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HP Z400 workstation

On a pure price performance level, the system is hard to beat By John Virata

The Hewlett-Packard HP Z400 is the company's entry level workstation. While it doesn't have the whiz bang design features of the HP Z800 reviewed in March, it still does not disappoint as the benchmark numbers will surprise you.
The fully customizable HP Z400 sits in a mid tower form factor aluminum enclosure. This design is new this year, built with the assistance of BMW DesignWorks. This particular model came with a 3.06GHz Intel W3550 Quad Core XEON processor,  6GB DDR3 1333MHz ECC RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1800 graphics card, 1TB hard disk drive, and Windows Vista 64-bit.

The HP Z400's front panel features a wide assortment of connectivity options, including a DVD Multi-recordable LightSCribe drive, two USB 2.0 slots, headphone and microphone port, and a 3.5-inch media card slot with an third USB 2.0 slot, as well as support for Micro SD, Compact Flash I and II, xD card, SD/MMC/miniSD, and Memory Stick Pro/Memory Stick Pro Duo. There is also access to a six pin FireWire connection. The rear of the unit features six USB 2.0 ports, a pair of SATA connections, a pair of six pin FireWire ports, headphone and microphone, and Ethernet connection. The system also features six PCI slots, including a pair of PCI x8 and X16, as well as PCI slots, support for two 3.5-inch hard drives, four memory modules, and support for two 5.25-inch drives. The system features an external fan in the rear and room for a front fan, though none is present. In all the system is easy to upgrade with RAM and hard drives, and although there are only two spots to slide in the hard drives, there appears to be room for four hard drives, and two pairs of noise resistant screws (hard drive rail screw with rubber grommets) are screwed into the chassis where the hard drives reside. 

Front of the system
Inside the system is not as clean as the Z800.

The HP Z400 is a solid performer.In fact, in the DMN After Effects testing, the Z400 outperformed the HP Z800 in three of the six tests run, which is very good considering the price difference between the two systems. The Quad Core is shining through in this case. The Photosho CS4 Guassian Blur test was the fastest yet at just 1.27 seconds to complete. Cinebench tests were also impressive. See graphic for Cinebench results and visit for more test results.

Results in seconds
Version of After Effects used: CS4 

Hewlett Packard Z400, 3.06GHz Intel Quad core, 6GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1800 Windows Vista 64

Test 1: Animation:  1 second
Test 2: Video Composite: 9 seconds
Test 3: Data Project  21 seconds
Test 4: Gambler  9 seconds 
Test 5: Source Shapes  25 seconds
Test 6: Virtual Set.  22 seconds
Adobe Photoshop CS4 test: Perform GUassian Blur with 6.3 radius on 10.51MB image file 1 second


First Impressions
If you don't need the full blown expandability of the mid range or high end Z workstations, but still can benefit from similar performance, you need to check out the Z400. It is an ideal system that performs on par with the Z800 at least when it comes to After Effects.  If you are running Adobe's Creative Suite of applications or other professional processor and graphics processor intesive applications like CAD or 3D animation tools, the Z400 can run these applications proficiently, and when you need to add video cards or more hard drives, it can handle that as well, though you might have to get creative with the layout of the drives. You also might want to invest in a second exhaust fan in the event that you add more hard drives, especially if you are going to stripe them. While the Z400 sports an aluminum chassis like that of the mid range and high end Z workstations, it doesn't have any type of handles like that of the Z600 or Z800. Carrying the system is going to be a challenge.But then again, how often do you move a system? I've been using the Z400 for the better part of two months, and the system is indeed fast and very stable. On a pure price performance level, the system is hard to beat. Pricing starts at $929.


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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
Related Keywords:media workstation, workstation, creative workstation, high performance computing

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