HP Z240 SFF Workstation review
Impressive power and clever design inside a PC that’s smaller and smarter than most desktop towers
Small form-factor PCs used to involve compromise, with slower components and less room than traditional towers. That's not the case in 2016, where proper desktop power and versatility can be found inside systems like HP's Z240 Workstation.
Casing & Features
This machine is 100mm wide and 338mm tall, which means it's 57% smaller than the tower version of the Z240. That huge space saving could make a big difference to the typical office desk. It's so much smaller than a traditional tower that it's easy to find room for, say, a second monitor and the Z240 can also be used horizontally or vertically, so a screen could be positioned on top. It's sturdy, too, thanks to the thick metal used throughout.
The versatility continues to the interior. Every component is accessible, with key mechanisms indicated by green plastic tabs. One tab pops open the metal that holds the graphics card, and three more lift up to ease free the plastic facade. A tab on the storage cage lifts the entire unit in increments until it sits vertically, which grants access to more tabs: a couple unhook the hard disk and SSD caddies, and another releases the optical drive.
The processor sits beneath a conventional heatsink and the Nvidia graphics card can be popped free. There's room to grow, despite the Z240's diminutive design: two free memory sockets help the machine support 64GB of ECC-certified DDR4 memory, and there are two PCI-E x1 slots and a single PCI-E x16 socket vacant. A couple of hard disk bays are also free.
The Z240 has plenty of ports. The front has four USB connectors, and the rear has six more alongside two audio jacks, two PS/2 connectors and four Mini DisplayPort connectors. It's all set for security: it's got TPM 1.2, a Kensington lock slot and the ability to use padlocks to secure both the rear IO cables and the case from opening.
This machine is crammed with features, but we've still noticed a couple of things missing. There isn't a card reader something which HP sells as an optional extra and no WiFi either.
Specification and Performance
This relatively entry-level specification comes with some impressive components. Intel's Xeon E3-1270 v5 is a brand new chip that arrived at the end of 2015 with the new Skylake architecture. The new 14nm design places equal emphasis on performance and power efficiency. To see that in action, just look at the E3's peak power demand of 80W far lower than equivalent Haswell and Broadwell chips that drew 95W or more.
The E3-1270 v5 has four Hyper-Threaded cores that run at 3.6GHz that can turbo boost to a peak of 4GHz. It's also got 8MB of L3 cache, but no integrated graphics hence the need for Nvidia's graphics card and the chip is bolstered by 32GB of ECC-certified memory.
Nvidia's Quadro K1200 is a mid-range card with 512 stream processors and a 954MHz core. It uses the GM107GL GPU, which originally appeared in the consumer-grade GTX 750 Ti in early 2014. It's not new, but it's still comfortably faster than any integrated graphics chip. It's got four Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs for multi-monitor 4K support, and the card is certified to work properly with a huge range of professional applications.
This PC's Xeon and Quadro hardware might be relatively modest, but they still combined for impressive benchmark results that are almost three and a half times faster than a Core i3 4030u equipped PC. It's faster than any Mac Mini or iMac desktop, say, and quicker than most conventional office PCs. It'll handle the majority of work applications with ease.
The storage is enticing. The main boot drive is a 256GB Samsung SM951 M.2 SSD that sits beneath its own heatsink. No wonder it requires dedicated cooling: it romped through sequential read and write tests at 1,687MB/s and 1,159MB/s.
Those speeds are excellent, and bolstered by a 256GB Micron SATA SSD that ran at 478MB/s and 392MB/s. We've no quibbles with speeds, but those who work with CAD or graphics applications that use huge files will want to add a slower but far larger hard disk.
Our review unit was pre-loaded with Windows 7, but HP also sells this system with Windows 10 and Linux. That's not the only specification change available: this system can be configured with seven different Xeons and a multitude of Core i3, i5 or i7 consumer-class processors, and those can be mixed with between 4GB and 64GB of memory.
Elsewhere there are different PCI-based SSDs and more conventional storage options as well as several workstation GPU options from AMD and Nvidia.
The versatile specification is paired with a reasonable selection of options and accessories. A variety of four and five year warranties augment the standard three-year deal.
There's a lot to like about the HP Z240. Its smaller chassis brings size advantages when compared to full-size towers, and not much is missing from this tiny PC there's a little less upgrade room than you'd get with a tower, but that's it.
The Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics are ample for ploughing through reasonably demanding work applications, and the storage is slick. This is an ideal purchase if a conventional office PC is just too large and other mini PCs you've considered don't have enough grunt.
Good features and versatility combine with a small chassis and well-rounded specification. It’s an ideal system for cramped offices that need a bit more oomph
Processor: 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E3-1270 v5
RAM: 32GB 2,133MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K1200 4GB
Storage: 256GB Samsung SM951 SSD; 256GB Micron SSD
Operating system: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
Optical: DVD writer
Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet
Ports: 8 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x PS/2, 2 x audio, 1 x serial, 4 x Mini DisplayPort 1.2
Dimensions: 100 x 338 x 381mm
Warranty: 3 years
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