HP Z800 Workstation review

At its launch, HP referred to its Z800 as a rock star amongst workstations. We take it for spin to see if it deserves to sit centre stage or if it should head back into rehab.

HP has not bothered with any time wasting covers for the front of the machine, and you'll have direct access to an optical drive - a LightScribe capable DVD writer in this case - and beneath this are two free 5.25in bays should you need to add more. A strip down the right hand side contains a line of buttons and ports - the power button that lights up blue, and a flashing yellow light that indicates disk activity.

There are three front mounted USB ports, headphone and microphone sockets and a full 6-pin FireWire port, which makes a lot of sense for its target audience, which could well be editing digital video. Round the rear of the machine you'll find six more USB ports and another FireWire socket along with two Ethernet ports.

The side of the workstation immediately impresses with a large brushed metal side panel that feels very solid and has the HP logo embossed into the sides. A level handle sits at the top and there's a lock so you can keep the expensive internals safe from casual thieves. Lift the handle and the side comes easily away. Impressively, a full schematic guide is etched onto the interior, so you can easily see the layout if you need to locate items for upgrading or diagnosis, without having to worry about a sticker peeling off years down the line.

One of the chief selling points of the Z-series is its tool-less entry and on the inside you'll find an impressive machine. Firstly, all the parts you might need access to that can be opened and removed are indicated by a green marker. This includes four 5.25in hard disks, the optical drives and the fans.

Perhaps the coolest aspect though is the power supply. Rating at 1,100W and 88 per cent efficiency, it's unlike any PSU you'll find in a standard desktop. Rather than the usual oblong, it's thinner and runs across the top of the chassis from the front to the back. Air is drawn in from the front of the machine, and expelled at the rear and by keeping out of way of the internals it frees up more space and improves airflow there.

To speed up fault diagnosis, it can be removed in seconds just by unplugging at the rear, and pulling on the handle at the side. Plug it back in and a light at the back illuminates to show if it's getting power or not, helping to speed up diagnosis in case of failure and removing the need to have an engineer sent out.

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