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HP Z230 Workstation Review

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. 

Visit HP for more information and all the specs.

Samsung 1TB 840 EVO SSD Review

Samsung 840 EVO 1TB SSD is one of the best values in a high performance SSD. We used it to upgrade a workstation class notebook in two ways. First, we used the included Samsung software to migrate from the existing SSD to the 840 EVO. Next we swapped out the Seagate Momentus drive for the Samsung 840 EVO.

We run multiple video editing programs and the entire Adobe CC suite on our portable workstation. As anticipated the biggest impact was seen after we replaced the 7200RPM with the 840 EVO. A typical editing project may range from a 200GB-600GB. Having the speed of the 840 EVO to more rapidly open, preview and jump around the timeline was certainly worth the added expense.

The 840 EVO does get fairly warm to the touch in operation. Nothing that impacted performance but that speed generates heat. The 1TB features sequential read/write speeds of 540/520 MB/s which is very good and competitive with the highest performing consumer drives available.

Flash memory technology is maturing and manufactures are using creative ways to cram more memory in the same amount of physical space. The 840 EVO uses triple level cell memory. Think of it as an apartment complex with more people living in each apartment. More people in each apartment means more light switches can be turned on and off simultaneously. Of course when you have so many people living so close together things can sometimes go wrong. There's less room to breathe so to speak. That's kind of the argument of why 3D memory might not be as robust SLC or single level cell memory.

The argument is becoming moot as all manufactures are on this tack to reduce costs and stay competitive. Basically, Samsung has found a way for those people, or Bytes of data to peacefully coexist and even thrive in the same amount of space. The 1TB 840 EVO offers a 3 year warranty which is decent for non critical use. With over provisioning and using less of the drive's actual capacity we anticipate good reliability.

Visit Samsung for more information and all the specs on the 1TB 840 EVO SSD.  

iGrand Piano for iPad Review


The iGrand Piano is a $20 app and great stocking stuffer from IK Multimedia that consists of roughly 200MB of piano samples resulting in a very playable instrument across multiple octaves.

Creating a good quality piano sample requires capturing the full range of the piano at multiple velocities. IK Multimedia provides several pianos to choose from in a variety of timbres that are all impressive, especially for a $20 app.

We plugged our iPad directly into our Mackie mixer and DAW to capture this raw recording. We wanted to hear what the piano sounded like pumping through the JBLs. The pianos are panned left to right and include some reverb to make the sound a little more lush. This recording is straight from the iPad. As you listen you can hear us toggle through the various pianos and octaves.

We tested it using the iRig Keys portable MIDI keyboard controller connected to an iPad 2. The iRig Keys provides 37 velocity sensitive mini keys and requires no technical knowledge. Just plug it in and it works. This could be very handy for kids to practice with headphones when noise is an issue or if a real piano or full size MIDI controller is not available.

The iRig Keys is cheaply made. The keys and buttons are spongy, certainly not what we would expect in a $100 unit. A better option would be the M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32 or something similar with an adapter to connect to an iOS device.

The iGrand Piano is a great gift for the musicians in your life, especially kids. The samples are very good and there's a variety of pianos to keep things interesting. Plus there's more to the app than just playing piano. Lots more. It's well worth the 20 bucks. The iRig Keys MIDI controller, not so much.

Visit IK Multimedia to find out more about the iGrand Piano app.

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