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.

Logitech Harmony 650 Remote Review

The Logitech Harmony 650 Universal remote is super easy to program and works great but is a bit underwhelming ergonomically. Ironically, the remote resembles a unit that Comcast issues with its set top box but doesn't feel as good in the hand to operate. There's too many small buttons which makes it difficult to memorize favorites based on feel. That's disappointing for a $79 retail product.

The Logitech 650 Remote could not be any easier to setup. Download the software, enter the model numbers of the devices you want to control, customize the buttons to your liking and hit the synch button. Done.  Our only complaint here is Logitech's user survey kept popping up. Once would be okay. Every time we run the app is obnoxious.

In use the Harmony 650 works really well. It has multiple one touch buttons near the top of the remote that trigger typical TV activities and of course all of these can be customized to have all your devices do any sort of electronic dance you want. Very easy, very cool.

One of the most important features is the ability to control smart TVs such as Samsung and others. Essentially, these type of smart viewing devices offer deeper menus and the access to online services such as Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and also any personal NAS services you may have in the house. Again, the Harmony 650 worked without any hiccups.

The Harmony 650 retails for $79. We think the software and ease of programming help to justify the cost but would like to see better physical buttons and overall feel in the hand.

Visit Logitech for more information and to check out all the features. 

Sony Vegas Pro 13 Review

Sony Vegas Pro 13 feels a lot like Vegas Pro 12 with some minor updates to the UI. It features a new proxy editing mode that could be useful for ENG style workflows, enhanced audio level monitoring and new collaboration features.

The number one thing we were looking for in Vegas Pro 13 is increased performance, stability and exploitation of multicore and GPU heavy systems for real time editing and faster rendering times. Sony makes no mention of any improvements to the fundamental Vegas engine. In our tests it seems to perform very much like Vegas Pro 12. Projects that experience hiccups in 12 performed just the same in Vegas 13.

Our favorite new feature of Vegas Pro 13 is the multi-tool pop up menu that is now located beneath the timeline. It’s a subtle change that’s implemented in a seamless way that feels instantly familiar and is very handy.  

The CALM loudness meters are a nice addition to Vegas Pro that adds a level of confidence when mastering assets for broadcast distribution. However, considering the Vegas pedigree as an audio platform from the beginning, this should be a rev upgrade to Vegas Pro 11 and 12 users anyway.

Project archiving is useful. Despite our best efforts in the past we always seem to be missing a file in our manually created archives. Again, should have been a rev upgrade.

Vegas Pro Connect seems like the product team was told it had to incorporate a mobile app somehow to make the platform more relevant. We think this feature is good intentioned but would require more work on the client side than necessary. A simple conversation to discuss the edit is faster and easier. We don’t think we’ll ever use this and it’s certainly not a reason to upgrade to Vegas Pro 13.   

Overall we’re unimpressed with Vegas Pro 13. The features we enjoy seem like revision rather than release updates. We’re disappointed because Vegas is still one of our favorite NLEs that we use on a regular basis. The feature set is extremely robust and it's still the most intutive NLE on the market.  In our view Sony missed a major opportunity here. Our advice would be to focus on exploiting workstation horsepower and provide the most versatile and stable NLE on the market. Internally the code name for Vegas 14 should be Kevlar.  The CALM meters, Archiving and Multitool menue are all nice additions but please, no more goofy iPad collaboration features.  

For more information and all the specs visit Sony Creative Software.

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