HP Z820 Workstation: Tool-less case makes teardown a snap

Bill Detwiler cracks open the HP Z820 using nothing but his hands and shows you what's inside this desktop powerhouse.

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
Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the HP Z820 Workstation

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.

Bottom Line

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 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 supp...


I have the Z400 and it is as solid as a rock. Great workstation!


This is hardly innovative; today's enterprise desktops are made deliberately difficult to open, so that the RAM, graphics cards and hard drives will still be there tomorrow/Monday morning...


Please let me know the cost of the unit as configured for your test.


We use the Z200 and Z600 series workstations. Both of them are very similar in design as the Z800 series accept the Z200 doesn't have the nice carrying handle. It's great not having to use tools to open up or swap components. My only beef with the Z600 series is that the connectors for the drives are mounted on the other side of the casing so you plug the drive into the connector. This is fine if you're using a 3.5" drive but it requires a special adapter to plug-in smaller drives. That adds a significant cost if you want to swap out regular drives for smaller and faster SSD drives.


..by building a hasp into the case so that the IT Dept can add a padlock. But that does not detract from this case's design; I've worked on several Z800s, and they are very nice to work with.

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