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Under the Hood: HP Z820 Workstation

Here we take a look under the hood of HP's new flagship workstation, the HP Z820, and examine both its design and performance advantages as a top-of-the-line system for video editing, graphics, effects, and other postproduction tasks.


An interesting statistic came across my desk the other day. While there's a continuing decline in PC sales, it turns out that the workstation market has never been better. You can see the market breakdown in Figure 1 (below).

Figure 1. PC market share, via Jon Peddie Research.

Whether it's for video production, other media production, oil and gas exploration, anything with heavy 3D and graphics processing, there are two choices: You can either have the trash can, or you can get something that looks like a real computer. At Braintrust Digital, we use both. But for the best performance under the hood in one neat and tidy package, we think you should take a look at the HP Z Series workstation line.

You'll find a number of reviews that we've done on HP Z Series workstations on Streaming Media Producer (see related articles links at the bottom of this page), but today we're going to look at the Z820, the big boy of the HP line. 


HP uses a design that was created in collaboration with BMW Design Works. The tower-based Z820 workstation is designed to flow copious amounts of air through the chassis, but to do so at a sound level that's more akin to a consumer tower design. It does so by using custom-designed airflow pathways coupled with large fans (Figure 2, below). The bigger the fan, the better the airflow and lower revolutions per minute. When it comes to workstation fans, size matters.

Figure 2. The HP Z820's large fans improve airflow.

You'll find several other essential design elements when you pop the hood of the Z820. Design is also key to functionality when it comes to troubleshooting or upgrading the unit (Figure 3, below). The HP Z820 can be disassembled without needing tools, including a screwdriver. We've done this in a number of our reviews on the HP Z Workstation line. Anything can be replaced with the flip of a switch or two.

Figure 3. The HP Z820 under the hood. Click the image to see it at full size.

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