Review: Hewlett-Packard's Next-Gen Z620 Workstation

Next-Gen Workstation

Hewlett-Packard for the second year running is included among the CRN Products of the Year for the Z620 Workstation, its workhorse desktop that's as screamingly fast as it is easy to service. This year's model centers on a completely redesigned two-socket motherboard in a rackable minitower. Its top configuration delivers 24 cores across two Intel Xeon E5-2697v2 3.0GHz CPUs. Its 12 DIMM slots can handle as much as 192 GB of 1,866MHz 8-channel ECC DDR3 memory with four memory channels per CPU. A 6-channel SATA controller can address as much as 12 TB of internal storage and manage RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10 arrays.

There's more to report on HP's latest workstation, including a reconfigured interior and a Thunderbolt option. Read on for details and performance results from CRN Test Center benchmarks.


HP has boosted the Z620's storage-controller options, adding an 8-port LSI 9717-4i4e SAS controller and LSI 9212-4i 4-port SAS RAID card. That's on top of the motherboard's Marvell SATA controller with six channels for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10, two of which can handle 6.0 Gb/s. For system and booting, the company this year uses Seagate Pro series SSDs (instead of Micron).

The test system also sported a pair of Hitachi 7200K 6.0 Gbps spinning drives in a RAID 5 array controlled by an LSI MegaRAID 9260-8i. Against this array, the Z620 turned in a sustained data transfer rate for sequential reads of almost 370 MB/s. That's on par with some of CRN's Top 10 Servers.

Transaction and throughput performance were measured with IOmeter. For this test, peak performance was found with sequential 4K reads and a queue size of 48.

Thunderbolt Too

Hewlett-Packard is among just a handful of vendors to fully embrace Intel's new Thunderbolt spec, which defines a high-speed bus for video and storage.

HP included a sample of its Thunderbolt 2.0 PCIe card in the test system, and its performance was pretty good. The card delivered a sustained transfer rate of 280 MB/s with sequential reads of 32K, but its IOps was just 8K. By reducing packet size to 4K, testers were able to boost IOps to 70K and still achieve 275 MB/s, or 2.2 Gb/s. In drag-and-drop tests of file transfers, the drive delivered a transfer rate in excess of 3 Gb/s.

HP's Thunderbolt card is scheduled to begin shipping early next year.

IO Chops

To measure transaction processing, testers reconfigured IOmeter's access specifications to use 512-byte packets. A peak sustained transaction performance of 153K IOps was observed with a transaction queue size of 64.

Other I/O gear included in the base Z620 configuration includes dual gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3.0 ports (two front and two rear) and FireWire. Options include a 10GbE NIC. For graphics, HP offers the Z620 equipped with an Nvidia Quadro K4000, K5000, 6000, Tesla C2075 and K20c models, or AMD's FirePro W7000.


This score was a bit of a head scratcher. Using the 64-bit version of Primate Labs' Geekbench 2.3, the Z620 turned in a top score of 35,040. That's an extremely high score in its own right, but it falls well short of the 41,348 turned in by last year's Z620 Workstation, the fastest PC we've ever tested. That machine had slower processors (2.9GHz) and slower memory (1,600MHz), yet delivered a far higher Geekbench score.

The Bottom Line

HP has kept much of what the CRN Test Center liked about prior versions of its venerable workstation, namely its ease of service. The lockable side panel is removed with the flip of a lever to expose processors, DIMM slots, storage, expansion cards, power supply and many other internal components that can be serviced without tools. As before, the second processor slot is implemented as a daughtercard (complete with memory and fan), but it's now far easier to remove and more precise to reinstall. The Z620's internals truly are a masterpiece of engineering.

Despite its anomalous Geekbench results, the latest-gen HP Z620 Workstation delivers outstanding performance benchmarks overall. This machine is built to be easy to service and upgrade and delivers consistent performance for video production, computer-aided design and any application that demands ultra-high performance from a small footprint PC. List prices start at $1,689 with a three-year warranty.