The HP Z230 is a single CPU workstation that looks similar to other workstations in the Z family but is much smaller and less expandable. It's quiet and can fit into tighter spaces. The Z230 has an aesthetically pleasing facade but flimsy case that makes it feel like a cheap PC clone. We were expecting a much more substantial feel even in the smaller form factor. In fact, most of the noise that emanates from the Z230 is a low frequency hum of the cheap metal case.
Our test unit featured a 3.4 Ghz i7-4770, 8GB DDR3 RAM, Intel 4600 graphics, 1TB Seagate 7200 HDD and Win 7 pro. Out of the box we found it severely handicapped and immediately upgraded it with a SanDisk Extreme SSD and Quadro card plus a Velociraptor for data. We could easily add two in RAID 0 for even better performance or even go all SSD. The HP Z230 makes it east with one 2.5 bay for an SSD and two 3.5 bays for HDDs. Add a Thunderbolt 2 card and you have even more storage options.
It's kind of silly to sell anything as a workstation for creative professionals that has a hard drive for the OS and program data. After our upgrade the performance was much better in our NLEs and other creative programs.
Like other HP workstations, upgrading the Z230 is very easy. No tools are required and you can be in and out of the case with cards and drives installed in just a couple of minutes. It's tight but there's enough room for a full length video card. There's also a PCI slot to support any legacy products or audio cards you might have. For example our Lynx Two studio card is PCI based and it's still our favorite for laying down tracks.
The HP Z230 is a decent entry level workstation in a small package. It's quiet, performs well and is easy to upgrade. We're disappointed in the cheap feeling case but like the overall design and ease of use. For situations where the budget is tight but a 3 year warranty is attractive, the Z230 makes sense.