The HP Z820 Workstation isn't your average desktop. This machine has two Intel Xeon processors, two NVIDIA Quadro video cards and can handle up to 14TB of storage and 512GB of RAM. On this week's Cracking Open, I show you how HP packed all that tech into a near tool-less case that's super quiet and a joy to work on.
Designed for mission-critical, high-end computing tasks, the Z820 Workstation is one of the most power computers you can fit under your desk. Pricing starts at $2,299 (US), but the final cost depends heavily on how you configure the machine—512GB of RAM isn't cheap. Our test unit had the following hardware:
- 2.0 GHz Intel Xeon E5-2620 processor (x2)
- HP Liquid Cooling Solution
- NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2GB Graphics Card (x2)
- 32GB DDR3-1600 (16x2GB)
- 500GB 7200RPM SATA HDD
- 16X SuperMulti DVDRW SATA optical drive
Cracking Open observations
- Case handles and skids are nice touches: The Z820 is a heavyweight in both computing power and physical size. The machine's case is 17.5" (H) x 8.0" (W) x 20.7(D), and a fully-loaded Z820 can weigh over 50 pounds. Luckily, HP designed the case with two features that help you move the machine—top handles and skids along the bottom. Whether, you're moving this beast from one office to another or just sliding it out from under your desk to access the rear ports, these features definitely help.
- Locking, side-panel latch: Thanks to the large latch on the side panel, opening the Z820 is a snap.
- Designed to run cool/quiet: Like the HP Z1 Workstation, the Z820 has distinct cooling zones—one for the power supply, a second for the motherboard and memory, and a third for the I/O area—where the graphics cards and other expansion slots are. Cool air is sucked into the case from the front and blown out the back. To maximize air flow, the internal cables are positioned along the side and bottom of the case. The CPUs are also staggered on the motherboard to prevent heated air from the front processor from blowing across the rear one. Our test machine also had a liquid cooling solution on the processors. Thanks to all these features, the Z820 is surprisingly quiet for a machine with 12 cooling fans.
- Near tool-less teardown: Most of the machine's components can be removed without tools. And HP shows you where to grab each part with these handy green indicators. You will need tools to remove the motherboard, processors, cables, rear fans, and a few other miscellaneous components. But, these machines come with a 3-year parts and on-site labor warranty, so if the system board or a processor fails, HP will send a technician out to replace it.
My complaints about the Z820 are minor and few. First, the hard drive rails are plastic. They're sturdy when attached to a drive, but you wouldn't want to be too rough with them alone. Second, I wish the green handle markings inside the case were marked with numbers. It took me a few minutes to figure out that I had to remove the I/O shroud before removing the motherboard cooling assembly.
Overall, the Z820 is a well-built machine that's a pleasure to work on. And, it reminds what I hate about most modern PCs (especially with all-in-ones)—they're nearly impossible for owners and even in-house IT staff to work on.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.