HP ZBook 15 G5 Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Military-durable; Comfortable keyboard; Solid speakers; Strong Performance; Long battery life

The Cons

Chunky design; Display has narrow viewing angles; Blotchy webcam

Verdict

The HP ZBook 15 G5 has a strong processor, long battery life and a solid keyboard, but the Sure View display isn't stellar.

HP's ZBook 15 G5 ($3,435 as tested) is an absolute beast, waiting to chew through anything you can throw at it with its 8th Gen Core i7 processor and Nvidia Quadro P2000 GPU. As you're pounding away at work, you'll be comforted by a deep-travel keyboard and nearly 9 hours of battery life. If you're traveling, the ZBook 15's military-tested chassis can hold its own. And when you finally get to your hotel room to relax, you can enjoy those epic Bang & Olufsen speakers.

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However, despite all of that goodness, the ZBook 15 has a notable flaw: Its display. The Sure View panel looks fuzzy and has narrow viewing angles -- even when the privacy setting is turned off -- which is disappointing for a workstation. The blurry webcam doesn't help, either. Overall, the ZBook 15 delivers great performance, but it's not quite a home run.

ZBook 15 G5 Price and Configurations

The ZBook 15 that I tested costs $3,435 and is outfitted with an Intel Core i7-8850H vPro processor, Nvidia Quadro P2000 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 1080p Sure View panel that can protect your privacy.

The base model currently costs $1,659 and drops you to a Core i5-8300H processor, an Intel UHD 630 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a regular 1080p screen.

Meanwhile, if you're going all out, the ZBook 15 will cost you $7,935 and upgrade you to a Xeon E-2186M processor, 64GB of RAM, two 2TB SSDs, one 1TB SSD and a 4K display.

Design

Unlike its stylish sibling, the ZBook Studio x360, the ZBook 15 is a meaty gray brick, cutting off its own corners in an attempt to look cool (hint: it doesn't). While the HP slash logo does look nice on the hood, the two-toned lip is just more gray on gray.

The interior is similarly designed, with a gray base accompanied by a doubly gray keyboard and pointing stick.

There's a fingerprint reader on the left hand side and a Bang & Olufsen speaker vent above the keyboard. The chunky bezels are the biggest eyesore on this system, especially above and below the screen.

At 5.7 pounds and 14.8 x 10.4 x 1.0 inches, the ZBook 15 is a giant compared with its fellow workstations. The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is quite petite for a 15-inch workstation, at 4 pounds and 0.7 inches thin, while the Dell Precision 3530 lands in the middle, at 5.1 pounds and 1.0 inches thick.

Ports

The ZBook 15 has a plentiful number of ports for business and leisure.

The left side features a security lock slot, an RJ45 port, two USB 3.0 ports (one always-on charging) and an SD card slot.

The ride side has room for the power jack, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, an HDMI port, one USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack and a Smart Card reader.

Security and Durability

Like many of its HP siblings, the ZBook 15's chassis is tested to withstand 14 MIL-STD-810G3 certifications. Those include repeated drops, vibration, bench handling, freezing and thawing cycles, high altitude, high and low temperatures, dust, sand, temperature and functional shock, humidity and an explosive atmosphere.

MORE: How a VPN Can Boost Your Security and Privacy

The ZBook 15 has a plethora of security options as well. You can configure it to come with Intel vPro, which uses remote management, a fingerprint reader, an IR camera for Windows Hello and HP's SureView panel, which helps prevent visual hacking. On top of that, you get HP's Sure Start software (a self-healing BIOS).

Display

The ZBook 15's 1920 x 1080, 120-Hertz, 15.6-inch panel is an absolute winner on paper, but it's a disappointment in real-world testing.

I watched the Pokemon: Detective Pikachu trailer, and when the titular character meets Justice Smith, I struggled to spot the detail in Pikachu's fur due to the blotchy film layered over the panel. The display is ridiculously bright, but somehow the corners of the screen still looked dim. And no, I did not have Sure View on. There's a price to pay for all that Sure View privacy and unfortunately; you take the hit in sharpness. Despite that, the colors were solid, as the blue neon signs and yellow rickety shop lights illuminated the streets of Ryme City.

When watching the Pokemon: Detective Pikachu trailer, I struggled to spot the detail in Pikachu's fur due to the Sure View film on the display.

According to our colorimeter, the ZBook 15's panel covered 112 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is the least colorful among competitors and the workstation average (152 percent). The Precision 3530 and ThinkPad P1 hit 117 and 179 percent, respectively.

Despite its poor viewing angles, the ZBook 15 managed to emit 631 nits of brightness, washing away the 365-nit category average, the ThinkPad P1 (285 nits) and the Precision 3530 (289 nits).

Keyboard, Touchpad and Touch Screen

My fingers danced across the ZBook 15's bouncy, neatly-spaced keys. Although the keyboard felt somewhat mushy, it was still comfortable to type on. In addition to its white backlighting, the keyboard comes with a pointing stick and a number pad.

I hit 61 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, landing slightly below my 66-wpm average. Despite that, the keys give you solid travel at 1.6 millimeters (within our 1.5 to 2.0 mm comfort zone) and require 70 grams of force to actuate (above our 60 g minimum).

The ZBook's touch-screen panel was responsive as I doodled in Paint and navigated through Google Chrome.

HP's neatly spaced keys were bouncy as my fingers danced across the base of the ZBook 15.

The 4.5 x 2.2-inch touchpad is just a tad too big. When I typed I constantly hit the touchpad, which caused the cursor to single-click off the typing test. When I gave it to my co-worker, the same thing happened to him. However, the touchpad is incredibly soft, and it comes with three discrete buttons for left and right clicking as well as a middle button for scrolling. Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing, worked perfectly fine.

