HP Z workstations gain Ivy Bridge Xeon E5 V2 chips with up to 24 cores

HP Z420, Z620 and Z820 workstations are now available with Xeon E5-2600 V2 chips up to 3.4GHz, 1,866MHz RAM, Nvidia Quadro K6000 graphics cards and Thunderbolt 2 add-in boards. HP has also launched two new monitors: the 27-inch Z Display 27i and a 30-inch version unsurprisingly called the Z Display 30i.

As Intel has launched the Ivy Bridge versions of its Xeon E5 range, HP has announced that the chips will be available in its Z-series workstations (except for the E3-based Z230). Based around one or two processors with up to 12 cores each, the E5-2600 V2 chips allow the HP Z420, Z620 and Z820 workstations to offer up to 24 cores of processing power – up from X maximum cores offered by the original E5-2600 range.

Using Intel's Hyper-threading technology that runs two processes per core, this offers up to 48 threads to multi-threaded applications – boosting performance in areas such as 3D rendering and video processing. However, it's worth noting that not all applications will support this many threads.

I attempted to benchmark a Z820 (above) with two 12-core 2.7GHz Xeon E5-2697 v2 chips at an embargoed HP event in New York last week, and found that our Cinebench test application – which is based on Cinema 4D R11.5 – was unable to render with more than 32 threads, so showed no improvement over the kind of score I'd expect from the previous generation of chips. I'd recommend checking what your key software tools are capable of before shelling out the high price for these chips.

The new chips also allow support for 1,866MHz ECC RAM, up from 1,600MHz RAM supported by the previous generation of Xeon E5-2600s – so your applications with be able to work with recently accessed or created information faster (as well as RAM previews in After Effects).

While the chips and RAM are new, the rest of the workstation is the same as before. At the event last week, HP's Ron Rogers – who runs the company's R&D for workstations – told me that they were aware of the V2 range when designing the Z420, Z620 and Z820. From the outset, the motherboards used supported both V1 and V2 Xeon E5-2600 chips and haven't needed to be upgraded for the V2s. It's therefore possible for owners of older Z420, Z620 and Z820 models to swap out their V2 chips and 1,600MHz RAM for V2 chips and 1,866MHz RAM.

If you one of those older models and just want the new RAM, you can't. The 1,866MHz RAM won't run at full speed without V2 chips also installed.

HP has also began offering NVidia's top-of-the-line Quadro K6000 graphics card. This features 12GB of GDDR5 graphics RAM to help it with incredibly complex scenes and 2,880 streaming multiprocessor (SMX) cores for hyper-powerful overall performance. The card supports four simultaneous displays at up to 4k in resolution (via DisplayPort 1.2). Other options include Nvidia's Quadro K600, K2000, K4000 and K5000  – as well as AMD's FirePro W7000.

The final new option is a Thunderbolt 2 add-in board, which can be added to older Z420, Z620 and Z820 models as well as bought with the new ones. Thunderbolt 2 allows data transfer at up to 20GBps, which translates into multiple streams of uncompressed HD or two of 4K. Thunderbolt is used to attach high-end storage systems – though currently Thunderbolt storage devices such as G-Tech's G-RAID with Thunderbolt or LaCie's 5big use the original 10GBps version of Thunderbolt.

Companies such as AJA and Blackmagic offer Thunderbolt-connected video editing accelerating and/or capture hardware such as AJA's Io XT or Blackmagic's Intensity Extreme. These are currently Mac-only for use with Apple's Mac Pro and MacBook Pro – but we expect to see Windows drivers for use with these boards announced at the IBC video production/post trade show in Amsterdam from Friday. We may even see Thunderbolt 2-based devices too.

We're expecting review units of these soon – so stay tuned to see how they measure up (using software that supports more than 32 threads).

New HP monitors

The Z Display 27i and 30i (above) follow on from the 22i, 23i and 24i that were announced at the end of July. Both have resolutions of 2,560 x 1,440 and are based on what HP calls IPS Gen 2 technology for extended viewing angles.

The 27i is capable of outputting 99 per cent of the sRGB colour space, while the 30i can match 100% of sRGB and 100% of the wider Adobe RGB gamut – as used by tools such as Photoshop. Put simply, this means that the 30i is capable of showing finer shades of colours and is better suited to areas where colour accuracy is critical such as photography, advertising and high-end video post-production.

Both monitors feature inputs including DisplayPort 1.2, DVI, VGA, HDMI 1.4 – a feature four USB 3.0 ports.

Again, look out for reviews of these soon.

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