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By | Rik Myslewski 12th April 2011 20:13

HP juices desktop and mobile workstations

1 billion colors, no waiting

HP has rolled out a new spate of workstation-class machines: two desktops and three laptops designed for video and audio pros.

At this week's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the company also seized the opportunity to flog its self-calibrating DreamColor display systems, designed for the color-critical work performed by such worthies as animators and film editors.

HP Z210 Convertible Minitower (CMT) workstation

HP Z210 CMT workstation (click to enlarge)

The new workstation pair provide an entry-level foot in the door to HP's Z-series workstation line. Dubbed the HP Z210 Workstations, they're available in two models: Convertible Minitower (CMT) and Small Form Factor (SFF), as were the comparable models in the Z200 line, for which the new machines are upgrades.

"Entry level workstation [is] a critical part of our portfolio in that it provides the PC-like price points but gives customers the workstation value proposition that's really specifically designed for customers that are doing entry-level CAD and engineering or architecture," HP workstations product marketing manager Josh Peterson told reporters when briefing them on the Z210s.

"They're maybe doing video editing in Adobe Premier or Adobe Creative Suite," he continued. "They're very popular among our education accounts, whether it's engineering colleges or art-institute colleges where they're teaching engineering applications or digital media and entertainment type applications."

The Z210 line is based on Intel's new C206 chipset, which Peterson said qualifies it as a "true workstation value proposition with a workstation architecture." Both Z210s can be equipped with a 3.1GHz or 3.3GHz Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, or 3.4GHz i7 processors.

Moving further up the processor-power ladder, you can also choose a 3.1GHz, 3.2GHz, 3.3GHz, 3.4GHz, or 3.5GHz processor from the Xeon E3-12XX line. You can also choose either ECC or non-ECC memory of up to 32GB – when 8GB ECC DIMMs become available for that option.

HP Z210 Small Form Factor (SFF) workstation

HP Z210 SFF workstation (click to enlarge)

The new architecture, said Peterson, will provide the Z210 with "over 20 per cent better performance at lower prices than we had on the previous generation." The Z210 CMT starts at $659 and the SFF starts at $569, with both available now in the US. Availability in Europe and elsewhere was not announced.

You can also choose a broad range of graphics configs, including Intel HD Graphics 2000 for the Core processors or HD Graphics P3000 for the 3.1GHz Xeon E3-1225 variant. For 2D graphcis, you can choose among the AMD FirePro 2270, Nvidia Quadro NVS 295, or Nvidia NVS 300 cards. Single or dual graphics cards are supported. For what HP calls "Entry 3D," you can pick an ATI FirePro V3800, Nvidia Quadro 400, or Nvidia.

HP's definition of "Mid-range 3D" cards – the ATI FirePro V4800, ATI FirePro V5800, Nvidia Quadro 2000, or Nvidia Quadro 4000 – are available for the CMT version only, and you're on your own for picking up that Quadro 4000. The 4000 card is supported, but it will not ship with the machines.

The CMT provides five PCIe Gen2 slots of various flavors, plus two PCI slots. The SFF includes three PCIe slots and one PCI slot. The CMT also out-ports the SFF, with a wider array of configurations including optional FireWire 400 and USB 3.0 ports.

HP Z210 Small Form Factor (SFF) workstation behind monitor

If you're short on space... (click to enlarge)

As might be guessed, the larger CMT has more drive bays as well: three external 5.25-inch bays and three internal 3.5-inch HDD bays to the SFF's one internal 3.5-inch bay (and one shared with an external 3.5-inch bay) plus one external 5.25-inch bay.

Other options include an HP Blu-ray Writer, 22-in-1 media card reader, HP Thin USB Powered Speakers, and on the CMT, a Creative X-Fi Titanium PCIe Audio Card. Both Z210s also include Intel's vPro management capabilities on all but the Core i3 models, and have 90 per cent efficient power supplies, with the CMT's providing 400 watts and the SFF's providing 240.

The SFF does have one advantage over the CMT: you can fit it into HP's not-so-cleverly-named HP Integrated Work Center Stand for Small Form Factor, which essentially turns the SFF into a rather bulky all-in-one for a mere $129 – as long as you provide the 17-inch to 24-inch display.

Billions of colors on your lap

At the briefing, HP's DreamColor solutions architect Greg Staten took a few moments to remind his audience of his company's color critical–displays as potential partners to the Z210 CMT and SFF.

The wide-gamut, 30-bit DreamColor LCD displays can support over one billion active colors – 64 times the color capability of run-of-the-mill displays – which HP says essentially eliminates banding or contouring artifacts.

"We've had this display [technology] in release for about two and a half years," Staten said, explaining how the development of the original release came in response to requests from the motion-picture and animation studio DreamWorks.

