Home Consumer HP Z2 SFF G8 Workstation Review

HP Z2 SFF G8 Workstation Review

by Brian Beeler
HP Z2 SFF G8

The HP Z family has been a stalwart line of professional-grade PCs created to meet the needs of intensive use applications like those used by design professionals and data scientists. With the new G8 series of systems (yes, HP jumped from G5 to G8) HP launches with the new Intel 11th Gen Core (Rocket Lake) CPUs and Ampere graphics from NVIDIA. Today’s launch includes two new workstations, the Z2 Tower G8, and the system we have in the lab for this review, the HP Z2 SFF G8 Workstation.

The HP Z family has been a stalwart line of professional-grade PCs created to meet the needs of intensive use applications like those used by design professionals and data scientists. With the new G8 series of systems (yes, HP jumped from G5 to G8) HP launches with the new Intel 11th Gen Core (Rocket Lake) CPUs and Ampere graphics from NVIDIA. Today’s launch includes two new workstations, the Z2 Tower G8, and the system we have in the lab for this review, the HP Z2 SFF G8 Workstation.

HP Z2 SFF G8

HP Z2 SFF G8 vs. G5 – What’s New

Of course, the Z2 SFF G8 benefits from most of the uplift that the new Intel platform provides. The trouble with small form factor (SFF) platforms at times though, is due to the smaller chassis, compromises have to be made. You simply can’t fit a full-height full-length GPU in this chassis or select the most powerful CPUs that require more power draw and cooling. The Tower Z2 G8 is designed for those mainstream needs. On the other hand, these SFF systems are designed for professionals that run apps that require a high degree of performance but are space-constrained.  With the Z2 SFF G8, HP has managed that dance extremely well.

Let’s start with the CPU. The Z2 SFF Gen8 uses the Intel W580 chipset and supports a wide range of processors. Specifically, HP has support for 125W 8-core processors with frequencies up to 5.2GHz with Turbo Boost, 2.5GHz base frequency in the Intel i9-11900F. These systems also support the Intel K series processors as well, for those who want a little more pop. The Intel i9-11900K delivers 3.5GHz base with Turbo Boost notching 5.3GHz. For those wanting a Xeon option, HP has you there with support for up to a Xeon W-1390P.

HP Z2 SFF G8 SSD

Looking at storage, the HP Z2 SFF G8 gets access to PCIe Gen4, which doubles the bandwidth from Gen3. It has one onboard NVMe Gen4 M.2 slot, which can now house a speedy HP Z Turbo Drive. Another M.2 slot is also available, but with a slower Gen3 speed. Our configuration shipped with a 512GB Gen4 SSD and a 1TB SATA HDD, for those times when you need a spinner for extra capacity. Overall there are a number of combinations when it comes to storage. The Z2 SFF G8 supports up to three hard drive bays and twin M.2 NVMe ports.

DRAM gets an upgrade in this system too, with support for up to 128GB DDR4 memory at an increased memory speed of up to 3200MHz. There are four DIMM slots on the board. Our system is populated with two 16GB modules.

HP Z2 SFF G8 GPU

Of course, graphics are critical for this market. All of the CPUs support Intel integrated graphics. Depending on the CPU selection, the Z2 SFF G8 comes with Intel UHD Graphics 730, Intel UHD Graphics 750, or Intel UHD Graphics P750. Discrete GPUs are supported as well, including the AMD Radeon Pro WX 3200 (4 GB GDDR5 dedicated), NVIDIA Quadro P400 (2GB GDDR5 dedicated), NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 (6GB GDDR6 dedicated), and the NVIDIA T1000 (4GB GDDR6 dedicated). Our review system received the RTX 3000 treatment, which is a custom-made card from HP.

HP Z2 SFF G8 PCIe Slots

Looking at the expansion capabilities of the Z2 SFF G8, things get a bit tricky. While PCIe Gen4 is brought to one of the two M.2 NVMe slots, its reach doesn’t go very much farther. The Z2 SFF G8 includes one PCIe Gen4 x16 slot, which is only for the graphics card. Per the NVIDIA information panel, the Quadro RTX 3000 connects at a PCIe Gen3 speed. The next slot is a x1 physical, x1 electrical slot, which gets blocked by the dual width Quadro RTX 3000 card supplied.

Usable slots come down to a Gen3 x4 physical x4 electrical slot and a Gen3 x16 physical, x4 electrical slot. It would have been nice to see either a Gen4 add-on card slot or a more powerful x8 or x16 electrical slot to support high-bandwidth devices such as fast NICs. Being x4 Gen3 each, this means both slots will top out at just ~3GB/s each, being fine for a 10GbE or 25GbE NIC, but not fast enough to support a 100GbE NIC.

