updated 12:35 am EST, Tue March 6, 2012
HP Z420, Z620, Z820 hint plans for others
HP confirmed that Intel was launching its long-in-the-making Xeon E5 workstation processors after it introduced a trio of new Z workstations. The regular Z420, mid-tier Z620, and flagship Z820 can all use the new E5-2600 chip line, which scales up to eight cores in one chip and has new ceilings for memory. At its extreme, the Z820 can have 16 cores across two processors, 14TB of storage, and a very large 512GB of error-correcting memory.
Based on the more recent Sandy Bridge-E architecture from gaming-friendly Core i7 processors, the E5 has an "optimized I/O infrastructure." Most if not all have Hyperthreading to double up on tasks per core, leading to as many as 32 simultaneous program threads.
The Z620 can have the 16 cores, but a more modest 11TB of disk space and 96GB of memory. Z420 buyers don't get the dual-core choice, but they can dip to more frugal E5-1600 chips and still have the 11TB disk choice.
All of them use NVIDIA's Quadro graphics for pro 3D, scaling from Quadro 2000 boards in the Z420 and moving up to the Quadro 5000 and 6000 in the Z620 and Z820 respectively. Dual Quadro 5000s are options in the Z620, and the 6000 can get the same treatment in the Z820.
HP isn't specific about configurations, although the E5 is relatively affordable. A Z420 starts off at $1,169, while moving to the Z620 costs a minimum $1,649 and the Z820 costs at least $2,299.
With Intel having yet to make a full production version of the E5 public, HP is effectively announcing the processors and giving a clue as to where others will go. Apple is expected to launch a Mac Pro update based on the E5, along with more modern graphics and pricing.