"DreamWorks came to us and told us that they need to solve a problem: the CRT was going away, and there was not a single LCD from any manufacturer that met their requirements for color-critical work," he said. HP then worked with DreamWorks, along with Disney, Industrial Light and Magic, and others to design a display that was "custom-built for the feature-film, animation, and visual-effects industry."

According to Staten: "Two and a half years later, customers are still telling us that there's nothing else out there" comparable to the DreamColor displays, and that one of the features that customers tout is the greatly increased time between color calibrations due to DreamColor's self-calibrating feature.

"Typically, when they were working in the CRT world, they recalibrated every week," Staten said. One customer, he said, deployed a DreamColor display on a nine-month project, "and when they brought it in after about three thousand hours of use, then measuring with a Photo Research PR-680 – a very high-end spectroradiometer – there was not measurably significant change in the calibration."

Staten's restatement of the DreamColor story was in preparation for the announcement that HP's exisiting EliteBook line of high-end laptops – what HP call mobile workstations – two of which offer an option of that self-correcting, billion-collor, high-gamut display tech.

HP EliteBook 8460w, 8560w, and 8760w

HP's EliteBook line, two with optional DreamColor displays (click to enlarge)

The EliteBook line will now consist of three laptops mobile workstations: 14-inch, 15.6-inch, and 17.3-inch models, which have "all been redesigned from the ground up," according to Chris Convertito, HP's category manager for performance notebooks.

The new EliteBook line's design has been "cleaned up," according to Convertito, with case elements "aligned in a precision manner," with the multicolored-LED, touch-sensitive controls now replaced by simpler, less-distracting buttons, and with a glass touchpad that's about twice the size of that used in previous EliteBooks.

HP EliteBook 8460w

14-inch HP EliteBook 8460w (click to enlarge)

The 14-inch EliteBook 8460w will have a battery life "in the seven-eight hour range," according to Convertito, but he emphasized that that was an estimate, and not yet an official spec.

The 8460w has an AMD FirePro M3900 graphics card with 1GB of video memory, which Convertito characterized as "entry-level," and it is available with Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors – though clock speeds were not discussed at the briefing – and will accept memory of up to 16GB.

Ports on the 8460w include two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0 for charging, one eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, DisplayPort, FireWire 400, RJ-11 modem, RJ-45 Ethernet, plus a docking port and an external battery connector. An HD webcam sits above the display, which can be either 1366-by-768 or 1600-by-900 pixels – but not with DreamColor tech.

Storage options range from 250 to 750GB, and an expansion bay will accept either a secondary hard drive or an optical drive, including Blu-ray. At its most basic configuration, the 8460w weighs 4.9 pounds and costs $1,299.

HP EliteBook 8560w

15.6-inch HP EliteBook 8560w (click to enlarge)

The 15.6-inch HP EliteBook 8560w ups the top display resolution to 1920-by-1080 pixels. As with the 8460w, the available clock speeds of its Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors were not discussed, but the memory capacity is increased to 32GB.

Three graphics choices are offered in the 8560w: an AMD FirePro M5950 with 1GB of GDDR5 video memory, and an Nvidia Quadro 1000M and Quadro 2000M, both with 2GB of DDR3 video memory.

The complement of ports on the 8560w are identical to those on the 8460w, and also like the 8460w, it has Gigibit Ethernet plus ExpressCard/54 and SD/MMC slots. Storage options begin at 320GB, with the same expansion bay options.

You can choose to equip the 8560w with a 1920-by-1080 pixel DreamColor display, or either a 1600-by-900 or 1920-by-1080 standard display. At its most basic configuration, the 8560w weighs 6.69 pounds and costs $1,349.

HP EliteBook 8760w

17.3-inch HP EliteBook 8760w (click to enlarge)

The big boy in the new mobile workstation line is the 17.3-inch HP EliteBook 8760w, which HP says is designed to meet "tough military standards" (MIL-STD 810G) for drop, vibration, dust, altitude, and high temperature.

The 8760w has the same processor and memory specs as does the 8560w, and the same ports and slots as do its two siblings. Graphics options include an AMD FirePro M5959 with 1GB of GDDR5, an Nvidia Quadro 300M and Quadro 400M, each with 2GB of GDDR5, and – beginning in June of this year – an Nvidia Quadro 5010M with 4GB or GDDR5.

You can stuff the 8760w with up to three hard drives, and if you're interested in some data protection, RAID 5 is supported – which HP says is a first for their mobile workstations. As with the 8560w, display options include a 1920-by-1080 pixel DreamColor display, or either a 1600-by-900 or 1920-by-1080 standard display.

In its base 7.55-pound configuration, the 8760w starts at $1,899 and – like the two smaller EliteBooks – is expected to be available in the US in May. ®

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