- Powerful performance for the capital, as tested.
- Highly configurable.
- Compact for a mid-tower.
- Quiet cooling fans.
- Detachable dust filters.
- Standard three-year warranty.
- Unlocked CPU in test config (Core i9-9900K) isn’t overclockable.
A Powerful Entry-Level Tower
Some clarification is needed on the commercialization of the Z2 Tower G4 as an “entry-level” since it is not the cheapest tower workstation in the company. This name belongs to the Z1 Entry Tower, which is not a true member of the Z product line but changed its name to the HP EliteDesk desktop, which includes workstation components. The true Z towers, starting with the Z2 Tower G4, are designed to withstand loads and demands, and although the Z1 could not perform the same tasks, it was not designed specifically for them.
Within the Z2 line, the Z2 Tower G4 with Z2 Small Factor Factor and Z2 Mini is the most powerful in terms of size. For the next level of performance, HP offers Tower Z4, Z6 and Z8 workstations, which are suitable for most of us with unimaginable performance levels and prices. (Fun fact: the Z8 tower can be configured at a six-digit price).
Back to the Z2 G4 tower. It straddles the lines between the Lenovo ThinkStation P330 and P520/P520c tower workstations. The P330 offers cheaper Intel Core class processors like the Z2 Tower G4, but with the Quadro RTX 4000 GPU, it remains at the top. By getting the Quadro RTX 5000 to match with our HP review unit, the larger P520 is required which costs $4,254 for the corresponding loadout process. However, this is not a comparison between apples, since the P520 uses a Xeon processor that requires expensive ECC memory.
The situation is similar to Dell’s Precision workstation line. The Precision 3630 tower has Core-class processors, but you’ll have to get the giant Precision 5820 tower equipped with Xeon to get the Quadro RTX 5000 GPU for $4,691. So, if you’re looking for maximum Quadro-class GPU performance without a Xeon chip or ECC memory, HP seems to have created an attractive niche with the Z2 Tower G4. (Competitive prices can also be achieved with Xeon chips).
The Z2 Tower G4 is a compact mid-tower with a size of 17.1x14x6.7 inches (HWD). The all-black design isn’t very attractive, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the professional and commercial audience of this machine. Its only focus is the plastic front gate in an otherwise metallic tower.
Our review unit has an optional HP handle at 5.25 inches. This is a smart way to use the space that a refill plate would otherwise take if the device has no drives included. HP offers the Z2 Tower G4 with numerous readers for optical drives if you need one.
About two-thirds of the upper section contains the power switch, disc activity indicator, and front connectivity. Our review unit has a combined audio connection (headphones/microphone together) and some USB 3.0 type-A connections, while the space for the USB connection type-C and the SD card reader is filled with empty areas because our review unit is not so equipped. (These options cost $24 and $18 for custom models respectively.) HP said that making tower pricing as flexible as possible is not standard for them. In other words, if you don’t need them, you don’t have to pay for them and they are not included in the hidden costs. I see this argument in a business environment, but if it was a consumer-oriented PC, I wouldn’t have heard that this price range would not have USB-C as standard.
The front panel can be easily removed by gently pulling the bottom edge. Our review unit is equipped with an optional dust filter that covers the front fan to prevent most particles from entering the tower.
In a page out of aftermarket PC cases, the filter is held in place by magnets and needs to be washed for easy maintenance. It’s a great feature for any desktop tower, especially in the corporate world.
To gain access to the interior of the Z2 Tower G4, the door handle on the left must be pulled.
Not surprisingly, given the compact design of this tower, there is little space here. However, it is clear that things are well established and accessible. A blue ATX motherboard controls the storage space. The board has been expanded for this Z2 Tower G4 with better VRM modules for 9th generation processors from Intel. The Core i9-9900K in our review model is topped with an HP Z2 Z Cooler…
According to HP, this cooler is quieter and let the processor work better than on a normal air cooler. I couldn’t confirm it because I didn’t have access to a standard cooler, but I can say that the Z cooler works well. During the video encoding test, where I fully stressed the processor for approximately 6 minutes, the Core i9-9900K reached a maximum temperature of 83 degrees Celsius or well below its maximum nominal temperature, with almost no additional noise outside the tower.
However, the Z2 Tower G4 does not provide integrated overclocking control if it is equipped with an unlocked K Series processor, such as the Core i9-9900K in our review unit. I don’t think such a workstation is a big problem because it probably won’t be overloaded at any time for stability reasons, but the extra cost for the K Series processors is mainly for its overclocking potential.
The power supply is installed on the top. The 250-watt model comes standard with a baseline configuration, but the large load on our tester requires a 650-watt model with 80 Plus Gold certification, which is the most efficient option in the Z2 Tower G4. The cables are correctly routed, zipped and tied. That I don’t see on these types of big-box towers.
