Tag Archives: mobile workstation

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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Lenovo Unveils Powerful New Mobile Workstations

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Lenovo is getting serious about workstations. Earlier this year, the computer company rebooted their ThinkStation line of workstation towers, two of which I’ve reviewed. The top-of-the-line ThinkStation P900 is a powerhouse of a machine that’s capable of handling the most intense and demanding production challenges. It contains dual Xeons packed with 20 physical cores (that’s 40 virtual cores), as well as lots of other features to dazzle you. For those just starting out, the ThinkStation P500 is an entry level workstation with a single Xeon processor that provides solid performance at a price everyone can afford. In between the two are the P500 and P700.

To add to these powerful desktop machines, Lenovo is announcing two new mobile workstations at Siggraph 2015 that will deliver serious production power on the go. We recently had the chance to meet with Lenovo executives in New York to get a close look at these new machines and were were duly impressed. These machines, in my opinion, will deliver the level of performance needed to run the most demanding production and post software today and compared to Lenovo’s previous mobile workstation offerings are a major leap forward.

According to Lenovo, these new machines are among the most powerful notebook computers ever available. Of course we’re curious to test them out and see how they fare in real world production environments, but after a look at the specifications, I’m inclined to agree.

The ThinkPad P70

Let’s start with the ThinkPad P70, a 17 inch mobile workstation which, according to Lenovo, is capable of containing the most memory and storage ever found in a mobile unit, 64GB of DDR4 ECC memory and the ability to contain up to four storage devices. A quick check of the memory capacity in comparable offerings from HP, Dell, Boxx and Apple seems to confirm this. HP and Boxx offer up to 32GB of RAM while a MacBook Pro seems to top off at 16GB.

The ThinkPad P70 offers 64GB of RAM, PCIe storage, a 4K display and Thunderbolt 3
The ThinkPad P70 offers 64GB of RAM, PCIe storage, a 4K display and Thunderbolt 3

For storage, the ThinkPad P70 is capable of up to a terabyte of SSD storage that connects directly to the latest PCIe technology for speeds up to five times faster than a SATA connection. For those interested in external RAIDs, the ThinkPad P70 comes with two blazingly fast Intel Thunderbolt 3 ports for an astounding 40Gbps transfer rate. That should easily handle 4K editing.

On the display side, the ThinkPad P70 comes a 4K UHD display, a remarkable thing to have on a mobile computer. Now that Windows 10 is out, you don’t have to worry about tiny fonts in menus and control palettes either. Screen fonts will scale to the proper size and remain readable irregardless of the pixel size of the display. If you prefer, you could optionally get an FHD (1920 X 1080) touch display. I’d personally stick with the 4K display, however.

All in all, the ThinkPad P70 is an superbly designed and engineered product and is one of the most advanced and highest performance mobile workstations available.

The ThinkPad P50

For those who prefer a smaller and lighter machine, the ThinkPad P50 is Lenovo’s thinnest and lightest full-function mobile workstation yet. The P50 has an attractive 15.6 display and, like its big brother the P70, the resolution of the display is 4K.

The ThinkPad P50 has lmuch of what's good in the P70 including the 4k display, only in a smaller footprint.
The ThinkPad P50 has lmuch of what’s good in the P70 including the 4k display, only in a smaller footprint.

That kind of just makes me want to giggle since, in my opinion, the more resolution the better. This means you can work on high resolution cinematic effects shots without having to constantly zoom in and out. Remember when laptop displays used to be 800 X 600?. Now we’ve got 4k resolution on a 15.6″ laptop. Heck yeah.

Other Considerations

The ThinkPad P70 and P50 are the first machines equipped with the new Intel Xeon Processor E3-1500M v5 product family which delivers tremendous performance for workstation class performance. Both systems feature NVIDIA Quadro GPUs, which are also best in class and have been mil-spec tested for maximum durability.

One of the features that I really like on the Lenovo mobile workstations is the X-Rite Pantone color calibration system, which I first discovered when I reviewed of a previous Lenovo mobile workstation, the ThinkPad W540. I was glad to see that it included in the new breed since this cool and innovative feature will automatically color calibrate your monitor, keeping colors accurate on that 4K monitor. Just fold down the display, and a small sensor built into the chassis of the computer does the work. No need to purchase additional hardware or software.

To help keep things running cool, both the ThinkPad P50 and P70 feature a unique and innovative FLEX Performance Cooling System, a dual fan design that allows for cooler, quieter and faster performance. Less heat means the ability to push the system harder and comes in handy for those long rendering jobs.

Conclusion

The new ThinkPad P Series mobile workstations from Lenovo will be available starting in Q4 2015. The P50 will start at a price of $1,599 and the P70 will start at 1,999. Companies and facilities can sign up for a variety of service and support services.

