HP ZBook 17 Mobile Workstation Review

by Reads (102,423)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 7
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 9
    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 6
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Features
    • 7
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.57
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • excellent performance
    • vibrant display
    • ample connectivity
    • durable design
  • Cons

    • expensive
    • ports are condensed
    • bulky

Quick Take

The HP ZBook 17 offers a vibrant display, superb performance and a durable design, but it will cost users a pretty penny.

While HP has changed the name of its mobile workstation notebook line, the HP ZBook 17 remains a traditional workstation device. What does that mean for serious business users? The ZBook is a sizable notebook with strong performance levels and ample connectivity; the perfect work horse for users looking to tackle demanding computing tasks. However, with our test unit priced well over $3,000 that performance comes at a steep price.

Does the HP ZBook 17 warrant its high-end costs? Read the full review to find out.

Build and Design

Along with the moniker change, the HP ZBook 17 sports a new curved aesthetic; breaking away from the traditional straight-edged chassis design employed its predecessor, the HP EliteBook 8770W.

The display lid is mainly comprised of black aluminum that sports a fetching vertical striation design complete with the HP logo located on the lid’s center. The outer curved edges of the lid are engulfed in a protective black rubber trimming that is soft to the touch and easy to grip, which proves to be a notable boon when trying to transport the sizeable notebook. The face of the display connects to the squared durable 180-degree display hinges.

HP ZBook 17ZBook_end

The face of deck features a black metallic coating that is pleasantly cool to the touch.  The base of the chassis offers the same premium construct. Users will also enjoy the maintenance hatch on the bottom of the device, which provides users with quick access to the notebook’s innards without having to loosen any screws.

HP ZBook 17 insideMeasuring in at 16.37” x 10.7” x 1.33” and weighing in at roughly 8.48 pounds (varies depending on build) the HP ZBook 17 can be a handful to transport, especially when taking into account the additional 2 pound power brick.  Users looking for a workstation with a more portable build may want to look to the HP ZBook 14, but you can expect to take a noticeable hit in performance for the lighter form factor.

With the machine’s hefty build it comes as little surprise that the device is a tank. The chassis held its form completely even when extreme pressure applied. The display lid proved just as durable flexing slightly too heavy pressure with no noticeable rippling appearing on-screen. While the device may be taxing to transport, users can rest assured that the notebook will hold up to the wears and tears of travel without any issues.

 

Ports

HP ZBook 17 left portHP ZBook 17 right port

Connectivity is a high priority for mobile workstations, which is why it comes as no surprise that the HP ZBook 17 offers a wide array of ports. The left side of the device features a security lock slot, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which doubles as a charger when the device is turned off), a Thunderbolt port, a Display Port connector, a Smart Card reader and an ExpressCard reader. The right side offers a VGA connector, a DVD optical drive (can be removed to make room for a third HDD), USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, an audio jack and a card reader. The HP ZBook 17 also offers an Ethernet connector on the back right hand side of the chassis and a dock connector on the bottom of the device.

While the HP ZBook 17 offers an impressive level of connectivity, the lack of spacing mars some of the device’s utility. Bulky USB plugs and peripherals can easily block corresponding ports, making it difficult for users to access multiple outlets simultaneously.

 

Display and Sound

The HP ZBook 17 features a 17.3-inch LED FHD (1920 x 1080) WVA Anti-Glare display. Boasting a vibrant 230 nits max brightness the display offers a crisp clear image. Notebook Review  (NBR) was particularly impressed by the panel’s rich color contrast, as the device was able to accurately detail the black edges of the fog of war against the bright green grassy fields in the game League of Legends. Whether you are reading text or editing pictures the HP ZBook 17 offers a high-quality viewing experience.

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Users can rest assured that the HP’s image quality will hold up as well, thanks to the display’s flexible viewing angles. On the horizontal axis images holds up till around 170 degrees with no noticeable distortion.  The display proves just as flexible on the vertical axis as well, with image quality remaining pristine even at extreme angles.

The HP ZBook 17 houses a speaker grill located on the notebook’s deck directly above the keyboard. The speakers offer boisterous audio levels capable of filling an entire room with ease. At 100 percent capacity the speakers did produce a small amount of distortion while playing an orchestral track. However, the speakers held up much better while listening other tracks and watching various YouTube videos. For simple tasks the HP ZBook 17’s speakers should suffice, but for optimum audio quality users should opt for an external device.

 

Keyboard and Touchpad

HP ZBook 17 Keyboard The HP ZBook 17 features a full Chiclet-style keyboard complete with number pad. The keyboard stretches across the large chassis offering ample spacing between each key. The rounded keys are coated in a textured plastic that provides ample grip. With its thick frame the notebook offers solid key travel and responsive feedback allowing users to type quickly with assured accuracy.

The notebook houses a TrackPoint stick located between the “G” and “H” keys. The top portion of the touchpad also features right, left and middle mouse buttons, to provide users with full control while using the TrackPoint stick. The stick offers excellent response times and sensitivity making it a more than viable control mechanism for those that prefer the pointer.

