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HP 12-core Z800 Test Drive, Part 1

Mar 24, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jan Ozer

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HP Z800 with 12 cores

I've had the pleasure of working with HP's quad-core, dual-processor Z800 for much of the last 12 months. In early March, HP supplied me with an updated version with dual CPUs, six cores per CPU, specifically the 3.33GHz Intel Xeon X5680. The new Z800 was running 64-bit Windows 7 with 24GB of RAM and used the same lovely case as the older Z800.

In this article, I'm going to test Adobe Creative Suite 4 with a number of synthetic and real-world projects. Next time out, I'll look at the encoding side of the house, using programs such as Rhozet Carbon Coder, Sorenson Media Squeeze, and Telestream Epsiode Encoder.

During my testing, I compared the new Z800 with the older unit, which was configured with two 3.33GHz quad-core Nehalem Xeons with 24GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test comprehensively with this unit because after a year of functioning as my production and test computer, I started experiencing software-related problems with some formats after installing an enterprise streaming encoding tool for testing.

Specifically, Adobe Media Encoder simply stopped working, or slowed dramatically, when producing some projects—particularly with H.264 source videos, but also some other formats. I tried reinstalling CS4, but that didn't help. I'm sure it was a software problem, but short of reinstalling Windows, which I didn't have time to do, I didn't have a solution. So, I'll show those results only when available, with an "N/A" or leaving out the column entirely when they are not.

To round out the comparison, I also tested with a 3.33GHz HP xw8600 quad-core, dual-processor workstation running 64-bit Windows Vista with 16GB of RAM. This was the older style, pre-Nehalem-based CPU without Hyper-Threading Technology (HTT). This was about the fastest Windows-based computer available before the introduction of Nehalem, so if you never made the upgrade, a computer of this class may be what you're currently working with.

Note that before testing, I upgraded all three computers to the latest version of CS4, which was for Media Encoder and 4.2.1 for Premiere Pro. I noticed that performance varied greatly with the new version, so don't try to compare these results to any reported in previous testing. For the record, I also tested both Z800 systems with HTT enabled and disabled and used the faster of the two results for comparison purposes.

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