Introducing the HP Z210 SFF Workstation

We're taking our second excursion into enterprise-class desktop territory with the kind of machine that should be of interest both to IT management and enthusiasts alike: HP's Z210 SFF (small form factor) workstation. Desktop computers are capable of getting smaller and smaller these days, and with the Z210 SFF, HP is hoping to make serious number crunching power available in even the tightest of spaces. It's always interesting to see just how much performance can be crammed into a tiny computer, but did HP have to make any sacrifices to hit this target?

I'll readily admit I'm a huge geek when it comes to smaller computers like this one, so whether it was enterprise class or not, the Z210 SFF was going to be something I'd want to get my hands on personally. Thankfully, it fits right in with our hopefully expanding coverage of enterprise-class towers. We're still working out kinks in our testing of workstations, so suggestions on how to improve it are always welcome. The last time we reviewed a desktop workstation was our Dell Precision T1600; as you'll see there were some changes made here.

HP Z210 SFF Specifications
Chassis HP Custom
Processor Intel Xeon E3-1245
(4x3.3GHz + HTT, 32nm, 8MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard HP Proprietary Motherboard with C206 chipset
Memory 4x2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 ECC @ 1333MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 600 1GB DDR3
(96 CUDA Cores, 640/1280/1600MHz core/shaders/RAM, 128-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Intel X25-M 160GB SSD
Optical Drive(s) HP DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC662 HD Audio
Speaker, mic/line-in jacks for stereo sound
Front Side 5x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Optical drive
Card reader
Top -
Back Side 2x PS/2
6x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
1x Ethernet
2x DisplayPort
Serial
VGA
Speaker, mic/line-in
DVI-D
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.3" x 15.0" x 3.95" (WxDxH)
Extras SD/CF/MS/MMC Card Reader
ISV Certification
HP Performance Advisor
90% Efficient PSU
Warranty 3-year parts, labor, and onsite service
Pricing Starts at $569
Review system configured at ~$1,799

Unfortunately, at time of publication HP didn't have a page up for custom configuring the Z210 SFF; the top-of-the-line model they list is basically identical to our review unit, but with the NVIDIA Quadro 600 workstation graphics card added. Keep in mind that's the most powerful workstation card HP offers with the Z210, and it retails for $169. Given vendors' proclivity towards adding a premium to upgrades, I'd expect the end price for this kit to be around $2,000.

So what do you get for your money? For starters, HP equips the Z210 SFF with an Intel Xeon as opposed to a consumer-grade Core i3/i5/i7, in this case the E3-1245. The E3-1245 is roughly equivalent to a Core i5-2500 with the additions of Hyper-Threading, Intel HD Graphics 3000, and 2MB more L3 cache; it runs at a nominal 3.3GHz and is capable of turbo-ing up to 3.7GHz on a single core (losing 100MHz for each additional active core under turbo), sports 8MB of L3 cache, and maintains a 95W TDP. Connected to the integrated memory controller are four 2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 DIMMS with ECC.

Pulling graphics duties is a half-height NVIDIA Quadro 600 workstation card, and we have some surprises for you when we get to the workstation benchmarks. The Quadro 600 is the enterprise-class version of the GF108 chip that powers the desktop GeForce GT 430, featuring 96 of NVIDIA's CUDA cores with 1GB of DDR3 strapped to a 128-bit memory bus. Clock speeds are a bit underwhelming, though; the GT 430 ships at 700MHz on the core and 1400MHz on the shaders, against the Quadro 600's 640MHz core clock and corresponding 1280MHz shader clock. The DDR3 runs at an effective 1.6GHz. Still, remember that this is a workstation card and benefits from NVIDIA's Quadro drivers.

The rest of the system is relatively tame and unsurprising for a workstation, but HP does add both a USB 3.0 expansion card and an Intel X25-M 160GB SSD based on 34nm NAND. In our admittedly anecdotal experience, Intel's SSDs tend to be extremely popular in the enterprise sector; outside of the current issue with the 320 series SSDs, Intel drives have typically demonstrated the lowest failure rates on the market. So for those of you wondering why we're not seeing high performance SandForce-based SSDs or SATA-III kit, there's your answer.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • chuckula - Monday, August 29, 2011 - link

    Well a few things, here.