HP ZBook 17 TouchPadHowever, those who would rather opt for a touchpad will find a sizable one located directly below the keyboard’s space bar. The touchpad features a smooth surface, providing excellent control while scrolling or swiping across its surface. As with the top of the touchpad, the bottom is also outfitted with left, right and middle mouse buttons.

Equipped with Synaptics drivers the touchpad performs admirably accurately responding to each swipe, click and multi-finger gesture with minimal delay. One feature that may see strange to users is the touchpad’s dead zone. Only the center of the touchpad will respond to taps, the outer edges will ignore the command, though multi-finger gestures will work anywhere on the touchpad’s surface. This feature allows users to easily scroll thorough pages without accidentally clicking on something, though it may take some getting used to.


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2 Comments

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  1. zippo72

    Wow. so expensive.. I’d probably look at the MSI 17.3″ with Quadro K4100m or their 15.6″ with 3K IPS display. Better specs at cheaper price and more bang for your bucks. Isn’t K610m is too weak to run Autodesk apps, solid works, and adobe CS ?

  2. JohnJones

    Assuming you’re looking at a ZBook 17 for doing hi-end multimedia and need a mobile system that’ll handle what your projects are, the ZBook17 G2 or G3 is your best bet. If you don’t have the $$ to buy a mobile workstation that can run multiple OS types, CPU’s, GPU’s, Drives and RAM, then you frankly shouldn’t even be looking at the 17 series. It IS expensive, but if you add a T-bolt dock for a few extra connections, you’ll find that this system kicks ass in most areas. I recently bought both a G2 and G3 from HP; since I have more experience running the G3, I’ll cover that more in my review.
    I got my 17 G3 with a Xeon rather than an I7 because of the multimedia work I do, and I also maxxed it with 64gb of DDR4, an NVIDIA M5000 GPU (8gb, 3lvl cache), 2 1TB PCI-E SSD’s and 2 1TB SATA drives. The system has an internal battery that boasts around 8 hours of juice using a top power profile (fully bright screen, etc.), a backlit keyboard, and a touchpad that’s actually good enough that it’s been the first I’ve ever been willing to use instead of a mouse.

    The only thing I’ve found that I don’t care for is the audio; for the price and reason the system exists (hi-end MM application development), HP could’ve added a better audio package. Of course I’m spoiled since my last system was a fully loaded HP9000 HDX w/ a 20″ monitor and audio to die for, but still, I shouldn’t need to rely on a headset or an external speaker system for decent music or other audio playback.

    The other surprise with the G3 (not the 17 or the 17 G2) is that with all of extra hardware, there’s no room for an included BD drive/burner; I had to order one separately, but no big deal as the unit does well connected to the G3. The other issue I had pre-purchase is that it does not support a 15-1 card reader system like so many other HP mobile systems; you get a smart card reader and an SD card reader. But I can always get an external unit.

    Those were the only issues I had with it before purchase, but it was either that or buy the G2, which only has a max RAM capacity of 32gb, and I wanted the 64gb’s. I had been looking at an HP Z series 840, but for a similar configuration of RAM, CPU and GPU, I couldn’t get it below $10,000 in the configuration I wanted; the 17 G3 gets me pretty damned close to what I wanted in the 840, at about $3000 less. Less upgradeable of course, but that’s the nature of the biz.

    The system is incredibly quiet; occasionally you can just barely hear the fan, but even under load doing large graphics files, there’s just not that much noise. It’s also extremely cool considering the amount of hardware inside.
    Bottom line; if you’re looking for a hi-end beast that’ll run pretty much any multimedia program you want (including top Autodesk and Adobe programs) the 17 G3 is the system to get. It’s currently HP’s top mobile workstation, at least until they come out with the next big beast in a few months. Yeah, it’s expensive, but this system is for professional multimedia creation, not gaming or doing college schoolwork.

    For comparison, I’m currently running ALL of Adobe’s CC level software, OnOne and Alien Skin plug-ins. I primarily use Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Premiere, After Effects, and Audition the most. My G3 is currently configured as follows:

    •NVIDIA Quadro M5000M with 8 GB dedicated GDDR5 video memory
    •17.3 inch LED FHD UWVA Anti-Glare flat (1920×1080)
    •64 GB 2133 DDR4 SDRAM (4 DIMM) ECC
    •2 1 TB 7200 rpm Hard Drives
    •HP lt4120 LTE HSPA+ EVDO Gobi – 4G (Verizon Mobile Broadband)
    •6-Cell (96 WHr) Long Life Battery
    •Integrated Fingerprint Reader
    •Intel® vPro™ Technology Enabled
    •Back-Lit DualPoint Keyboard
    •Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
    •Intel® Xeon® E3-1535M v5 (2.90GHz w/Turbo, 8MB L3 Cache) G6 Processor
    •HP ZBook 200W Thunderbolt 3 Dock
    •2 1 TB Z Turbo PCIe Solid-State Drives (SSD)