HP also adds Thunderbolt 2 and other updates to keep up with the new Mac Pro.
As 2013 came to an end, HP gave the industry’s first and only all-in-one workstation, the Z1, its first refresh, set by Intel’s release of Haswell about one quarter earlier. However, this refresh was more than just a new CPU, and in fact, its quarter delay from Haswell was explained—and justified—by one of its two big additions in functionality: Thunderbolt 2 I/O.
Thunderbolt 2 support from Intel (Falcon Ridge) trailed the Haswell release, making HP’s creation of a Thunderbolt 2 module for the Z1 lag. Why did HP wait on Haswell just for Thunderbolt 2? Well, while Thunderbolt 2 for other workstations might be a nicety or differentiator that could be added on post-launch, one could argue it’s a hard requirement for a Z1-class machine in 2014. Moreover, while the Z1 is surprisingly serviceable, adding the module aftermarket would have been much less than ideal.
Thunderbolt is especially interesting in a workstation, given the release of Apple’s new Mac Pro, and a price tag that’s any higher (though not necessarily “pricey”) on a machine targeting Digital Media and Entertainment (DME) professionals. Especially one that doesn’t include high-performance support for 4K video; that’s simply a non-starter. While the Z1 has wider appeal than just DME, we think it is the space where this product has its primary appeal … both to existing Wintel workstation users and to potential Apple users considering emigrating off the Mac platform (a trend that is still in play, though very much dampened/slowed by Apple’s better-late-than-never overhaul of its Mac Pro).
Thunderbolt 2, however, isn’t the only high-profile feature added to the G2 version of the Z1. The other feature, one we expected might be in the offing for a machine of this type, is touch. Specifically, with HP’s built-in Windows 8-compliant, ten-finger multi-touch combined with this machine’s ability to “lay back” into a horizontal, tablet-oriented position, touch represents a natural product evolution.
In addition to Thunderbolt 2 and touch support, HP made some updates that are more typical of a generation-to-generation refresh: updated Quadro MXM modules from Nvidia (the same ones that ship in mobile workstations), Gen 3 PCI Express support (to get the most from those Kepler-based modules), and mSATA support (full-length slot).
No doubt about it, a look at the Z1’s specs confirms it’s a full-featured workstation. Haswell’s integrated GPU has given Intel’s processors another big step up in performance, and its price is certainly compelling. That said, we’d still expect the majority of Z1s to ship with one of the four Nvidia Quadro professional-caliber discrete options.