HP ZBook 17 review

31 Jan 2014

HP’s mobile workstation is powerful, well equipped and the optional DreamColor display is stupendous – but so is the price

Price when reviewed: 
3,598(£3,598 inc VAT)
5

We’ve been waiting eagerly to get a closer look at HP’s ZBook range of mobile workstations, and the first has finally arrived in the PC Pro labs – the range-topping HP ZBook 17. The biggest model in the line-up, the ZBook 17 partners a 17.3in display with a burly, upgradeable chassis, a truckload of connectivity and a slew of high-end componentry. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?

Design

There’s no getting away from the fact that the ZBook 17 is an absolute giant. Measuring 416mm wide and 44mm thick, this mobile workstation weighs in at 3.8kg even without the mains charger. Factor in the 120W PSU and the whole package comes in at a back-breaking 4.5kg – it’s telling that one of the suggested accessories on HP’s web store is a wheeled roller case.

HP ZBook 17

The flipside to the ZBook 17’s sheer bulk is that it feels outstandingly well built. Indeed, the construction doesn’t only look burly: it feels nigh-on indestructible. Metal sheets shield the lid and keyboard surround, and tough plastics make for a chassis that’s rock-solid. The base has barely a millimetre of give in it, and the thick, chunky lid is similarly stout – there’s hardly any side-to-side flex, and it wasn’t until we pushed really hard on the centre of the lid that we noted any showthrough on the LCD panel. If you’re intending to cart the ZBook 17 from desk to desk, or office to office, the build quality immediately inspires confidence.

The HP’s ergonomics are top-notch, too. The keyboard has a numeric keypad alongside, and the crisp-feeling keys have a grippy, matte finish. Meanwhile, a touchpoint in the centre of the keyboard partners with a trio of buttons below the space bar. The glass touchpad is excellent: it feels silky smooth under the finger, and, neatly, a quick double-tap in the top-left corner toggles it on and off.

Blowing the budget

If you’re on the hunt for an affordable mobile workstation, however, the ZBook 17 isn’t it. The base model comes in at £1,605 exc VAT, and partners a dual-core Core i7-4600M CPU with an Nvidia Quadro K610M GPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard disk. At this price, it’s a tad disappointing to have to make do with a 1,600 x 900 display, let alone a standard hard disk. Upgrade to the model with a Core i7-4700MQ, Nvidia Quadro K3100M GPU and Full HD display, and the price rises to £2,025 exc VAT.

If that weren’t expensive enough to blow any IT budget, we received the range-topping, £2,998 exc VAT model for review. While the Core i7-4700MQ is still there, the memory doubles to 8GB; the GPU is Nvidia’s high-end Quadro K4100M; the 7,200rpm 750GB hard drive is accompanied by a 32GB mSATA SSD for caching duties; and the display is upgraded to HP’s DreamColor wide-gamut Full HD panel.

HP ZBook 17

The lack of a decent-sized SSD seems more than a tad stingy, but overall performance doesn’t suffer unduly as a result. The ZBook 17 sped to a result of 1.05 in our Real World Benchmarks, enough to put it narrowly ahead of Dell’s similarly specified Precision M4800, which scored 1.01. The HP’s Quadro K4100M GPU proved itself significantly more powerful than the Quadro K2100M in Dell’s machine, too: where the Dell’s GPU powered through our GPU-assisted Sony Vegas 12 benchmark in around 1min 56secs, the HP took only 1min 32secs – almost 21% quicker.

Those looking to use the ZBook 17 away from the mains will almost certainly need to shell out on a spare battery or two, though, or go for the optional extended wedge battery that clips to the underside. Despite a meaty 75Wh power pack, the ZBook ran dry after 3hrs 29mins in our light-use battery test. Working flat out, the HP lasted only 1hr 3mins.

Details

Price ex VAT £2,998
Price inc VAT £3,598
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4
Performance 6

Warranty

Warranty 3yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 416 x 272 x 44mm (WDH)
Weight 3.830kg
Travelling weight 4.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-4700MQ
Motherboard chipset Intel QM87
RAM capacity 16.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 2
SODIMM sockets total 4

Screen and video

Screen size 17.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Nvidia Quadro K4100M
Graphics card RAM 4.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Optical disc technology Blu-ray reader
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

ExpressCard54 slots 1
USB ports (downstream) 1
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad/touchpoint
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.9mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 29min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 3min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 1.05
Responsiveness score 1.10
Media score 1.05
Multitasking score 1.00

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
OS family Windows 8