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HP ZBook 15 G2 Mobile Workstation review: Fast and robust, with a high-res display

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  • Editors' rating
    8.3 Excellent
  • $3,404.00

Pros

  • Robust build
  • Good-quality high-resolution screen
  • Multiple off-the-page configurations
  • Integrated mobile broadband
  • Very good performance

Cons

  • Moderate battery life
  • Heavy

Mobile workstations are specialised and expensive computers designed to provide high-end functionality in a relatively compact format. HP introduced the ZBook last year to take over from its popular ProBook and EliteBook series. This year's CES show in Las Vegas saw the introduction of a 14-inch ultrabook-format ZBook. While we wait for that to come through, we're looking at the 15-inch HP ZBook 15 G2 Mobile Workstation, which sells for between £1,313 and £2,854 (ex. VAT) in the UK depending on the configuration.

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Our review sample of the 15.6-inch ZBook 15 G2 had an LED-backlit IPS eDP screen with anti-glare and a resolution of 3,200 by 1,800 pixels. Images: HP

This notebook's chassis construction is near-faultless -- solid, tough and resilient. It's made from aluminium alloy that's thick enough to ensure almost no flex at all in the lid section, which is a rarity on most notebooks. The hinges feel robust, and the screen pushes back all the way to 180 degrees if needed.

The other side of the solid-build coin is a starting weight of 2.82kg, which means you won't be tossing the ZBook 15 G2 into a carry bag very often. The power supply is a sizeable brick that will add even more to the weight. It's a large notebook too, with a footprint of 38.1cm wide by 25.7cm deep and measuring 3cm thick. The base section tapers markedly at the front in an attempt to given the system a less chunky appearance, but this is unlikely to fool you for long.

HP has given some thought to aesthetics, and the ZBook 15 G2 Mobile Workstation has some visual appeal. The lid section has a two-part construction that helps break up its expanse and serves the dual purpose of placing slightly a slightly rubberised finish on the outer edges -- presumably to help with grip if you need to lift up the system. The colour scheme inside is slate-grey and black.

On the underside, the 8-cell 83Wh battery is released by a single catch, while a second catch releases a large plate that gives tool-free access to key components for maintenance and upgrades. There's a SIM slot underneath the battery for the integrated mobile broadband (HSPA+ or LTE) module.

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There are various display options on offer: an LED-backlit eDP screen with anti-glare coating at 1,920 by 1,080 pixels; an LED-backlit IPS eDP with anti-glare and PSR (panel self-refresh) at 1,920 by 1,080; and, as provided on our review unit, an LED-backlit IPS eDP with anti-glare at 3,200 by 1,800.

Viewing angles were quite good on the matte-finish IPS panel, and the high resolution is good for seeing a lot of information on-screen at once and working on fine detail. Inevitably there are likely to be some issues with the 3,200-by-1,800-pixel (235ppi) resolution. For example scaling up text in a Word document to make it more readable does not also scale up icons and menus: to do that, you'll have to alter the desktop scaling in the control panel's Display dialogue: the default setting is 125 percent.

Our review sample came with the top-end GPU option, Nvidia's Quadro K2100M with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 video RAM. Other options are the Quadro K610M with 1GB, Quadro K1100M with 2GB and AMD's FirePro W5170M with 2GB.

Audio is delivered via integrated stereo speakers sitting above the keyboard. Volume is loud enough for multimedia presentations delivered to small groups, although the sound quality is nothing to get excited about.

The backlit keyboard, which has a separate number pad, exhibits a small amount of flex, but not enough to worry about. Key travel is minimal, though, and we found the keyboard a bit too light-touch for our liking. The backlight has two intensity settings that you can vary via a Fn key combination.

The touchpad is large and equipped with no fewer than six chunky physical buttons. The three at the top are for use with the pointing stick that sits between the G, H and B keys. The touchpad supports scroll and zoom gestures and is easily disabled by a double tap in the top left corner; when it's not operational a small orange light in that corner reminds you of the fact.

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HP ZBook 15 G2: right side. Image: HP

The ZBook 15 G2 has plenty of ports and connectors, although there are still some notable absences. On the back you'll find a USB 3.0 port and an RJ-45 Ethernet connector, along with the power input. The right edge houses the optical drive, a VGA port at the back on this edge, plus a second USB 3.0 port, an audio jack and an SD card slot.

