Introducing the HP Z210 SFF Workstation

We're taking our second excursion into enterprise-class desktop territory with the kind of machine that should be of interest both to IT management and enthusiasts alike: HP's Z210 SFF (small form factor) workstation. Desktop computers are capable of getting smaller and smaller these days, and with the Z210 SFF, HP is hoping to make serious number crunching power available in even the tightest of spaces. It's always interesting to see just how much performance can be crammed into a tiny computer, but did HP have to make any sacrifices to hit this target?

I'll readily admit I'm a huge geek when it comes to smaller computers like this one, so whether it was enterprise class or not, the Z210 SFF was going to be something I'd want to get my hands on personally. Thankfully, it fits right in with our hopefully expanding coverage of enterprise-class towers. We're still working out kinks in our testing of workstations, so suggestions on how to improve it are always welcome. The last time we reviewed a desktop workstation was our Dell Precision T1600; as you'll see there were some changes made here.

HP Z210 SFF Specifications
Chassis HP Custom
Processor Intel Xeon E3-1245
(4x3.3GHz + HTT, 32nm, 8MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard HP Proprietary Motherboard with C206 chipset
Memory 4x2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 ECC @ 1333MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 600 1GB DDR3
(96 CUDA Cores, 640/1280/1600MHz core/shaders/RAM, 128-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Intel X25-M 160GB SSD
Optical Drive(s) HP DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC662 HD Audio
Speaker, mic/line-in jacks for stereo sound
Front Side 5x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Optical drive
Card reader
Top -
Back Side 2x PS/2
6x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
1x Ethernet
2x DisplayPort
Speaker, mic/line-in
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.3" x 15.0" x 3.95" (WxDxH)
Extras SD/CF/MS/MMC Card Reader
ISV Certification
HP Performance Advisor
90% Efficient PSU
Warranty 3-year parts, labor, and onsite service
Pricing Starts at $569
Review system configured at ~$1,799

Unfortunately, at time of publication HP didn't have a page up for custom configuring the Z210 SFF; the top-of-the-line model they list is basically identical to our review unit, but with the NVIDIA Quadro 600 workstation graphics card added. Keep in mind that's the most powerful workstation card HP offers with the Z210, and it retails for $169. Given vendors' proclivity towards adding a premium to upgrades, I'd expect the end price for this kit to be around $2,000.

So what do you get for your money? For starters, HP equips the Z210 SFF with an Intel Xeon as opposed to a consumer-grade Core i3/i5/i7, in this case the E3-1245. The E3-1245 is roughly equivalent to a Core i5-2500 with the additions of Hyper-Threading, Intel HD Graphics 3000, and 2MB more L3 cache; it runs at a nominal 3.3GHz and is capable of turbo-ing up to 3.7GHz on a single core (losing 100MHz for each additional active core under turbo), sports 8MB of L3 cache, and maintains a 95W TDP. Connected to the integrated memory controller are four 2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 DIMMS with ECC.

Pulling graphics duties is a half-height NVIDIA Quadro 600 workstation card, and we have some surprises for you when we get to the workstation benchmarks. The Quadro 600 is the enterprise-class version of the GF108 chip that powers the desktop GeForce GT 430, featuring 96 of NVIDIA's CUDA cores with 1GB of DDR3 strapped to a 128-bit memory bus. Clock speeds are a bit underwhelming, though; the GT 430 ships at 700MHz on the core and 1400MHz on the shaders, against the Quadro 600's 640MHz core clock and corresponding 1280MHz shader clock. The DDR3 runs at an effective 1.6GHz. Still, remember that this is a workstation card and benefits from NVIDIA's Quadro drivers.

The rest of the system is relatively tame and unsurprising for a workstation, but HP does add both a USB 3.0 expansion card and an Intel X25-M 160GB SSD based on 34nm NAND. In our admittedly anecdotal experience, Intel's SSDs tend to be extremely popular in the enterprise sector; outside of the current issue with the 320 series SSDs, Intel drives have typically demonstrated the lowest failure rates on the market. So for those of you wondering why we're not seeing high performance SandForce-based SSDs or SATA-III kit, there's your answer.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    It's my understanding some of that is covered by SPECviewperf.
  • WillR - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    I know this will seem out of left field and irrelevant to most. But it's nice to see a SFF system with a CF card slot. SD and its micro sibling have almost become a de facto standard with all other card types ignored, and that leaves Canon DSLR owners with limited options. Usually the solution ends up being an external card reader, and that's frankly annoying these days.

    Not that I use it also, but no Firewire? Kinda surprising.
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    Lots of talk and charts on gaming performance for a non gaming machine - seems like review filler to me sorry. I wouldn't mind a bit more analysis on benefits of the workstation class against consumer, and bench some real workstation apps. Love the SFF but they need to address the storage issue, perhaps I could use a NAS but then would spend a lot of time copying projects in and out. Comment to HP - it's horrifically ugly - what happened to good design? I'd be embarrassed to let clients see it.
  • hampuras - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - link

    How is this good or not for Photoshopping? Or would be better with an iMac?
  • Zumzifero - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    I'm looking for a nice small workstation which I'd mostly use on Vectorworks (Cinema 4D) so I'm pleased to see this review and how well this little PC performs.
    I need to move it from time to time from one office to another, but not the an extent requiring a full time Laptop (for these task I'll stick on my faithful Macbook Pro).
    I was checking HP pricing just now and saw how, on their site, they are advising about getting a FirePro V3800 on this class of systems. The Quadro 600 is available too but at a premium price.
    So far I've found a lot of reviews of the FP3800 but no head to head with it's natural competitor, the Q600. Specs worth the Q600 fits somewhere in between the V3800 and the more performing V4800 (which is full height and costs as the Q600), so what would be nest for a little budget system? is the Q600 worth 100% more in price? Overall I may still go with Nvidia since VW has problem with Anti-aliasing on ATI and because of 512mb on board, but still I'm curious about seeing what's going on in the pro range of the graphic cards
    The second question I'm pondering is: since HP is not cheap on components, how easy it is to install my own SSD?
    It's not just for the money: I found it's damn hard to get a custom built system form HP (unlike form Dell), especially since here in Italy, so being able to buy a bare bone system and then adding graphic card and SSD of my choice would be piece of cake

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