People like convenience. It’s why laptops are eating away at the desktop market. It’s also why we’re seeing ever more all-in-one (AIO) PCs, which basically means the computer bits are integrated into a display to make for a simple and clutter-free computing experience.
Within that sector, HP’s Z1 entrant is something rather special. It’s a 27in affair that uses the same high-quality IPS screen with its awesome 2,560 x 1,440 resolution as Apple’s equivalent iMac, except it’s further tuned for colour accuracy. It offers all the connectivity you could want, including USB 3.0, Displayport, a subwoofer out and even FireWire. It’s also one of the few all-in-ones this large to offer height adjustment.
But not even any of that is what’s most special about the Z1. As the world’s first workstation AIO PC, it’s upgradeable to ridiculously good specs including Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro graphics when you buy. And, even better, you can easily do many of these upgrades yourself using largely off-the-shelf components.
This negates one of the biggest disadvantages of AIOs generally: that you’re stuck with what you buy – if you’re lucky you can change the RAM and hard drive, but that’s it. The Z1 not only overcomes this limitation, but it does so in serious style. After folding the machine flat, you can pop it open by releasing two thumb catches, and swapping components is as easy as pie thanks to ingenious tool-free mounting - but more on that later.
The Z1 nicely merges corporate ‘chunky and edgy’ with some sleek, stylish touches such as its glass front panel and metal rear, to make for a very good-looking yet almost industrial 21.3kg machine. It’s the antithesis of the iMac, wearing its adjustable leg and abundant connectivity proudly on its metaphorical arm, and making no apologies for its lack of curvature.
Build quality throughout is good, with only the merest hint of creak or flex around the wide air grilles at the top and bottom. Considering the extra effort and fragility involved in creating a design that you can open like a book, HP has done a superb job.
As already mentioned, one of the ways this all in one PC stands out from the crowd is in offering height adjustability. It can also fold completely flat, as it uses a Z-shaped double-hinged leg to give it this ability. This does make us regret the absence of a multi-touch screen, for even on a workstation you might want to have a game of two-player touch-enabled pong.
It must be said that adjusting the Z1’s height isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, as it requires a firm hold and some effort with both hands. You can comfortably lift it to 9cm (more if you have four arms or can borrow some) and put it down to its base, which brings the chassis’ bottom to just under 2cm off your desk.