Introduction to the HP Z2 Mini
The first thing HP did, two years ago, was take a look at the kinds of PCs being used by creative professionals for their work, especially CAD. What they found was that boxy PCs really weren’t up to the task in terms of build quality, graphics performance or the appeal of the physical design itself. HP noted that people who are keen on design are also keen on the design of their tools. That’s something Apple always knew.
HP developed the Z2 Mini to be a powerful, mid-range workstation that’s affordable and beautifully designed. It can drive four 4K displays (six in total with four HD displays in the mix), but it isn’t a gaming powerhouse. It’s small, fairly light, designed for great airflow, easy to open, and as HP says, “Designed to be celebrated.”
More importantly, for those professionals who need lots of different ports, the “performance” model is packed with them. See the figure below.
In terms of CPU and GPU power, there are several options. You can go with Intel Core i3/i5/i7 (Skylake) or Xeon E3-1200v5 (3.3 or 3.5 GHz). The i7 model at 3.4 GHz is on par with and a little faster than a new 15-inch MacBook Pro, which has a 2.6 GHz i7-6700HQ (Skylake). The Xeon option at 3.3 or 3.5 GHz is on par with and maybe a little slower than that found in the 2013 Quad-core Mac Pro (E5-1620 v2 @3.7 GHz)
The NVIDIA M620 graphics card is a mid-range GPU, capable of driving six simultaneous HD displays or else two 4K displays and four 2K displays. With 512 cores and 512 shading units, it’s considered an entry level 3D GPU but far beyond the Intel HD530 integrated graphics found in the base Skylake i7-6700. There are more details in this article.
As an interesting aside, supercomputers are ranked based on the LINPACK benchmark. Outside supercomputing circles, you don’t often see this benchmark, but Hewlett Packard graciously ran the LINPACK benchmark on a Z2 Mini identical to mine, and it came in at about 110 gigaflops. While the fastest supercomputers today are measured in petaflops, the number HP provided is, for perspective, about the same as a Cray T3E from the year 2000. This is all just for fun. Anything else would go far beyond the scope of this article and get very complicated.
Just remember, when Apple touts 7 teraflops for the 2013 Mac Pro, that’s using the thousands of cores in its AMD FirePro D700 graphics card in concert with OpenCL and is not the same benchmark as the LINPACK test of the CPU.
Rather than go into additional, extensive product detail in text, here’s HP’s specifications in PDF format for you to peruse. It’s just amazing. You’ll be geeking out for days.
Next page: A look inside, my review unit and final thoughts.