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Monday, September 8, 2014

HP Z Workstation and ZBook 2014 Fall Launch..!


Here we are again. HP is back with a brand new line of Z Workstations and Z Book Mobiles. I keep seeing more and more amazing products from HP. Just this past month I was up for Siggraph and sat down with some of the great people behind the HP Z products. All I can say is wow. They truly listen to us Media and Entertainment users like myself who was an all Mac guy from my cell phone, mobile, and workstation I made the switch over to HP Z products. Don't get me wrong I still enjoy seeing all the great ideas and products Apple has brought to market but as my needs changed and stepped into the Ultra HD 4K, 5K, 6K and beyond world I needed and wanted more from the MacPro. Thankfully there are options out there and that really what it's all about. Before the new MacPro(aka 'Garbage Can)came out I was patiently waiting for their next workstation. I'm one that is always looking for the edge when it comes to computer technology and really any technology for that matter. Well I decided to go HP from my tried and true workstation my MacPro(pre garbage can). I've heard great things from users who are incorporating the very well put together new MacPro but it's not so difficult to see why some users such as myself still like a true workstation over the new MacPro design. I still like to upgrade my GPU, and that's not really an option with the latest MacPros. So for me this is really a bonus that I have the option to still drop in the latest and greatest GPU. Currently I'm running the Nvidia GeForce Titan Z. I've ran the original Titan, and Titan Black in the past. For the money it's the obvious choice for many but I still think the Quadro line is amazing and one day I may give them a try again. My MacPro I ran a Quadro 4800 and when I first got my HP Z820 I ran a Quadro 5000 so I'm no stranger to Quadro Graphics. While I was up at Siggraph I got to check out the latest updates to the quadro line and I feel they are on the right path. The Quadro K6000 still sits as their flagship model with their cards like the K5200 there's an option for everyone. The new cards have more ram and that for me is definitely very welcome since so many apps and plugins now tap directly into the GPU for many computing task. That is a reason why the Titan Z was a good choice for me(it takes up 3 slots over 4 which is useful for keeping open slots for other cards such as the HP Z Turbo drives I also just recently added to my Z820-which isn't the latest machine but still a beast with plenty of horsepower to keep things moving along. The latest models just take the performance another leap forward with more computing in less time and effort.

The mobiles in the past were rather bulky and felt large. The new line of Z Books that were introduced last year at the launch in New York I attended and was on the tech panel were heading in the direction of smother lines, a thinner feel and look rounding those corners and making things less boxy. The pattern continues with the new additions of 15 and 17 G2 ZBooks announced today.  This is very welcome because even though the mobiles HP offers are far more powerful and have more potential for us Media and Entertainment users...many still preferred the MacBooks and MacBook Pros. I think the lineup today demonstrates HP is listening and continuing to bring equally powerful mobiles that now look as good as they perform. I am still running an older Elitebook which was the powerhouse mobile that featured a large 17" screen, multiple hard drives, Dreamcolor and so on. These kinds of features with the latest tech and Thunderbolt, Z Turbo Drive, etc are a great alternative to what Apple offers. I know what some of you are saying or thinking...ya it still doesn't run OS X. True...but if sheer performance is what you're after I welcome you to compare spec for spec. It might change your mind about what Apple offers compared to the very exciting HP Z line. They are just more powerful and rock solid with really good tech support. That in itself is also very important when you run into a challenge someone is there to help you though it. I've used it myself several times and it's just easier to make that call than to jump on google looking for mixed answers to your challenges.

So if you've been following the latest Apple products and haven't felt satisfied or just want to learn more about what options HP has...read on below for all the deets..! :)

Below I breakdown the new offerings with the detailed specs from their data sheets so you can compare for yourself and see how they can help you achieve your production and post needs..!

HP Z Turbo Drive and Setup for Adobe Applications..!


With the extensive line of HP Z products one that might go overlooked is their Z Turbo Drive. Think a ioFusion card but in a small form factor and at a lower buy in price. First off the cards are not going to outperform the latest ioFusion drives but I think you'll find them to be very fast, priced in the market of similar pci-e SSD cards and most of all stamped with the trusted HP seal of approval. Why does this matter. Well mainly because their are all kinds of these pci-e SSD cards out on the market now. Not all are up to the quality as say the HP Z Turbo Drive. HP partnered with Samsung to bring you an affordable alternative to the above mentioned Fusion cards but not cutting on performance as you'll see in some screen grabs below..!

I myself have tried another similar card out there called the ASUS RaidR. I was very excited to try this card out and for the money is an option you can certainly look at and give it a try. I felt like for the money it wasn't bad but my benchmarks didn't quit live up to the advertised speeds. That being said I like the HP Z Turbo Drive even better. Both are easy to setup. Basically plug and play. All you have to do initialize it like you would any other spinning hard drive or SSD. Initilize, Format, choose a block size or go with default and you are ready to start benefitting from having a super fast(approx double the speed of a typically SSD)and not double the price of an uber fast traditional SSD. Now that sounds like a winner doesn't it..?! :)

How I'm using it is mainly for my scratch, media and cache files. Why is this important you might ask? Well just like having a dedicated raid to store and playback all your media files like audio and video clips with the fastest access you can afford(see here my DIY 4K RAid)you want your scratch, media and cache files to load equally as fast without any lag. Even the fastest SSDs on the market won't be as fast as the HP Z Turbo drive or similar(but again not all are created equal so do your own test and make sure if you opt for an alternative they have a good return policy-I've talked to others who tried other brands out there and were not too impressed with the results like the Asus RaidR is wasn't as fast as advertised at least in my case).

So for me the HP Z Turbo dive has been a nice addition to my workflow. I've found that files load extremely fast, playback seems improved(more r3d layers playing back in some cases at FULL Resolution with multiple layers), and also great for After Effects in place of a fast traditional SSD. You can expect even better results.

I'm going to leave you with the basic setup I'm running. Note that I'm mainly focusing on Premiere Pro and After Effects but any program that utilizes a scratch, media and cache files etc will most certainly benefit also. Photoshop and Speedgrade come to mind but just scratch the surface of apps that do.