Editors rely on computers with fast processing, plenty of memory and storage and a fast graphics card. HP's new ZBook Range seems to have all that and more and are truly mobile workstations. Neil Roberts recently got the chance to put one through its paces.
Most of the computers we use are in the workstation category: big, fast and reliable, which usually means they are anything but portable. But recently there has been a new trend towards mobile workstations, with all the power and performance but in a truly portable package.
HP's ZBook G2 17 Mobile Workstation is one such machine, and it is really a beast.
First impressions are very good, the machine feels solidly built and is beautifully engineered. The screen has an alloy case with a rubberised edge which makes it easy to grip and protects it from knocks.
The display is 17" with full HD resolution and impressive colour purity and contrast. There is also an optional Full HD Dreamcolor panel but strangely the Quad HD display which is available on the 15" ZBook is not available o the 17" ZBook.
The display can be powered by either an Nvidia Quadro (all the way from the K1100 to the K5100 with 8GB RAM) or an AMD FirePro GPU. The review machine had an AMD FirePro M6100 with 2GB of DDR5 RAM
The keyboard is nice and big, with a separate numeric keyboard on the right, which I like. There is a trackpad with three buttons at the top and the bottom, as well as a pointing stick in the centre of the keyboard, so all preferences are catered for. The keyboard has a positive feel and is backlit like a MacBook, in fact the whole keyboard feels very like a MacBook. There is also a fingerprint scanner for user identification.
The ZBook can be configured with a range of Intel processors ranging from 2.5GHz to 3.1GHz, with the review machine fitted with a Quad Core Intel i7 running at 2.9GHz with up to 3.9GHz turbo boost.
One of the things that often lets portable machines down is lack of memory but the ZBook G2 can be equipped with up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM, great for running multiple applications. Likewise there is plenty of room for storage, with 2 slots capable of holding up to 3.2TB of either hard drives or SSDs. There is also an Optical drive bay that can be fitted with a Blu-ray or DVD writer.
There is a generous array of ports, including three USB 3 and one USB 2 port, a full sized Display port connector as well as a standard VGA port, a full sized ethernet port and surprisingly a Thunderbolt 2 port, the first time I have seen this on a PC. There is also an Expresscard slot, an SD card slot compatible with SDHC and SDXC cards and a Smartcard slot for added security.
The review machine was equipped with a 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM so combined with the Quad Core i7 processor it performed really well. Boot up was impressively fast, taking just 20 seconds from completely off to login. (compared to my current laptop that is amazing)
The performance of the machine was exceptional, with software loading and running very quickly. Not only did it outperform any laptop I have ever used, it was faster than many desktop machines, I have only seen very serious workstations that were faster than this, and they were definitely not portable.
Playback of everything I threw at it performed flawlessly, even 4K material was silky smooth. Although of course I couldn't see the full resolution on that Full HD display.
Editing was responsive and rendering was a breeze, with the GPU acceleration making light work of H264 encoding. I never felt restricted by the machine. Overall it was a pleasure to work on.
The ZBook 17 G2 is one of a range of Mobile Workstations from HP. Check out this video for an overview
Of course, this type of performance isn't cheap. The review spec machine tips the scales at over $3000. Speaking of scales, the other aspect to consider is weight. This machine may be "portable" but at 8lbs, plus another 2lbs for the power adaptor and mains cable, you wouldn't want to have to carry it far. But you could probably carry it further than a typical floor-standing workstation.
With this sort of power on tap, you can't expect stellar battery life either. The standard battery will only power the laptop for around three hours, and that's without running any processor intensive stuff.
In conclusion, the HP Zbook G2 17 is a great performer and an ideal desktop replacement. In an ideal world it would have a Quad HD display and longer battery life - but with a machine as powerful as this that's probably wishful thinking. This device is heavy and I certainly would not want to have to carry it any further than from the car to the office, but once it's plugged in it is certainly a great machine to work on.