- Great build quality
- Numerous inputs
- Limited to LP graphics cards
With its build quality, size and powerful CPU, HP's Z200 SFF has the potential to be a great workstation computer - if you can afford it.
Most workstations are large boxes filled with powerful components. They take up immense amounts of space, make ridiculous amounts of noise and render large buildings in a single bound. HP is looking to change all of that – well, except maybe for the last bit – with its new Z200 Workstation, a small form factor workstation that proves big things do come in small packages.
- Processor: Intel Xeon X3460 @ 2.80GHz (8MB cache)
- Memory: 8GB DDR3 ECC RAM
- Hard drive: 500GB SATA 7200RPM
- Optical drive: 16x DVD+/-RW SuperMulti drive with LightScribe capability
- Sound: Integrated HD sound
- Video card; NVIDIA Quadro FX380 512MB Low-Profile
- Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
- HP wired keyboard and mouse
- Operating system: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (downgrade to XP Pro available)
- Power supply: rated at 240W (89% efficient)
- Warranty: limited 3 years parts, 3 years labor, and 3 years onsite service (3/3/3) standard warranty
- Dimensions: 3.95 x 13.3 x 15 inches (WxDxH)
Configurations of the HP Z200 Small Form Factor Workstation start at $739; our review unit was configured with a suggested retail price of $2,521.
Build and Design
Workstations are a higher class of desktop computer. Much like how gaming desktops are a step above mainstream consumer desktops, so are workstations a step above mainstream business desktops. These computers typically enjoy higher build quality, better quality components, stronger support networks and increased warranty periods. Anyone can buy a workstation – companies like HP and Dell don’t supply them only to businesses – but they’re typically purchased by businesses in content creation or analytical market segments. People who might want a workstation typically work with applications such as Photoshop, Maya or video editing programs. We also had a beefy workstation in the microbiology lab in which I worked for analyzing genetic assays.
We’ve reviewed HP’s workstations in the past, and they didn’t leave us wanting. Prior systems, however, were similar to the ones we discussed in the introduction: big, loud and heavy. The Z200’s small form factor version, in a word, isn’t. Disregarding nettops, this version of the Z200 is actually among the smallest desktops we’ve reviewed. Even though it’s small, however, it’s not skimpy. The build quality on the Z200 small form factor is nice – the case is composed almost entirely of stiff metal – with no flexing or creaking. Workstations are often in use longer than traditional desktops, so good build quality is important.
In recent years, the desktop has really become the floortop; as larger displays and clutter fight for desk space, the computers have been relegated to areas beneath the desk. Unless you have an exceptionally small desk, the Z200 should really have no problem fitting up on top. That fact alone may make the Z200 more popular than you might realize; at a recent HP-sponsored event, representatives from Dreamworks noted that they disliked being forced to place workstations on the floor. It’s dustier down there, and the placement is annoying should the internals need accessed in case of repair or upgrade.
The small stature of the Z200 means that you can place it on a surface in both horizontal and vertical orientations; it’s a returning trend from the early days of personal computing, years ago. Unsurprisingly, then, the top of the Z200 is a blank slate. The left side features four rubber feet – one at each corner – so that you can set the machine down. The right side is comprised of a removable panel with an easy-to-use handle. It used to be that reviewers loved it when manufacturers started using thumbscrews to hold cases together, since it meant you could access the internals without whipping out the screwdrivers. Now thumbscrews are a pain, and handles or buttons are the trend. I’m certainly not complaining.
Inputs and Expansion
Since the Z200 is so small, one of the first things I wondered about was port selection. Fortunately, HP doesn’t disappoint. The front of the workstation has room for both 5.25- and 3.5-inch expansion bays. In our review unit, these are filled with a LightScribe-capable DVD+/-RW optical drive and multi-card memory card reader, respectively. It’s worth noting the memory card reader; in addition to all of the regular slots, it adds in a MicroSD card reader (no doubt a nod towards the rise in usage among mobile devices) and another USB port. Here in the office, we’re firm believers that it’s nigh impossible to have too many USB ports. There’s always something else to plug in.
Below the drive bays – or beside, depending on your workstation’s orientation – are the power button, four more USB ports and the front audio jacks. Interestingly, there is one headphone jack and one combo headphone/microphone jack. Directly behind this front grill area rests an internal speaker. While it’s a feature we’ve only really seen on workstation desktops, it would be nice if manufacturers added it to some of their other models. It’s a nice feature to use if you’re in a situation where connecting speakers or headphones would prove problematic.
Around back are the rest of the ports, like every other desktop. There are line in and line out audio jacks, as well as PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse. There’s even a serial port, which is typically only found on business computers these days (in order to support legacy hardware). Onboard video is handled by both VGA and DisplayPort outputs. It’s nice to see DisplayPort growing stronger in terms of pickup and acceptance by manufacturers. There are six more USB ports – all USB2.0, I’m afraid, like the front – as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port. In our review unit, two of the expansion slots were taken up by “low profile” cards. Since the unit is so narrow, any expansion card, video or otherwise, must fall into this low profile class. The discrete video card adds in another DisplayPort output as well as one DVI-I. The second card adds two FireWire ports, useful still in video production environments.
Removing the side panel takes us inside, and as you can see, there’s not much to do. Since it’s such a small form factor – an adequate name – there’s almost no room for internal expansion, and what there is is constrained by the size. Four expansion slots are present, though two are filled in our review unit, leaving one PCI-Express x8 slot and one PCI-Express x1. There are four RAM slots, all taken up (4 x 2GB DIMMs). There’s one optrical drive bay and one hard drive bay, both obviously occupied. That’s it. There are two open SATA ports, but they’re of limited use; if you needed more local storage, however, you could run the cords out through an expansion slot cover and power the drives externally. Given the intended use of the Z200, it’s a little surprising that there are neither USB3.0 or eSATA ports anywhere, either of which would be useful for moving large files or installing extra scratch drives.