The beautiful HP Z800 workstation knocked our socks off last year, but now it's packing even more serious heat. This new $10,483 workstation, designed by BMW DesignworksUSA, looks the same as last year's model, but inside lurks a pair of Intel's fastest six-core Xeon Westmere EP X5680 3.33GHz processors. We knew the machine would be faster, but putting the pedal to the metal, the results were even better than we expected.
These pricey workstations are aimed at power users such as the geniuses we met on an HP-sponsored junket last week to DreamWorks Animation, where they were busy cranking out spectacular high-rez graphics like those in How to Train Your Dragon. To say such endeavors are compute-intensive is an understatement. That production used a staggering 50 million hours of rendering time (using Red Hat Linux). Compare that with the mere 5 million hours for the first version of Shrek, and you'll see that animation is getting a whole lot more complicated these days.
Content creators are just one group riding these thoroughbred workstation racehorses. The high-end PCs are also popular with compute-intensive industries such as computer-assisted designers, stockbrokers, and oil and gas explorers. Those users can't afford to hang around while their computers crunch through mountains of data. That's why those 12 cores inside might allow some of these workaholics to go home early.
When we ran our custom suite of benchmarks (using mostly Adobe After Effects special effects software), we noticed a speed improvement of 32.4%, averaged over the six benchmark tests we run. See the details in the gallery below. Remarkably, thanks to the Westmere EP chip's dense 32nm manufacturing process (as opposed to the 45nm process of the previous generation known as Nehalem), these X5680 processors each require 150 Watts of power, the exact same amount used by their slower quad-core predecessors. When you have a rack room bristling with thousands of these processors, that can represent a huge leap in efficiency.
All that speed is the sole improvement in this year's Z800, but the box still soothes with its extraordinary quietude, where even the air cooled model (there's a liquid-cooled option) is so silent you can barely tell it's running under your desk. It's also the easiest workstation to disassemble we've ever seen, with slide-out drives and a completely tool-less chassis that you can disassemble in under a minute.
It's a thrill to drive this monster, with its dozen horses screaming away under the hood, like a V12 Jaguar engine. There's something wonderful about getting 32% faster speed for the same price as last year's fastest Xeon processor, and this one consumes the same amount of energy as last year's darlings. Wrap those rockets inside this elegant case, and the speedy package might tempt those of us who have no oil or gas to explore, stocks to broke, or hit movies to create.
2 Intel Xeon Westmere EP X5680 3.33GHz processors w/6 cores each, 12 cores/24 threads total
12GB DDR3-1333 ECC Registered RAM
NVIDIA Quadro FX 3800 graphics card
146GB 15,000 RPM SAS system drive
1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm drive
List price: $10,483