Introducing the HP ZBook 14

Over the past couple of years since Intel first introduced their Ultrabook brand, we've seen many different designs, some good, some lacking in refinement. One thing that we haven't seen much of is Ultrabooks with discrete graphics, which isn't too surprising – it's difficult enough to fit all of the other components into a thin chassis and then keep it cool; adding a dGPU to the mix is just asking for trouble. That's not to say it hasn't been done, but the sleekest designs tend to be CPU-only affairs. HP has decided to enter the Ultrabook with dGPU arena, but they've gone one step further by integrating an AMD FirePro M4100 FireGL V graphics solution. At its core, the dGPU is based on AMD's GCN architecture and sports just 384 cores, so it's mostly an entry-level dGPU solution, but as a member of the FirePro family it comes with drivers that have a few extra features unlocked. The result is potentially much higher performance in some professional level applications; we'll see just how well the M4100 fares in a moment.

Besides the “mobile workstation” angle, HP is definitely targeting the enterprise market with the ZBook 14. It's not quite at the level of the EliteBook, but the ZBook line basically picks up from the ProBook line with a business aesthetic that includes a matte LCD, magnesium alloy frame and covers, and a TrackPoint nub in the center of the keyboard. Other enterprise features include mobile broadband support, Smartcard and TPM options, Intel's VPro (depending on your CPU selection), other security measures, and a default build that ships with Windows 7 Professional. HP shipped us the highest end model (more or less) with Intel's fastest dual-core ULV Core i7-4600U processor, 16GB of DDR3L RAM, 240GB SSD, and a 1080p IPS display. Here's the full specs table.

HP ZBook 14 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4600U
(Dual-core 2.1-3.3GHz, 4MB L3, 22nm, 15W)
Chipset QM87
Memory 2x8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics AMD FirePro M4100 1GB GDDR5
(384 cores, 670MHz, 4GHz GDDR5)

Intel HD Graphics 4400
(20 EUs at 200-1100MHz)
Display 14.0" Anti-Glare IPS 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics)
Storage 240GB SSD (Intel 520 Series SSDSC2BW240A3H)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11ac WiFi (Intel Dual-Band AC-7260)
(2x2:2 867Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel)
HP lt4111 LTE/EV-DO/HSPA+ Mobile Broadband
Audio IDT HD Audio
Stereo Speakers
Headset jack
Battery/Power 3-cell, 11.1V, 4500mAh, 50Wh
65W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side Smartcard Reader
2 x USB 3.0 (1 x Charging)
1 x VGA
Exhaust Vent
Kensington Lock
Right Side Headset jack
1 x DisplayPort
2 x USB 3.0
Ethernet (Hinged Port)
Docking Station Connector
AC Power Connection
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 13.35" x 9.33" x 0.83" (WxDxH)
(339mm x 237mm x 21mm)
Weight 3.57 lbs. (1.62 kg)
Extras 720p HD Webcam
86-Key Backlit Keyboard
Spill-Resistant Keyboard
Fingerprint Scanner
Pricing ~$2493 via CTO (with CTOZB14 20% discount)
~$2291 Online

HP's pricing again reflects the target market, and while there are frequently sales that might drop the price, this is still a very expensive Ultrabook – at least it is if you're just looking at it as an Ultrabook. Technically I should be clear that not all models of the ZBook 14 are even Ultrabooks – you can order it with pure HDD storage if you want, for example – and HP's configuration utility makes it pretty clear what's required to qualify as an Ultrabook; not that it matters if you're happy with the hardware you select. The ZBook 14 is also larger than the typical 13.3” Ultrabooks we often see, but the added size allows for the presence of the dGPU, two SO-DIMM slots, and a full size 2.5” drive bay with a free M.2 slot. For those that need both performance as well as large amounts of storage, the option for a 120GB M.2 drive paired with a large HDD potentially gives you the best of both worlds, though I'd like to see at least a 240GB M.2 option as well.

If you want to custom configure your system you end up paying a slightly higher price, though as usual there's a rebate code (“CTOZB14”) that “saves” you 20%, so the CTO pricing is almost a wash. Given the prices on certain upgrades (e.g. the SSDs in particular cost a pretty penny), it might be best to stick with a basic configuration and only upgrade components that aren't easily exchanged on your own – the 1080p UWVA (IPS) display for instance is almost required in my book, and at $105 extra it's not even priced too badly.  $825 for a 512GB SSD on the other hand is basically out of the question; I'd rather just grab an MX100 512GB for $220 and potentially lose out on a bit of performance and features relative to the top SSDs, and it will still smoke a hard drive.

Despite the high price, the ZBook 14 has a lot to offer potential customers. It's a solidly built laptop with the option for a great display, the keyboard has good key travel, and performance is definitely better than your average Ultrabook – and better than plenty of non-Ultrabook laptops as well. Let's take a closer look at the design before moving on to the benchmarks.

HP ZBook 14: Subjective Evaluation
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  • Zoomer - Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - link

    Win 8 is actually a step back as the start screen forces your attention away from what you were doing.
  • CharonPDX - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    Find me a large enterprise that spends $2000 on mobile workstations that has switched to Win 8.x. (Other than Microsoft.)



    Still looking? Yeah, that's why Windows 7.
  • retrospooty - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    Windows 8? This is marketed toward business users. No businesses use Win 8 and they wont until the UI is fixed.
  • jabber - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    MS knew most businesses wouldn't switch to 8 anyway as it's not in the Corporate Refresh cycle set all the way back in 1999 by Y2K when most moved to lovely fresh NT4 machines.

    Windows 9/10 will fit in far better. However as general business computing requirements have dropped drastically over the past 8 years I can see a lot of corporates holding out till 10.
  • jeffkibuule - Sunday, June 22, 2014 - link

    Let's also be honest here, businesses would still be installing machines with Windows XP if they could. Popular opinion != correct opinion.
  • Zhongrui - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    To be frank I love Windows 7 much much better than Windows 8.1U1. If the LCD is not a touch screen, it is really not necessary to use Windows 8.1U1, which is totally ugly and puts too much junk on your HDD/SSD.
  • edwpang - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    Totally opposite to your claim, Windows 8/8.1 can clear up windows update and software installations better than windows 7. It added more options to clean up the winSxS folder in the DISM.exe command. For example:
    Using the /ResetBase switch with the /StartComponentCleanup parameter of DISM.exe on a running version of Windows 8.1 removes all superseded versions of every component in the component store.
    Also with Win8.1U1, it has a new feature WIMBoot to save disk space further. Just google for WIMBoot to see for yourself.
  • peterfares - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    That /ResetBase option is AWESOME. It's also automatically run every month or two I believe.

    It has kept my Windows 8.1 install size only slightly larger than when I originally installed it. Windows 7 SP1 when first installed is pretty small but after applying all the updates (and there have been a LOT since SP1) it becomes pretty huge, much larger than Windows 8.1
  • extide - Saturday, June 21, 2014 - link

    There is actually an identical tool for windows 7. It doesnt come with it, but you can find it, I believe it is called MS Deep Clean.
  • edwpang - Sunday, June 22, 2014 - link

    Windows 8.1 run the /StartComponentCleanup automatically without /ResetBase according to MS technet.

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