Powering all of this gear is the tricky part, especially given the space constraints SFF chassis have by their nature. HP has shoehorned in a 450W power supply, though a 260W option exists for less adventurous users. Like other systems in the Z family, the Z2 SFF G8 can be accessed via ZCentral Remote Boost. We’ve done a deep dive on the tech and a video walkthrough previously. HP also is proud of its security and sustainability build into the platforms.

The HP Z2 SFF G8 is going into production at the end of the month and should be generally available in May. Pricing is expected to start around $1169. Of course, our review unit is a pre-production build.

HP Z2 SFF G8 Specifications

Available Operating Systems Windows 10 Pro 64 – HP recommends Windows 10 Pro
Windows 10 Pro 64 High End
Windows 10 Pro 64 Workstations Plus
Windows 10 Home 64 Plus
Windows 10 Home 64 Advanced
Linux® Ready
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
Processor family Processor family 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor; 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 processor; 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i9 processor; 11th Generation Intel® Xeon® processor
Available processors
  • Intel® Core™ i9-11900K with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (3.5 GHz base frequency, up to 5.3 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 16 MB L3 cache, 8 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i9-11900F (2.5 GHz base frequency, up to 5.2 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 16 MB L3 cache, 8 cores)
  • Intel® Core™ i9-11900 with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (2.5 GHz base frequency, up to 5.2 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 16 MB L3 cache, 8 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i7-11700K with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (3.6G Hz base frequency, up to 5.0 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 16 MB L3 cache, 8 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i7-11700 with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (2.5 GHz base frequency, up to 4.9 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 16 MB L3 cache, 8 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i5-11600K with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (3.9 GHz base frequency, up to 4.9 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB L3 cache, 6 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i5-11600 with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (2.8 GHz base frequency, up to 4.8 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB L3 cache, 6 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i5-11500 with Intel® UHD Graphics 750 (2.7 GHz base frequency, up to 4.6 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB L3 cache, 6 cores), supports Intel® vPro® Technology
  • Intel® Core™ i5-11400F (2.6 GHz base frequency, up to 4.4 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB L3 cache, 6 cores)
  • Intel® Core™ i5-11400 with Intel® UHD Graphics 730 (2.6 GHz base frequency, up to 4.4 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB L3 cache, 6 cores)
Chipset Intel
Form factor Small form factor
Maximum memory 128 GB DDR4-3200 ECC SDRAM; 128 GB DDR4-3200 non-ECC SDRAM
Transfer rates up to 3200 MT/s.
Memory slots 4 DIMM
Internal storage
  • 500 GB up to 2 TB 7200 rpm SATA HDD
  • 1 TB up to 8 TB 7200 rpm Enterprise SATA HDD
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm SED HDD
  • 256 GB up to 2 TB PCIe® NVMe™ TLC M.2 SSD
  • 256 GB up to 2 TB HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe® NVMe™ TLC M.2 SSD
  • 256 GB up to 2 TB HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe® NVMe™ SED Opal 2 TLC M.2 SSD
