HP Editing Computer Review:HP xw4000 Workstation

$2,384

Hewlett-Packard Company

3000 Hanover Street

Palo Alto, CA 94304

(800) 888-9909

www.hp.com

A few years ago, the average general-purpose computer was not able to handle the demands of video editing. Although the HP xw4000 workstation is a general-purpose machine, it has more than enough muscle for video and could be a solid foundation for any studio. It’s not a feature-rich machine in its base configuration, but it is a no-nonsense performer ready to be customized by editors who know what they need.

The Base

The xw4000 we tested was a powerful but unremarkable machine, with an Intel P4 2.8GHz CPU, 512MB RAM and an 80GB 7,200rpm hard drive in a mid-tower case. Although the machine runs Windows XP Pro, the re-branded/merged Compaq computer (Compaq motherboard, Compaq desktop wallpaper) does not come with an original WinXP Pro installation disc, substituting an HP recovery disc instead. The xw4000 we received had FireWire for DV video in/out, including a convenient front-mounted port.

For testing purposes, we installed Adobe Premiere 6.5 and Sonic ReelDVD 3.0 (our machine was sent to us with Adobe Premiere 6.0 installed). Premiere was well-behaved and responsive in our tests. We captured, edited and output video to DV tape without any problems. We would have liked to have seen a separate, dedicated video hard disk, but the single drive was sufficiently fast for 25Mbps DV video. In Videomaker‘s real-world encoding benchmark (see sidebar), the xw4000 rendered a respectable average of 16.00 frames of MPEG-2 video per second. Sonic ReelDVD also worked well and was completely compatible with this machine.

The installed NVIDIA Quadro4 display card is a professional graphics card optimized for OpenGL, CAD and 3D modeling applications but provides little or no measurable performance advantages for video editing (although it doesn’t hurt either). The dual-head card, controlled by NVIDIA’s excellent nView display management software, elegantly spanned Windows and Premiere across two monitors. Interestingly, although our system came sans speakers, the front-mounted speaker in the case does more than just "beep." It is connected to the onboard sound card and can play back monophonic audio. Clearly this is not sufficient for mixing audio, but it is a convenient feature. You’ll need to add speakers before editing.

Configuration

HP offers a host of options that will allow experienced video editors to configure their dream machine. Folks less sure about their exact needs should get help or consider a company that specializes in video-editing turnkeys. Here’s what we wouldn’t change about the stock xw4000 system:

  • You could certainly do worse than the lovely HP-branded L1825 18-inch LCD, although you can save some money by going with a cheaper monitor.
  • 512MB of RAM is fine, and more RAM will not necessarily improve this computer’s performance.
  • The professional NVIDIA display card is overkill for video, but it doesn’t hamper performance and there is no cheaper option available.
  • We’d keep the supplied 16X DVD/CD-R/RW drive.
  • The keyboard and non-optical mouse are adequate (besides, they can’t be upgraded anyhow).

    Ideally, here’s how we would configure an xw4000 for video. The prices we’ve listed here were taken from the HP Web site and are subject to change.

  • Add a 2nd Hard Drive – We would recommend spending an extra $199 and get another 7,200rpm 80GB hard drive. You don’t need SCSI, and 10,000rpm drives will not make a serious difference for video (and the extra speed is completely irrelevant for captures), but a dedicated video capture drive is preferred.
  • Add a DVD Burner – DVD is hot, so we’d love to get this machine with the HP 200i DVD writer ($349). We’ve seen and tested this second-generation DVD+R/RW drive and have found it to be a quality disc writer with none of its predecessor’s flaws. (HP uses a pricing scheme where the disc drive costs more when it is a second drive than if it is the first: you can save $30 by making the 200i the first drive you select and making the 16X DVD/CD-R/RW drive the second removable storage. Configuring the same two drives, but reversing the order adds $30 to the cost.)
  • Software – You will need to add your own editing and DVD authoring software into the mix. This can be done through HP, but only by calling their business store at (800) 888-9909. Of course, you could buy your software separately from another vendor.

    The total, with these additions, would be a little over $3,000, which is not an unreasonable price.

    Nicely Configured

    Off the shelf, the xw4000 is well suited to the demands of video editing, but it is not configured as a turnkey system. HP’s fine 3/3/3 (parts/labor/on-site) year limited warranty is included in the price (contact HP for more information). We’d consider the $2,384 price of the machine we saw and tested to be a base price. A better way to think of the xw4000 is that it is, as they say in car ads, around $3,000 "nicely equipped."

    TECH SPECS

    Platform PC

    OS Windows XP Pro

    CPU Pentium 4 2.8GHz

    RAM 512MB (PC2100)

    Hard Drive 80GB (7,200rpm ATA-100)

    Sound card Intel – stereo on 845E motherboard

    Display card NVIDIA Quadro4 200NVS
    (64MB, dual head)

    Disc Writer CD-R/RW

    Additional Hardware 18-inch LCD (L1825)
    FireWire
    10/100 Ethernet
    DVD-ROM drive

    Editing Software Adobe Premiere 6.0

    Additional Software Cleaner 5 EZ, Roxio EZ CD Creator

    MPEG-2 Render Speed 16.00fps

    STRENGTHS

  • Well constructed
  • nView display software

    WEAKNESSES

  • Original WinXP Pro CD not included
  • Needs to be configured

    SUMMARY

  • A solid general-purpose machine almost ready for DV editing.
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