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Review of the HP ZBook 15u G4 Mobile Workstation

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When we think about workstations for serious production and post work, HP’s line of Z Workstations immediately come to mind. And we’re not talking the huge desktop workhorses such as the towering Z840 (which I have reviewed here), but also HP’s highly esteemed line of ZBook Mobile Workstations which offer intense power in a mobile footprint and are great when you want workstation performance on the go.

The biggest machines in the ZBook line are the ZBook 17 and 15. They’re the ones you want to get if you’re looking for a muscular mobile workstation and don’t mind carrying around some extra weight.

However, for those who don’t want to lug around the extra pounds, HP makes two slimmer mobile workstations which they call their “Workstation Ultrabooks”. The premium of the two is the ZBook Studio which offers remarkable power for its size.

The other ultra light mobile workstation in HP’s ZBook line is the HP ZBook 15u G4 Mobile Workstation which has just been released and updated from it’s predecessor, the G3.

I’ve created a video review of the machine which includes an unboxing and thorough examination of the machine. So check out the video and read on when you’re done:

The ZBook 15u G4 is HP’s super slim entry level Workstation Ultrabook. That means not only does it deliver high performance in a very small footprint, but it does so at an extremely attractive price tag.

As soon as I pulled the 15u G4 out of the box, I was immediately impressed by how truly slim and light it was for a workstation class machine. It weighs just 4.18 lbs and 19.9mm wide.

The ZBook 15u G4 is HP's Workstation Ultrabook
The ZBook 15u G4 is HP’s Workstation Ultrabook

Next, I installed a variety of software such as Adobe Creative Cloud, MAXON’s CINEMA 4D and others and set about doing a bunch of tasks such as 3D modeling, rendering, painting and video editing, all of which the 15u handled very well thanks to the new 7th generation (KabyLake) dual core i7-7600U CPU in the heart of the machine. Running Cinebench gave me a result of 371 for the chip. That’s an impressive score for a dual core CPU and an improvement over the previous generation Skylake processors.

Ports of Call

The HP ZBook 15u G4’s I/O ports include a newer USB 3.1 port as well as the more standard USB 3.0 ports (one of which is a charging port). In addition, there is a DisplayPort 1.2 to connect a high resolution external display. Also included is an SD card reader, VGA port, RJ45 Ethernet, media card reader and a headphone/microphone combo jack. Don’t forget to watch the video for a complete examination of the ports.

The 15u G4’s backlit keyboard features a full numeric keypad, something that I prefer to have on a keyboard. It’s got a spill resistant design as well as pointing device built into it. There’s also a 720p webcam and microphone over the display.

The backlit keyboard includes a numeric keypad and a pointer
The backlit keyboard includes a numeric keypad and a pointer

Speaking of the display, the machine I reviewed had a full HD (1920 X 1080) Touchscreen display. You also have the option of getting a UHD display (3,840 X 2,160). If you plan on showing your screen to large groups of people, I suggest that you buy the ultra wide viewing angle option when you purchase the machine, otherwise image quality will not be optimal when looking at the screen from extreme viewing angles.

I usually cover high end machines for production and post. As a result, I’ve never reviewed a machine with a touchscreen. While I don’t consider it a must-have on a mobile workstation, the touchscreen is a nice addition. Besides allowing for tablet-like functionality, it can also be helpful for production work. In Photoshop you can use it to pinch, move or rotate your image and it’s also comes in handy when doing 3D or video editing. Of course it’s a great to have when browsing through web pages or skimming through YouTube videos.

Looking inside

While the 15u G4 is not meant to be the most expandable machine in the ZBook line, it’s capable of a total of 32 GB of dual-channel DDR4-2133 memory in the form of two 16 GB SODIMM slots (by the way that’s double the amount that a top of the line MacBook Pro is capable of supporting). That’s a lot of memory for a machine that bills itself as an ultrabook. The machine I reviewed came with 16 GB of RAM, it had two 8 GB DIMMs installed.

The HP ZBook 15u G4 is capable of supporting 32 GB of memory.
The HP ZBook 15u G4 is capable of supporting 32 GB of memory.

For discrete graphics, the 15u has an AMD FirePro W4190M which features 2GB of memory. The W4190M is an ISV-certified professional graphics card with support for OpenGL. It also supports multi-monitors. CINEMA 4D users will appreciate the use of AMD FirePro graphics now that MAXON is incorporating AMD’s Radeon ProRender realistic rendering engine natively into CINEMA 4D R19. For those who prefer NVIDIA graphics, check out the premium ZBook Studio.

For primary storage, the ZBook 15u G4 contains HP Z Turbo Drive G2 (M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD). These super fast SSDs connect directly to the PCIe bus through an M.2 connection and are capable of speeds more than four times faster than a SATA SSD drive. CrystalDiskMark gave me a result of 2,590 MB/s for the Read and 1,410 MB/s for the Write. If you haven’t used HP’s Z Turbo PCIe based storage yet, do yourself a favor and try it out. The PCIe Z Turbo Drives come in 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB configurations.

The HP 15u G4 contains a screaming fast Z Turbo Drive for primary storage
The HP 15u G4 contains a screaming fast Z Turbo Drive for primary storage

For additional storage, the HP ZBook 15u G4 also includes an internal 2.5 inch bay for an additional SATA HDD. That’s handy for storing large files such as video clips, texture maps, 3D renders and more. Between the HP Z Turbo Drive and the SATA drive, the total storage capacity of the machine is 2 TB.

Long Life and Endurance
Battery life on the HP is long thanks to the 51 Whr battery with HP Fast Charge which provides up to 50 per cent battery life after just 30 minutes of charging time. Audio quality is also noticeably good on the 15u G4 thanks to the built in Bang & Olufsen audio system and the HP Clear Sound Amp.

The 51 Whr battery provides long life and charges to 50 percent capacity in only 30 minutes.
The 51 Whr battery provides long life and charges to 50 percent capacity in only 30 minutes.

Being a professional workstation class computer, the HP ZBook 15u G4 has passed 14 Mil-STD tests, more than any workstation in its class, and has undergone 120,000 hours of testing.

The results of the CineBench CPU test
The results of the CineBench CPU test

 

The results of the CineBench GPU test
The results of the CineBench GPU test

Conclusion

The HP ZBook 15u G4 is extremely thin and light for a workstation-class machine. As such, it deserves its Workstation UltraBook moniker. Being HP’s “entry level” mobile workstation, it will appeal to entry-level animators and production artists that need the reliability and performance that a true workstation offers. However, media pros who might be looking for a light workstation to take on long trips may also find the 15u G4 attractive. For those who have more money to spend yet still want a thin and light machine (or in case you want NVIDIA graphics), be sure to check out the ZBook Studio.

However, whoever you are, the HP ZBook 15u G4 Mobile workstation is super slim, light enough to take anywhere, easy on your wallet and packs a powerful punch when it comes to performance. I would recommend this machine.

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