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HP Z1 review

Verdict

Stupendous design, plenty of power crammed in and a stonking screen make the high price worth paying

Review Date: 12 Jun 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £2,540 (£3,048 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £2913
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

The market for all-in-one PCs has been pretty static over the past year or so, with Apple’s iMac and Sony’s VAIOs at the top of the heap, a bevy of consumer machines and business desktops below, and precious little innovation. HP’s Z1 changes all that, with one of the most exciting designs we’ve ever seen.

Initially, it looks like any other all-in-one: it’s a screen on a stand with a computer clamped to the back. Press the green button on the hinge, however, and the Z1’s 27in IPS screen tilts to a horizontal position. A quick tug on two tabs at the bottom of the screen, and the display lifts up like a car bonnet, revealing the PC’s insides.

It’s the Z1’s party piece, and it’s deeply impressive. The screen lifts up smoothly on its own hydraulic cylinder - installed so it can be left to close safely - and the PC’s components are laid bare, most of them in proprietary caddies and enclosures.

On the left-hand side is the power supply, housed in a long, narrow metal shroud, and it’s connected to the PC with a standard 24-pin ATX power plug. The graphics card is a mobile part mounted on a desktop-style card and connected to the board via an MXM PCI Express x16 slot. Beside that is the hard disk, which is held in a plastic caddy that pivots in and out of the case, and next to that is the removable heatsink and optical drive.

Almost all the main components can be removed with a quick tug of a green tab, with a Torx screwdriver needed to remove the Intel Xeon processor and its heatsink. The motherboard itself is accessible, too: the DIMM slots and SATA ports are easy to get at, and the mobile Wi-Fi chip sits in a mini-PCI Express x1 slot with two more of these small ports free alongside it.

HP’s ingenious design extends further than the removable components. There’s only one 3.5in hard disk enclosure, but it’s home to two combined SATA and power connections, with support for RAID0 and 1 included, so in theory you could install a pair of 2.5in drives. Alas there are no preinstalled fittings, so this approach would require a bit of DIY bodging. Elsewhere, two daughterboards are pressed into service: one for the USB sockets, card reader and audio connections on the right-hand side, and another for the four small speakers at the front of the machine. There’s even a diagram of the Z1’s internals on the inside of the lid.

HP Z1

It’s all put together extremely well, with cables hidden and routed between components, and we can’t fault the build quality: the huge stand and sturdy enclosure make for an extremely solid-feeling machine. Its sheer bulk means the act of moving the screen up and down requires a bit of muscle, though.

Don’t for one minute think the internal design is the Z1’s only appealing feature: the IPS panel, for starters is a sterling piece of work. It measures 27in from corner to corner, sports a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and detail is pin-sharp. Theres no sign of backlight bleed at all and weve few issues when it comes to quality. The 472.8cd/m2 brightness level makes for a panel that’s bright without searing your retinas, and the contrast ratio of 637:1 is fine. Colour accuracy is excellent thanks to a Delta E of 2.1 – better than almost everything else out there, and a fine foil for the similarly excellent iMac.

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User comments

Have I Missed Something?

"Compare the Z1 with its workstation rivals, though, and it doesn’t look so bad. A top-of-the-range iMac with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB hard disk and a 256GB SSD is £2,474"

But this HP model has 8GB RAM, a 1TB HDD and no SSD. So why would you compare it to the cost of an iMac with 16GB and an SSD plus bigger HDD? Strange.

By pveater on 13 Jun 2012

Why the HP Z1 will fail

Such concepts have been tried already, and failed.

On an ordinary desktop PC, you can change each component with dozens thousands alternatives, which are mostly of good quality, useful design, affordable price, wide availability, relatively easy HW mounting and SW installing, and quite up-to-date.

On a laptop or an All-in-One, you trade that versatility for the advantages of pre-integration: pre-assembled system, ready to work, little compatibility problems because just one configuration, better reliability, contained price and bulk.

With the HP Z1 you pay, in reliability, price and bulk, for having a versatile composition. For this to work you need to be competitive with the 10,000 affordable available working reliable up-to-date alternatives the desktop offers for EACH component. And since most Z1's components are "in proprietary caddies and enclosures", this design REQUIRES:

- either that each caddy (or enclosure or cradle) is designed COMPATIBLE with according STANDARD components: as long as HP doesn't spend the time, effort and place to strongly and publicly commits to this, one CANNOT take it for granted;

- or that HP commits to offer, for the (5 to 10) years to come, and for EACH component, numerous alternatives of which EACH is up-to-date, sufficiently well designed and market-tested.

This WON'T HAPPEN. Instead, the best choice is to buy (or DIY) a pre-built Laptop or All-in-One or Desktop PC, that will give you much more for the same price and bulk.

Versailles, Thu 14 Jun 2012 16:35:00 +0200

By MichelMerlin on 14 Jun 2012

Fail

It will fail because only Apple devotees are prepared to pay the cost of a second-hand car to get a computer.

Why would I want to pay 3 grand to have my hard disk put at risk by waggling it about, albeit piston-damped, while the machine is running?

By fogtax on 14 Jun 2012

"It will fail because only Apple devotees are prepared to pay the cost of a second-hand car to get a computer."

False statement is false

By pveater on 17 Jun 2012

Z1 Benchmarks

These are useful benchmarks for the Z1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY5DNyEOBeU

By ServerStation668 on 15 May 2013

Z1 Benchmarks

These are useful benchmarks for the Z1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY5DNyEOBeU

By ServerStation668 on 15 May 2013

Z1 Benchmarks

These are useful benchmarks for the Z1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY5DNyEOBeU

By ServerStation668 on 15 May 2013

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