If you’re involved with high-end production and post such as 3D animation, editing, compositing, color work or matte painting, the new ThinkPad P Series of mobile workstations is definitely worth checking out and may be a perfect balance of price and performance for professional and aspiring artists, filmmakers and animators.

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HP’s Hot New ZBooks, Virtual Workstation and Displays

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Along with the new year comes news of exciting products from HP which they will be unveiling at CES 2015. On the list are powerful new workstation products as well as innovative displays.

In workstations, nobody quite does it like HP and that’s why they’re number one in industrial strength machines with their Z Series line. You’ll find their workstation towers (such as their mega-powerful Z820) commonplace in animation studios, editorial houses, and color suites all over the place.

The HP Z family of workstations, both towers and mobile, lead the workstation market today.
The HP Z family of workstations, both towers and mobile, are market leaders.

Along with the Z workstation towers are their highly rated and esteemed series of mobile workstations. The HP ZBooks, which combine extreme performance with stylish and sexy looks in a compact machine, offering workstation power on the go.

New ZBooks

First up are the HP ZBook 14 and 15u G2 Mobile Workstations. These ZBooks focus on leading in price and performance and both look to be a great choice for entry level users or those seeking a powerful mobile workstation at an affordable price.

The ZBook 15u, for example, features a 15.6 inch diagonal high performance screen while the ZBook features a 14 inch display. They come with 5th generation Intel Core processors and now include professional AMD FirePro 3D graphics (NVIDIA graphics are available on other ZBooks such as the top of the line ZBook 17 G2 mobile workstation). The ZBook 14 also features an optional touch display.

The new ZBook 14 and 15u offers great performance at a cost that everyone can afford whether you work at a large studio or are an independent creator.
The new ZBook 14 and 15u offers great performance at a cost that everyone can afford whether you work at a large studio or are an independent creator.

Both of the new ZBooks allow memory capacity up to 16 GB (an ample amount for a mobile machine) as well as 1.25 TB of storage. The ZBooks also include connections for the HP Z Turbo Drive, an innovative new type of storage. Not quite an SSD drive, the Z Turbo drive is essentially PCIe connected solid state storage. By connecting directly to the bus, the Z Turbo Drive offers twice the performance of SATA SSD. Note that this extremely fast storage solution is also available on Z Series towers and offer read performance speeds of an unprecedented 1 GB/s. Wow. To read more about HP Z Turbo drives, click here.

The new ZBook mobile workstations are rugged and reliable, having undergone 115,000 hours of testing by HP and will be available this month. Pricing starts at $1,249 and $1,199 respectively.

The DL380z Virtual Workstation

Rather than buying a new workstation for everyone in your studio, including freelancers, how about giving them a virtual workstation? You can with the HP DL380z Virtual Workstation Gen 9 which offers Z Workstation power with data security and is able to be accessed from virtually anywhere with PCs, thin clients, notebooks, and even tablet devices. The new DL380z is more powerful, has more integrated I/O and more expandability than the previous generation and pro 3D animators will certainly dig the latest crop of professional graphics cards in the DL380z, such as NVIDIA GRID.

The HP DL380z virtual workstation allows you to connect any device, such as the thin clients pictured here. Now, everyone in your organization can get access to workstation power.
The HP DL380z virtual workstation allows you to connect any device, such as the thin clients pictured here. Now, everyone in your organization can get access to workstation power.

The new DL380z s powered by the latest E5 v3 processors with up to 36 cores, 3.5 GHz and an incredible 1.5 TB DDR4 2133 MHz of memory. It also has a 2U rack mount and can run on either Windows or Linux with central management that helps keep sensitive data secure by only transmitting encrypted pixel data over a LAN or WAN.

Together with HP RGS (Remote Graphics Software) the DL380z works even over long distances and shoddy network connections. Note that HP RGS 7.1 is expected to ship in April 2015 and boasts a 60 percent performance boost. To those who work in motion media, HP RGS 7.1 (which HP calls “the best-in-class remote graphics software”) now supports higher resolution displays and perfect image playback allowing users to edit remotely without limitations. In addition, RGS 7.1 allows allows increased collaboration abilities for Wacom tablet users.

A shared, virtual workstation solution sounds like a great idea to me, especially if I wanted to provide a team of artists and animators with great performance without giving each of them a big tower. They’d also be able to connect at home using an ultra thin client. Is this the future of workstations? I’m not sure, but the concept of shared resources like this seems to make a lot of sense to me.

The HP DL380z Virtual Workstation is available for purchase now.

Virtual Reality Returns

Next on the list are some exciting new displays including the debut of nothing less than an interactive virtual reality display as well as 4K and 5K ultra high-definition displays. There are also new curved displays. At a sneak peek of HP’s new products in New York, I was able to preview the new displays (as well as the ZBooks).