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HP ZBook 15 G2: left side. Image: HP

The fan vent occupies about a third of the space on the left-hand side. Behind it is a USB 2.0 port, while in front of the vent is a Thunderbolt 2 port, a DisplayPort 1.2 connector, a third USB 3.0 port (with charging), a smartcard reader and an ExpressCard slot. Those notable absences include eSATA and HDMI.

There is a webcam above the screen, flanked by a pair of microphones. The WLAN and WWAN antennae (two of each) are built into the chassis above the screen.

The status lights are on the tapering front of the chassis and, like all the lights on this notebook, are small and subtle. They're also impossible to see properly unless you lean back to examine them -- we had to lift the notebook up to see the legends to discover what they refer to. Not very user friendly.

Our review sample was delivered with Windows 7 Professional installed. Windows 8.1 is also an option, but there are no touchscreen variants of the ZBook 15 G2.

As you'd expect from a workstation-class notebook, there are high-end processor options on offer. These include four Core i7 variations and one Core i5 choice. In fact, HP offers no fewer than 22 bespoke configurations on its UK website, although our review sample's combination of high-resolution screen and 2.9-3.9GHz Intel Core i7 4910MQ, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SanDisk SSD was not among them.

Storage options include SSDs from 128GB to 512GB and SATA hard drives from 500GB to 1TB.

The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for Windows 7 rates the CPU, memory, graphics and storage subsystems out of 7.9. The ZBook 15 G2 achieved excellent scores across the board, with the 256GB SSD achieving a perfect 7.9:

Processor (calculations per second) 7.7
Memory (RAM) (Memory operations per second) 7.8
Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) 7.1
Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) 7.1
Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) 7.9

To get a second opinion on CPU and graphics performance, we ran Cinebench R15, which delivered the following scores:

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To put these in perspective, the fastest notebook-format system we've tested to date, Eurocom's Panther 5SE, delivered a CPU score of 1,524 and an OpenGL score of 91.67fps (this server-class 12-core Xeon-based system did cost over £5,000 though).

For another look at the storage subsystem, we ran the Atto Disk Benchmark, with the following results:

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Transfer rates of 578MB/s write and 757.9MB/s read are very fast indeed, backing up the 'perfect 7.9' recorded by the WEI benchmark.

As far as battery life is concerned, don't get your hopes up. Even just sitting on our desk for a morning doing little more than idling, the 8-cell 83Wh battery ran down from 100 percent to 80 percent. When we followed up with power consumption measurements, we got battery life estimates ranging from just under 6 hours (idling with screen at 25% brightness) to just under 1 hour (running Cinebench with 100% screen brightness). A midpoint between these extremes gives you about 2.5 hours, which isn't awful, as you should expect a notebook like this to be deskbound much of the time. But if you need to travel with the ZBook 15 G2, its brick of an AC adapter will probably have to come too.

Conclusion

HP's ZBook 15 G2 is an impressive mobile workstation, with plenty of available configuration options you can fine-tune to your requirements. The ease of internal access will please IT departments, and the robust build is a real plus point, even if it does make for a heavy notebook. If you do more typing than mouse-work, you might want to try the shallow keyboard first, and it would have been nice to see HDMI and eSATA ports onboard.

