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HP ZBook 17 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 31 Jan 2014

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £2,998 (£3,598 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

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User comments

Very nice machine

I used to use a 8770w for awhile and that was a damn solid machine (Now have a Surface Pro 2.

It's a shame that the front page article had to mention Apple (Hot on the heels of the Mac Pro comes HP's beast of a workstation laptop.) Made little sense as the front page didn't show a Mac pro.

By rhythm on 1 Feb 2014

Screen is the let-down

I'd still say the screen is a let-down. Almost £3,000 and it's a multimedia-oriented screen with just a 1920x1080 resolution. For that money, I'd want ideally a 16:10 screen, or at the very least a 2560×1440 screen.

Colours may be excellent, but the poor resolution and lousy aspect ratio would persuade me to take my money elsewhere - especially on a system of this price.

By Trippynet on 3 Feb 2014

@rhythm

So what if Apple is mentioned?

They seem to set the bar where everybody else seems to follow...

To date, they're the only company that offer a laptop with a Retina display (if you need it - I wouldn't ever with the work I do).

When companies start leading, rather than following them, then I would expect that company's product to be compared against. Simple.

By mrmmm on 3 Feb 2014

@mrmmm

True, Apple is the only company that offers a laptop with a "Retina" (tm) display. It's trademarked, so of course they will be the only company selling it.

Dell's M4800 laptop (review on this very same site) has a screen that easily rivals (or beats) "Retina".

By TheHonestTruth on 5 Feb 2014

Resolution is measly, Needs 16: 10 1600 x 1200

The problem with the Dell Precision M6xxx was that the display got downgraded to 16:9, and not the 16:10 1920 x 1200 display of the M6400/M6500. A premium business laptop needs a premium display.

By Backbutton on 6 Feb 2014

Welcome progress - a computer for work

Pleased to see this review and thne parallel review of the Dell M4800.Especially the fact hat you tested with with video work rather than playing Grand Theft of Time or Call of a Wasted Life. Does this signal that computers used for work rather than games are being rehabilitated into PC Pro? Similar attention to some high end desktop machines and I am on the way back to being a subscriber. Apologies for keeping on singing the same song, but it is fundamental (I think) to PC Pro that the 'pro' but does not get completely forgotten. The PC bit is quite important too.

By PeterMcIntyre1 on 6 Feb 2014

QM87 and SATA

the laptop has QM87 chipset in it. Intel on its website says:
(...)Six SATA ports (two to four SATA 6.0 Gbps)(...)

may question is: how many SATA 6.0 Gbps connectors does ZBook16 have? I know for sure that mSATA is a SATA 6.0 Gbps. So there is hope.

I am asking, because, in the past HP happily shipped workstation-grade laptops with one of its two SATA 6.0 Gbps ports mapped to the DVD bay.

By stasi47 on 10 Feb 2014

ZBook17

I meant ZBook17 of course. my question was supposed to be:

how many SATA 6.0 Gbps connectors does ZBook17 have?

the textedit box is so small. my apologies.

By stasi47 on 10 Feb 2014

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