    1. This is just one of a whole slew of HP products that have been reviewed in the last few days... but HP is abandoning the PC business... so why are we bothering again?

    2. OpenGL drivers from Nvidia and AMD are both embarassingly piss-poor for consumer cards in the Windows world, and gamers don't seem to care.

    3. As the article states, this machine is just a 2500K + a GeForce 430 using different server number parts. Aside from the small & ugly form factor, it's nothing you couldn't build from Newegg parts at 1/2 the price.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, August 29, 2011 - link

    1. They're backtracking on that, and until they actually DO abandon the PC business there's no reason to stop reviewing their stuff since it's out there and in force. On top of that, I'm pretty sure two units don't count as a "whole slew."

    2. OpenGL drivers from NVIDIA and AMD are adequate for consumer cards and gamers in Windows. Not spectacular, but Quake Wars doesn't run terribly and honestly, consumers don't run very many heavy duty OpenGL apps.

    3. That's not entirely true, though. In terms of silicon, the Xeon in the Z210 SFF has some differences compared to an i5-2500K: it has Hyper-Threading, increased cache, and a locked multiplier. Likewise, the GeForce GT 430 and Quadro 600 may share silicon but they do not share OpenGL performance. So no, this is NOT something you can build from NewEgg parts at half the price.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    To go with what Dustin has said, HP is looking to *sell* their consumer business off to another company, not "abandon" it entirely. Just like IBM ditched their laptops and PCs and Lenovo bought them, there would likely be a taker for the current #1 worldwide computer business.

    Of course, the actual silicon in the Xeon and i5-2500K might be the same, but what he means is that having the extra cache enabled along with Hyper-Threading makes a difference. You'd be better off comparing the Xeon chip to the i7-2600K, and even then there are differences (e.g. ECC).
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    Ever since slowly migrating our office to HP workstaions from Dell Precision's over the past three years, I have to honestly say hardware failures are down across the board. Reply
  • proliance - Monday, August 29, 2011 - link

    HP said they may drop the consumer line of pc's. This is a commercial product, not consumer. Reply
  • Taft12 - Monday, August 29, 2011 - link

    ... and why would any company ditch products with margins like this?! $499 laptops at Best Buy make zero profit and would not be missed.

    IBM sells millions of systems a year with Intel and AMD CPUs, and they "exited the PC business" several years ago. They just happen to have Xeon and Opteron branding instead of Core and Phenom.
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Monday, August 29, 2011 - link

    @chuckula,
    This is a commercial line product. Big corporations cannot and should not spend time building PCs with parts from NewEgg. They need the service, warranty, and reliability provided by big vendors so that they can focus on their core businesses.

    So, just because you think you can build something similar to this, it does not mean this article is irrelevant to readers other than you.

    @Dustin and AnandTech,
    Nice article and very much worth reading. Keep up the good analysis work.
    Reply
  • koinkoin - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    Support on the hardware, onsite is important on this kind of systems.
    Also having proper support for your application is usefull, and this is what you end paying a bit on these kind of worksation systems.
    Reply
  • kkwst2 - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    Along those lines, my experience with both Dell and HP are that the service on the workstation-class commercial systems is excellent, whereas the service on consumer systems is, uh, wanting.

    I thought I hated Dell, but my T3500 workstation has been a rock and when I had some issues with adding a RAID controller, they solved my problem in 5 minutes.

    And chuckula first mentions crappy OpenGL drivers in consumer grade cards, and then says the workstation-class card is just rebadged. The bottom line is they differentiate these cards by the drivers, and there is a significant difference in CAD support and optimizations for these cards. It used to be you could hack a consumer card and install the optimized firmware and drivers for it, but I think that has been largely squashed.
    Reply
  • mike_ - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    Yeah they're not abandoning it, they want to sell it off like IBM did with Lenovo. <5% margins just aren't worth the headache, and justifiably so. Reply

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