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October 2014
Issue: July 1, 2014

Review: HP's Z1 G2 workstation

By: Trevor M. Carlee
MANUFACTURER: HP

PRODUCT: Z1 G2 Workstation

PRICE: Starting at $1,999 (pre-configured); $8,027 as tested

WEBSITE: www.hp.com
- Can operate in two positions: vertical or flat
- Comes with keyboard and mouse
- Runs on an Intel Xeon CPU (3.60 GHz) with 32GB of RAM (ECC)



When I first installed Windows 8, I thought to myself, “It would be cool if I had the ability touch everything.” So, I decided to take a look at the HP all-in-one Z1 G2 Workstation with touch screen capabilities. Not only did this machine turn out to be intuitive when using the touch screen with Windows 8, but man, is it powerful!

THE MACHINE

When I received the workstation, the first thing that stood out to me was, that it comes with a keyboard and mouse. Ten points to Gryffindor! I joke, but on a serious note, being able to actually use the machine right out of the box is quite a bonus these days.

I was a little shocked at how heavy the Z1 G2 is. Coming in at a hefty 47 pounds, this beast feels like it’s packing quite a punch. Once I got The Hulk to put the computer on my desk for me, I was stuck trying to figure out how to make the monitor stand vertically.

The Z1 G2 can operate in two positions: vertical or flat. It’s delivered in the flat position and you might tear your hair out trying to figure out how to get it vertical. There was enough in the box to indicate that I needed to press the green button at the bottom of the monitor in order to lift it vertically. What it failed to mention was that you have to push down on the monitor first in order to unlock the green button.

Needless to say, I spent longer than I’d like to admit pulling up on the monitor wondering why it wasn’t working. I felt like the kid in one of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” comics who was pushing on a pull door at a "School for the Gifted.”



Once I plugged it in and pressed the power button, the beautiful 27-inch display kicked right up, and I was running in about :15  (thanks to the 256GB SSD). In addition to the main SSD, I also have two internal SATA SSD drives set up in a RAID 0 striped array configuration, two USB 3.0 ports, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a 2-in-1 Media Card Reader, and two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports. It does not, however, have any integrated IEEE-1394 ports, as those are being phased out.

There are two latches on either side of the bottom of the monitor that, when pushed outward, will unlock the screen and allow you to open it up completely. You can see everything plain as day and tinker around if you so desire. This is by far the easiest computer I’ve ever opened. 

Running on an Intel Xeon CPU (3.60GHz) with 32GB of RAM (ECC), the machine is super fast and quiet. I often forget that it’s on when the monitor goes to sleep since it hardly makes a peep. All of my programs open almost instantaneously thanks again to the SSD, and file transfers are quick. A 6GB file copied from my main drive to the secondary drive in about :07. For a point of reference, the same file on my current Mac Pro (from an HDD to another HDD) took a little more than a minute.

I threw some heavy lifting at the Z1 G2 in Blender and Cinema 4D to see if it could carry the load and it exceeded my expectations. I figured a machine without a tower would struggle with bigger, more demanding visual effects programs, but this one did it with speed and grace. I only noticed the computer bogging down slightly when I had scenes rendering in Blender, Cinema 4D, After Effects and Avid simultaneously while also using Photoshop and Illustrator. It still pulled through, but I could definitely hear the machine starting to whisper, “Please, no more…”



THE TOUCH SCREEN

I would constantly find myself slightly frustrated with my other PC whenever I had to navigate to any kind of setting or program in Windows 8 using my mouse. However, with the Z1 G2, I actually look forward to accessing my settings. It feels so natural to just swipe around and touch things.

The screen is very responsive and only has a slight lag when dragging things around — nothing too noticeable. I was able to manipulate masks in After Effects, affect meshes in Cinema 4D and animate models in Blender. The only thing I couldn’t do was use any tools in Photoshop for some reason. I’m aware this isn’t a pressure sensitive touch screen, but I was really looking forward to using this computer as a means to rough out some sketches that I could later refine with my Wacom tablet. This was actually a disappointment, since that would be one of the main reasons why I would use the touch screen. While I could use the touch screen for all the other programs, it was more cumbersome than using the mouse for the most part. Your arm will quickly get tired if you’re constantly raising it.

Again, the navigation of Windows 8 is seamless, and I almost want a touchscreen-only version of the software so more things are more easily touched (like the Control Panel). I just feel that’s where the touch screen ends for me. I might touch the screen to create rough masks in After Effects (to be fixed later) or to move around a scene in Cinema 4D, but I will most likely stick to my mouse for those programs.

IN THE END

This is a strong machine that packs quite a punch. It carries heavy workloads with no problem and can even take on multiple projects without crashing. The touch screen is sort of a novelty, but it’s definitely fun and intuitive. I think with more options to customize the touch gestures, and an OS that’s more implemented toward a touch screen computer, the Z1 G2 could set quite a precedent.

Trevor M. Carlee is a Post Producer at Bunim/Murray Productions in Van Nuys, CA. He can be reached at: tmcarlee@gmail.com.