Performance is one if not the overarching reason to opt for the thicker and heavier ZBook 15 over a standard 15.6″ business notebook like HP’s own EliteBook 850. Our review unit as equipped offers excellent performance for demanding applications, including Adobe products like Photoshop and Premiere, CAD programs, mild 3D rendering, and other power-hungry tasks. Its top-shelf Intel Core i7-4910MQ quad-core processor is the fastest offered in this notebook and Intel’s second-fastest mobile processor overall as of writing. Our review unit also features an ample 16 GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM though it can be equipped with twice that (note the dual-core ZBook 15 models max out at 16 GB).
The Nvidia Quadro K2100M graphics card is the highest performing Nvidia card offered in the ZBook 15 but is squarely mid-range in terms of power; if you need more than that, you’ll have to upgrade to the ZBook 15’s 17.3″ brother, the ZBook 17 G2 which is available with Nvidia cards through the Quadro K5100M. Although not intended for gaming, we ran EA’s Battlefield 4 on our ZBook 15 G2 and reluctantly settled for 35-45 FPS at a 1600×900 resolution and medium details. Needless to say you’d be better off with a gaming notebook like the Eurocom M5 Pro if 3D gaming is a priority.
New for the ZBook 15 G2 is the QHD+ display we discussed earlier along with its 256GB M.2 SSD which HP advertises as a “Z Turbo” drive. An M.2 SSD is a newer storage format which uses a PCI-e interface for exceptionally fast read and write performance. We found the included M.2 SSD offered excellent performance and added to the system’s responsiveness. The ZBook 15 also has a 2.5″ storage bay for standard 9.5mm height drives; it was empty in our review unit but HP includes the bracket anyway which is necessary if you plan to install a 2.5″ drive. The larger ZBook 17 G2 features a second 2.5″ storage drive bay.
Also of note in our review unit are the Blu-ray reader and three-year warranty; the latter includes onsite service.
The upgraded components in our ZBook 15 review unit added dearly to its final price of $2,999, or $1,300 higher than the baseline configuration.
Our review unit of the HP ZBook 15 G2 includes the following specifications:
- 15.6-inch QHD+ display (3200×1800 resolution, anti-glare surface, IPS panel)
- Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Intel Core i7-4910MQ quad-core processor (2.9GHz, up to 3.9GHz Turbo Boost, 8MB cache, 47W TDP)
- Nvidia Quadro K2100M w/ 2GB GDDR5 memory
- 16GB DDR3L-1600 RAM (4x 4GB; 32GB max. supported – 4x 8GB)
- 256GB M.2 SSD (SanDisk SD6PP4M-256G-1006)
- Internal Blu-Ray reader
- Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
- Integrated Bluetooth 4.0
- Integrated HD webcam
- HP 3/3/3 onsite warranty
- Dimensions: 15″ x 10.1″ x 1.2″
- Weight: 6.13 lbs.
- Starting Price: $1,699
- Price as configured: $2,999
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
Heat and Noise
A large thermal exhaust vent resides on the ZBook 15’s left side. Its single large cooling fan is always on but it was hard to tell unless we put an ear right up to it. The fan occasionally spools to a higher speed during regular usage where it develops a slight whine but is muted enough to be non-intrusive. Our ZBook 15 G2 review unit unfortunately has its Nvidia Optimus graphics-switching technology disabled due to the inclusion of the QHD+ display, making it run slightly warmer because the Nvidia graphics card is always active. This is also a likely factor in its relatively short battery life as we’ll see later.
The ZBook 15 has noticeable fan noise under full load and is audible across a small room. Chances are the fan noise wouldn’t escape cubicle walls but would likely catch a few glances in a quiet conference room. Even running intensive tasks however the ZBook 15 G2 remained cool except on its very left side near the fan exhaust, a good indicator heat is being expelled from the chassis. The steady stream of warm air out the exhaust vent more or less supports that. The cooling solution works well overall despite not being all that quiet.
The ZBook 15’s 150W (19.5V/7.7A) power adapter measures 12 1/2 feet in length including the power brick. The latter by itself measures 6.5″ x 3.2″ x 1″ which is relatively slim. The power brick and cords together weigh 1.7 pounds which is substantial. The power brick gets lukewarm under normal usage and gets warmer while charging the notebook’s battery and running intensive tasks for extended periods of time. Overall it’s standard fare.
The ZBook 15 G2 managed a disappointing 2 hours, 30 minutes in our standard Powermark battery life test. This test is considerably more demanding than a typical battery rundown tests and includes office productivity, Internet surfing, 3D gaming and video playback. This 2:30 time translates to about four hours of low-intensity usage with reduced screen brightness; most modern 15.6” notebooks achieve five or more hours of life under those same circumstances. The ZBook 15 G2 would most certainly have longer battery life if not for the inclusion of the QHD+ display which has the detrimental aforementioned side effect of disabling Nvidia’s Optimus battery saving technology. Optimus would allow the computer to dynamically switch to the power-sipping Intel integrated graphics present on its Core i7 processor while no demanding 3D task is in progress but in the case of our review unit, the Nvidia Quadro K2100M graphics card remains in use perpetually.