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HP Z2 Mini G3 review: The workstation for shrinking workspaces

The HP Z2 Mini G3 packs the performance of a traditional business-class tower in a case that's a tenth of the size. University computer labs, co-working spaces, or creative professionals looking for workstations in a small form factor will be happy with the Z2 Mini. It couldn't possibly be perfect, but is it worth your wallet's attention?

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HP Z2 Mini G3 Specifications

The HP Z2 Mini G3 starts at $699, but our review unit priced at about $2,000 came with these specifications:

CategoryZ2 Mini G3
ProcessorIntel Core i7-6700 processor
GraphicsNVIDIA Quadro M620 Graphics
Storage256GB Z Turbo Drive (OS image)
1TB SATA HDD (Data)
RAM32GB non-ECC RAM
OSWindows 10 Pro

HP Z2 Mini G3

There are plenty of ways to configure the HP Mini G3. HP lets you add 6th-generation Intel Core, 7th-generation Intel Core, or Intel Xeon E3 processors. You even have the option to get Windows 7 Professional or Linux. RAM options go up to 32GB, and you can get a combination of SSD or HDD for storage. While the entry Z2 Mini G3 includes integrated Intel HD Graphics, those who require more power can choose to add a dedicated NVIDIA Quadro M620 Graphics with 2GB video memory.

HP Z2 Mini G3 Hardware

The HP Z2 Mini G3 takes up a tiny space by measuring in at just 8.5 x 8.5 x 2.3 inches (21.6 x 21.6 x 5.8 cm). You can place it on your desk or get the optional VESA mount to attach it behind a monitor or under the desk. The design is simple and doesn't scream for attention. The black body with chrome accents make the hardware look attractive, yet professional. On the front of the box is a power button that glows white, while the left side holds two USB Type-A ports and headset jack. The back of the HP Z2 Mini G3 has plenty more ports: four DisplayPorts, two USB Type-C ports, two USB Type-A ports, Ethernet jack, serial port, security slot, and power input.

HP Z2 Mini G3

Even though there are plenty of ways to configure the HP Z2 Mini, it's easy to get inside the system if you need to upgrade or replace components. The cover latch is on the back, and it pops off the top cover. The two memory slots can be accessed by lifting the bigger fan with no tools required.

HP Z2 Mini G3

HP Z2 Mini G3

The Z2 Mini G3 includes a wireless keyboard and mouse, but they're nothing to be excited about. They're already configured out of the box, and you just need to insert the USB dongle to one of the USB Type-A slots on the workstation. You can certainly type with the keyboard without issues, but the keys are stiff to click. It doesn't look good either. I recommend getting the Surface Keyboard (opens in new tab) instead.

HP Z2 Mini G3

It's the same story with the included mouse from HP. It works fine, including the standard two buttons and scroll wheel, but the design is uninspiring. I think you'll be happier with a Logitech MX Master (opens in new tab), which adds a few more options.

The included keyboard and mouse are serviceable, and will do well enough for the sort of bulk purchase corporate environments where the Z2 Mini G3 is likely to see deployment.

HP Z2 Mini G3

HP Z2 Mini G3 Software

Our review unit includes Windows 10 Pro, but you can also choose to get Windows 7 Professional or Linux. There are several pre-installed apss, but HP Performance Advisor stands out. It's an effective way to make sure your computer is always operating at its optimum potential. For example, it can tell you if your graphics card has the latest drivers and if it has been certified. Another interesting section of the application shows a report of the hardware sensors such as the CPU fan speed and chassis temperature.

HP Performance Advisor

The HP Z2 Mini G3 performs great with everyday tasks. With 32GB of RAM, opening and switching between multiple apps is snappy. Adobe Creative apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro are also smooth. There's no lag while editing a 4K sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro and it takes about 20 minutes to export a 10-minute 4K video.

Efficiency and productivity are very important to workstation users, so it's good to know that HP workstations are tested, proven, and certified by Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). The certification makes sure that HP's workstation hardware solution is compatible with the software products such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks, ArchiCAD, and Sketchup.

The fans on the HP Z2 Mini G3 are so quiet that I sometimes forget they exist. I'm reminded of them when they turn on during a video export, but they immediately go silent when the export is done.

HP Z2 Mini G3 Benchmarks

BenchmarkScore
GeekBench CPU16301
GeekBench CUDA42607
CrystalDiskMark1212 MB/s Read
1505 MB/s write
PCMark 8 Home3827

The fast disk read and write speeds stand out thanks to the HP Z Turbo Drive, however, our review unit only has 256 GB capacity. The secondary 1TB SATA HDD is much slower at with 141 MB/s Read and 136.5 MB/s Write. For video editing, I'd store my media in a faster external SSD. But for most, the hard drive is good enough for storing documents, photos, and other files. The PCMark score also ranks the Z2 Mini G3 better than 79% of all results.

HP Z2 Mini G3 Bottom Line

HP Z2 Mini G3

Size, performance, reliability, and configurability are the four reasons why the HP Z2 Mini G3 will be purchased by those in the target segments. The size of the HP Z2 Mini allows users to deploy it almost anywhere and it's certified to run smoothly with several professional applications. This workstation can also be ideal for finance, digital signage, and surveillance because it can drive up to six displays natively. It's also great in a classroom because of its competitive price and the ability to mount it behind the display. For everyone else, no matter how you configure the Z2 Mini, there will certainly be less clutter on your desk. Just make sure to get a better mouse and keyboard.

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Pros:

  • Lots of configurations available
  • Very quiet
  • Small size
  • Excellent build quality

Cons:

  • No built-in speakers
  • No Thunderbolt 3

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

7 Comments
  • A desktop laptop :)
  • A mighty mini? Seriously I love the HP Z series systems they do a great job of making nice systems which look great and are user serviceable.
  • I'm liking their new zbooks too. Review coming soon.
  • I almost feel like the two Cons are nit-picking. How's the running temperature of this system?  The review mentions the quiet fans, but for the amount of power it claims to have, it seems like it could get hot in such a small space.  Or maybe, by using laptop parts, power isn't so bad?
  • Actually, the temperatures are on the screenshot of the HP app if you look above.
  • I have been using my HP Z2 Mini now for about three weeks. For CAD work such as Civil 3d and Revit it work perfect. No problems at all... nada. I upgraded the ram to 16GB. Three monitors... perfect.
  • I don't understand any computer that ships with a spinning hard drive anymore.  Why??