clean look and a handle up on top. Right: The inside of the HP Z620 is very tidy and easy to service; no screwdrivers required

The HP Z620 is a fairly small machine for what it does. The midsize case is a little narrower than most but has plenty of room for upgrades and plenty of connectivity. The case design is restrained but attractive. One nice feature is a handle on the front, which makes the machine slightly more luggable than most. The front panel also has three USB ports (two are USB 3.0), audio, and a firewire port. The rear panels include more USB ports, audio, and dual gigabit Ethernet ports.

Along with the Z620 came an HP ZR2740w 27-inch display. This is an IPS monitor with very good color reproduction and 2560x1440 resolution, making it perfect for high-end graphics applications. The display was an ergonomic dream, offering a wide viewing angle and the ability to adjust height easily. Connectivity includes DisplayPort and Dual-Link DVI connectors.

As for the workstation, the side panel opens with a simple latch, revealing an interior that is an exercise in simplicity. All cables are nicely routed and out of the way, giving it a very clean look.  Servicing the machine is easy with the completely tool-less design. All the major components snap into place with levers that keep them in place. Even the power supply can be replaced with the pull of a simple lever.  Very nice design. I wish more vendors had this level of serviceability.

Inside the machine is a motherboard that sports six more USB 2.0 ports, a six-channel SATA controller that supports RAID, and a bunch of PCI Express Gen3 slots. Two of these are x16 slots for graphics cards, with one x8 slot, one x4 slot, and four x1 slots. An old-school PCI slot is also included for legacy devices. The workstation was configured with an Nvidia Quadro FX 4000, the high mid-range card. The motherboard has more than enough expansion for most. If you need more, however, HP’s high-end Z820 work­station can accommodate.

The Z620 can support one or two Xeon processors to give it up to 16 cores of processing power. The one reviewed had two eight-core 2.6ghz Xeon CPUs installed. The machine is rather unique in that the motherboard itself only accepts one CPU. The second CPU is installed by inserting a massive daughterboard into a special slot (that also covers one of the PCIe X1 slots). This daughterboard contains the CPU, a massive heat sink, and additional RAM slots. This makes upgrading easy from a service standpoint: You just plop in the daughterboard. The daughterboard assembly, however, does add to the cost. You can’t just order a second Xeon over the Internet and install it yourself; you have to go through HP.

The machine booted very quickly thanks to the RAID array of solid-state drives that HP configured. This particular workstation was configured with Windows 8 and 64gb of RAM. Interactivity was appropriately fast, thanks to the nice graphics card and fast processors. Applications like Maya ran without a hitch, even with large data­sets. Editing apps, such as Premiere Pro, had no problem scrubbing multiple streams of HD content.

Of course, we always tend to upgrade our workstations to get more speed and power. The HP Z620 definitely delivered in this regard. The machine had a very fast Cinebench CPU score of 22.05 and an OpenGL score of 72.08 fps. The SiSoft Sandra score was a very respectable 19.2.  

Overall, the HP Z620 is a nice mid-range workstation. It has a good amount of speed and graphics power wrapped up in a very nice package. The case design was ergonomic and easy to service. This would make a terrific machine for anyone doing high-end graphics. ■ CGW

George Maestri is a contributing editor for CGW and president/CEO of RubberBug animation studio. He also teaches Maya for Lynda.com. He can be reached at maestri@rubberbug.com.

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