HP ZBook 15 and HP ZBook 17 review: first look


HP’s Z Series family of desktop workstations and monitors – not forgetting the brilliant Z1 – have welcomed three new mobile members into the fold. Stepping in above the existing EliteBook range, the ZBook line-up crams workstation-class performance and ISV-certification into a trio of 14in, 15.6in and 17.3in laptops.

ZBook 15 and ZBook 17

We got a closer look at the larger models in the range – the ZBook 15 and ZBook 17 – and while both are finished in an understated palette of silvery-grey and black plastics, these two serious-looking portables are packed with potential. Or, at least, as much potential as your company’s IT spend can handle.

Initially, the main source of excitement is Thunderbolt – still something of a rarity in anything other than Apple’s MacBook and iMac ranges. HP was clearly keen to draw attention to its presence: alongside the full-sized DisplayPort, USB 3 and various other ports, HP had both laptops hooked up to Hitachi’s G-Tech Thunderbolt RAID disk arrays.

DSC05492-462x173Intel’s Haswell is the architecture of choice, and the models on show were running quad-core Core i7-4900MQ processors; one with 8GB and the other with 16GB of RAM. Graphics acceleration comes courtesy of Nvidia’s Quadro GPUs, and while the 15in model tops out with a 2GB Quadro K2100, the 17in model can handle anything right up to the Quadro K5100M with 8GB of dedicated RAM. HP’s specification list suggests the 17in model also has the cooling necessary to take advantage of Intel’s Extreme Edition Core i7-4930MX CPU – if your budget can stretch to it, of course.



If you’re looking for the ultimate do-it-all mobile workstation, both ZBooks offer HP’s DreamColor displays as an optional extra. With Full HD resolution, RGB LED backlighting and the promise of professional-class colour fidelity, we’ve already registered our interest in taking a closer look. Whichever you opt for, however, the matte, anti-glare screen coatings are welcome.

DSC05496-462x307Crucially, the ZBooks seem to have the basics nailed down. Both the 15in and 17in models are chunky, heavyweight beasts, and build quality is solid throughout. The backlit keyboards have a spacious Scrabble-tile layout, and there isn’t a hint of unwanted flex. The touchpad has a trio of dedicated buttons above and below, and there’s a trackpoint set in the centre of the keyboard.

HP’s “Easy Access Door” will be appreciated by IT departments and tinkerers alike. Slide the catch on the laptop’s underside, and a panel swiftly pops off to reveal the laptop’s 2.5in hard drive bay, DIMM sockets, an mSATA slot and mini-PCI wireless card. It’s a welcome change from faffing with screwdrivers and fiddling with tiny screws.


None of these features come cheap, however. The HP ZBook 15 starts at £1,546 exc VAT equipped with a Core i7-4700MQ CPU and Full HD display, while the the ZBook 17 starts at £1,798 exc VAT with a Core i7-4600M CPU and 1,600 x 900 display. These base models feature 4GB of DDR3 1,600MHz RAM and 7,200rpm 500GB HDDs. Up the ante with 256GB SSDs, higher quality displays and faster CPUs, however, and you’ll be lucky if you see much change from £2,500.

Both the HP ZBook 15 and HP ZBook 17 are on sale now, with the HP ZBook 14 following sometime in late October. We’ve put our name down for a fully-loaded trio of review units, so keep an eye on PC Pro for the forthcoming reviews.

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