Introducing the HP ZBook 14

Over the past couple of years since Intel first introduced their Ultrabook brand, we've seen many different designs, some good, some lacking in refinement. One thing that we haven't seen much of is Ultrabooks with discrete graphics, which isn't too surprising – it's difficult enough to fit all of the other components into a thin chassis and then keep it cool; adding a dGPU to the mix is just asking for trouble. That's not to say it hasn't been done, but the sleekest designs tend to be CPU-only affairs. HP has decided to enter the Ultrabook with dGPU arena, but they've gone one step further by integrating an AMD FirePro M4100 FireGL V graphics solution. At its core, the dGPU is based on AMD's GCN architecture and sports just 384 cores, so it's mostly an entry-level dGPU solution, but as a member of the FirePro family it comes with drivers that have a few extra features unlocked. The result is potentially much higher performance in some professional level applications; we'll see just how well the M4100 fares in a moment.

Besides the “mobile workstation” angle, HP is definitely targeting the enterprise market with the ZBook 14. It's not quite at the level of the EliteBook, but the ZBook line basically picks up from the ProBook line with a business aesthetic that includes a matte LCD, magnesium alloy frame and covers, and a TrackPoint nub in the center of the keyboard. Other enterprise features include mobile broadband support, Smartcard and TPM options, Intel's VPro (depending on your CPU selection), other security measures, and a default build that ships with Windows 7 Professional. HP shipped us the highest end model (more or less) with Intel's fastest dual-core ULV Core i7-4600U processor, 16GB of DDR3L RAM, 240GB SSD, and a 1080p IPS display. Here's the full specs table.

HP ZBook 14 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4600U
(Dual-core 2.1-3.3GHz, 4MB L3, 22nm, 15W)
Chipset QM87
Memory 2x8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics AMD FirePro M4100 1GB GDDR5
(384 cores, 670MHz, 4GHz GDDR5)

Intel HD Graphics 4400
(20 EUs at 200-1100MHz)
Display 14.0" Anti-Glare IPS 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics)
Storage 240GB SSD (Intel 520 Series SSDSC2BW240A3H)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11ac WiFi (Intel Dual-Band AC-7260)
(2x2:2 867Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel)
HP lt4111 LTE/EV-DO/HSPA+ Mobile Broadband
Audio IDT HD Audio
Stereo Speakers
Headset jack
Battery/Power 3-cell, 11.1V, 4500mAh, 50Wh
65W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side Smartcard Reader
2 x USB 3.0 (1 x Charging)
1 x VGA
Exhaust Vent
Kensington Lock
Right Side Headset jack
1 x DisplayPort
2 x USB 3.0
Ethernet (Hinged Port)
Docking Station Connector
AC Power Connection
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 13.35" x 9.33" x 0.83" (WxDxH)
(339mm x 237mm x 21mm)
Weight 3.57 lbs. (1.62 kg)
Extras 720p HD Webcam
86-Key Backlit Keyboard
Spill-Resistant Keyboard
TrackPoint
Fingerprint Scanner
Pricing ~$2493 via CTO (with CTOZB14 20% discount)
~$2291 Online

HP's pricing again reflects the target market, and while there are frequently sales that might drop the price, this is still a very expensive Ultrabook – at least it is if you're just looking at it as an Ultrabook. Technically I should be clear that not all models of the ZBook 14 are even Ultrabooks – you can order it with pure HDD storage if you want, for example – and HP's configuration utility makes it pretty clear what's required to qualify as an Ultrabook; not that it matters if you're happy with the hardware you select. The ZBook 14 is also larger than the typical 13.3” Ultrabooks we often see, but the added size allows for the presence of the dGPU, two SO-DIMM slots, and a full size 2.5” drive bay with a free M.2 slot. For those that need both performance as well as large amounts of storage, the option for a 120GB M.2 drive paired with a large HDD potentially gives you the best of both worlds, though I'd like to see at least a 240GB M.2 option as well.

If you want to custom configure your system you end up paying a slightly higher price, though as usual there's a rebate code (“CTOZB14”) that “saves” you 20%, so the CTO pricing is almost a wash. Given the prices on certain upgrades (e.g. the SSDs in particular cost a pretty penny), it might be best to stick with a basic configuration and only upgrade components that aren't easily exchanged on your own – the 1080p UWVA (IPS) display for instance is almost required in my book, and at $105 extra it's not even priced too badly.  $825 for a 512GB SSD on the other hand is basically out of the question; I'd rather just grab an MX100 512GB for $220 and potentially lose out on a bit of performance and features relative to the top SSDs, and it will still smoke a hard drive.