Battery life isn't great, but overall this is a well-built system that delivers very good performance for the price.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Platform Technology Intel vPro Technology
Recommended Use corporate business, small business
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i7 (4th Gen) 4810MQ / 2.8 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 3.8 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Cache L3 - 6 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Chipset Type Mobile Intel QM87 Express
Features Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Cache Memory
Type L3 cache
Installed Size 6 MB
RAM
Memory Speed 1600 MHz
Configuration Features 2 x 4 GB
Technology DDR3L SDRAM
Installed Size 8 GB
Storage
Interface Serial ATA-600
Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM removable - tray
Memory
Max Supported Size 32 GB
Technology DDR3L SDRAM
Speed 1600 MHz
Form Factor SO-DIMM 204-pin
Slots Qty 4
Empty Slots 2
Environmental Parameters
Humidity Range Operating 10 - 90% (non-condensing)
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Widescreen Display Yes
Monitor Features Full HD ultra wide-viewing angle (UWVA) eDP anti-glare +PSR
Type LED
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 39.6 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation Full HD
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
Video System Features NVIDIA Optimus
Integrated Webcam Yes
Sound Stereo speakers, stereo microphone
Audio Codec IDT 92HD91
Hard Drive
Type SSD
Capacity 256 GB
Hard Drive Features Self-Encrypting Drive
Input
Type keyboard, pointing stick, touchpad
Features spill-resistant, touchpad with gesture support, volume control
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Wireless Controller Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
Wired Protocol Gigabit Ethernet
Optical Storage
Drive Type DVD SuperMulti
Type DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM
Form Factor removable
Load Type tray
Processor
CPU Type Core i7
Processor Number i7-4810MQ
Generation 4
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 2.8 GHz
Battery
Capacity 83 Wh
Cells 8-cell
Technology lithium ion
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card, SDXC UHS-II Memory Card
Connections & Expansion
Expansion Bays 1 x Upgrade Bay
Slots 1 x ExpressCard/54 (1 free)
Interfaces VGA
DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 2
Headphone/microphone combo jack
LAN
3 x USB 3.0
USB 2.0
Battery
Dock
Memory Card Reader Yes (SDHC Card, SDXC Card, SDXC UHS-II Card)
Header
Brand HP
Product Line HP ZBook
Model 15 G2 Mobile Workstation
Localization English
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
System
Platform Technology Intel vPro Technology
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 256 GB
Dockable Yes
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Security Devices SmartCard reader, fingerprint reader
Miscellaneous
Color graphite, hematite
Case Material magnesium-aluminum alloy
Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip, fingerprint reader, SmartCard reader
Features 1 USB 3.0 charging port, HP 3D DriveGuard, Hybrid Boot, Master Record Security, Measured Boot, One-Step Logon, Power On Authentication, Pre-Boot Security, SecureBoot, HP Automatic Drive Lock, HP BIOS Protection, HP DisplaySafe, HP DriveLock, HP DuraCase, HP DuraFinish, HP SpareKey, HP SureStart
Compliant Standards A-Tick, ACPI, BSMI, CCC, CSA, FCC, ICES, KC, UL, VCCI
Theft/Intrusion Protection security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Security Slot Type Kensington security slot
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Remote Management Protocol SNMP 2
Compliant Standards IEEE 802.11i, IEEE 802.1Q, IEEE 802.3x, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED, IEEE 802.1as, IEEE 802.1p, IEEE 802.1x, IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3ae, IEEE 802.3az, IEEE 802.3u
Ethernet Controller(s) Intel I217-LM
Wireless NIC Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
Monitor
Diagonal Size 15.6 in
Dimensions & Weight
Width 15 in
Depth 10.1 in
Height 1.4 in
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 3 years warranty
Audio Output
Compliant Standards DTS Studio Sound, High Definition Audio
Mainboard
Chipset Type Mobile Intel QM87 Express
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Physical Characteristics
Weight 6.46 lbs
Power
Min Operating Temperature 41 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Edition
Type Box.net 50GB storage, CyberLink Power2Go, HP PageLift, HP Performance Advisor, HP Recovery Disc Creator, HP Recovery Manager, HP Remote Graphics Software, HP Secure Erase, HP SoftPaq Download Manager (free download), HP Spare Key, HP Support Assistant, HP Systems Software Manager (free download), CyberLink YouCam BE, HP Validity Fingerprint Driver, HP ePrint, Microsoft Security Essentials, Skype, Cyberlink PowerDVD, Device Access Manager with Just In Time Authentication, Drive Encryption, Foxit PhantomPDF Express, HP Client Security, HP Hotkey Support, HP Manageability
Video Output
Discrete Graphics Processor Yes
Graphics Processor NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
Graphics Processor Series NVIDIA Quadro
Video System Features NVIDIA Optimus
Video Memory
Technology GDDR5 SDRAM
Installed Size 2 GB
Notebook Camera
Integrated Webcam Yes
Input Device
Numeric Keypad Yes
Backlight Yes
Expansion Bays
Total Qty 1
Service & Support
Type 3 years warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Service Included parts and labor
Location on-site
Full Contract Period 3 years
Shock & Vibration Tolerance
Shock Acceleration (Operating) 40 g
Shock Duration (Operating) 2 ms half-sine pulse
Shock Acceleration (Non-operating) 200 g
Shock Duration (Non-operating) 2 ms half-sine pulse
Vibration Acceleration (Operating) 0.75 g
Vibration Frequency Range (Operating) RMS (random)
Vibration Acceleration (Non-operating) 1.5 g
Vibration Frequency Range (Non-operating) RMS (random)

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