HP’s Workstation notebooks at NAB

Testing the HP ZBook 15U against Dell M3800 and Intel NUC IRIS

For their NAB showing HP introduced five new notebooks, and five new monitors, kinda a 5x5 roll out. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean, but it sounds important.

The raft of products is discussed elsewhere in this issue of TechWatch, all we’re interested in here is how the new machine performed. And the answer to that riddle is another riddle—compared to what?

We chose two other devices, an Intel i7 NUC with IRIS 6100 graphics, and a Dell M3800; the results, as always, were surprising. And like all tests, it wasn’t a fair fight. The only thing in common, and even that wasn’t equal, was the CPU, Core i7s. But, they are all workstation class devices, so it seemed an OK comparison.

The HP Z-Book 15u next to a Dell M3800 on the left, they are very close in size (Source JPR)

 

The M3800 is a year old, the Zbook 15U is brand spanking new, and the NUC is about a month old. And, to be fair, we must note that the ZBook 15u is in a different category than the M3800. The 15u is one of only two workstation Ultrabooks (ZBook 14) in the industry and limited to dual core entry 3D graphics per Intel's definition, while the M3800 is quad core with midrange 3D graphics. OK, we told you it wasn’t going to be a fair fight, but then, what is? However, don’t be too quick to judge.

The M3800 is a year old, the Z-Book 15U is brand spanking new, and the NUC is about a month old. And, to be fair, we must note that the ZBook 15u is in a different category than the M3800. The 15u is one of only two workstation Ultrabooks (ZBook 14) in the industry and limited to dual core entry 3D graphics per Intel's definition, while the M3800 is quad core with midrange 3D graphics. OK, we told you it wasn’t going to be a fair fight, but then, what is? However, don’t be too quick to judge.

The basic machine comparison is close, other than number of cores 

And then there were the tests, and we ran a lot. 

ViewPerf

The most important of course being ViewPerf since it is the workstation standard.

ViewPerf comes with models and special versions of the most popular professional graphics applications. It is the best overall test suite for evaluating a workstation, and the one that will let you examine how well a system or AIB performs in the apps you’re interested in.

CineBench

A good CPU and OpenGL test is Maxon’s CineBench, which runs at the max resolution of the device, so systems with higher resolution may be penalized a bit all things being equal.

Given that Maxon is a content creation app, its benchmark is particularly useful in selecting a device if that’s the type of work you are doing. However, the other test that revels the performance in content creation work is the Maya test in Viewperf. There the M3800 outperformed the Z-Book 15u by 20%. 

PC Mark

For an overall stress test, we used Futuremark’s PC Mark.

Give all the previous (and following) results we were not surprised that the AMD-based HP Z-Book 15u system won.

Tomb Raider

For fun we ran Tomb Raider because no matter what you tell your boss, you know you’re going to play games on any machine you get.

We constrained the resolution for the Tomb Raider benchmark to 1280 x 1024 to level the playing field so to speak. 

3DMark

If you’re going to play games then you’ll want to know how your machine stacks up in a stressful simulated game benchmark, so we fired up 3DMark and put the machines through the paces.

At lower resolution, the Firestrike showed the AMD GPU to be the best, but when you load up the resolution and rendering features the M3800 leaps ahead—even though the GPUs have similar specs, this shows the contribution of the CPU.

Pmark

We used the average score of all the Spec Viewperf tests for the P Mark calculation and multiplied the results by a million to get a nice whole number. The wattages were measured at the wall whilst running Spec. It should be noted that Spec runs at the max available resolution, so the higher the screen’s resolution, potentially the lower the score will be. 

 

The AMD Radeon R7 M265 in the Z-Book 15u is a mid-range GPU based on the Mars 28nm GCN architecture, and has 384 shader cores, 24 TMUs and 8 ROPs; the same number of shaders as the Nvidia K1100M in the Dell M3800.

What do we think?

The HP Zbook u15 is an amazing machine. It’s a little less expensive than the M3800, has the same number of shader cores, and half the CPU cores, but the only test that reveals that is the Maxon Cinebench CPU test. The M3800 is definitely the machine to use for M&E apps. However, the real surprises came from how well the Intel NUC with IRIS 6100 graphics performed overall, and even squeaked by the Zbook 15u in the CineBench tests.
So what can you learn from all this?

You have to be very careful about assumptions, and don’t rely on just published specs. And you have to pick and choose tests and benchmarks that relate to your activities. A blanket test like 3Dmark, as good and interesting as it is, will not give you a good evaluation of a workstation machine, but will highlight the graphics.