The airflow of this tower goes from front to back. The active inlet comes from a fan at the bottom of the front panel, strategically located to direct cold air over the graphics card and two M.2 openings for storage. Along with this unit, which comes with its own heat sink, a slot in the card is a 512GB HP-Z turbo engine. The third M.2 slot, which is hidden behind the graphics card in the photo, is for the optional WLAN card. (Our unit is not equipped in this way).
The Z2 Tower G4 can accommodate up to three 2.5″ or 3.5″ units for additional storage requirements. This review unit has one of the latter with 2 TB HDD. HP also offers alternatives to PCI Express SSD in two PCI Express slots. For RAM The Z2 Tower G4 has four DIMM slots for DDR4-2666. The Error-correcting code (ECC) memory is available in the Intel Xeon processor options. Our Core i9-based unit is equipped with two 16GB DIMMs with a 32GB dual-channel configuration. The maximum supported is 64 GB with four 16 GB DIMMs.
Our review unit comes with a professional Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU with 16GB dedicated memory. It is the most powerful card available for the Z2 Tower G4. I’m not sure what it adds to the price (it was not yet a separate option in the HP configurator), but the aftermarket versions cost around $2,100. (Yes, only for the card. Welcome to the world of workstation devices). The professional configuration of the GPU is one of the reasons why the Z2 Tower G4 is certified by an independent software vendor (ISV). The card in our unit comes with a blower-style cooler, four DisplayPort video output connectors, and a USB-C VirtualLink connector.
Air is vented through the rear fan and the power supply fan. Even under heavy loads, I noticed that the Z2 Tower G4 makes little noise and does not rise above normal domestic noise levels.
When it comes to connectivity, the motherboard provides an optimized but reasonable port selection for the central tower desktop. There are two legacy USB 2.0 ports, four USB Type-A ports, an Ethernet port, two DisplayPort 1.2 video output ports, and audio input and output connectors.
The two areas shown in silver represent HP Load Flex connection options. This is due to the idea of not equipping the tower with what you don’t need to keep the cost at a minimum. The space in the upper right corner represents the optional serial port (not included in our unit), while the other has multiple video output ports or other I/O ports (not included in our unit). They can be easily added in all areas if your needs change.
KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
The Z2 Tower G4 we’re looking at includes a USB keyboard and a mouse with its price. The two-button mouse has a scroll wheel and an optical sensor. It was comfortable for my usage and seemed durable enough.
At the same time, the keyboard is not a generic model, but an HP Premium USB keyboard. Note that this keyboard is not standard on the Z2 Tower G4 series only on some pre-installed models. (It is optional with configurable models and can be purchased independently.) The anodized aluminum surface makes it feel thin and almost like a knife. The island-style buttons have a satisfactory top-down movement. You can turn two feet below the keyboard to raise the back of the keyboard. Below is a handy feature lock that allows you to change the switch regardless of whether the F1 through F12 keys are as they are or as their secondary printed functions.
The keyboard does not offer any other functions such as ports or backlighting. It is a high-quality keyboard that comes with a PC, although it does not match some aftermarket models in terms of features.
I used recently tested tower workstations to compare the Z2 Tower G4. This is a lot, especially when it comes to processor performance. The HP Core i9-9900K octave chip more than match the Corsair One Pro i180 and Dell Precision 5820 10-core chips.
Corsair and Asus ProArt PA90 are strange because, although they are marketed as a workstation, they lack Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro professional graphics instead of relying on the GeForce RTX cards that are commonly used for games. The HP Quadro RTX 5000 is closely related to the GeForce RTX 2080. In our tests, it will be interesting to see how it can compete with the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPU.
PRODUCTIVITY, STORAGE & MEDIA TESTS
PCMark 10 and 8 are comprehensive service packages developed by UL PC experts (formerly Futuremark). Our PCMark 10 test simulates various productivity and content creation workflows in the real world. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web surfing and video conferencing. The test gives a numerical rating in possession; Larger numbers are better. PCMark 8 now has a storage subsystem that we use to evaluate the speed of the system storage subsystem. This score is also a patented numerical score. Larger numbers are better again.
The Z2 Tower G4 offers an excellent score of 7,344 points in PCMark 10 and leaves the competition far behind. (Well, everything except the Dell Precision 5820, which is unknown because it wasn’t compatible with the test). To be fair with Asus and Corsair devices, it is likely difficult to distinguish them from HP in general usage scenarios. In terms of PCMark 8 storage scores, all of these units are positioned around the 5000-point bar that we expect from systems with high-speed SSD boot storage.
