“How many CPUs you runnin?” That’s not usually such a common phrase you hear. It’s more likely to be seen on a forum or heard as a pick-up line at your local IT meet-up. The HP Workstation division is making that phrase a tad more ubiquitous however, as their Zx40 line adds a mid and high range option to help you slip on an extra processor and crank those cores to kingdom come. We’ll be looking at the Z640 Workstation today, their mid-range monster that sits between the Z440 entry system and the Z840 high-end system.
HP reinvented their workstation line, introducing the Z-series Workstations, a whole six years ago in March of 2009. Looking at the current offering and how the machines have changed (or stayed the same) over the years shows how that launch set the stage for a machine that would become a popular and dependable option. I’ve had a Z600 since 2009–the longest I’ve ever kept a computer–and it’s still one of my primary systems. I had thought about switching to the HP Z1 All-In-One with it’s sleek integration of system and display, but opted for keeping my multi-display setup. Multiple displays and curiosity about how much power the Z640 adds makes the opportunity to test it out even sweeter.
With the Z640 sitting in the middle of the Z-series family, it’s made for designers, engineers and 3D professionals who need more memory and CPU power. While many of the same configurations options are available on the lower priced Z440, including the same GPU, storage and (8) display options, the Z640 adds the possibility of doubling that CPU and Memory power. The Z440 starts at $1299. You can get into an Z640 for $1759. The Z640 configuration I’m on pushes way outside both of those envelopes, coming in at $10,440. Here’s what that gets you.
Chassis: 6.65″ width x 17.5″ depth x 17.0″ height
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit (Windows 7 Professional Available)
Two Intel Xeon E5 v3 @2.5GHz (Haswell) 12 Cores (24 Threads) – (Up to 36 Cores (72 Threads))
Total Cores: 24 Cores (48 Threads)
Core Speed: 1197 MHz
Bus Speed: 99.8 MHz @ 55 C
64GB DDR4 – 8GB on 8 Slots across 2 CPUs (Up to 256GB with 32GB on 8 slots across 2 CPUs)
NVIDIA Quadro K4200 4GB (Up to NVIDIA Quadro K6000 12GB)
HP 512GB SATA-III 6.0Gb/s (Up to 4 SAS, SATA or SSD HDs)
Ports: 4 USB 3.0 (incl. 1 charge port), Headphone, Microphone (Front); 4 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, 2 PS/2, Audio, 1 RJ-45 (Rear)
Design: I’ve use HP Z Workstations for quite some time and the design is just one of the reasons I love these machines. The signature front grill is a departure from the previous Z600 and Z620, broken up now by a DVD tray and bays to expand your storage or add a media card reader. The brushed aluminum side panels are sleek with The Zx40 series adding a darker anodized aluminum finish that looks brilliant. They’ve been the easiest systems to access and clean or replace internal components and the quick disconnects with green touch points are on nearly every component, which makes getting everything out and back in quick and painless.
The Z640 adds the option of doubling CPU power and adding more Memory. They have a unique way of doing it as well. Instead of the option for single or dual CPUs on the main system board, you can purchase the single CPU option, then add the second CPU/Memory Riser Module when needed. It clips in right behind the internal hard drive bay and just above your GPU(s). It adds up to an additional 18 Cores and 128GB of Memory.
Port location/expansion: Ports are always in need and the Z640 has plenty of USB ports adding more USB 3.0 ports with an ‘always on’ charge port at the front top poisition. The key difference from previous models is the ability to expand your port options with two 5.25″ front-accessible bays that can be used to add more ports, a media card reader or additional storage.
NVIDIA K4200: I’ve used this GPU in other workstations and it works just a smooth with the Z640. It’s a mid-range option from NVIDIA with 4GB GDDR5 memory but the Zx40 family can support up to the K6000 providing 12GB of memory. The support for ultra-high resolution (3840×2160) is my favorite feature, nearly convinced me to purchase four monitors it’s able to harness.
Here’s a quick 3D spin and look inside the rig.
This is easily the fastest, most robust system I’ve ever used–it shouldn’t be surprising given its price point. That price increase is due to the additional CPU/Memory module and increase in RAM. There’s plenty of room to move that price point up or down though, by doing away with the extra CPU/Memory or adding a more powerful GPU option, respectively. Most single-core CAD applications won’t require the extra CPU cores, but if you’re rendering or spreading out your work on a single workstation, that extra power will come in handy.
A note if you’re considering the dual CPU option. While the system is designed for the CPU/Memory riser module to be easily added, both processors need to be the same, so I don’t really see the advantage of waiting to add the extra CPU if you know you need the power. Save your pennies, bite the bullet, and get dual CPU up front. You’ll be glad you did, as the extra processing power makes this set-up an absolute dream.
HP has been my go to choice in workstations for years and when you’re configuring a workstation, the options can either appear daunting or like an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of speed liberating pins, port numbers and computing power. HP has moved to a simple off-the-shelf sales model on their website where they provide six ‘Add To Cart’ builds for the Z640, none with a dual CPU option. Those options keep it simple and the price below $3000, but if you want to configure a seam-busting machine, you’ll need to talk with an HP product sales expert.
Update 5/15/15: The HPZ640 Product Configurator is now available.