HP lays claim to high-performance market with new workstations

Already the market leader in desktop and mobile computers for the most compute-intensive applications, Hewlett-Packard Corp. today released a new line of workstations and mobile workstations that it hopes will solidify its appeal to high-performance customers in industries such as media and entertainment, the financial sector, oil and gas, healthcare and government. The new workstations, an expansion of the company’s Z line of workstation and display products, include what the company says is the world’s first workstation ultrabook as well as the first computers to include Intel’s new Thunderbolt technology for high-speed data transfer.

The new portfolio includes three new HP ZBook mobile workstations, processor and graphics enhancements to HP’s existing Z desktop workstations, and two new HP Z displays.

World’s first workstation ultrabook

ZBook 14_side image
The HP Z14 mobile workstation, which HP says is the world’s first workstation ultrabook.

At an embargoed media launch in New York last week, HP executives made much of the company’s new HP ZBook 14, calling it the world’s first workstation ultrabook — that is, a mobile computer that marries the higher performance capabilities of a workstation with the lighter weight and thinner design of an ultrabook. Weighing in at 1.62 kilos, the new ZBook 14 is a fair bit lighter than the 2.25-kg lightest configuration of the HP EliteBook 8470w mobile workstation it’s replacing.

It will, however, lack the Thunderbolt port of its sibling ZBook 15 and 17, something company executives did not believe was as important as the improved graphics of the new family of mobile workstations as well as the fact that it is certified to run high-end applications. “(Customers) were coming to us saying, ‘Why don’t you create something in an ultrabook-type form factor and make it workstation certified so that my engineers can have that option to carry around something ultra-lightweight,’ and that’s exactly what we did,” an HP spokesperson told me last week.

All three new ZBooks, which certainly boast a much friendlier naming scheme than the mobile workstations they replace, feature fourth-generation Intel Haswell dual- and quad-core processor options and next-generation graphics technologies from NVIDIA and AMD, including the newly announced Keplar-based professional graphics from NVIDIA. As with HP’s new desktop workstations, the mobile workstations also feature tool-free chassis for easy upgrades and serviceability. While on the road, all three can also be connected to very heavy computing power back at home base through HP’s Remote Graphics Software.

First workstations to include new Intel Thunderbolt ports

The HP Z820 workstation and ZR2440w display
The HP Z820 workstation and ZR2440w display

With computer memory and processing continuing to follow the curve of Moore’s Law, getting data into and out of a high-end machine is quickly presenting as the real bottleneck for compute-intensive applications such as those used in the movie business. “It’s not uncommon on a film set to generate a terabyte of camera data a day,” Gary Adcock, a specialist in the creation and streamlining of workflows for film production, said during one of the sessions last week. That makes the incorporation of Intel’s second-generation Thunderbolt i/o ports, featuring data-transfer speeds four times faster than USB 3.0, a key addition to HP’s family of desktop workstations. To help them churn all the data flowing through those ports, the HP Z420, Z620 and Z820 Workstations have also been updated to include the latest Intel Xeon E5-1600v2 and E5-2600v2 families of processors, also called Ivy Bridge, as well as new memory that will run 16 percent faster than in the current line-up.

The dual-socket HP Z820 workstation offers up to 24 processing cores, up to 512 GB of ECC memory, up to 15 TB of high-speed storage and up to two NVIDIA K6000 graphics. The HP Z620 workstation provides up to 24 discrete processing cores, up to 192 GB of ECC memory, up to 12 TB of high-speed storage and up to NVIDIA K6000 or dual NVIDIA K5000 graphics for high-speed graphics performance. The HP Z420 workstation includes up to eight processing cores using the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-1600 v2 and E5-2600 v2 product families, providing up to 64 GB of ECC memory, up to 12 TB of high-speed storage, and NVIDIA Quadro K6000 or AMD W7000, or dual NVIDIA K2000 graphics.

New displays also unveiled

HP also unveiled two new professional displays, also in the Z family of products, to appeal to the same customers who need the high-end power of the workstations. Both the HP Z27i and Z30i provide 100 percent coverage of the sRGB color space, the standard color space for the web and for the majority of engineering, creative and professional applications, while the HP Z30i also covers 100 percent of the Adobe RGB color space, commonly used in photography and digital prepress workflows. Both displays feature an HP four-way adjustable stand that includes the HP QR2 quick release and both are TCO Certified. Mounting kits are available for both the HP Z27i and Z30i, allowing users to securely mount an HP Thin Client or Ultra Slim desktop to the back of the display.

Canadian pricing and availability

  • The HP ZBook Mobile Workstations 15 and 17 are available worldwide today and the HP ZBook 14 is planned to be available in late October. The ZBook 15 will start at $1,999 CAD while the ZBook 17 will start at $2,059 CAD.
  • The enhanced HP Z420, Z620 and Z820 Workstations are planned to be available worldwide in October.
  • The HP Z27i is planned to be available in October, and the HP Z30i Display is available today starting at $1,369 CAD.
Francis Moran
Francis Moran
Francis Moran is principal of Francis Moran & Associates, a consultancy that provides business-to-business technology ventures with the strategic counsel required to make their innovations successful in a highly competitive marketplace. Francis can be reached at [email protected].

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