HP updates Z-series workstations with up to 512GB of RAM

The vast majority of PC users, even those who would consider themselves "technology professionals", won't ever require the kind of computing power that a workstation-class machine can provide. But for those that do, specifications are paramount, and HP aims to please with its updated Z420, Z620 and Z820 workstations. Upgrades to the previous Zx00 models include faster Xeon processors, expanded storage, a redesigned chassis for and (gasp) up to 512GB of system memory.

You read that right: 512 gigabytes of RAM. Of course, this massive amount of memory is only available on the flagship Z820, utilizing two linked system motherboards and using sixteen individual 32GB DDR3 DIMMs. Other options for the outlandish machine include dual Intel Xeon E5 processor (16 processing cores total) up to 14 terabytes of traditional hard drive storage and Nvidia Quadro 6000m graphics. The Z820 will start at $2,299 and go way, way up.

The middle of the range is occupied by the Z620, which keeps the industrial look of its larger brother while using a smaller frame and reduced specifications. The carry handle, tool-less design and aluminum sides remain, but RAM options are reduced to "just" 96GB with a maximum of 11TB of storage. The dual Xeon processor options remain, and in addition to the Quadro 6000 graphics you can configure it with dual Quadro 5000 cards. The Z620 will start at $1,649 for the base configuration.

the baby of the family is the Z420, the successor to HP's best-selling Z400 series. Looking much more like a traditional desktop, the Z420 focuses on being affordable and space-saving. You'll have to live with a maximum of 64GB of memory, 11TB and a single Xeon E5 processor and Quadro 5000 graphics. The Z420 starts at $1199 for the base configuration.

All three machines will begin selling in April, along with the swanky new Z1 all-in-one workstation. If you're wondering why anyone would need so much memory and storage  - you don't. Most of these machines are sold for professional CAD workers, stock brokers, medical imaging stations, pro film editors and the like – anyone who needs jaw-dropping performance and can justify a gigantic hole in their checking account. Still, it's fun to see what the tip top of the desktop market has to offer, because eventually (and sooner than you think) it'll trickle down into more everyday hardware.