Extremely powerful yet incredibly light and compact, the ZBook Studio G4 mobile workstation, HP’s worksation ultrabook is a great choice for those looking for a machine that will go anywhere without weighing you down, yet is still capable of delivering an incredible workstation experience for those who simply don’t want to sacrifice power for mobility such as 3D animators, visual effect artists, video editors and music producers.
I created a video version of this review which is you can view below.
HP’s family of ZBook mobile workstations include several different models depending on your needs. At the high end of the family are the ZBook 17 and the ZBook 15. They’re the machines to get if you’re looking for the topmost levels of performance and expandability. They offer the best CPUs and GPUs, most storage and fastest processors and are the ZBooks recommended if you plan to work on VR projects, high resolution filmmaking or other advanced scenarios. They also happen to be the largest and priciest machines in the ZBook line.
At the bottom end of the ZBook line are the ZBook 14u and 15u. They too also offer workstation durability and respectable performance, but have more modest GPU and CPU options and thus don’t rise to extreme levels of power. Depending on what you’re doing, however, they might be the right fit for you and their small size, particularly with the ZBook 14u makes them easy to take around. They’re also much more affordable.
Right in the middle of the ZBook family, however, is the remarkable ZBook Studio which has recently been refreshed to a new generation, the G4. In the ZBook Studio G4, you get extreme performance thanks to top shelf features like Intel quad-core Xeon processors and NVIDIA GPUs all in a lightweight chassis that makes it easy to take on the road.
On the Outside
On the left of the HP ZBook Studio G4, you’ll find a security lock slot, an RJ-45 Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which is a charging port), and an SD Media card reader.
On the right side of the machine is a power connector, two high speed Thunderbolt 3 ports which are great for connecting things like disk arrays and external GPUs, an HDMI port, another USB 3.0 port and an Audio in and Audio out combination jack. I can’t stress enough how important Thunderbolt 3 connections are these days with their ability to transfer 40 GB per second, especially important if you are involved in production and post.
DreamColor is HP’s Academy Award winning 10 bit color calibrated display technology and this ZBook Studio has a 4K DreamColor display built in. DreamColor displays are recognized in the industry, especially among where color accuracy and fidelity is needed. This is especially important in fields such as color grading, animation, photo-retouching and visual effects. Colors look great on a DreamColor display with vibrant, accurate colors and deep rich blacks. To have a color-calibrated 4K Dreamcolor 10 bit display built into your ZBook Studio is something I highly recommend. Go for it, you won’t be sorry you did.
On the Inside
The unit of the ZBook Studio G4 that we tested was running Microsoft Windows 10, 64 bit. These days, it’s safe to say that Windows 10 has been adopted by the workstation industry. Previously, many people opted to get their workstations with Windows 7 installed instead of Windows 8 or 8.1 which no one seemed to like all that much. Windows 10, however, is an elegant modern operating system that’s easy to use and simply works well.
The CPU on this ZBook Studio is no less than a 7th Generation Intel Xeon 1535M. This powerful processor has four cores, eight threads and an 8MB cache. It runs at 3.1 GHz with a Maximum Turbo Frequency of 4.2 GHz. A chip like this can handle all kinds of high-resolution post production jobs with ease. In addition, besides Xeon CPUs, high performance Seventh Generation Intel Core CPUs are also available.
The ZBook Studio is capable of a maximum of 32 GB of fast DDR4-2400 dual channel memory which can be installed in its two SODIMM slots. The machine I reviewed contained 32 GB.
The GPU in the ZBook Studio G4 is remarkable as well. It’s a capable NVIDIA Quadro M1200 with 4 GB of memory. Built for mobile workstations, this GPU should handle GPU rendering jobs, 4K video editing work and modeling and animation challenges in stride.
For storage, the ZBook Studio is capable of a maximum of 2 TB via two M.2 connections, allowing you to install two NVMe PCIe SSDs (or Z-Turbo Drives as HP calls them). There are no additional SATA drive bays, but with the vastly superior data transfer rates of the NVMe M.2 drvies (40 GB/s read and 1.5 GB/s write), who needs them? I would much prefer having only Z-Turbo Drives in the system. It helps keep the machine small and 2 TB is an ample amount of space. If you need more storage, simply connect a high speed RAID to a Thunderbolt 3 port, one of the many things that Thunderbolt 3 is great for.
The ZBook Studio G4 is a 92 Watt/hour battery that, depending on what you are doing, can power you right through the day. If you do happen to run out of juice, however, HP’s fast charge technology will charge the battery to 50% in only thirty minutes. That’s great if you don’t have a lot of time to spend waiting for the battery to charge.
The machine features Intel VPro technology, a platform of hardware and firmware that helps make your computer run at maximum efficiency. Each ZBook Studio also features a backlit keyboard and fingerprint reader.
I ran CineBench benchmarking software to measure the performance of the CPU and the GPU. The CPU score was 764. The GPU came in at 100.06 frames per second. Both are highly respectable results. Results from other systems to compare with can be seen below.
The ZBook Studio G4 packs an extreme level of power for a machine that is so very thin and light. Aside from being super easy to carry around, it has sleek and sexy looks and includes important features such as high speed Thunderbolt 3 ports which allow you to connect lots of useful peripheral devices including hard drive arrays, external GPU enclosures and capture devices. The 4K 10 bit DreamColor display is simply a joy to work with.
The workstation-like 4 core Intel Xeon processor and the NVIDIA Quadro M1200 GPU with 4 GB delivers an astounding level of power for a machine this size while its two solid state NVMe drives delivers up your data at deliciously fast rates.
Those who do VR development who need top of the line GPUs or those who want extra storage space may want to look at the ZBook 15 and 17. However, If you are an artist, animator, filmmaker or are someone looking for a killer laptop that is built with rugged MIL-STD testing, one that is small and light enough to take anywhere, look no further. The ZBook studio G4 is a machine that has it all. I highly recommend this machine.