Refurbished Dual XEON HPZ600 or DIY?

Feynman

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May 12, 2017
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Hi all,
I'm in need of a powerful workstation and I'm undecided between buying a refurbished workstation or building one myself.

I will use it mainly for number crunching (Computational fluid dynamics and genetic algorithms) and CAD, it will be my main system as well. I will run mainly Ubuntu as my OS but I need Windows for CAD so I was thinking about dual booting.

Since I'm on a low budget (<700/800 Euros) I was thinking about buying a refurbished HP workstation, I've been scanning ebay for quite a while now, there are a lot of HP Z600 Dual XEON out there but what really got me interested is this:

- DUAL CPU XEON X5670 (2,93 GHz - 3.33 MAX)
- 24 GB ECC DD3 RAM
- 1 HDD 1 TB SATA 3.5"
- AMD FirePro V7900 2 GB VRAM
- WIN 10 PRO pre installed.

All of this for less then 600 Euros, it come with a 1 year warranty for everything but the graphic card which is given a 3 years warranty from AMD (so it seems the GPU is brand new).

This seems to me a pretty sweet deal, Am I missing something?

The Z series has a solid reputation and this workstation seems to have pretty solid specs, the CPU is still relevant today (and there are 2 of them), enough RAM and a more then decent new professional graphic card.

What do you think about it?

What would you do with my budget? Buying this or building one yourself? Consider I never assembled a PC myself plus I need to dual boot windows and LINUX.

Thanks in advance
 

poutnik

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Apr 3, 2013
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All the computers around me at my home/my wife's work/parents have been DYI for the past 15+ years. But lately - 4weeks ago - I ended up ordering a somewhat similar machine - HP Z420. I did some research first and found out it's easier and faster, and maybe cheaper to go this way, instead of buying all the parts. Granted, it has some drawbacks (not easy to switch parts should anything fail, for example power source - the HPs have specific connector, but an adapter is on it's way already). Also I bought one of the cheapest offerings and have already upgraded the CPU and memory to satisfy my tinkering need - and ended up having a spare E5 CPU and some spare RAM for less than what I would pay have I bought everything in one package.

So far I don't regret this decision.
 

Feynman

New Member
May 12, 2017
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All the computers around me at my home/my wife's work/parents have been DYI for the past 15+ years. But lately - 4weeks ago - I ended up ordering a somewhat similar machine - HP Z420. I did some research first and found out it's easier and faster, and maybe cheaper to go this way, instead of buying all the parts. Granted, it has some drawbacks (not easy to switch parts should anything fail, for example power source - the HPs have specific connector, but an adapter is on it's way already). Also I bought one of the cheapest offerings and have already upgraded the CPU and memory to satisfy my tinkering need - and ended up having a spare E5 CPU and some spare RAM for less than what I would pay have I bought everything in one package.

So far I don't regret this decision.
That's quite a sweet workstation as well but it has only one CPU and I wanted a double CPU system to speed up my simulations (alhtough I've seen some XEON octacore or very fast hexacore on the Z420). What CPU did you mount?

The one I posted I would take it as is with no upgrades for the moment. It seems more than adequate to me especially considering my current computer is a 10 years old intel centrino DUO with an old 512 Mb VRAM GPU :D .
 

poutnik

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Apr 3, 2013
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I got an E5-2660, for my needs it's very good. Compared to Z400/600 generation, it has one significant advantage - power consumption. With 2 spin disks and 1 SSD, 32GB ram and 2 NVidia graphic cards, it idles at ~70W (well, idles is a strong word, LUbuntu is doing a few things even if I leave the machine alone). The E5-2660 was way cheaper than the E5-2670, and not that much less powerful... As it looks performance wise, this computer will hopefully be my workhorse for the next 5-7 years at least.

IMO, you might want to consider if a z420 with a single E5 v1 8core 16 threads CPU would not work as well in your scenario, while drawing less energy. Or if you pay close attention and manage to get a newer Z420 (with newer BIOS boot block), you could use E5 V2 CPUs with more cores... (BIOS boot block is non-updatable, and the older ones are E5V1 limited. I got that one). Even that would still fit in your budget. Or get a Z620 with single CPU and upgrade with the second CPU later...
 

acquacow

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Feb 15, 2017
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I also have a Z420. Bought it with an E5-2670 and 64GB of DRAM, but have since scaled it back with an E5-2648L to save power.

