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Review: HP Z1 G2 All-in-One Workstation

In this review, we'll look at four key new features that make the Z1 all-in-one idea an even better toolset for those who need super-fast connectivity to external storage, coupled with touch capability and an all-solid-state-drive (SSD) configuration.

Back in January, when we did our First Look of the HP Z1 G2, the second-generation all-in-one Z workstation, we got a bit of feedback from readers interested in whether the new features on this second-generation all-in-one justified upgrading from the original Z1.

After getting our hands on one, we can unequivocally say that three areas make it worth the upgrade price, and one that is almost there but not quite: the inclusion of mSATA drives, the flexibility of Thunderbolt 2, an updated graphics processor unit, and the addition of touch capability to the 27” integrated monitor screen.

In this review, we’ll look at all four and see how they make the Z1 idea an even better toolset for those who need super-fast connectivity to external storage, coupled with touch capability and an all-solid-state-drive (SSD) configuration.

M-SATA and SSDs

In our review of the original Z1, we mentioned that the unit had 3 PCI-Express slots, located near the middle-top of the unit, but that they all lacked the ability to be used for mSATA drives. For those who might not be familiar with this form factor, it’s essentially a solid-state drive (SSD) on a single printed circuit board (PCB), allowing for some of the incredibly thin form factors you’ll see on ultrabooks and even laptops like the MacBook Air. More important than just the thin form-factor potential, though, is the fact that it’s PCI-Express, offering a mainline into the mainboard (aka the motherboard) for incredibly fast data transfers.

HP ships the Z1 G2 with a single mSATA drive option, using a second PCI-Express slot for a WiFi card. This means that the best mSATA usage scenario for the Z1 G2 is as a boot drive.

Using the mSATA as the boot drive leaves the other two 2.5" drive bays—populated by either dual traditional platter-based hard drives (HDD) or large form-factor solid state drives (SSD)—to be set in a RAID configuration without risking the operating system if one or more of the RAID drives fail.

In our testing, the mSATA (Figure 1, below) offers very quick response: Since we didn’t have to wait for a drive to spin up, the overall process of moving around the operating system felt snappier, especially when coming back to the Z1 G2 after time away. In a traditional HDD, the spin-up time is often what takes so long for a machine to “wake up” and be responsive to those initial commands after time away from the device.

Figure 1. The mSATA drive shipped with the HP Z1 G2. Click the image to see it at full size.

We asked HP to provide dual SSD drives for our RAID configuration, and the company responded with two Micron RealSSD C400 2.5" drives, each with 512GB of storage capacity. We tested these both in JBOD (non-RAID) and RAID configurations, and each one provided enough throughput that we would seriously consider making the Z1 G2 in to a field video switching and multi-channel recording unit. More on that when we talk about touch capability.

 

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