Even though HP didn’t attend CCW 2015 at the Javits Center, the company positioned its Global Workstations Event on November 11 nearby so that they could take advantage of the many production executives and media attendees at the show (BTW: NAB, which bought the CCW expo last year, renamed it to NAB Show New York).
Not a bad move, as the company makes workstations that are popular with postproduction shops around town.
HP’s annual workstation event didn’t disappoint either. The workstation division, based out of Ft. Collins, Colorado, popped out a fleet of powerful ZBook mobile workstations, larger workstations, displays and hybrid drives.
As the leading manufacturer of workstations, HP continues to innovate, offering enough substantial upgrades and innovative tweaks to its gear to regularly move beyond competitors like Apple and Dell.
The New ZBook Studio
As execs from HP’s workstation division began to describe the new machines, I became increasingly enthusiastic. This rollout highlighted mobile workstations that seemed like they would have the power to challenge the big-iron workstation towers and desktops this Silicon Valley icon made its name creating.
The new ZBook series mobile workstations are not just refreshed models of previous models, as sometimes seems the case, but completely redesigned and optimized with the latest technological innovations.
HP led off the announcements with ZBook Studio, a newly branded Ultrabook mobile workstation. HP calls it the world’s first Ultrabook (an Intel trademark and spec for light but potent portables) capable of running a quad core Intel i7-6700HQ processor. HP showed us the insides of the new machines, and their innovative cooling solutions. Smart idea, since that particular CPU alone can throw off 45 watts.
The 15.6-inch Studio ships in December with a starting price of $1,699. With the many options available, such as Nvidia’s Quadro M1000M discrete graphics card, expect a fully tricked out system to go well beyond that starter price.
The all-aluminum ZBook Studio starts at just 4.4 lbs. with a thickness of only 18mm, both numbers of which are pretty incredible for such a potent workstation. A 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display is standard, but if you need UHD dimensions (3840 x 2160 pixels), you’ll simply order an upgrade. You can order a touchscreen version if you like to get hands on with your designs.
My last portable pro-level machine is just a few years old. It weighed around 8 lbs., which meant it was a pain to lug through an airport, yet it was much less powerful than any of these models. Things are changing real fast!
If you need even more processing power, put in an order for Intel’s industrial strength Xeon processors, something only Lenovo now offers.
I really like a speedy response from the disk system, so I’m pleased that the Studio can be fit with HP’s dual 1TB Z Turbo Drive G2s. This latest twist in solid-state storage connects right into the PCIe bus instead of employing the current aging SATA standard.
If you need more disk space to work with, you can connect external storage to the two built-in Thunderbolt 3 ports. Thunderbolt 3 is another reason the ZBook Studio is fast even when using outboard gear. This latest Thunderbolt standard, introduced in June, delivers incredibly fast transfer speeds of 40 Gbps. It wasn’t all that long ago that I gushed about Thunderbolt 2’s speed of 20 Gbps, double the speed of the original Thunderbolt connector.
With a speed of 40 Gbps, Thunderbolt 3 is not only great when using external storage, but you can also hook-up a box fitted with one or more external video cards for GPU-based 3D rendering, a technique that has, in the past year or so, become a popular alternative to brute force CPU rendering. One Thunderbolt port can also support two 4K displays. Want to transfer the equivalent of a 4K feature? According to Intel’s website, your transfer will take only 30 seconds. Even with compression, that is very fast.
The ZBook Studio also handles up to 32 GB of ECC memory, as well as powerful new Nvidia GPU options such as their Quadro M1000M 2 GB GDDR5. Of course you can just opt for the stock, integrated Intel HD graphics 530, though it’s not such an attractive option for graphics pros.
In addition to these features, the ZBook Studio can also be ordered with a DreamColor display, ideal if you’re doing critical color work.
More ZBook Action
At the event, HP also introduced three other ZBook Mobile Workstation models. While less powerful than the Studio model, these laptops also feature the latest innovations in GPUs, CPUs and displays, while also are dramatically thinner and lighter than their predecessors.
The HP ZBook 15u is a workstation Ultrabook that features a nice combination of mobility and affordability. This low-cost machine can be configured with up to 32 GB of RAM, AMD FirePro professional graphics with a 2GB frame buffer, HP Z Turbo Drive G2 (for up to 1.5 TB of total storage), and a 1920 X 1080 pixel FHD touch display. The ZBook 15u delivers in January, with prices starting at $1099.
The HP ZBook 15 is the next generation of the world’s top selling mobile workstation, according to the IDC Worldwide workstation tracker for Q2 2015. HP gone to work on this model too, redesigning it inside and out. The result? The device is 27 percent thinner and 7 percent lighter than the previous generation.
Road warriors will also like that the ZBook 15 boasts an impressive 27 percent increase in battery life over the previous generation. Features include a 15.6 inch diagonal display, Intel Core or Xeon processors, an impressive 64 GB ECC memory, two 1 TB HP Z Turbo Drive G2s (for a total of 3 TB of storage), two Thunderbolt 3 ports and optional HP DreamColor UHD or FHD touch displays. Pricing is not yet available.