In the end, I wound up building a supermicro board instead (just for IPMI) and now I have a Z420 just sitting here with 32GB of DRAM, and either a 2670 or 1620 CPU and no idea what to do with the thing =P
 

Feynman

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May 12, 2017
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I can solve your problem: just send me your Z420. Since I'm doing you a favor it's only fair that you pay the shipping costs :D .

On a more serious note I don't understand the power consumption thing, I made some calculation and it turns out that the workstation running at full power 24/7 would consume about 10 Euros worth of electricity per month. That's totally reasonable, especially considering the fact that it's not gonna be up 24/7 and it's not gonna be at full power when on, the real figure would be 3-4 Euros per month max.
 

poutnik

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Apr 3, 2013
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I don't have any Westmere (Xeon 56xx) system to measure the real power consumption, but they are supposed to be more power hungry mainly due to having a separate north bridge. The difference is especially noticeable when the machine is idle. It should also be slightly less efficient at full throttle, as compared to Sandy Bridge (and obviously newer architectures more so). But you might be right that the difference is not so large, so any potential saving in electricity would not compensate for the higher upfront cost.
 

poutnik

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Apr 3, 2013
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@Evan , that was something I had in my mind.

But sometimes it's better to save upfront (on HW) and pay a bit more in the long run (on electricity) - the potential savings on electricity might be insignificant, especially if you don't let it run 24/7.
 

Evan

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Jan 6, 2016
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Yes absolutely, if the upfront price is right then the per kWh/hr costs are not a lot.
(Unless you want to be off grid on solar and battery and then every kw/he saved will save a lot in infra costs)
 

N3RO

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Jun 5, 2013
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Hello guys!

Regarding your suggestions I've looked Lenovo and Dell options but all appears to be more expensive than HP options.

From what I've read - when considering Z620 and Z820 workstations we should look at boot lock date to ensure that v2 CPUs are compatible and if possible with 2nd CPU riser card - any other specific recommendation?

This appears to be the best deal for an "horse-powered" workstation when comparing to other vendors or DIY builds.

Thank you.
 

poutnik

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Apr 3, 2013
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I would think that checking the boot block date (don't remember the dates, but has to be newer than 2011 year, probably something in 2013) and having the 2nd CPU riser card just about sums it up. Also, try to check the memory configuration, the resellers sometimes fill up the banks with the lowest capacity sticks they have - so you can get 32GB, but in 4GB sticks... which works well, but is suboptimal (power consumption, speed, expandability...)
 

poutnik

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Apr 3, 2013
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I have seen the newer HP workstations without RAM (or barebones) only very rarely. So go for the least amount of memory, possibly also the lowest-end CPU and upgrade to your needs. (If a good performing CPU is included in the package, it seems the seller charges a premium above it's market value for including that).

Edit: the older, Z400/600/800 workstations as barebones are more common.
 

pricklypunter

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Nov 10, 2015
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I love HP gear, but one possible gotcha is support, so make sure whatever you buy has the latest bios and firmware already on it, or you might find it difficult to obtain it later :)
 

N3RO

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Jun 5, 2013
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The hard thing is ask every seller what boot locker date is.
Z620 has different options regarding DIMM slots quantity?
 

Schoondoggy

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Apr 26, 2017
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I love HP gear, but one possible gotcha is support, so make sure whatever you buy has the latest bios and firmware already on it, or you might find it difficult to obtain it later :)
BIOS/Firmware for workstations are available. The 'must have a warranty' to download a BIOS issue is on servers only.
 

Schoondoggy

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Apr 26, 2017
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The hard thing is ask every seller what boot locker date is.
Z620 has different options regarding DIMM slots quantity?
The Z620 was released in Sept of 2013 and it appears to have had V2 cpu support from launch:
HP News - HP Expands Z Workstation Portfolio, Unveils World’s First Workstation Ultrabook

QuikSpecs shows supported CPU:
http://h20195.www2.hp.com/v2/GetPDF.aspx/c04111527

Edit: Sorry, my bad, the Sept 2013 release date was for the V2 version BIOS of the motherboard that added support for V2 CPU. The boot block is different. You are correct that the boot block needs to be 2013 or more recent.
 
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N3RO

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Jun 5, 2013
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Exactly. When looking for cheaper options on eBay without CPU it's not clear what version is listed.