What's in HP's $4k virtual reality desktop?

HP's Z Workstations, designed to create VR content, feature 22-core Intel chips and Nvidia's Quadro GPUs

If you thought virtual reality headsets were expensive, the price of desktops designed to create VR content will blow you away.

HP's new Z Workstations, announced on Tuesday, start at $US4363, and that doesn't include a VR headset. The desktops can also be used for movie-making, engineering tasks, and other resource-heavy applications.

The desktops can be used to create content for HTC's Vive headset. HP's line of Z Workstations have been used to make movies like "Deadpool," but creating virtual reality content can require significantly more graphics processing power.

In the last two weeks, Dell and Lenovo have also announced VR-ready desktops. Some Dell Precision desktops can create content for Oculus Rift, in addition to the HTC Vive. The configurations for the Dell Precision machines vary because Oculus Rift desktops need faster CPUs and GPUs.

The Z Workstation desktops can be configured with Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 chips, which have up to 22 cores. The 22-core Xeon E5-2699 v4 chip is typically reserved for servers and draws 145 watts of power, meaning the computer will need a powerful cooling system.

The high-end Z840 system can be configured with dual CPUs, though it won't be possible to put two 22-core chips in one system because of the amount of heat they would generate.

The desktops can be configured with dual Quadro M6000 24GB graphics cards in an SLI (scalable link interface) configuration. The two GPUs combine to provide monster graphics performance to drive the production of VR content. The desktop also takes advantage of Nvidia technology that allows the graphics to flow smoothly and ensure the VR experience isn't nauseating.

The system supports up to 256GB of DDR4 memory or 1TB of LRDDR4 (load-reduced DDR4) memory. The LRDIMM DRAM usually operates at lower speed, but allows more memory to be crammed in a system. It's often used in servers for applications like databases that need in-memory processing.

The system has a wide range of hard-drive and SSD storage options. There are provisions for six SATA, eight SAS (serial-attached SAS) or two PCI-Express 3.0 NVMe storage ports.

It has five USB 3.0 and three USB 2.0 ports. It also has Gigabit Ethernet, and supports 850- and 1125-watt power supplies.

The monitor, keyboard and mouse need to be purchased separately.

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