Workstations are specialized to deliver a lot of reliable computing power. After all, you can’t be expected to spend more than $2,500 on a PC without a good reason. The HP Z240 Small Form Factor (SFF) ($3,265 as tested) is a single-processor desktop workstation that will fit well in tight spaces. Inside is a four-core Intel Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics, and the system is a lot less expensive than the Digital Storm Slade Pro, our top pick. sacrifices some expandability and power compared with its larger competitors, its a good choice for a small space.
Design and Features
The Z240’s small form factor (SFF) case looks like a standard business desktop, without embellishments such as the built-in carry handles found on the Dell Precision Tower 5810Best Price at Amazon. It measures 13.3 by 4 by 15 inches (HWD), much smaller than the tower cases of the Precision 5810 or Digital Storm Slade Pro.
Behind the front panel is a reusable screen filter that can be cleaned. Keeping dust out of the case helps the system run at peak efficiency and prevents overheating. The tool-less case makes it easy for you or your IT folks to install upgrades and replace defective components without a screwdriver. As configured here, though, you won’t necessarily need a lot of extras.
The Z240 comes with 32GB of DDR4 system memory, two 256GB solid-state drives (SSDs), and a tray-loading DVD burner. You’ll have to swap some memory out to upgrade to the Z240’s maximum of 64GB. The boot SSD is a M.2 PCIe drive that HP calls its Z Turbo Drive G2; the data SSD is a simpler 2.5-inch SATA drive. The system has additional space for an internal 3.5-inch drive, an externally accessible 3.5-inch drive, two PCIe x1 cards, and one PCIe x4 card (with a wider x16 physical connector). The latter is made more for speedy accessories—say, an additional PCIe-based SSD—rather than for an additional graphics card. In any case, those cards must be half-height, because of the system’s slim body. That means that high-end workstation graphics cards such as the Nvidia Quadro M5000 won’t fit into either slot.
As for external connectivity options, the front panel has a combination microphone and headset jack, as well as a second headphone jack. Two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports are on the front. In back are a line-in audio jack, a line-out audio jack, an Ethernet port, a PS/2 mouse port, a PS/2 keyboard port, a serial port, and six USB 3.0 ports. The Quadro K1200 card has four Mini DisplayPorts on it; you’ll need adapters for regular DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI. Three full-size DisplayPorts are connected to the motherboard on the back of the system, but they are inactive because the Xeon processor doesn’t have integrated graphics. That’s not a huge drawback, since the Quadro card has more than enough connectivity to make up for them.
The system runs Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, but the license lets you download and replace it with Windows 10 Pro for free. The Z240’s components are ISV certified, so they are guaranteed to work with major professional applications such as 3dsMax, AutoCAD, and Maya. The only other software on the SSD is HP Performance Advisor, which can fine-tune the system’s settings to work best with many common apps, like the ones listed above. The Z240 comes with a three-year warranty.
The workstation is equipped with an Intel Xeon E5-1270v5 processor running at 3.6GHz and a 4GB Nvidia Quadro K1200 graphics card. The Xeon E5-1270v5 is a four-core processor with Hyper-Threading, and the Quadro K1200 is a midrange card designed to work well in SFF workstations. The Z240’s PCMark 8 Work Conventional score (3,594 points) was mid-pack, behind systems including the Dell Precision Tower 5810 and Digital Storm Slade Pro
Since the system has a quad-core processor, its multimedia scores compare well with workstations such as the Boxx Apexx 2 and HP Z1 G2. The Z240 made short work of the multimedia tests. It finished the Photoshop and Handbrake test in 2 minutes 45 seconds and 0:54, respectively. The Apexx2 finished Photoshop and Handbrake in 2:28 and 0:54, and the HP Z1 G2 (2:49 and 1:06) was a bit slower. Those scores are great for those looking to use these desktops for visual arts projects.
The Z240 scored 842 points on the CineBench test, which shows that it can perform esoteric number crunching, such as 3D CGI rendering (and by extension, tasks like oil exploration and aerodynamics testing). However, that score was far behind systems with more compute cores in their processors, including the Dell Precision Tower 5810, Digital Storm Slade Pro, Falcon Northwest Tiki Workstation, and Origin Chronos Pro$9,620.00 at Origin PC. The latter four systems come in at double or even triple the Z240’s purchase price, though, so the difference in performance is understandable. The Boxx Apexx 2 is closer to the Z240 in capabilities, price, and scores.
3D gaming performance is reasonable for a system that fits in tight spaces. The Z240’s 3DMark Cloud Gate (17,704) and Fire Strike Extreme (1,567) scores were decent, as were its frame rates at Heaven (20fps) and Valley (22fps) at Ultra quality settings, though again, the larger and more expensive machines out-muscle the Z240. The Quadro K1200 is fine for low-level 3D tasks and 2D content creation, but larger systems simply have more power. Likewise, you’d want a Quadro M4000 (as in the Digital Storm Slade Pro), M5000, M6000, or K6000 (as in the Dell Precision Tower 5810) for 4K and VR support.
The HP Z240 SFF is a fine choice if you need ISV-certified computing power for a small space. Because of its quad-core processor and more modest 3D graphics card, this system is better suited for tasks such as monitoring financial trends and 2D digital content creation than performing heavy number crunching—say, creating 3D CGI films. For the latter tasks, you’d be better off with our Editors’ Choice Digital Storm Slade Pro. But the Z240 is still a prime candidate for less taxing yet pivotal needs, like reading a CT scan or finishing a set of photographic proofs on deadline.