Despite the high price, the ZBook 14 has a lot to offer potential customers. It's a solidly built laptop with the option for a great display, the keyboard has good key travel, and performance is definitely better than your average Ultrabook – and better than plenty of non-Ultrabook laptops as well. Let's take a closer look at the design before moving on to the benchmarks.

HP ZBook 14: Subjective Evaluation
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  • Tikcus9666 - Saturday, June 21, 2014 - link

    If there will not be the enhanced OpenGl drivers for the A Pro series, Perhaps someone at AMD may realise they can release a Opteron APU with similar specs to the current FX/A10/Pro line, with OpenGl enhanced drivers, charge a lot more (than current APU pricng) and still provide a competitive entry level workstation chip much cheaper than an intel CPU + AMD/Nvidia entry level dgpu Reply
  • p1esk - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    LOL at their pricing. Even with 4k this would be too much. Also, prefer NVIDIA, just in case I might need to run some CUDA code. Reply
  • pr1mal0ne - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    Page 2 Paragraph 6 "
    The integrated headset hack at least was free"
    spelling error
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    LOL... I had to scratch my head for a moment to figure out what I was trying to say. "Why am I talking about hacking?" Thanks for the correction. Reply
  • pr1mal0ne - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    I buy a lot of these for business purposes.

    We had to fight with our HP Rep in the beginning to get Win7 on these from the factory, but now that is the normal config and I have never once ordered one with Win8.

    I like the trackpad on these. It if leagues better than the clickpads on the lenovo thinkpads and macbooks. Personally i find clickpads to be horrible and have had users complain about them. Never had a user complain about a trackpad. And the size is perfect. I would not ask for any more space to be consumed by the trackpad.

    As noted, the screen here is great, but i will say the default screen is horrible. the bad resolution makes it unusable

    One huge complaint that nueters this laptops functionality as a business laptop is the lack of a 10-key. Half our workforce will not accept these as they lack a 10 key and any data input professional has a legit business need for one integrated. This is a huge oversight by HP in my opinion.

    We prefer to buy the 8560p and 8570w over this laptop. As they have 10 key and they have a better build quality. That being said, these laptops are still tough. I have some with dents but never had one break due to physical damage. Heat is not an issue when it is on a desk or docked. Though running autocad on your lap will get it on the hot side.

    Jarred, i must say lines like " But then I'm not a workstation user;" only serve to make me ask myself why are you reviewing this in the first place? Workstation users rely on their laptop to do work that a cell phone cant. 4 pounds is light when you consider how much this is doing for you.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    The reality of true workstation users is that they tend to earn enough that they don't write as tech journalists. Hahaha... But seriously, I mention that I'm not a workstation user mostly to make it clear that I can't really dig into every facet of the laptop, and personally I have other laptops I would take over the ZBook 14. I don't need Quadro or FirePro GPUs, and in fact I don't even want them -- they cost more and run slower at the sort of consumer tasks (games) I'd use them to run.

    No true workstation users would even consider a Razer Blade as an alternative... but I would. Workstation users also tend to know what specific programs they're going to run. Just because you use a workstation doesn't mean you run Pro/E or one of the Siemens apps. And if you happen to use Photoshop or Premiere (which used to be "workstation applications"), as far as I'm aware they no longer even benefit from the presence of a professional dGPU.

    As for the 10-key aspect, cramming a 10-key into a 14" chassis would be a terrible idea IMO. There's just not enough room for it, so you'd end up having to shrink all of the other keys to make it fit. There are plenty of mobile workstation options for people that need a 10-key, and they're all 15" or larger for a reason. I'm not sure I've ever even heard of a 14" or smaller laptop with a dedicated 10-key.

    Ultimately, this is really pretty easy though: workstation users know what apps they will actually run, and hopefully the data provided here is enough to help them make an informed decision. (If not, let me know what else you'd suggest running. Keep in mind that I don't even know how to use a lot of the professional applications, which is why things like SPECviewperf are used.) And if they really want a light mobile workstation but they require a 10-key, they'll need to either compromise on the size/weight or determine to give up a dedicated 10-key while on the road (i.e. plug in a keyboard at the office).
    Reply
  • esterhasz - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    I mean, it's a nice machine, but what I got most out of this is how fast the Razer Blade 14 is. Reply
  • dylan522p - Saturday, June 21, 2014 - link

    There are more powerful dualcores, namely the 28W parts. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Which is obviously not a 15W ULV part. Reply
  • WeaponZero - Saturday, June 21, 2014 - link

    I have this laptop for a few months already. The laptop is awesome but I wish it would stop BSOD every day or 2. I really hope HP fixes this issue as it is not acceptable for a 2k+ laptop.

    Side note, the laptop comes in 2 possible screen options AU Optronics panel or LG panel. Make sure you have the AU panel and the LG panel is worse. (still good but worse)
    Reply

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