HP Caters to Creative/Tech Pros with Z2 Mini PC


| In-Depth Review

A Look Inside

Here’s a look at the inside with callouts.

HP Z2 Mini.

Pretty compact. It needs that great airflow.

Of note is the fact that the top is held in place with spring loaded button. When you remove the lid, which is trivial to do, the Z2 Mini continues to run—just like older Mac Pros.

My Review Unit

This computer is fairly compact and arrived in a box 19 x 12 x 7 inches (48 x 30 x 18 cm). The computer itself weighs just 4.6 pounds (2.1 kg). It’s easy to look at, but is also easy to tuck out of the way with its VESA mount for HP’s Z displays or 3rd party wall or arm mounts. It shipped with Windows 10 Pro, but is certified as well with HP Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Desktop 6.7/7.2 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 SP4/12 SP1.

Setting it up was a breeze. First I connected the power adapter, then my HP Z27i display via DisplayPort. (I already had the DP cable.) Then I inserted the mouse’s RF dongle and pressed the power button. As it was booting I pressed the Bluetooth pairing button on the keyboard. I was stepped through the Wi-Fi setup and account info. It was very easy, and in a few minutes I was exploring Windows 10.

HP Z2 MIni.

On my table. That’s a 12-inch/30 cm ruler. Power adapter in foreground.

Here are the specs of a sample base unit and those of the unit I received. Prices are MSRP and provide a sense of the price range.

HP Z2 Mini sample specs.

Base specs and specs of the review unit.

The first thing I noticed was that my review unit didn’t show the 1.0 terabyte hard disk in the file manger. (Windows 10 was on the 256 GB SSD, which is on the M.2 bus.) It was there, it just required me to go to File Explorer > My Computer > Manage > Disk Management, right click, and run the New, Simple Volume Wizard. I thought the omission by HP was rather weird, and no Mac, for review or retail, would ever require that step.

Overall, except for having to initialize and mount the hard disk, I thought the unpacking, electrical connections, power on, and Windows 10 setup were incredibly friendly and easy, even for me, a somewhat inexperienced PC user.

Windows 10

This is a review of HP’s hardware, not Windows 10. But they come as a package, and considering the preamble above, I do want to provide a brief comment or two.

First, Windows 10 is, to me, very adult. One way to explain that is to compare the setup to macOS. Everything you do is clear and technical in Windows 10. MacOS final setup has that silly animation, which I loathe, of settings being (pseudo) filled out one by one. It’s cartoonish and really should be retired. I’d rather see a text summary of settings for verification.

Windows 10 in HP Z2 Mini.

Windows 10 is different, but learnable and not that awful. (Older HP Z27i display.)

The next thing I noticed is that Windows 10 has an Airplane mode. You’re not going to travel with this computer, but there are times when you want it off the air. The Airplane mode button in the taskbar is glorious.

Next, in my initial exploration of Windows 10, I noticed that there are lots of different places to see things, but relatively fewer places to act on and do things. This may be my own lack of familiarity, but my sense is that macOS doesn’t engage in that effect as much.

Finally, and this is the kicker, my feeling was that, despite my 30 years experience with Macs, I could jump into Windows 10 and get some work done. Sure, I’d have to learn a lot of new things. But when Windows 10 is running on great hardware like the Z2 Mini, the pain and stigma of Windows are greatly lessened. Of course, this is just my first blush reaction, intended for longtime Mac users.

Final Thoughts

Beige or black box, race-to-the-bottom, commodity PCs are hardly inspirational. Plus, Windows 8 was an unmitigated disaster. However, when a company designs great hardware, like this Z2 Mini and installs Linux or Windows 10 one can get some serious computational, scientific, visualization, or creative work done, and do it with a great measure of fun. And pride.

That’s what the new PC movement is all about. HP is embracing this concept (and raising its ASP while they do it). I am happy to see this happening. I wish I could have kept this very nice, new generation PC.

 

Product: Z2 Mini Workstation

Company: HP Inc.

List Price: Starts at US$699

Rating:

Outstanding Product. Get It Now!

Pros:

Small, beautifully designed, lots of purchase options, tremendous technical detail available, can drive four 4K displays, supports Xeon CPUs, easy open lid, supports up to 32 GB RAM, boot SSD on M.2 bus, also certified for selected Linux OSes, certified for 20 CAD related apps, remote power on, great airflow, VESA mountable, an abundance of ports, security slot. Much more.

Cons:

Maximum RAM is 32 GB.

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JonGl

@geoduck. I tried using Linux, but I need my Adobe apps, and other apps that just aren’t available on Linux. If it weren’t for those, I’d happily go to Linux. I’ve used it a lot in the past, and find most distros as reasonable to work with as the Mac (once you learn the quirks, but things like system preferences, etc. tend to be reasonable and easy to figure out, unlike Windows). But without my apps, I’m sticking with Windows and the Mac.

Rick Allen

I am trying to get my work to buy a test unit. If we do I will buy a second M.2 drive and try and construct a working Hackintosh. I have built several in the past so I will see if I can get it done. The Network ports, GPU and sound hardware are the determining factor on how easy it is to get it working and to be able to actually function as a Mac and use iMessage and App store.

geoduck

JonGI: I could not agree more about Office. Ribbons is, IMO the single worst UI idea ever. What’s even more annoying is it replaced Menus, which still work great. There’s nothing wrong with Menus. I have to use Office and Win10 at work. It’s such a relief to get home to my iMac or even pull out the iPad during lunch. If I do end up leaving Mac it would be for Linux, not Windows.

skipaq

It runs Windows/Linux which are non-starters. I will be buying a new iMac next month. @JonGl, my neighbor has been using Windows all his life and hasn’t yet figured out how to access/use a thumb drive on his laptop. Every time he needs to put something on a thumb drive he asks me for help. I use my MacBook Pro to download the files to his thumb drive. The Windows desktop and file services is not something I enjoy dealing with; so I do anything to avoid using it.

JonGl

My one, super-big complaint with Windows 10 is the pathetic and anemic File Explorer. Worse, there is nothing on Windows that comes close to the Mac’s Finder. I still have my MacBook Pro running on my desk, connected to a large monitor, sharing and serving files, but honestly, it’s just so much easier to find the files I need on the Mac, and then, once located, go back to Windows to navigate to and open the file. The only redeeming feature of File Explorer to me is how much better it is at mounting FTP volumes, and the performance in… Read more »

The first person who can load a stable MacOS on this hardware (aka Hackintosh) could become wealthy over night. Apple is asleep at the wheel making thinner “handheld” desktops, thinking it actually makes a difference to us.

We miss you Steve.

geoduck

By the way: In Windows 10, right click on the Start Button and you get a menu. Select Control Panels and you get most of the missing controls from Win7. I love my 27″ iMac. But I took a good hard long look at this unit. Especially as it is Linux certified. I ended up getting a Mac, partially because I’m tied into the Apple ecosystem. A bigger factor was that this with options, plus a 27″ 5k screen would have been in the same ballpark for price. But it was a close thing. If Apple doesn’t get off their… Read more »

Hagen

I have too much invested in Mac software to make such a switch, but this might make a very nice supplemental machine — especially if I can switch between the two computers on one display. Would this make a good Steam gaming platform?