Optical drive HP Slim DVD-ROM; HP Slim DVD-Writer
Available Graphics
  • Integrated: Intel® UHD Graphics 730; Intel® UHD Graphics 750; Intel® UHD Graphics P750
  • Discrete: AMD Radeon™ Pro WX 3200 (4 GB GDDR5 dedicated); NVIDIA® Quadro® P400 (2 GB GDDR5 dedicated); NVIDIA® Quadro RTX™ 3000 (6 GB GDDR6 dedicated); NVIDIA® T1000 (4 GB GDDR6 dedicated)
Audio Realtek ALC3205-VA2-CG, 2.0W internal mono speaker
Expansion slots 1 PCIe 3 x4 (x16 connector); 1 PCIe 3 x4 (x4 connector); 1 M.2 2230 PCIe 3 x1; 1 PCIe 4 x16; 1 M.2 2280 PCIe 4 x4; 1 M.2 2280 PCIe 3 x4; 1 PCIe 3 x1 (x1 connector) (1 M.2 2230 slot for WLAN and 2 M.2 2280 slots for storage)
Ports and Connectors
  • Front: 2 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 10Gbps signaling rate; 1 universal audio jack; 2 SuperSpeed Type-A USB 5Gbps signaling rate (1 charging); 1 Type-C SuperSpeed® USB 20Gbps signaling rate (1 charging)
  • Rear: 1 audio-out; 1 RJ-45; 2 DisplayPort™ 1.4; 2 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 10Gbps signaling rate; 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate; 3 USB Type-A 480Mbps signaling rate
Optional Ports
  • Flex IO – choose one of the following options: 1 DisplayPort™ 1.4, 1 HDMI 2.0b, 1 VGA,1 2nd 1GbE LAN, 1 Dual SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate,1 SuperSpeed USB Type-C® 10Gbps signaling rate (15W USB Power Delivery,
  • Alt Mode DisplayPort™) 1 Thunderbolt™ 3 with SuperSpeed USB4 Type-C® 40Gbps signaling rate (cabled to PCIe® AIC); Front – 1 SD card reader; Rear – 1 serial
Available Keyboards HP USB Premium keyboard; HP Premium Wireless keyboard; HP Wireless Business Slim Keyboard and mouse combo; HP USB Business Slim SmartCard CCID Keyboard; HP Wired Desktop 320MK Mouse and Keyboard; HP Wired Desktop
320K Keyboard
Available Pointing Devices HP USB Premium Mouse; HP Wireless Premium Mouse; HP Wired 320M Mouse
Communications
  • Intel® I219-LM GbE
  • Intel® I350-T2 dual-port GbE NIC
  • HP 10 GbE SFP+ SR Transceiver
  • Intel® X710-DA2 dual-port 10GbE SFP+ NIC
  • Aquantia AQN-108 1-port 5GbE NIC
  • Intel® Ethernet Network Adapter I225-T1
  • Intel® X550-T2 dual-port 10GbE NIC
  • Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (2×2) and Bluetooth® 5 combo
Drive Bays One 3.5″ HDD; One slim ODD; Two M.2 NVME 2280 SSD; One 2.5″ HDD; One 3.5″ HDD
Software HP PC Hardware Diagnostics UEFI; HP Performance Advisor; HP Support Assistant; HP PC Hardware Diagnostics Windows; ZCentral Remote Boost; HP Desktop Support Utilities; HP Image Assistant; HP Notifications; My HP; HP QuickDrop
Security management HP Secure Erase; HP Power On Authentication; HP Sure Click; Windows Defender; HP Sure Sense; HP BIOSphere Gen6; HP Client Security Manager Gen7; HP Sure Start Gen7; HP Sure Run Gen4; HP Sure Recover Gen4
Security Software Licenses HP Pro Security Edition (select models)
Management features HP Driver Packs; HP Management Integration Kit for Microsoft System Center Configuration Management Gen4; HP System Software Manager (download); HP BIOS Configuration Utility (download)
Energy efficiency compliance ENERGY STAR® certified; EPEAT® Gold registered in US
Power 260 W 92% efficient, wide-ranging, active PFC; 450 W 90% efficient, wide-ranging, active PFC
Dimensions 13.3 x 12.1 x 3.95 in; 33.8 x 30.8 x 10 cm (Standard desktop orientation.)
Sustainable impact specifications Ocean-bound plastic in speaker enclosure; 45% post-consumer recycled plastic; 25% ITE-derived closed loop plastic; Bulk packaging available; 80 Plus® Gold power supplies available; Molded paper pulp cushion inside box is 100%
sustainably sourced and recyclable
Compatible displays All HP Z Displays and HP DreamColor Displays are supported.

