Build and Power Consumption

Where I think the HP Z420 winds up really losing step with the Dell Precision T3600 (and where HP's current workstation lineup loses step with Dell's pending update) is build quality. The Z420 isn't badly built, but not much seems to have changed in some time. It's easy to rest on your laurels when you're on top, and that seems to be the case with

The side panel pops off via a quick-release lever, and most of the individual parts are accessible via internal quick-release levers. Our Xeon is also cooled with a custom liquid-cooling solution (required with this upgrade), but HP sticks with an 80mm fan instead of moving up to a potentially more powerful (and quieter) 120mm fan, wasting some of the radiator surface area.

I personally prefer the internal layout of Dell's Precision T3600, with its easily swappable power supply and just generally cleaner interior design, but where HP wins and Dell loses out is memory capacity: the Z420 sports the full eight DIMM slots that Sandy Bridge-EP supports, while the T3600 is forced to make do with just four.

Gallery: HP Z420

Unfortunately for HP, Dell's system looks better and is ultimately easier to service. The best thing HP has to compete with the sturdy aluminum handles built into the Dell chassis is a $30 upgrade to a service handle that occupies the top optical bay. Clearly the money is in enterprise, but a $30 handle is the kind of thing you expect to see on a government expense report.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption

HP's system is also a lot less efficient than Dell's under load. The idle difference isn't major and can probably be chalked up to the extra pair of hard drives in Dell's build. Unfortunately, under load the extra 20 watts off of the processor, the closed-loop liquid cooler, and the four extra DIMMs all seem to take their pound of flesh. I have a hard time believing that accounts for a full sixty watts of power; HP may need to go back and tinker with their power supply.

Workstation Performance Conclusion: The Times Change for HP
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  • theSeb - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link


    "You're missing the whole point of a Xeon CPU and its uses."
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    That's a very good point to highlight - some users need ECC RAM
    for their task, and of course pro systems tend to have much higher
    max RAM limits than consumer boards (useful for medical, GIS, etc.)
    My Dell T7500 just has 24GB atm, but it can take 144GB, though
    if maxed out the speed is not that great. Still, the capability is there.

    X79 solves the RAM problem to some extent on the desktop for solo
    professionals looking for value without blowing thousands on a pro
    system, but as you say it's a consideration each user must bare in

    I recently built a system for use with AE for a solo artist guy, a blend
    of consumer and professional hw, runs very nicely. i7 2600K @ 4.7,
    16GB DDR3/2133, 90GB SSD, LSI 3041E-R, 2x73GB 15K SAS,
    Quadro 600, ASUS Z68 board, Antec 300, Toughpower 750W PSU.
    I sourced used parts where sensible, total cost less than 900 UKP,
    saved him about 400 compared to buying all-new. Performance is
    very respectable; compare the following numbers to the data in this
    Z420 review (remember this is with a Quadro 600, so compare to
    the Quadro 600 numbers in the review):

    CATIA-03: 17.55
    ENSIGHT-04: 10.57
    LW-01: 44.40
    MAYA-03: 26.60
    PROE-05: 11.99
    SW-02: 30.97
    TCVIS-02: 16.10
    SNX-01: 13.12

    Interesting thing is though, for those who care about Viewperf 11,
    these numbers are only about 1 or 2% quicker than the same
    Quadro 600 running with a crazy cheap 4.7GHz i3 550 (ProE is
    the exception, it gains 10% moving to the 2600K, ie. result with
    the i3 550 is 10.84).

    Be careful of Viewperf - it's probably not respresentative of pro
    tasks which do impose a strain on the main CPU(s) aswell as a
    heavy 3D load.

  • colonelclaw - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    Hi guys, thanks for a great review as always. Any chance that in the future you include a VRay benchmark please? It's very popular, cross-platform, and supported by nearly all the top 3D packages.
  • majortom1981 - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    I am typing this on a z600. The z4xx series was originally the bottom of the barrel workstation.

    The z6xx is a much better built workstation. So do not judge the whole z series based on the z420.

    My z600 is all metal and is built like a tank and from pictures of the z620 it has not changed at all.

    Please review the 620 if you can its case design is different.
  • Ytterbium - Thursday, August 2, 2012 - link

    this comment is true, I think the Z620 would be a better competitor.

    The Z4xx to me is for someone who want's a entry level workstation

    I have a Z2xx and the chassis is the same as the 8200 elite, just the motherboard is upgraded to C200 so it can run ECC ram.
  • trivor - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    It sure seems to me like a high end gaming rig (from a name brand manufacturer if IT needs it) would certainly be able to give these workstations a run for the money for a lot less money - say a core i7 3960 (6 core @ 3.3 GHz, SLI GTX 570s, 120 GB-240GB SSD with a 2 TB data drive) for around $3500-4000. I think the need for true workstations (Like in the 90s with Sun or Silicon graphics) for most people doing CAD or something along those lines can certainly be more cost effective than these workstations - but I may be wrong.
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Gamer cards totally suck for most pro apps. The driver optimisations are very
    different, as are the feature sets. In certain cases a gamer card can run a pro
    app ok (Ensight is the ony example I know of), but pro apps usually run much
    better on a Quadro. Likewise, gaming performance on a Quadro is terrible.
    Games need features like 2-sided textures, pro apps need features like AA
    lines; this is why the drivers & optimisations are different.

    CPU-wise though, you're right, though an oc'd 3930K makes much more sense than
    the waste-of-money 3960X.

    However, as an earlier poster mentioned, remember the ECC RAM issue. If someone
    needs this, then a consumer build is not an option.

  • sicofante - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    I'd think HP has enough money to hire some designers, not just engineers.

    This thing is vulgar as hell. I understand those worried by looks are not majority among the buyers of a workstation, but certainly industrial designers and media content creators are a target for these machines and they value the looks.
  • Gc - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    "Z420: 323"
    "T3600: 262"

    (difference: 61)

    "under load the extra 20 watts off of the processor, the closed-loop liquid cooler, and the four extra DIMMs all seem to take their pound of flesh. I have a hard time believing that accounts for a full EIGHTY watts of power" [emphasis added]

    20 watts for the processor, ~10--15 for the water pump, ~8--10 for the 4 more ECC dimms, leaves about 16--23 watts unaccounted for.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    Aw man, I suck at math.

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