HP Shows Off Powerful Entry-Level Workstations

Advancement is powered by ever-faster, cooler-running processors. In this case, the new six-core, 32nm Intel Xeon 5600 series chips are also the powers inside HP's higher-end Z800, Z600 and Z400 workstations, which deliver much-improved parallel-processing performance over previous products.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Hewlett-Packard is literally redefining the term "workstation." During a press event here at Raleigh Studios on March 24, it introduced two new entry-level workstations, the Z200 and the Z200 SFF (small form factor), that are powered by Intel Xeon multicore processors and feature the hot new DreamColor display technology.

Better news for the world's economy, however, is that the pricing for these powerful new computers starts at about $720. Depending upon how they are outfitted, the product line can run all the way to the $2,500 range.

Of course, all this advancement is powered by ever-faster, cooler-running processors. In this case, the new six-core, 32nm Intel Xeon 5600 series chips are also the powers inside HP's higher-end Z800, Z600 and Z400 workstations, which deliver much improved parallel-processing performance over previous products, HP workstation Vice President and General Manager Jim Zafarana told reporters at the company's annual global media event.

"HP has invested in research and development through the economic downturn, innovating on top of our industry-leading workstations to provide an undeniably differentiated experience in our new product," Zafarana said. "Our customers are famous for pushing the limits of innovation, and as their industries undergo digital transformations, their next generation of breakthroughs is being powered by HP technology."

The machines are used by a number of vertical enterprises, including architecture, Indy and Formula One Grand Prix racing teams, and movie studios -- like Raleigh, where television shows such as "Castle" and "The Practice" are made.

A decade ago, the word "workstation" meant a bulky, very expensive and often limited-to-task corporate computer with additional hardware and software to do high-end business computing tasks. Back then, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics were the industry leaders supplying these systems.

Now that those two brands have been acquired by other companies, they don't make "workstations" any more as a standalone product. HP believes it is the only company in the world still making these -- and profiting well as a result.

"Workstations have been a really good business for us for a long while," said James Taylor, a senior HP executive who manages the company's Indy car racing division. HP sponsors two Indy cars, driven by Davey Hamilton and Raphael Matos, and it uses its own workstations to monitor the cars during the 17 races in which they will compete in 2010.

"You'd be surprised at how well being connected with racing helps us sell our products. Our customers love riding in the cars and being involved. They get great products and services, and we get a great return for our investment."
Movie studios like Raleigh use these workstations to create, assemble and render computer-generated video. The faster the machines can play back and render the video, the less the whole operation costs and the quicker to market [or distribution] it gets.

HP showed a group of about 100 international IT reporters the Z200, the Z200 SSF and the three higher-end workstations. One of them is a 17-inch-screen mobile version that weighs a mere 8 pounds but packs a powerful punch. All feature HP's DreamColor display technology (which produces "billions" of colors-output and matches what the user sees on the screen with what is printed or displayed elsewhere -- such as on a billboard or poster).

All the workstations also feature HP's SkyRoom software, which comes preloaded. HP SkyRoom is high-definition videoconferencing that offers live, real-time collaboration for face-to-face meetings plus document sharing -- all on the same screen at the same time.

In a demonstration for eWEEK, SkyRoom had three windows up on the screen: one for each of two participants (it will accommodate up to four users per session) plus one for a 3-D graphic file that the two people were discussing. Although the application is running on only one of the two users' workstations, it can be amended by either person but saved only on the originating machine.
The owner of the application, however, has the final power over the doc; he or she controls whether the file is filed and stored, and in what version. SkyRoom is built on HP video and image processing engines and provides hi-fi audio, HD video and high-performance 3-D application sharing.
The HP EliteBook 8740w Mobile Workstation with AVI or Nvidia graphics is HP's most powerful mobile workstation. This one is for true professionals (architects, filmmakers, etc.), since it delivers advanced graphics and performance capabilities.
Depending upon how it is outfitted, the mobile workstation can run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500.
The Z-series workstations are being rolled out during the next several weeks, with the Z200 and Z200 SFF available now.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...