HP Z2 SFF G8 Design and Build

As its name indicates, the HP Z2 SSF G8 is a compact workstation that measures just over 13 inches in length and just under 4 inches in height, allowing users to place it pretty much anywhere they want. Even though this workstation is small, it can still be configured to handle up to 20TB of storage with its three hard drive bays and dual M.2 SSD slots.

HP Z2 SFF G8 Drive Bays

Overall, we really liked the design of the new G8 workstation. It features a clean layout under the hood and is easy to service because of its tool-less design. It also has an optional dust filter, which we found to work very well. In addition, the HP Z2 SSF G8 has an incredible amount of flexibility with it comes to port configuration, so the following is just a general overview of all available ports.

The entire left side of the front panel is taken up by the enclosure’s ventilation grid, to help exhaust the warm air from the workstation. To the right of the ventilation is the HP Slim DVD-ROM/HP Slim DVD-Writer slot, with all the connectivity ports located below the optical drives: an SD card reader, four SuperSpeed USB type-A ports (one charging), a SuperSpeed USB-C port, a headphone jack, and the power button.

HP Z2 SFF G8 Back

Turning the Z2 SSF G8 around to the back panel shows more ventilation, the system fan, and the power port. In between these are the four PCIe expansion slots: Three PCIe Gen3 (x16, x4, x1) and one PCIe Gen4 (x16). To the left are the remaining connectivity ports: one DisplayPort 1.4, an HDMI 2.0b port, a VGA port, 1GbE LAN port, Dual SuperSpeed USB Type-A Gbps ports, one SuperSpeed USB Type-C 10Gbps port (with 15W USB power delivery), and a Thunderbolt 3 port (SuperSpeed USB4 Type-C, 40Gbps).

HP Z2 SFF G8 Performance

In order to gauge the performance of the HP Z2 SFF G8, we put it through a series of resource-intensive tests with the following configuration:

  • Intel Core I7-11700K 8C CPU
  • 32GB of RAM (2 x 16GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000
  • Z Turbo 512GB PCIe M.2

We will also be comparing it to the HP Z2 Mini G5, which features an Intel i7-10700K, 2x16GB of DDR4 RAM, an NVIDIA Quadro T2000, and two Z Turbo 2280 NVMe SSDs. As we mentioned above, the G8 brings with it some of the enhancements the new Intel platform offers, including the Intel W580 chipset. Moreover, one of the more significant differences in components is the GPU, as the RTX 3000 is a newer and higher-end professional graphics card.

HP Z2 SFF G8 vs HP Mini

Though its components don’t quite match up with the SFF G8 (which will show in our benchmarks), the older Mini G5 system can be configured with faster 10-core CPU options as well as the same RTX 3000 GPU. That said, Mini G5 hadn’t been updated to the new generation of Intel components during its production and it really comes down to form factor and expansion for its targeted use cases.

To kick off testing, since the HP Z2 SFF G8 offers a Gen4 NVME M.2 SSD we looked at the storage speed of the Z Turbo SSD supplied with the system. While the variant in our system is a Samsung OEM model, results may vary depending on the actual drive supplied with the system. We measured a read speed of 5.2GB/s and a write speed of 4.23GB/s from our boot drive.

First up is the SPECviewperf 2020 benchmark, the worldwide standard for measuring graphics performance of professional applications running under the OpenGL and Direct X application programming interfaces. The viewsets (or benchmarks) represent graphics content and behavior from actual applications, without having to install the applications themselves. The newest version of this benchmark went through some major updates late last year, including new viewsets taken from traces of the latest versions of 3ds Max, Catia, Maya, and Solidworks applications. In addition, they added support within all viewsets for both 2K and 4K resolution displays.

SPECviewperf 2020 (Higher is better)
Viewsets HP Z2 SFF G8
(NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000)
HP Z2 Mini G5
(NVIDIA Quadro T2000)
3dsmax-07 42.55 26.65
Catia-06 37.31 20.3
Creo-03 68.82 45.39
Energy-03 11.66 6.23
Maya-06 102.81 72.11
Medical-03 10.52 7.31
Snx-04 161.55 109.76
Sw-05 50.73 5.08

As you can see, there were huge gains in performance over the G5 when outfitted with the new RTX 3000 mobile professional graphics card. For scale though, you can see what the higher-end GPUs like the RTX 8000 have to offer.

Moving on with our performance benchmarks, we ran SPECworkstation3. This is a test that specializes in benchmarks designed for testing all key aspects of workstation performance; it uses over 30 workloads to test CPU, graphics, I/O, and memory bandwidth. The workloads fall into broader categories such as Media and Entertainment, Financial Services, Product Development, Energy, Life Sciences, and General Operations. We are going to list the broad-category results for each, as opposed to the individual workloads. The results are an average of all the individual workloads in each category.

SPECworkstation3 (Higher is better)
Category HP Z2 SFF G8
(NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000)
HP Z2 Mini G5
(NVIDIA Quadro T2000)
M&E 3.03 2.31
ProdDev 3.0 2.0
LifeSci 2.83 1.89
Energy 3.21 1.49
FSI 2.47 2.15
GeneralOps 2.53 1.93
GPU Compute 3.0 2.13

Next up is Blender, an open-source 3D modeling application. This benchmark was run using the Blender Benchmark utility. NVIDIA OptiX was the chosen render method. The score is in seconds, with lower being better. Across the board, the newer Quadro RTX 3000 offered huge gains over the Quadro T2000 inside the X2 Mini G5. In many cases, speeds were in excess of 2-3x faster.

