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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  • MonkeyPaw - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    I can wait a little while for the Surface 3 review, provided it is as thorough as an iDevice review. If we've waited a month to get a 2 pager, then I might share your disappointment.

    The only thing I can think that may be causing the delay is that preview Surface 3s had some power management and pen bugs that MS promised to address, and Surface 3 just saw a significant Firmware update this week. Technically speaking, the retail Surface 3 just became officially available, so I'm willing to wait for the actual OOBE review.
  • nerd1 - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    So I ended up having the SP3 in my hand, BEFORE reading *any* worthwhile review. It is downright absurd.... The power management issue is with connected stay, and shouldn't affect the battery test at all. I think anand just doesn't care too much for any non-apple products nowadays.
  • dabk - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    What ultrabooks actually have dedicated graphics? I've been looking for a decent one for ages now.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    ASUS has the UX302, Acer has had a couple versions of the M5 and now the V7-482PG -- I'm not sure if the V7 is technically an Ultrabook, but close enough. Lenovo also has the U430/U430P that I believe qualifies as an Ultrabook. There are some other "close enough" options including the ASUS UX51VZ, Razer Blade 14 (and the Pro), Gigabyte P34G/U24F, and I think Sony might have something with a dGPU as well. We could also toss in a few AMD-based offerings with APUs that can at least handle moderate gaming, but they're not generally as fast as discrete GPUs.

    Of the above, I'd say probably the Acer V7-482PG wins my pick for a current gaming Ultrabook. Dell's XPS 15 and the Razer Blade 14 are in the mix as well, if you don't mind going larger than 14", and the Blade 14 is clearly going to be faster than the others. Personally, I wish Razer had used a Maxwell 860M instead of the Kepler 870M, but whatever.
  • skiboysteve - Saturday, June 21, 2014 - link

    Really informative comment. Thanks for posting this!
  • dabk - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    This is very nice, thank you.
    My main problem I guess is buying a computer for around/over $1000 which has a last generation graphics card though I have no idea if Acer is ever going to update to the 800 series. Would you know anything about this?

    I would also point out that the current gen Lenovo U4XX no longer have dGPU and that Sony no longer has anything with a dGPU (if only the Vaio Z were still around).
    The Blade and P34Gv2 are amazing though with prices to match.
  • quorm - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    Please review the Gigabyte P34G v2.
  • Tikcus9666 - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    If the AMD A10 PRO - 7350B and others in this range had the graphics branded fire pro (will relevant features unlocked), I'd be interested to see if HP or Lenovo (or Dell if they ever made an AMD based system again) launched any entry level AMD based workstation laptop, at a fraction of the cost, as GPU features (granted not memory bandwidth) would be in-line with what is in this workstation, and i imagine the AMD A10 PRO - 7350B would be less expensive that the AMD FirePro M1400 (granted have not checked)
  • artk2219 - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    I believe you mean the fx-7500:

    I kid though, honestly the only difference would be in the drivers for the GPU since the hardware is literally identical, maybe the "pro" is better binned and has slightly less leakage and slightly better thermals? I would be curious to see how much of a premium they would charge for the "pro" over the FX-7500. I'm really looking forward to those benchies, it should perform about like an A10-4600M on the CPU side, maybe a bit faster thanks to steamroller. Graphically I honestly dont know, different architectures and such with GCN being much more efficient, but the VLIW4 based GPU in the A10 has a 132 MHZ max boost advantage. Either way, bringing the performance of an older 35 watt chip down to 19 watts is pretty nice. We will see how those ULV I3's and I5's fare in comparison.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 20, 2014 - link

    We actually asked AMD if the Pro APUs would have any OpenGL enhanced drivers, and the answer is sadly, "No, they will not." Maybe AMD will pursue that with a future part, but honestly: professional OpenGL drivers are a huge upsell on pricing, and the last thing AMD/NVIDIA want to do is to give people a $100 part that kills the sale of a $500+ part. I'd love to see some other competitor disrupt the industry, but so far it hasn't happened. Intel might be our best bet, as they have no existing market in professional graphics to protect, but first they need to create hardware that can handle the task.

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