At the top of the “Ooh-la-la” list is the HP Zvr Virtual Reality Display. When I sat down for a look at it I was unsure what to expect. After putting on a set of active glasses, I sat down to a demo that consisted of a 3D scene that included a set of objects that I could manipulate with a stylus reminiscent of the kind you would see on a Wacom tablet.

The innovative HP-Zvr allows for the manipulation of 3D objects in a truly immersive three dimensional environment.
The innovative HP-Zvr allows for the manipulation of 3D objects in a truly immersive three dimensional environment.

The results were, frankly, astonishing. Working with the HP Zvr I was able to interactively move and manipulate models in total 3D space in front of my very eyes with remarkable clarity and precision. The experience felt organic and immersive and beyond compare with a 2D display.

I can remember back in the 1990s when virtual reality was a shining new frontier in computer graphics. Somehow it faded away and “virtual reality” slipped into oblivion for reasons I never really understood why. The good news is that it seems to be coming back with technology like the Oculus Rift.

Will the HP Zvr change the way 3D animators and artists work? Well, It will probably take some time before software developers adapt their software to truly take advantage of the HP Zvr virtual reality display and the possibilities it offers, but I hope so. I am very excited by the implications and potential applications this product brings to the scene. We’ll just have to keep an eye out and see where it goes.

The HP Zvr is expected to be available by Spring 2015.

Ultra High Resolution Displays

As 4K video production continues its adoption in the industry, there has become a need for monitors with increasingly higher resolutions.

HP is releasing two 4K monitors as well as a 5K display for the ultimate resolution. With a 5K monitor, you can not only see every pixel in a frame of 4K video, but have additional space for editing timelines, or other control palettes common in visual effects work.

The two 4K 16:9 UHD displays feature 3840 x 2160 pixels of resolution. The HP Z27s has a 27 inch diagonal screen and the HP Z24 is 23.8 inch diagonal. Both support sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts and 1.07 billion colors. Ports include DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, Mini-DP, MHL and USB 3.0. An ergonomically designed stand includes the ability to switch between landscape and portrait modes.

The HP Z27s features 4K Ultra HD resolution at 3840 x 2160 pixels.
The HP Z27s features 4K Ultra HD resolution at 3840 x 2160 pixels.

The HP Z27q display has a 5120×2880, 5K wide-color gamut that delivers seven times more pixels than a classic full HD display. This 14.7 million pixel IPS monitor is factory calibrated, has a 16:9 aspect ration, 300 nits luminance and 1.07 billion colors. It also offers picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture, allowing users to display mobile device and PC feeds.

The HP Z27q offers unprecedented 5K resolution, making it very attractive to those working on high resolution film or visual effects projects. Here it is pictured with a mobile device attached to its MHL port.
The HP Z27q offers unprecedented 5K resolution, making it very attractive to those working on high resolution film or visual effects projects. Here it is pictured with a mobile device attached to its MHL port.

The HP Z27s, and HP Z24s displays are expected to be available in January and April respectively. Pricing starts at $749 and $549. The HP Z27q Display is expected to be available beginning in March for $1299.

Other displays

Also on the line up are new curved displays. While I have never worked with one for an extended period of time, I imagine it would provide a more immersive experience, better peripheral vision and more consistent color at the edges.

First up are the HP Z34c, HP ENVY 34c, HP EliteDisplay S270c and HP Pavilion 27c which deliver an elegant curved visual and audio experience with enhanced peripheral readability.

HP-Z34c is an elegant curved 34 inch diagonal display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440,
HP-Z34c is an elegant curved 34 inch diagonal display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440,

The HP Z34c and HP ENVY 34c 3000r measure 34-inches diagonally, have a wide 21:9 aspect ratio and support 3440 x 1440 resolution with 98 percent sRGB and a premium 6 watt/channel speakers with DTS Audio.

The 27-inch diagonal, HP EliteDisplay S270c and HP Pavilion 27c 4000r Curved Displays, features a 1920 x 1080 HD resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio and 95 percent sRGB color gamut.

While not especially high resolution at 1920 x 1080 pixels, the HP EliteDisplay-S270c may be of interest to those looking to grace their desk with a curved HD monitor.
While not especially high resolution at 1920 x 1080 pixels, the HP EliteDisplay-S270c may be of interest to those looking to grace their desk with a curved HD monitor.

The HP Z34c and HP ENVY 34c are expected to be available in April at an estimated price of $999. HP EliteDisplay S270c and Pavilion 27c Curved Displays are available now for $399.

All in all, I’d say that this new crop of useful and innovative products by HP is a great way to start out in the new year.

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