Audio

The ZBook 15's Bang & Olufsen speakers are a joy to listen to. These speakers carried the melodic tune of ONE OK ROCK's "Stand Out Fit In" through a small office and into the lab next door. I felt the depth in Taka's voice as he jumped into the opening of the song with his soft vocals, and the bass was solid enough to capture the weight of the drums and guitar in the background. Meanwhile, the treble kept the vocals sharp throughout the chorus.

MORE: Best Bluetooth Speakers for Home or On-the-Go

The ZBook 15 is accompanied by Bang & Olufsen's Audio app, which lets you customize the sound through an equalizer or select from presets, such as Voice, Movies and Music.

Performance

Armed with an Intel Core i7-8850H vPro processor with 32GB of RAM, the ZBook 15 sped through 40 Google Chrome tabs and a 1080p YouTube video while Candy Crush Saga ran in the background.

On the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, the ZBook 15 scored 22,013, sailing past the 20,598 workstation average as well as the Intel Xeon E-2176M CPU found in the ThinkPad P1 (18,782) and the Precision 3530 (21,367).

The ZBook 15 matched 65,000 names and addresses on our Excel test in just 38 seconds, topping the 1:02 category average. The Precision 3530 did it in 0:44, but the ThinkPad P1 crushed the test in a speedy 4 seconds.

On the HandBrake benchmark, the ZBook 15 converted a 4K video to 1080p in 9 minutes and 53 seconds, finishing over 5 minutes faster than the workstation average (15:01). The Precision 3530 (11:11) fell slightly behind, while the ThinkPad P1 (9:45) beat the ZBook 15 by 8 seconds.

The ZBook 15's 512GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in 10 seconds, for 508 megabytes per second, which just misses the 564-MBps category average. The ThinkPad P1's 2TB SSD and the Precision 3530's 512GB SSD were blazing fast, at 848 MBps.

The ZBook 15 converted a 4K video to 1080p over 5 minutes faster than the average workstation.

With Nvidia's Quadro P2000 GPU, the ZBook 15 scored 6,121 on the 3DMark Fire Strike graphics benchmark, and while that's below the 6,732 workstation average, the ThinkPad P1's Quadro P2000 GPU (6,044) and the Precision 3530's Quadro P600 (3,860) did even worse.

The ZBook 15 wrecked shop on the Dirt 3 benchmark at 235 frames per second, soaring over the 187-fps category average. The ThinkPad P1 (190 fps) and the Precision 3530 (214 fps) just make it past the average.

Battery Life

For a workstation pumping so much power all day long, the ZBook 15 does not disappoint when it comes to battery life. It survived 8 hours and 56 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuously surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness). It knocked out the workstation average (6:45) and the ThinkPad P1 (4:16), whereas the Precision 3530 ran a tight race (8:53).

Webcam

In the test shots I took, my red-and-black flannel shirt was out of focus and reduced to a dull, washed-out version of the real thing.

My face was so blotchy and jagged, I could see square pixels on my jawline as well as where my forehead meets my hair. And the ceiling lights above me erased part of the ceiling with pure white light (the lights are yellow).

Heat

The ZBook 15 stayed cool under pressure. After streaming a 15-minute HD video, the underside climbed to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad measured 83 and 77 degrees, respectively. The hottest it got was 97 degrees on the lower-left center hinge.

Software and Warranty

As with most HP systems, the ZBook 15 G5 is loaded with a plethora of branded software. Running down the list, there's HP JumpStart (a tutorial for Windows 10), HP Sure Click (web-browser security), HP WorkWise (mobile device management), HP Recovery Manager (maintenance and recovery data) and HP Support Assistant (updates HP device drivers).

The usual Windows 10 bloatware also makes an appearance, including Candy Crush Saga, Dolby Access and Hidden City: Hidden Object Adventure.

The ZBook 15 starts with a three-year limited warranty, but it can be downgraded to one year. See how HP performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.

Bottom Line

The HP ZBook 15 G5 is a monster that tore through our performance benchmarks. It can even withstand military-grade torment. And despite its ruggedness, it has a comfortable keyboard and a pair of speakers so hypnotic you'll feel like you're at a concert.

However, I simply cannot ignore the lackluster display, especially since it's what you'll be working on all day, whether it be video editing or 3D modeling. If privacy isn't paramount, we would opt for a configuration without the SureView display. It also doesn't help that the design is dull and clunky, and that the webcam produces poor images.

If you're aiming for a better screen, go for the ThinkPad P1 ($3,979), as its 4K panel is incredibly colorful. Besides that, you get a blazing-fast SSD and a world-class keyboard, all packed into a lightweight chassis.

Overall, the ZBook 15 is a solid business workstation capable of overcoming any rigorous task.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i7-8850H vPro processor
Operating System Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
RAM 32GB
RAM Upgradable to 64GB
Hard Drive Size 512GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type NVMe M.2 SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 3840 x 2160
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card NVIDIA Quadro P2000
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 9560
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.5 x 2.2-inch
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone/Mic
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0 Always On
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) DC-in
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) Smart Card Reader
Ports (excluding USB) SD card slot
Ports (excluding USB) RJ-45
Ports (excluding USB) security lock slot
USB Ports 5
Card Slots SD memory reader
Card Slots Smart Card
Warranty/Support One-year limited warranty, upgradable to three years.
Size 14.8 x 10.4 x 1.0 inches
Weight 5.67 pounds
Company Website https://store.hp.com
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