- Good performance
- Solid build quality
- Good battery life
- Excellent upgrade options
- Lackluster keyboard
The HP ZBook 14 G2 combines the slim form factor and battery life of an Ultrabook with the performance of a mobile workstation by including a dedicated AMD FirePro M4150 graphics card. We found a great deal to like about this 14″ notebook during our review process including its performance, high quality display, cool and quiet operation and sturdy build quality. We were less thrilled about its lackluster keyboard feel but that didn’t prevent us from being able to give it a recommendation.
The ZBook 14 G2 has a relatively pedestrian appearance as do most business notebooks. Its overly rounded corners give it a softer appearance which is balanced out by the dark color scheme. The gunmetal gray aluminum is exclusive to the ZBook workstations which visually separates them from HP’s EliteBook and ProBook business notebooks.
The chassis construction is a mix of aluminum, alloys and high-strength plastics. Despite this and its inclusion of a dedicated graphics card, the ZBook 14 G2 is just 0.2 pounds heavier than HP’s slim 14-inch EliteBook Folio 1040.
The lid is nicely appointed with a rubberized edge which helps with grip when carrying the notebook and has the added bonus of keeping fingerprints off the brushed aluminum. The chassis has excellent rigidity with no noticeable flex even under pressure. The lid also has ample strength with only minor flex. We weren’t able to get ripples to appear in the display by applying pressure from behind which is a good indicator the display is well protected. The lid’s hinges allow the lid to be opened with one hand however we do wish they allowed it to tilt back farther than 45 degrees past vertical.
Upgrading the ZBook 14 G2 couldn’t be easier thanks to the tool-less bottom access panel. Slide the center latch to the left to unlock the bottom panel which comes off towards the front. You’ll find the two memory slots, M.2 storage drive, M.2 wireless card and the 2.5-inch bay capable of accommodating drives up to 9.5mm in height under this panel. The 3-cell 50WHr battery is also removable. This level of upgradeability in an Ultrabook is a rare.
Input and Output Ports
The ZBook 14 G2 has an impressive level of connectivity with four USB 3.0 ports, VGA and full-size DisplayPort being included. The latter two are especially notable considering most Ultrabooks use the micro versions or leave them out entirely and depend on a dongle. The ZBook 14 G2 has dedicated docking station support with connectors on the right side and bottom of the chassis.
Screen and Speakers
The ZBook 14 G2 is offered with a choice of displays; our review unit has the mid-tier option, the full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS panel with an anti-glare surface. A touch panel of the same resolution is optional and the base configuration has a 1600 x 900 SVA panel. The panel on our review unit has very good image quality for a notebook with ample brightness and contrast. Its color reproduction is also satisfactory without being oversaturated. The IPS panel technology affords 178-degree viewing angles which means you can look in from any angle without seeing distorted colors. We did however notice significant brightness shift when looking in from different angles; this was least noticeable when looking at the display head on. The anti-glare surface is helpful at reducing or eliminating reflections from ambient light sources which is especially important for outdoor usage.
Most users with good eyesight won’t need to use Window scaling technology to make the text bigger on a 14-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. That being said, our ZBook 14 G2 was configured from the factory with Scaling set to 125%. This setting is probably optimal for avoiding eye strain among many adult users.
Two stereo speakers are located under the deceptively-sized speaker grille above the keyboard. The weak sound they produce has no noticeable bass however they do get sufficiently loud for a Skype conversation. The headphone/microphone combo jack on the right side of the chassis is static-free.
The ZBook 14 G2’s chiclet-style keyboard has square and flat keys which are all fully sized except for the half size top row and the up and down arrows. There are two levels of white LED backlighting activated by pressing the Fn + F11 keys. The keyboard layout is excellent with all of the expected keys including dedicated Home, End, PgUp and PgDn plus left and right Ctrl and Alt keys as would be found on a desktop keyboard. The tactile feedback is unfortunately mediocre; the keyboard feels too much like lightweight plastic. The key travel distance is minimal and the sound and feel produced by keypresses isn’t solid. On a positive note the keyboard tray is flex free which helps the typing experience. This is certainly a usable keyboard for typing though the overall tactile experience isn’t particularly enjoyable.
The oversized Synaptics touchpad centered slightly to the left in the palm rest is traditional in the sense it has dedicated left and right click buttons. These buttons have ample travel and provide decisive feedback with minimal noise – there’s no sharp “click” as we often hear on consumer notebooks. The touchpad surface is smooth and has well-defined borders. The ZBook 14 G2 also features a pointing stick in the center of the keyboard with its own set of buttons which is functional but isn’t as intuitive to use as the gold standard Lenovo ThinkPad pointing stick. Our one minor complaint is that both the touchpad and pointing stick lack center click buttons.