Next is the Maxon Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to use all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench emphasizes the CPU instead of the GPU to display a complex picture. The result is a patented score that indicates a computer’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Approximately 2000 points are the norm for the Core i9-9900K processor used by Asus and the Z2 Tower G4. Although you have two cores less, you can measure the performance of the Dell 10 core with its higher clock. Corsair and its Core i9-9920X, a 10-core/20-thread processor consisting of the latest generation of Intel Core X processors that doesn’t lack in clock speed.
We also do a custom Adobe Photoshop photo editing comparison. When we started using Photoshop in the Creative Cloud in early 2018, we applied 10 sets of complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We count each operation and add up the total execution time. Lower times are better here like with the Handbrake. The Photoshop test highlights the processor, storage subsystem, and RAM, but can also use most GPUs to speed up the filter application process so that systems with powerful graphics cards or chips can recognize a boost.
This is practically a three-way draw with Corsair cleaning up the stern, which could have been bad. There is no doubt that all of these machines do a short work of every day in Photoshop.
3DMark measures the relative graphic flesh by presenting a series of games with highly detailed 3D graphics in a game style that emphasizes particles and lighting. We perform two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suitable for different types of systems. Both are benchmarks of DirectX 11, but Sky Diver is more suitable for laptops and mid-range computers, while Fire Strike is more sophisticated and designed for high-end computers to meet your needs.
The following is another synthetic graphics test, this time by Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the overlay test shows and draws a detailed 3D view and measures the control of the system. In this case, it is presented under the nickname of the Unigine company and offers a different 3D workload scenario than that of 3DMark and another statement about the machine’s graphics performance.
I do not overestimate these results since the Z2 Tower G4 and workstations are generally not geared towards these workloads related to the game. However, both 3DMark Fire Strike and Superposition (the latter at 1080p) provide good indicators of the 3D performance of the entire computer. HP and its Quadro RTX 5000 are predictably behind the Corsair with GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. However, let’s do some workstation tests to see what Quadro can do.
Cinebench R15 comes the first, this time with its OpenGL test, which uses the hardware-accelerated rendering functionality of GPU.
The only effect on these results is that in this type of rendering task, HP and Asus Quadro cards work much better than Corsair GeForce cards. I cannot say with certainty why Asus and its previous Quadro GPU match HP, but the CPU bottleneck is a possibility.
Now let’s try the POV-Ray 3.7 tool, which uses ray tracing to create 3D images. (Note that Nvidia’s patented RTX ray-tracing functions are not used.)
Because it is a CPU-dependent test, Corsair has an advantage, as in Cinebench. Unlike Cinebench, Asus and the Z2 Tower G4 high-clock eight-core processors outperform the Dell ten-core clock. More cores are not always better, but they are in this scenario.
Finally, we run SPECviewperf 13 to measure graphics performance in some professional sample applications. Our three sets of views are Creo, Maya and SolidWorks.
The Maya view is an absolute success between HP and Corsair, but HP dominates it in Creo and takes even greater control over Asus in the same test. I don’t have Corsair comparisons in SolidWorks, but HP also has a good advantage over Asus, which is not surprising given its newer and more efficient GPU. This is where the GPU comes from like the Quadro RTX 5000.
EXPERIMENTAL RTX TESTING
The Z2 Tower G4’s Quadro RTX 5000 GPU has ray tracing and Tensor cores of RTX lineup but none of our current workstation tests bring them to bear. I had to try them out, so I used an experimental version of OctaneBench that showed the scene. The test results are measured in mega samples per second. I ran the task with RTX on and then off.
The activation of RTX functions made the rendering almost three times faster and is only the average of all methods of rendering. I’m not sure how this test would work on a GeForce RTX-class GPU (I’ll try more on the OctaneBench because the relevant hardware passes through), so I can’t say if the Quadro is jumping. In this scenario, however, “real” workstation computers generally cannot be configured with dedicated, non-professional GPUs (like Z2 Tower G4). If the software you’re using can take advantage of RTX-specific features, Quadro RTX cards can be a simple addition.
The HP Z2 Tower G4 is a great choice for a mid-tower desktop. The entry-level model meets the standards of the workstation, but due to its almost unlimited configurations, it can be customized for any purpose. Due to the availability of Intel Core processors, which unlike some Xeon chips do not require ECC memory, it is also economical. It also offers very high-quality GPU options, such as the 16GB Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 card in our review unit, which is significantly different from any entry-level workstation.
Still, the bottomless configuration options for this tower may be your worst enemy. Although our unit was equipped with almost everything, some basic functions like USB-C and a flash-card reader were missing. Fortunately, nothing else was missing. The review model of Z2 Tower G4 is powerful, quiet, easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive for a complex workstation. A three-year warranty on the most cost-effective assembly site ensures completion and makes this your first choice for a medium-sized tower workstation.