As you would hope from a workstation, connectivity on the HP Z1 is good. On the left side we have the power button and status LEDs, the slot-loading optical drive which can be upgraded to a Blu-ray writer, SDXC memory card reader, Firewire 800 port, twin USB 3.0s, and headphone plus microphone jacks.
At the back there are a further three audio jacks for analogue surround, four USB 2.0 ports, a digital audio output, Gigabit Ethernet and Displayport in/out. Wireless is covered by Bluetooth 3.0 and of course Wi-Fi N. The only absentee on this extensive list that we would have liked to see is Thunderbolt, but then that’s only just making its way into enthusiast motherboards.
If we’re being particularly picky we kind of miss eSATA too. But really, our sole genuine complaint is that the rear connections are a major pain to get to. They’re awkwardly located behind the leg, making plugging in cables a genuine chore. This is the single element where HP has dropped the ball a little with the Z1’s design, though at least the most commonly used connectors are within easy reach.
Not only does this business-oriented behemoth give you a Blu-ray drive option, but there’s even an integrated 1080p (Full HD) webcam, and it’s adjustable to boot. With a little scroll wheel at the HP Z1’s top, you can adjust its angle to your liking or turn it ‘blind’. There’s also a multi-microphone array to pick up your voice with finesse. Eat that, other all-in-ones (and yes, we’re aware last year’s HP TouchSmart 610 had the same feature).
Thanks to its high-resolution 2,560 x 1,440, LED-backlit 27in IPS panel with excellent viewing angles, the HP Z1 is at the top of the all in one PC image quality game. Admittedly so far that’s no better than the 27in iMac and the newly announced Dell 27in AIO that uses Samsung’s PLS panel (as also found in the Samsung S27A850D monitor), but actually it rises above even these by using a 10-bit panel capable of 10.6 billion colours, with far higher out-of-the-box colour accuracy.
This makes the HP Z1 suitable as a graphics workstation or one where elements of visual design are involved. Of course, using its DisplayPort output you can hook up a dedicated monitor for colour-sensitive work, but unless you need to work in an extended colour space it’s not a requirement. This is yet another factor that goes a long way towards justifying the Z1’s high price.
Inevitably, the glass finish causes reflections, but it also aids colour saturation and black depth – not that either need a lot of help, as again the Z1 comes out swinging, and there’s only minimal backlight bleed to detract from what is an amazing experience for work or play.
The dual-cone front-facing speakers match up to the screen nicely by joining those on the 27in iMac as some of the best to be found on an all-in-one. They produce good clarity, depth and detail without skimping on bass, all at volume levels that can fill a small room – though a bit of distortion does creep in on maximum.
In other words, the HP Z1 is a great AIO PC for entertainment, especially when you add a sub-woofer through the dedicated output.