HP Z1 G2 review

The HP Z1 G2 is a unique computer. All-in-ones – computers that combine the screen and desktop components into a single slimish unit – are two a penny, with Apple's iMac being the best known. However, while photographers and designers might weigh up the Z1 against the iMac – there's nothing to rival HP's singular PC for modelling and animation – whether for the kind of projects we cover here at Digital Arts or more 'real' things like CAD and architecture.

That the Z1 stands alone isn't necessarily in its favour. You'd have thought that if there was much of a market for this kind of PC, Dell and others would have produced rivals – as there are for pretty much every other workstation design you can think of. The lack of direct competition is the market admitting that this is a niche product – and the new G2 version with faster processors and an optional touchscreen and Thunderbolt 2 isn't going to change anything.

HP's revamped all-in-one workstation is more than an iMac-a-like – but is it better than a desktop? We put one to the test.

So here's the niche you're in if the Z1 G2 is going to appeal to you: you don't want a computer under your desk – or you don't have room for one – and don't mind your computer being less powerful because of that. Or, if you're a designer or photographer, you want something like the iMac but more powerful, more easily upgradeable and the very different aesthetics are more to your taste.

HP Z1 G2 review: Design

It would be very easy to talk down the Z1 G2's design, as it's much bulkier than the 27-inch iMac – but it's not better or worse, it's different. Which appeals is a matter of taste. The iMac's design says grace, the Z1's says power. The iMac is stripped back, the Z1 has everything (including some superfluous things like the option of a DVD drive, if you don’t want Thunderbolt).

Apple iMac vs HP Z1 G2: The Z1 is much bigger, but it's more powerful and upgradeable too.

If they were architecture, the iMac would be by Zaha Hadid, the Z1 by Richard Rogers.

The Z1 G2 feels – and is – heavy. Even tilting the screen gives your arms a workout, and constructing the thing when you first get it out the box is best done with a friend. Muscle ache aside though, there's something quite satisfying about the Z1's solidity.

Push the screen over to lie flat and push two latches, and the whole screen swings back to let you – or your IT support – into the Z1's chest cavity to quickly replace anything that's died or upgrade with newer/bigger parts. Try doing that with an iMac. It's a neat piece of design, and – while I've got a sneaking suspicion that after the initial fun of showing it off to people had worn off, I'd need to do this very rarely – in emergency it’ll be very useful indeed.

By not attempting to make the Z1 G2 as thin as the iMac, HP has had no trouble dotting ports around the sides of its main body. There are XX , so plugging in portable things such as storage, USB keys and your phone is a doddle.