To push this workstation and evaluate its performance, we decided to test it using the 3D modeling and animation software 3D Studio Max from Autodesk. With its 16 GB of RAM, discrete AMD graphics card and i7 processor, the Zbook should have been quite capable in this type of work, and it lived up to expectations. With a fur and hair modifier on a sphere, with a hair count of 20,000, it rendered a still frame (with mental ray rendering, a directed light and cast shadows, while simulating gravity, the ball bouncing on a plane, and the hair reacting to the impact) in approximately 35 seconds.
After attempting to render this same frame with ray traced shadows (meaning each of the 20,000 hairs cast a shadow that needed to be calculated), then with non-ray traced shadows, the graphics card did shut itself off to cool down (after an hour and a half or so of rendering the frames). It delivered an error stating that the display driver stopped but had recovered. After a brief pause to let the computer recover, we then rendered the entire ball bounce (about a second of 60 frames per second animation) without shadows. This took about 29 minutes for 65 frames of animation, shown below.
The fact that it is able to simulate cloth and hair moving with physics reasonably well means that while it is a decent to good machine for creating content and animating in 3D, the Zbook 14 is by no means a render machine. It may not be ideal for heavy particle effects either. However, if it came down to it, this is a good machine for casual 3D modeling, animation, and simulation in 3DS Max. It is definitely powerful enough to run AutoCAD and similar programs that don’t run in full 3D, as well.
The Zbook 14 uses an AMD FirePro M4100 graphics card, while the Zbook 15 and 17 use NVIDIA Quadro GPUs. While AMD and NVIDIA tend to have almost even user bases in the professional field, the AMD processor has a lower thermal profile and increased battery performance compared to the NVIDIA models. For the smaller form factor, HP decided that the AMD would better suit this laptop’s needs, and it worked well in our tests.
The HP Zbook 14 we reviewed had the following specs:
- 14” 1920×1080 FHD Display
- Windows 7 Professional
- Intel Core i7-4600U dual-core processor @ 2.10 GHz, 2.70 GHz
- 16 GB RAM
- AMD FirePro M4100 with 1 GB GDDR5 RAM w/ AMD dynamic switchable graphics
- Intel HD Graphics 4400
- 240 GB SSD
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 7260AN 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Biometric fingerprint scanner
- 720p HD Webcam
- 4x USB 3.0
- DisplayPort 1.2
- RJ-45 Port
- SD Card Reader
- Smartcard Reader
- Headset Jack
- IDT HD Audio CODEC
- 3.57 lbs
- Price: $2399
wPrime processor comparisons (lower score means better performance)
PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark and measures overall systems performance (higher scores mean better performance)
3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphic card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance)
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
The HP Zbook scored 3 hours 33 minutes on the Powermark battery test under load. Powermark rigorously runs PCs through a variety of everyday applications such as word processing and internet browsing, as well as 3D gaming and graphics work. This may not be a fully accurate assessment of the actual in-use battery life, though, as workstations are typically used heavily for graphics work (which is much more power intensive as it utilizes the discrete graphics card), versus a normal PC which might rely more on less graphics-intensive programs. AMD’s FirePro M4100 features their dynamic switchable graphics technology, which only utilizes the GPU when it is needed, reverting to the Intel HD 4400 embedded graphics when it’s not. This saves battery life and reduces the thermal output of the device, but if a user is spending more time with the GPU in use, their battery life will likely suffer.
Powermark “Balanced” battery life test results (higher score means better battery life)
Heat and Noise
The Zbook heats up on the bottom quite a bit during heavy use, as well as a bit on the bottom bezel of the screen and left side vent. This makes the computer not ideal for use as a true “laptop” computer, but with the amount of power this PC’s packing, it’s also not a huge surprise that it gets warm. As mentioned above though, the AMD discrete GPU can automatically switch over graphics processing duty to the Intel HD graphics when it’s not needed, which reduces heat when the laptop doesn’t need the processing power of 3D program. It never got to be painfully hot, but rendering 3D animation made the computer noticeably warm. The use of a solid state drive means the Zbook is very quiet, as is typical for a modern Ultrabook.