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HP Six-core Z400 Test Drive, Part 1

Oct 13, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jan Ozer

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HP Z400

Those users considering an HP workstation now have four units to choose from: the top-of-the-line dual-processor Z800 and Z600, which both sport the fancy new case that HP introduced last year, and the less-expensive Z400 and Z200, both single-CPU computers that feature updated innards, but the legacy case from the older xw workstation line. The Z400 starts at $999 for a dual-core model, while the very small-form-factor Z200 starts at $699. In contrast, the Z600 starts at $1,829 and the Z800 at $2,109—both for single-processor systems—and scale much, much higher.

Because of disk requirements, for most serious producers, the purchase decision will come down to a comparison between the Z400 and either the Z600 or Z800. Last March and April, I reviewed the 3.33GHz dual-CPU 12/24-core version of the HP Z800. In this review, I'll compare a 3.33GHz single-CPU six/12-core Z400 to that system.

Figure 1. Sorenson Media Squeeze proved very efficient on the six-core Z400.

Figure 1. Sorenson Media Squeeze proved very efficient on the six-core Z400.

By six/12, I mean a system equipped with a 3.33GHz Intel Xeon W3680 CPU and six individual cores, each with Intel's Hyper-threading Technology (HTT), which adds much of the functionality of an extra core. When a multi-processor-aware program goes to work, it can use virtually all the power in those cores, as you can see in Figure 1, recorded during the Sorenson Squeeze testing that I detail below.

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Just to round out the testbed description, as with the Z800, the system was running 64-bit Windows 7 with 24GB of RAM, plus the same Nvidia Quadro FX 4800 as the Z800. In a hot but not excessive configuration, expect the Z400 to cost between $4,500 and $5,000. To compute this, I configured 12GB of RAM and substituted the Nvidia Quadro FX 3800, which should suffice for efficient operation. I used 24GB and the FX 3800 to match the Z800's configuration, not because I thought this was necessary for optimum performance.

In terms of agenda, in this segment, I'll describe the Z400 a bit, briefly discuss the multiple CPU performance conundrum, and then share some Z400 and Z800 comparisons in the streaming encoding space. Next time out, I'll focus on the much more difficult issue of comparing editing and rendering performance in Adobe CS5, and present comparative stats from Rhozet Carbon Coder. Let's start with a look at the Z400.

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