Belnder OptiX, rendering time in seconds, (lower is better)
Category HP Z2 SFF G8
(NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000)
HP Z2 Mini G5
(NVIDIA Quadro T2000)
bmw27 44.536 117.911
classroom 212.719 482.917
fishy_cat 91.68 248.507
koro 291.337 451.578
pavillon_barcelona 247.811 666.425

Another 3D benchmark we will be looking at is LuxMark, an OpenCL GPU benchmarking utility. We’ve used the newest version, v4alpha0. Again the HP Z2 SFF G8 with the RTX 3000 offered big gains over the T2000, although the lead was slimmer on food.

LuxMark
Category HP Z2 SFF G8
(NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000)
HP Z2 Mini G5
(NVIDIA Quadro T2000)
hallbench 4999 3777
food 1488 1422

Our last test is the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) benchmark. Esri is a supplier of Geographic Information System (GIS) software. Esri’s Performance Team designed their PerfTool add-in scripts to automatically launch the ArcGIS Pro. This application uses a “ZoomToBookmarks” function to browse various pre-defined bookmarks and create a log file with all the key data points required to predict the user experience. The script automatically loops the bookmarks three times to account for caching (memory and disk cache). In other words, this benchmark simulates heavy graphical use that one might see through Esri’s ArcGIS Pro software.

The tests consist of three main datasets: two are 3-D city views of Philadelphia, PA and Montreal, QC, which contain textured 3-D multipatch buildings draped on a terrain model and draped aerial images. The third dataset is a 2-D map view of the Portland, OR region. This data contains detailed information for roads, landuse parcels, parks and schools, rivers, lakes, and hillshaded terrain.

ESRI ArcGIS Pro 2.3 Montreal
Drawtime Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 00:01:30.19
HP Z2 Mini G5 00:01:30.17
Average FPS Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 199.94
HP Z2 Mini G5 155.42
Minimum FPS Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 101.01
HP Z2 Mini G5 91.18

First is the Montreal model, where the Z2 G8 had slight gains over the previous gen, with an average drawtime of 00:01:30.19, an average FPS of 199.94, and a minimum FPS of 101.01.

ESRI ArcGIS Pro 2.3 Philly
Drawtime Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 00:01:00.19
HP Z2 Mini G5 00:01:00.230
Average FPS Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 139.94
HP Z2 Mini G5 122.46
Minimum FPS Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 91.43
HP Z2 Mini G5 79.70

Next up is our Philly model, where the Z2 G8 posted an average drawtime, average FPS and minimum FPS of 00:01:00.19, 139.94, and 91.43, respectively.

ESRI ArcGIS Pro 2.3 Portland
Drawtime Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 00:00:30.561
HP Z2 Mini G5 00:00:30.529
Average FPS Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 1,823.17
HP Z2 Mini G5 1,492.43
Minimum FPS Average
HP Z2 SFF G8 610.14
HP Z2 Mini G5 541.96

Our last model is of Portland. Here, the Z2 G8 posted slight gains over the older generation Z2 with an average drawtime, average FPS, and minimum FPS of 00:00:30.561, 1,823.17 and 610.14, respectively.

Conclusion

The HP Z2 SFF G8 manages to provide quite a bit of configurability alongside support for dedicated graphics, PCIe expansion slots and support for faster DRAM, PCIe Gen4 speeds (in some slots) and the rest of the uplift from the Intel Rocket Lake launch. Working with the HP Z2 SFF G8 over the last week has been interesting though. The SFF design is inherently all about compromises, and we see that throughout the Z2 SFF.

The bigger 450W power supply drives the 125W CPU and dedicated GPU, with enough left over for an SSD, a couple of HDDs and PCIe devices that can live off x4 power in the PCIe slots. But on the other hand, we only get one Gen4 M.2 SSD, the other is Gen3 and the lone Gen4 PCIe slot is taken by the GPU which is operating at Gen3. The system supports ZCentral Remote Boost of course, but if we wanted to put this in the rack, we can’t get 100GbE AND the GPU because we’re limited on slots with x16 electrical, 25GbE though is still an option though. Overall when you look at performance this platform has a lot to offer and gets around certain size constraints with a mobile-targeted GPU in a desktop form factor. Gen4 storage speeds are a big plus, and the dedicated low-power Quadro RTX 3000 help out across the board.

That’s not to say the HP Z2 SFF G8 falls short though, it just is what it is. An entry Z workstation that has a good deal of configuration flexibility, with several 8-core CPU options, discrete GPU and Gen4 M.2 SSD slot. There will be a lot of use cases where this SFF system will fit very well. For others, HP has systems both smaller with the Z2 Mini line and their standard full-fledge towers.

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