HP Z8 G5 Workstation ReviewFebruary 7, 2024
We’re going to be looking at the HP Z8 G5 Workstation (SHOP HERE). No, not the Fury, but we did review that one a few weeks back and you can take a look at that here. But this one is just the Z8 G5. Actually, not “just” the Z8, because there really is no “just this, or just that…” about this system. That would be like saying a Ferrari is just a car. We’re talking dual 4th generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors, up to 1TB of DDR5 memory, plus support for two high-performance NVIDIA or AMD GPUs. End rant. Let’s get to it!
This system is good for anything you can throw at it but HP specifically mentions BIM and 3D CAD, Rendering with ray tracing in real time, plus advanced simulations and visualizations and that’s just the Architecture Engineers and Construction or your basic AE & C side. Then there are the Creative media and Entertainment professionals who need fast video editing, powerful visual effects, sound, and color editing. Also, Product Designers and engineers, data scientists and Analytics and software developers integrating virtual reality into their virtual worlds.
The HP Z8 G5 has the same case as the Z8 Fury G5. They are actually kind of hard to distinguish between the two as there is no Fury printed on the Fury case so it looks just like the Z8 G5. It’s kind of like that Parent Trap movie where they both look the same but one has a Posh English accent and the other is from Sonoma wine country in California or something. They may look the same, but definitely have their own personalities. Performance-wise, the Fury has the edge with support for up to 4x GPUs with a single processor and more memory. But don’t discount the HP Z8 G5 with dual 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs, up to 1TB of memory, and support for 2x double-wide GPUs. The Z8 G5 is perhaps better suited for processor-intensive workloads but also benefits from a little GPU acceleration.
On the front of the HP Z8 G5 chassis, there is a handle at the top, a control panel, 2x 5.25-inch media bays, and an optional slim-line optical device. Only one of the 5.25-inch media bays is configurable from the factory. The control panel offers a Power ON button, HDD Activity LED, combo headphone/microphone jack, 4x SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5 Gb/s ports, with the far left one supporting battery charging. There is also an optional SD card reader. The Fury had two options for the control panel with slightly different ports, a standard and premium version of which offered a few 20Gb/s USB Type-C ports.
For the media bays there are options. You can install a single 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drive in an optional HP DX175 drive cage which fits into the front 5.25-inch media bay. The drive frame holds a rugged drive carrier providing additional security with a lock and something that is easily removeable for transport, or for use as backup. You can even get a spare carrier for it too.
Another drive cage option supports dual M.2 drives. Not sure why the Quad M.2 drive cage is not supported on this system but we don’t make the rules. The quad is for the Fury and the Z6 G, while the dual version is for this platform and the Z4 G5. Like it says in the name, 2x M.2 drives that are also removeable in these cute little aluminum hot-swap caddies. Both drive options are made in partnership with CRU and we placed a link down below for more information on the Media-Bay storage options. That CRU SHIPS module kit supports select M.2 drives.
On another note, the SHIPS part, you guessed it. Another acronym for Secure High-Performance Storage. I think they just threw the “I” in there. It has an active Management feature called FANS an acronym for Front-Accessible NVMe Storage. More on that in a bit.
On the back of the HP Z8 G5, again you have the handle at the top. A PSU on the left-hand side can be either 1125W at 110V that will go up to 1450W using a 200V socket. The other option is a 1450W PSU at 110V or up to 1700W using a 200V socket. Both are 90% efficient.
The I/O panel offers a Power ON button, 6x USB SuperSpeed Type-A ports offering 5Gb/s data transfer speeds, and 2x integrated RJ45 1Gb Ethernet ports. That knock out panel is where you can install 2x more RJ45 10GbE LAN ports.
This system does not have integrated monitor support so you will need a discrete graphics card to power any monitors you might add. Those graphics cards will also determine how many monitors you can add. If you plan on using older monitors, it is possible you may need an adapter to connect the monitor to your system. You can also add in a Thunderbolt 4.0 card for super-fast data transfers.
Once we pop open the system, The Z8 G5, Like the Z8 FURY, has a very clean layout with brushed aluminum panels covering everything. No doubt these panels offer sound insulation as well to support the whisper-quiet acoustics.
Yes, this system is very silent. The blue bars inside indicated removeable components or something that might secure something else, like that one for the media bays that you just tilt up a bit to release whatever you might add there. So, don’t expect everything to come out. Excessive force, not required on this system. Once you remove the brushed aluminum panels, a cooling shroud covers the CPUs and memory module slots. Fresh air is directed from the front of the chassis to the rear with definite cooling zones. For the memory, in-line CPUs and PCIe slots at the bottom of the chassis.
The Towering CPU heat sinks features a vapor chamber. In other words, the copper hoses in those aluminum cooling fins have a bit of liquid which circulates at higher temperatures to effectively cool the CPUs. Well, that and the integrated fans on each of those heat sinks.
The CPUs are from the Gold, or Silver 4th generation Intel Xeon Scalable series of CPUs. the top-rated gold supported on this system, the 6448Y, supports a TDP of up to 225W, has 32 cores and 64 virtual threads plus a base clock frequency of 2.1GHz and 4.1GHz Max Turbo Frequency. It also supports memory speeds of up to 4800 MHz. Again, these CPUs do not offer integrated graphics support and that is where you need the GPU. With both CPUs installed, you can realize up to 64 Physical Cores and 128 Virtual Threads.
