The HP Z1 G2 is the second version of HP’s 27in all-in-one PC workstation. It’s aimed at professional design studios, and comes with an nVdia Quadro graphics card, and an Intel Xeon processor with up to 32 GB of ECC system memory. 

Just about every all-in-one PC hides the internal components from the owner, and cannot be easily upgraded after purchase. The Z1 is uniquely different in this respect. The unit can be folded over on its hinge, pushed down and opened via two latches at the bottom. The screen then lifts away from the rest of the unit, exposing the innards (see below).

HP Z1 G2 Workstation review

The hard disk, 400 watt power supply, memory, main system fan and graphics card can be removed with attached handles. You’re given easy access to the motherboard and its two full-length mini PCIe slots. There’s also a disk bay that lets you fit either one full size 3.5in SATA disk, or two 2.5in drives. The only restrictions are the MXM (mobile PCI Express) graphics card connector, which means you can’t just use a retail graphics card. CPU upgrades are similarly restricted to the processors available during the order process.

HP Z1 G2 Workstation review upgrade

Although the first-generation Z1 was a clever piece of engineering, it was slightly limited by its middling performance compared with desktop workstations. This time, HP has given the specification a major boost, with the option of a Quadro K4100M, quad-core 3.4 GHz Intel Xeon E1245 v3 processor, 802.11ac wireless, 20 Gb/s Thunderbolt 2 connectors for use with displays or external storage arrays, and an mSATA SSD. The front of the Z1 is made from black plastic, with a silver metal backing plate. Four speakers sit underneath the screen, and there’s a 1080p webcam at the top.

A slot-loading optical drive is on the left-hand side, while on the right are two USB 3.0 ports, either one or two Thunderbolt 2 connectors, two 3.5mm analogue audio connectors and the power switch. The rest of the ports are inconveniently placed behind the unit, requiring some manoeuvring to access. Here you will find the power connector, ethernet port, four USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort, three more analogue audio connectors and one for digital audio.

The 2560 x 1440-pixel IPS display is top-notch. We measured a maximum brightness of 440 cd/m2, with no more than 4 percent deviation across the panel. It managed 100 percent sRGB, 84 percent AdobeRGB and 76 percent NTSC coverage. You can also choose a touch-sensitive version if you wish, although its colour accuracy is unknown. We received a high-end configuration of the Z1 G2, with a high price to match, but less expensive Quadros and Core i3 processor options are available.

HP Z1 G2 Workstation review touchscreen

The Quadro K4100M in our sample is a mobile GPU, roughly equivalent to an nVidia GeForce GTX 770M, with 4 GB of video memory, 1152 shaders and a 256-bit memory bus. Quadros aren't the best choice for games of course, but we tried some anyway. The Tomb Raider benchmark dipped below 30 fps at 1080p on Ultimate detail, and only hit a constant 60 fps after reducting resolution to 720p on detail to High setting. But the professional graphics processors excel at CAD or digital content creation, with CUDA acceleration and certified drivers to provide consistent performance.