The HP ZBook 15 is a mobile workstation, and that means a powerhouse laptop that can stand in for a desktop. The 6.2 pound 15.6" ZBook we look at has a quad core Intel Core i7 CPU clocked at 2.7GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M graphics, 16 gigs of RAM and a phenomenal wide gamut full HD DreamColor display. It's not cheap at $2,799 though; HP's business and professional line workstations aren't for the budget conscious.
In a world where Ultrabooks, those super thin and light laptops with few upgradable parts, are the new norm, the ZBook line is old guard. It's upgradable, rugged and significantly more powerful than Ultrabooks. It uses the full mobile CPU line from Intel rather than the ultra low power U series Ultrabook line of CPUs, and it packs workstation graphics for CAD professionals, architects and engineers. As a bonus, Quadro graphics can handle some demanding gaming too, though it's designed more for 3D design, engineering and video production. Clearly, if you just work in MS Office and edit a few photos in Photoshop this is overkill. But if you're a professional who needs serious computing and graphics power, this is your kind of machine.
The ZBook is available in three sizes: 14, 15 and 17 inch. We look at the middle child, which is the most interesting in terms of delivering the most computing power in the smallest package. The ZBook 15 and 17 use the same fourth generation Intel Haswell full mobile CPUs with 4 core CPU options, and they're both available with HP's DreamColor displays and relatively powerful NVIDIA Quadro graphics. The ZBook 17 is available with Quadro K610M or K3100M graphics, while our 15 inch model is available with Quadro K610M, K1100M or K2100M graphics, making both models powerful workstations. The 14" model uses AMD Firepro M4100 graphics with dual core Intel full mobile M series CPUs, making it portable but less powerful.
As you'd expect from a business oriented HP laptop, the ZBook meets MIL SPEC 810G standards, and it has a spill resistant keyboard, a fingerprint scanner with TPM and HP's security software. HP offers the laptop with Windows 8.1 Pro with downgrade rights to Windows 7 Pro. The 15.6" ZBook 15 feels solid with no creaking panels and the hinges are firm. Note that a touch screen isn't available. The top and bottom panels are metal and a generous rubbery area rings the edges for better grip. Slide a single latch on the bottom and you can remove the 8 cell, 83 wHr battery. Slide another latch and you have easy access to internals including a 2.5" SATA drive bay, four RAM slots and three PCI-e slots for caching drives, WiFi and WAN cards.
The ZBook 15 starts at $1,499, but that price nets you a less impressive 2.5GHz dual core i5-4200M, 8 gigs of RAM and Quadro K610M graphics with 1 gig VRAM.
Deals and Shopping:
HP ZBook 15 Video Review
For graphics and video professionals or anyone who enjoys looking at an anti-glare, highly color saturated and accurate display, I highly recommend the DreamColor full HD option. This RGB LED backlit display is one of the widest color gamut displays you'll find in a laptop, with an impressive 99% of Adobe RGB and 100% of SRGB. Compared to the better panels on the market that typically reach 75% of Adobe RGB, the ZBook 15 with DreamColor display rivals high quality desktop monitors.
Our review loaner shipped with the quad core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-4800MQ CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M graphics with 2 gigs DDR5 VRAM, 16 gigs of DDR3 RAM, a DVD burner (Blu-Ray is available too) and a conventional 7200 RPM HDD. It has HP's very wide color gamut 1920 x 1080 DreamColor display, a standard backlit keyboard and dual band Intel 7260AC WiFi 802.11ac with Bluetooth 4.0 and lists for $2,799. Yes, that's a lot of money, but I suspect individuals rarely purchase mobile workstations; rather companies buy these for the engineering, design and multimedia employees.
As you'd expect from a professional machine of this size, ports are abundant. The ZBook 15 has a Thunderbolt port (nice!), full size DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card slot, SmardCard slot, ExpressCard/54 slot, lock slot, 3.5mm audio and a docking connector on the base.
Note that PCMark favors fast storage systems like SSD drives, so our HDD-equipped review unit doesn't score much above today's ULV Core i5 Ultrabooks with SSDs. That doesn't mean it isn't much, much faster at computationally intensive tasks and 3D rendering. Benchmarks like wPrime that time how long it takes the computer to compute Pi and GeekBench 3 are more indicative of computing prowess.
The HP ZBook 15 certainly isn't cheap, but mobile workstations that are sturdily built, easily upgradable and high spec-d don't come cheap. If you're a designer using CAD programs, an architect, video editor or engineer and want Quadro graphics rather than the gaming oriented GeForce graphics cards in gaming laptops, the ZBook is just the sort of machine to look at. It competes with the Dell Precision M388 and M4800, and holds up well in that competition.
Display:15.6", 1920 x 1080 anit-glare LED backlit display, DreamColor wide color gamut RGB LED display option available. NVIDIA Quadro graphics supporting Optimus switchable graphics with Intel HD 4600. Available with K610M, K1100M and K2100M Quadro graphics. DisplayPort and VGA port.
Battery:8 cell, 83 wHr Lithium
Ion rechargeable (removable). Optional secondary battery available for claimed runtimes up to 14 hours.
4th generation Core i5 and Core i7 processor options, all full mobile with Turbo Boost. 2.7GHz Core i7-4800MQ as reviewed. 8, 16 or 32 gigs RAM, 4 SODOMM slots, 1600MHz DDR3L RAM. SATA 2.5" drive bay with 7200 RPM drive (various capacities) or SSD drive. DVD burner or Blu-Ray drive.
x 10.1 x 1.2 inches. Weight: 6.2 pounds/2.82 kg.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers with DTS Studio Sound HD audio, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
Networking:Integrated dual band
Intel Centrino 7260AC WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 also available).Gigabit Ethernet, optional 3G/4G LTE GOBI wireless module.
Software:Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit with downgrade rights to Windows 7 Pro.
Expansion and Ports:Two USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port, Thunderbolt, 3.5mm combo audio, ExpressCard/54 slot, SmartCard slot, RJ-45 Ethernet, VGA, DisplayPort, 1
SD card slot, docking connector and secondary battery connector.