With 8x memory channels per CPU and 16 memory modules total, you can install one memory module per channel. At capacity it will support up to 1TB of memory with all slots loaded with 64GB Registered DDR5 memory modules. As a matter of note, DDR5 memory does provide a 1.6 Times increase in performance over DDR4 at only 3200GHz. Memory speeds are dependent on the CPU and include 4800 MHz, 4400 MHz, and 4000MHz depending on your choice of CPU.
Also, you can install up to 136TB of storage in this baby. There are two PCIe Gen 4.0 x8 slots at the top of the chassis or personality slots as HP likes to call them. Those can be outfitted with dual M.2 NVMe drives mounted in an HP Dual Z-Turbo M.2 drive carrier. If you want to use both of those slots you will need both processors installed. That goes for memory and PCIe slots too.
Both processors installed for full support. Additional storage can be added via the PCIe slots using Quad or Dual M.2 Z-Turbo drives. If you do add the Dual NVMe M.2 drive carrier in the 5.25-inch media bay then the NVMe connection for that is just below the personality slots on the system board.
If you add in SSDs and want RAID options, a virtual RAID on CPU or VROC key can be installed (Just below the last PCIe slot). VROC will provide RAID options of 0, 1, and 10 with a standard key or add RAID 5 to the mix with a Premium key and up to RAID 10 with some after-market VROC upgrade module.
As you can see there are 4x 3.5-inch storage bays in the lower right of the chassis. Depending on how storage evolves over the next few years that value will most likely not age very well as they are listing 12TB SATA drives and up to 4TB for the M.2 drives. Using those maximum capacities for drives, the 136 TB is achieved using a combination of M.2 and 3.5-inch SATA. Specifically, 2x M.2 drive in the Media Bays, the 4x internal drive slots with 3.5-inch SATA, the 4x personality M.2 drives, and probably 4x HP Quad Z-Turbo drives in the PCIe slots. That doesn’t leave much room for GPUs… There are 7x PCIe slots featuring a mix of PCIe 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0. Considering the options GPUs in slots 2 and slot 4 which are PCIe 4 and 5 respectively with a x16 length and link width.
Setting up Linux operating systems is a different animal from Windows but there is documentation in the User Guide to help you do it. If the lights on the front or back panel start blinking or if you hear beeps coming from the system it is definitely telling you something. This is where you start troubleshooting for problems. There is a Maintenance and Service Guide which can help you with that. Also useful, is the HP PC Hardware Diagnostics of which there are three versions. One for Windows, one for the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface or UEFI, and one a remote version of the UEFI version. Select models only… HP Sure Recover is built into the hardware and software and can help restore the system without installed recover software. It is only available on select products but at the top of the line, we’re going to assume the HP Z8 G5 is one of them.
HP Anywhere is available in a PCIe mounted card or externally mounted device. HP Anywhere provides remote access to the system from a single, secure interface. It enables remote support and maintenance from anywhere you have an Internet connection. The front CRU SHIPS modules also have their own Front Accessible NVMe Storage, or FANS software. FANS is a separate software utility, to facilitate rapid ejection and general monitoring of the drives including internal drives that may be part of a RAID with those mounted in the media bay. For documentation on all of this stuff visit IT Creations.
For the HP Z8 G5 we installed two AMD Radeon PRO W6800 GPUs at a power draw of 250W each. The Pro W6800 GPU is an enthusiast card, and we’re going to say “enthusiast” is not very well defined. However, the performance of this card is measurable and easy to define. High-Performance. It features a PCIe 4.0 interface, 32GB of GDDR6 ECC memory, Hardware Ray tracing, up to 6x high-definition displays, and accelerated software multi-tasking! Yes! There are 6 mini-DisplayPorts on the card! These are a few of our favorite things. The Pro W6800 used to be AMD’s Greatest GPU ever and it does still say that on the site but we’re going to assume that honor is now in the possession of the AMD Radeon PRO W7900 card. That one consumes up to 295W, peak. The W7900 is advertised as a Professional graphics card, also has RDNA 3 architecture, and 48GB of GDDR6 memory. Still a PCIe 4.0 interface. RDNA 3 is the next gen answer to RDNA 2 on the W6800 card. The NVIDIA RTX 6000 Ada is also supported on this platform. Along with quite a few others from both NVIDIA and AMD.
Bluetooth is another option you can install with the Intel AX210 Wi-Fi® 6E + Bluetooth® 5.2 non-vPro PCIe card. There is also a WLAN antenna for hooking up with all those wireless peripherals. As on the FURY, you can install a low-profile Thunderbolt card featuring a PCIe x4 interface. (NOTE: Option Kit Part Number 340L1AA). Also a few network cards you can add if you plan to rack-mount this system offering up to 25Gb Ethernet.
HP’s new line of Z-Series workstations is quite impressive to say the least, but they are missing a platform powered by an AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 7000 WX series processor, at least so far. Hopefully it’s on the near horizon. If you are looking for the HP Z8 G5 workstation or perhaps one of those other Z-Series G5 platforms, maybe an upgrade to an existing system, check out IT Creations.