The HP ZBook 17 represents the utmost in power and performance in HP’s mobile workstation line. Running some 11 percent lighter than its predecessor, the latest incarnation of this 17.3-inch powerhouse features a whopping 67 percent increase in battery life. You can configure the ZBook 17 with Intel Core or Xeon processors, up to 64 GB ECC memory, two 1 TB HP Z Turbo Drive G2s (for a total of 4 TB of storage), two Thunderbolt 3 ports and optional DreamColor UHD or FHD touch displays.
Something that really sets the HP ZBook 17 apart from its siblings is its ability to support an NVIDIA M5000M Quadro graphics with an 8 GB frame buffer. That is serious graphics performance for a mobile workstation. Pricing is not yet available.
The HP ZBook 17: HP’s largest and most powerful mobile workstation.
The ZBook Studio, ZBook 15 and 17 all feature the latest NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics that provide nearly two times the performance of previous generation cards. For those with less serious graphics demands, these systems also offer a choice of Intel Iris Pro Graphics P580, Intel HD graphics P530 or Intel HD graphics 530.
Tough – and Smart – ZBooks
HP has a chunk of its Ft. Collins-based shop fitted for grueling environmental testing. But just to make double sure, workstation designs also undergo independent third parties tests such as MIL-STD 810G, a rugged United States military standard that tests environmental conditions including pressure, temperature, shock, moisture, dust, atmosphere, humidity, and vibration. There’s even a 30-inch drop test performed 36 times – now, you would never be that clumsy, or would you?
The entire HP ZBook mobile workstation family.
All HP ZBooks also come preloaded with HP Remote Graphics Software, a useful application that allows for effective remote collaboration, especially handy for graphics applications. With it, you can harness the raw power of advanced graphics workstations over a network.
ZBooks also come with HP Performance Advisor, software that gives you all sorts of insight into the internal components and performance of your machine, with tips on tweaking things for different applications. HP Velocity, another bundled test, helps create faster, more reliable network performance.
The new ZBook Dock with Thunderbolt 3, also introduced at the Global Workstation Launch Event, helps fit you into a post house infrastructure, for example. The mobile workstation dock allows users to link up to 10 devices at once through ports that include Thunderbolt 3 (with support of DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.1 Gen 2, and PCIe), four USB 3.0, RJ-45, VGA, combo audio, and two additional DisplayPorts. Definitely a useful thing to have around.
More Gear to Consider
While the ZBooks were the big news at HP’s event, desktop workstations users shouldn’t feel abandoned. Need speed? The HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro combines up to four super-fast HP Z Turbo Drive G2 modules into one PCIe x16 card, with support up to 2TB. Sequential performance up to, wait, you might want to sit down for this one: 9.0GBps.
Yes, that’s gigabytes per second, not a speed we normally encounter. That’s 16 times faster than a standard SSD drive, an unprecedented level of performance that is perfect for today’s high-resolution workflows of 4K and beyond. The HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro can be used with HP Z440, Z640 and Z840 Workstations. A card with four 256GB modules will cost $1,376.
Ever more capable CPUs mean hotter running ones, so the HP Z Cooler looks like an important, under-the-hood innovation that delivers reduced system noise in HP Z Workstation environments. The company claims the device offers a 40 percent reduction in noise compared to previous arrangements such as liquid cooling. The Cooler actually circulates a fluid throughout its tubing, somewhat similar to how a radiator cools a car engine. The HP Z Cooler will be offered on the HP Z440 and Z840 Workstations. It’s available separately for a price of $120.
On the display side, HP also introduced the HP Z22n and HP Z23n Narrow Bezel IPS Displays. These are the narrowest three-sided displays from HP, and are nearly borderless on three sides. The IPS-based display offers a 178-degree viewing angle with a color gamut of either 95 or 96 percent sRGB for optimal color quality. The HP Z22n and Z23n are available now and priced at $209 and $229 respectively.
HP’s new ZBooks are perfect for filmmakers, postproduction professionals, video editors, music producers and creative artists of all kinds. They find a place in modest shops as well as top studios like DreamWorks Animation.
Video editors and music producers who may have traditionally used Apple MacBooks have also become fans, recognizing the superior price/performance HP offers both in their tower and mobile workstation designs.
Some of us think that the Cupertino company has lost interest in the pro market. It is a reasonable assumption. Sales of the latest iPhones alone swamp the amounts spent in the specialized professional market for pro workstations.
HP’s products have long enjoyed a solid technological reputation as being designed by and for engineers. The Ft Collins gang turns out machines that excel in high-end, industrial strength environments from our industry through to gas and oil exploration and heavy-duty science.
Showing just how seriously good HP’s gear can be, the debut event heard from NASA’s Stephen Hunter. He told the audience how HP’s mobile workstations are relied upon by the astronaut/scientists working in the International Space Station.
Hunter stressed that any piece of equipment that goes into space must not only be technologically advanced, but extremely rugged and reliable as well. Maybe you don’t need to go to outer space, but pack one of HP’s notebook workstations when you hit the road next time. I don’t think you’ll regret it.