Hewlett Packard's Nehalem-based Z400 and Z800 speed encoding performance

On March 30, 2009, Hewlett Packard announced three new workstations that leverage Intel’s new Nehalem line of CPUs. To assess the significance of these new computers to the streaming market, I tested two Nehalem-based systems against older generation dual core, quad-core and eight core systems, using a range of encoding programs, including Adobe Media Encoder, On2 Flix Pro, Rhozet Carbon Coder, Sorenson Squeeze and Telestream Episode.

Though performance varies by the task, on average, Nehalem outperformed a similarly configured eight-core system based upon the previous Intel Xeon architecture by over 40% in four of five tests, with an 18% performance boost in the fifth. Producers in mission critical, time-sensitive encoding applications should immediately start purchasing Nehalem-based systems like the HP Z800 over systems based upon Intel’s previous Xeon architecture.

If current throughput levels are an issue, you should also consider retiring your current workstations, and installing Nehalem-based systems. Producers who are considering expanding their render farm facilities to meet encoding demand should also consider swapping out current systems for Nehalem-based systems, which are more powerful and more power efficient. High volume producers should strongly consider a dual-CPU system, which typically perform much faster than single CPU solutions.

Finally, if you’re a small producer who’s been putting off purchasing a system for editing and encoding, boy, are you going to be glad that you did.


Hewlett Packard's Nehalem-based line has three computers, the Z400, Z600 and Z800, and I’ve been testing the Z400 and Z800 for the last month or so. Briefly, the Z400 is a single socket computer that maxes out at 16GB of RAM and 4.5 TB of internal storage, while the Z600 is dual socket capable (in English, can hold two processors) and can be configured with 24 GB of RAM and 4.5 TB of storage.

The high end Z800 is dual socket capable and expandable to up to 192 GB of RAM and 7.5 TB of internal storage. You can read more details about the new computers here. In conjunction with BMW Designworks, HP completely redesigned the cases for the Z600 and Z800, and the result is a great looking box with outstanding cooling characteristics and extremely quiet operation, plus the easiest access to components that I’ve ever seen.

You can view a YouTube video highlighting the unit’s accessibility below. The Z400 uses the old style HP workstation body, which isn’t nearly as good looking, but still features tool-less access to most components.

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