HP ZBook 15

17 Nov, 2014 By: Art Liddle

Editor's note: This review is part of a Cadalyst Labs Report. Read "Mobile CAD Workstations Priced Under $2,500" to learn how this model compares to the others included in the product roundup.

We reviewed HP's ZBook 14 mobile workstation earlier this year. It offered decent performance in an extremely lightweight package — tipping the scale at only 3.6 lbs. For this review, HP sent us its ZBook 15 mobile workstation, the next step up in size and functionality.

System Features

The HP ZBook 15 features a 15.6" LCD-backlit display with an antiglare matte finish and a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. As we've come to expect from HP, the image is crisp, with good colors and a wide viewing angle. The island-style keyboard with numeric keypad is backlit and augmented by a touchpad with two sets of three buttons (top and bottom) and a pointing stick. It boasts a spill-resistant design and even includes an integrated drain on the underside in case a cup of coffee goes astray. The brushed-aluminum case with magnesium-reinforced interior measures 15" x 10" x 1.4" and weighs 6.2 lbs. We should note that this system has a substantial feel to it; not surprising, considering it meets military standards (MIL-STD-810G) for environmental conditions such as drop, vibration, dust, temperature, and altitude.

HP's ZBook 15 is a well-built mobile computer with lots of extras and good battery performance.
HP's ZBook 15 is a well-built mobile computer with lots of extras and good battery performance.

The ZBook 15 includes a multidrive 8X DVD/CD reader and writer, an ExpressCard/54 slot, an SD slot, and a Smart Card reader. As for connectivity options, the ZBook 15 covers most of the bases with one USB 2.0 port, three USB 3.0 ports (one powered), one DisplayPort 1.2, one VGA port, a network port, a headphone jack, and a Thunderbolt connection (combination DisplayPort and high-speed data transfer). The included wireless adapter provides both 802.11/a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless capabilities.

Intel's Core i7-4800MQ processor sits at the heart of the ZBook 15. This chip includes a 6-MB level 3 cache for its four cores and eight threads (virtual processors) running at clock speeds of 2.7–3.7-GHz. Internal storage is provided by a 500-GB (7,200 rpm) hard drive teamed with an mSATA 32-GB solid-state drive cache. This option seems to offer the best of both worlds (increased access speed and additional file storage) at a reasonable price. However, our testing showed file performance was below average for this review. There is 16 GB of system memory included (DDR3; 1,600 MHz), with room for another 16 GB.

NVIDIA's Quadro K610M graphics card (1-GB GDDR5) powers the graphics side of the ZBook 15. This card, which is situated at the low end of the performance spectrum, draws only 30W of power compared to the 75W required by the NVIDIA K3100M (the high end). This certainly played a role in giving the ZBook 15 its long battery life. Unfortunately, the card proved to be the bottleneck when it came to CAD performance.

HP ZBook 15Performance

To gauge system performance, we used a combination of the Cadalyst c2015 benchmark running AutoCAD 2015, and SPECviewperf 11. Per our standards, we enabled hardware acceleration for AutoCAD, turned off the graphics card's vertical sync, and set the screen resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 (32-bit color). HP chose Microsoft's Windows 7 Professional 64-bit operating system.

The ZBook 15's Cadalyst c2015 benchmark scores were as follows: total index = 466, 3D graphics index = 1,015, 2D graphics index = 386, disk index = 237, and CPU index = 223. The test results for the SPECviewperf 11 suite of tests, single sample mode only, were as follows: 31.34 for catia-03, 14.93 for ensight-04, 68.99 for lightwave-01, 56.00 for maya-03, 15.88 for proe-05, 39.99 for sw-02, 27.05 for tcvis-02, and 20.51 for snx-01. The average SPECviewperf score is 34, giving a combined score of 500 for the ZBook 15; it earned a B– for CAD performance. Remember, that's compared to a select group of powerful mobile computers.

The last thing we checked was battery performance while running the 1,000-loop option of our c2015 benchmark. The ZBook 15, which includes an 8-cell (83 WH) smart lithium-ion battery (one year limited warranty), averaged 149 minutes on internal power — well above average for this review.

Wrap Up

HP includes a three-year standard parts and labor warranty for the ZBook 15 at a price, after 20% online discount, of only $2,486, which includes ground shipping. HP gives you 30 days to return equipment with a 15% restocking fee. Although its raw performance is not spectacular, it offers a rugged case, quality display, good battery life, and above-average connectivity options. Based on the test results of other systems, we are certain the ZBook 15 would be more competitive on the performance front with an NVIDIA K2100M graphics card — available for an additional $350.

About the Author: Art Liddle

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