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Review: HP Z2 Mini G3 Workstation Packs Power in a Tiny Footprint

Although compact in size, this workstation maximizes physical workspace while boosting productivity and improving reliability.

Manufacturers traditionally built and billed workstation computers as the larger, beefier brothers of desktop systems, tackling much more demanding applications. But with that power came enlarged footprints, increased power consumption and greater heat generation. The HP Z2 Mini G3 Workstation shatters that formula, maintaining all the good features of the class while minimizing any negatives.

The Z2 isn’t built like other workstations. The small, black unit looks more like a personal-sized pizza box. Four ventilation grills in each corner break up the square silhouette, and HP printed a stylized letter Z across the top. A single, almost hidden, power button on the front brings the tiny powerhouse to life, although quietly, as the internal cooling systems don’t generate much noise. Users might confuse the Z2 Workstation with a thin client based on looks alone.

But make no mistake, the Z2 is a bona fide workstation packed with power and features in an era of tight state and local budgets.

A Petite Workstation Packs a Performance Punch

At one-sixth the size of the modern desktop, the Z2 scored almost 10,000 points higher on the PassMark PerformanceTest benchmark, putting it solidly in line with expected ­workstation performance. The compact size and high performance maximizes physical workspace while helping to increase productivity and improve reliability.

It seems that HP chose all the internal Z2 components with performance in mind. For speedy graphics rendering — a major need for some state and local workstation users — my test unit featured a Nvidia Quadro M620 graphics card, providing the graphics processing unit with 2 gigabytes of dedicated video memory. An HP solid-state PCIe hard drive improves disk read and write speeds, removing another potential bottleneck. The Windows 10 Pro 64-bit operating system ties the components together.

Cooling fans surround the unit, and four corner vents keep things from overheating. After a few hours of continuous use, the chassis was cool to the touch, and more important, performance never suffered due to thermal issues.

The HP Z2 Mini G3 Workstation does everything that users expect and need from a workstation system. It does this in a smaller space and for an economical price, features that would have been impossible just a few years ago,

Drawing with the Z2 Mini G3 Workstation

HP advertises that it constructed the Z2 Mini G3 Workstation with computer-aided design in mind, so I tested this claim to see how the Z2 fared under the demands of the AutoCAD program.

CAD programs used by state and local designers and engineers often tax systems because they require raw number-crunching as well as speedy graphical rendering. In fact, workstation computers were created because many desktop systems could not adequately handle both tasks.

After loading the 2017 version of AutoCAD, I turned to the most complicated designs I could find: the Space Shuttle and the nozzle of a fire hose. The Z2 had no trouble opening either design in less than five seconds. The same task with a standard desktop computer took 22 seconds for the shuttle and 31 seconds for the more detailed nozzle.

On the desktop, zooming to different levels triggered another load process. With the Z2, flowing between detail levels and other graphically intensive tasks (such as spinning the design around to look at different angles) appeared practically instantaneous.

Saving files was also notably faster. After modifying part of the fire hose, resaving the design took less than a second. Compare that to almost five seconds with the desktop.

These tests prove this little powerhouse can handle almost any type of application and quickly become a jack-of-all-trades.

HP Z2 Mini G3 Workstation

Processor: Intel Core i7 6700/3.4GHz

Hard Drive: HP Turbo G2 512GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive

Memory: 16GB DDR4 2400MHz

Weight: 4.5 pounds

Jul 17 2017