HP ZBook 15 G221 Nov, 2015 By: J.V. Bolkan
First Look Review: The price-to-performance ratio for this mobile workstation is less attractive than its beautiful display and long battery life.
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It's been about a year since Cadalyst Labs reviewed the HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation. The newest iteration of that machine, the ZBook 15 G2, offers an optional ultrahigh-resolution 15.6" screen (3,200 x 1,800), as well as a slightly faster CPU than its predecessor. Along with the high-end screen and the Intel Core i7-4910MQ processor running at 2.9 GHz (or 3.9 GHz in Turbo mode), our evaluation unit came loaded with 16 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA Quadro K2100M graphics processing unit (GPU). (Note that HP just released the ZBook 15 G3.)
The attractive tone-on-tone black aluminum case is solid, and it feels well put together and sturdy. The screen is very crisp and bright, with excellent color gradations, with full 32-bit color available even at the highest resolution. The resolution enables a great deal of information to be displayed onscreen at once; this is a benefit if you're doing very detailed work. The downside is that I found the menu and dialog box text difficult to read, even when scaled to 125%. Ultra-high resolution is a relatively new and somewhat expensive option for laptop computers. You can run the monitor at lower (standard) resolution without problems and only use the ultra-high modes for playback or other tasks where the small dialog boxes aren't an issue. Running at a lower resolution or connecting to a larger external monitor was certainly more comfortable, but I can also see why some people are willing to pay a premium for all those extra pixels.
The ZBook 15 G2 weighs in at 6.13 lbs before adding the optional drives (a Blu-ray DVD and a 2.5" 256-GB solid-state drive [SSD]), which is on the light side for a mobile workstation. Battery life is very good: Even with all battery-saving options turned off, we were able to run the C2015 benchmarks in loop mode for nearly 150 minutes. With battery-saving options enabled, the screen was noticeably dimmer, and the estimated battery life was extended, running our test nearly 5 hours.
Connectivity options for the ZBook 15 G2 are unchanged from the previous model and include one USB 2.0 port, two standard USB 3.0 ports, and a powered USB 3.0 port, wireless (Bluetooth and 802.11) and Ethernet networking, and a DisplayPort 1.2 port with another Thunderbolt (combo DisplayPort/data-transfer) port. There is also a VGA port that can support external monitor resolutions as high as 3,840 x 2,160. Opportunities for internal expansion are very good, with an open 2.5-inch internal drive bay and the ability to swap out the four 4-GB 1,600-MHz DDR3 RAM modules with 8-GB versions for 32 GB total.