HP delivers a powerful workstation at the right price

HP's Z210 CMT fills the bill for users who need a little extra performance.

Every organization has one or two users who need a little extra computing power. Whether they are editing video or generating computer-aided design drawings, the standard desktop PC that might be fine for typical office tasks would likely be taxed beyond its limitations. For these users, you need a workstation.

The Z210 CMT, which stands for Convertible Minitower, Workstation from Hewlett-Packard fulfills this need quite nicely and for a decent price to boot. It comes in a regular-sized minitower form factor, which is typical for this type of computer.

We found the number of ports on the Z210 to be very promising. To start, it has a 22-in-one media card reader that could handle practically any data-holding device on the market today. It has nine USB 2.0 ports, including three in front — 10 if you include the one on the media card reader. And these could be all left clear if you used the PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse. There were two IEEE 1394 FireWire 400 ports in the back and an additional one in the front. And we were pleasantly surprised to see two USB 3.0 ports back there.


GCN Lab Reviewers Choice Award 2011HP Z210 CMT Workstation

Pros: Good performance; lots of management software.
Cons: Not great with 2-D graphics; cooling may be a problem.
Performance: A-
Accessibility: A-
Upgradability: A
Features: A
Value: A-
Price: $2,536 ($2,255 government)

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The configuration of the Z210 we reviewed included an Nvidia Quadro 2000 graphics card. This is a good, solid-performing midrange card that should be able to handle anything short of intense 3-D modeling work. If for some reason you wanted to go without the card, the z210 has integrated Intel HD Graphics 2000 and P3000, which has both a DVI port and a DisplayPort adapter. Although the integrated graphics don’t perform as well as the card, it should be adequate for less intensive work. In terms of the benchmark, running without the card caused a drop of several hundred points, mostly because of 3-D graphics performance.

One thing that did worry us a bit was the low number of cooling fans. There was only one other than the standard fan for the power supply, positioned in the back. This could create a lack of air flow through the machine, which could lead to components overheating in worst-case conditions. The amount of open air space within the case should prevent this from happening, but it could become a problem if enough expansion cards and/or drives were added.

Once we got the case open and had a look inside, we could see that the minitower form factor provides enough room to get to all the components. The internal drives are mounted sideways and slide right out as needed. Of course, all the components except for the power supply and case fans can be removed without the need for tools. This is becoming the norm, but it is nice to see it as well executed as it is in the Z210.

As much as the Z210 has inside it already, there is still a good amount of room for upgrades before existing components would need replacing. The 8G of memory is in two 4G modules, leaving two open. There are several free peripheral expansion slots on the motherboard not used by existing components. The one PCIe2 x8 slot and the two legacy PCI slots are clear for use. There are two PCIe2 x16 slots, but the graphics card does take up one. Although there are two PCIe2 x1 slots, they are being used by the adapters that provide the FireWire and USB 3.0 ports. There are also two free 3.5-inch internal drive bays and one external 5.25-inch external bay. This amount of upgrade room could keep this computer in play longer.

To measure the performance of the Z210 CMT we used the Performance Test suite from PassMark Software. With it, we were able to examine how each component did and how it contributed to the overall score. The HP earned a score of 2,160, which is in the upper half of similarly equipped workstations that we have tested. The Intel Xeon E3-1245 3.3 GHz processor and 8G of memory did their job admirably, with no notable shortcomings. The only significantly low results we found were for how the graphics card dealt with 2-D vector graphics. We have seen this relative weakness in other adapters that were optimized for 3-D, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise. But we felt it was worth noting.

HP is retailing the Z210 CMT for $2,536, which is a good price for a high-performance system with a good, midrange graphics card. The government price of $2,256 is an even better bargain, especially if you need to acquire more than one. This workstation would do well for any user who needs that extra power and at a fair price. The Z210 thus earns a Reviewer’s Choice designation and our highest recommendation.

Hewlett-Packard, www.hp.com

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