HP ZBook Studio G4 Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Amazing power; Wonderful DreamColor display; Sleek design; Plenty of ports

The Cons

Short battery life; Runs warm on bottom

Verdict

The HP ZBook Studio G4 is a powerhouse workstation with a beautiful design and a nearly perfect display.

HP has spent the past year giving its notebooks a makeover, and the new ZBook Studio G4 (starting at $1,354) proves that even workstations can be sexy. More than its rakish-good looks, though, this machine can become a powerhouse when customized with the Intel 7th-Gen Kaby Lake Xeon processor and DreamColor display in the premium $3,510 model we tested. If only it were a bit lighter and lasted longer on a charge, it would be the king of its class. Even with those issues, the ZBook Studio G4 is still one of the best workstations we've tested.

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Design

From its shimmering lid and deck to the stylish version of the HP logo, the machined-aluminum ZBook Studio G4's looks match its price. Unfortunately, HP ditched the dot matrix pattern from the lid of the Studio G3, which helped that model stand out.

HP ZBook Studio G4Weighing 4.9 pounds and measuring 0.7 inches thick, the ZBook Studio G4 is heavier and thicker than the Dell Precision 5520 (4.4 pounds, 0.4 inches) and the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro (4 pounds, 0.6 inches).

The ZBook Studio G4 has ports for days. Its left side features an Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader, while its right side has two Thunderbolt 3 connectors, a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI output port and a headphone jack. Additionally, its slide-over fingerprint reader ($24, optional) sits under the right corner of the keyboard.

HP ZBook Studio G4Comparatively, that's the best port selection you'll get on this group of professional-grade laptops. The MacBook famously offers only Thunderbolt 3 connectors, while the Precision 5520 features only one Thunderbolt 3 port and two USB 3.0 ports.

Display

The ZBook Studio G4 we tested owes its brilliant colors and sharp pictures to HP's award-winning DreamColor technology. It's a $350 upgrade that includes a bump to its 3840 x 2160-pixel panel from the stock 1920 x 1080-pixel option, and this screen will be treasured by photo and video editors.

HP ZBook Studio G4When I watched the 4K film Tears of Steel on the laptop, I noticed an incredibly wide range of greens for the flora overgrowing around a building, along with some very vibrant purple lasers. Details also looked sharp, including the red diodes inside a sniper rifle's lens.

According to our colorimeter, the ZBook produces 175 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That vivid range of color squashes the 94 percent category average, the 113 percent reading from the Precision 5520 and the 126-percent mark from the MacBook Pro.

The workstation panel's accuracy is also excellent, as it earned a 0.2 on the Delta-E test (where lower is better). That puts it in a tie with the MacBook Pro (0.2) and makes it better than the 2.1 category average and the 1.5 from the Precision 5520.

Emitting up to 301 nits, the ZBook Studio G4 is relatively bright, beating the 275-nit category average. The 335-nit Precision 5520 and the 460-nit MacBook Pro shone even brighter. The Studio G4's screen doesn't offer the best viewing angles, though, as I saw color darken at 30 degrees to the left and right.

Security and Durability

IT managers should appreciate the perks in the ZBook Studio G4. It features Sure Start Gen3, which "self heals" the system BIOS if it becomes corrupted. Intel's vPro remote management technology is also available, if you configure it with a CPU and Wi-Fi card that support it.

MORE: What is vPro?

The ZBook Studio G4 can also take some abuse, having passed 13 MIL-SPEC-810G durability tests. Those tests include drops from 36 inches (onto both its corners and sides), operation in extremely hot and cold climates (as high as 160 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as minus 20 degrees) and getting blasted by Arizona road dust for 6 hours while operational.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The ZBook Studio G4's keyboard provides a serviceable but unimpressive typing experience.  

HP ZBook Studio G4The keys require a solid 71 grams of force to actuate, but the switches feel a little shallow, with 1.5 millimeters of vertical travel, which is on the lower end of the 1.5 to 2 mm we expect from a laptop this size. On the 10FastFingers.com typing test, I hit a rate of 74 words per minute, which is a dip below my 80-wpm average.

The 4.5 x 3.1-inch touchpad in the ZBook Studio G4 provides accurate input tracking and a solid feel to each click. It also speedily accepted Windows 10's three-finger navigation gestures for switching apps and viewing all windows.

Audio

The Bang & Olufsen speakers in the ZBook Studio produce enough solid, accurate sound to fill a medium-size conference room. In testing, that meant The Killers' song "The Man" came through with clear vocals, sturdy bass guitar and crisp drums.

The included Bang & Olufsen Audio app allows you to change sound profiles, but you really don't need to. Its default enhancement setting (Music) produces slightly fuller audio than the Movies option, and the Voice preset dampens all other elements.

Performance

The $3,510 ZBook Studio G4 configuration we tested features an Intel 7th-Gen Kaby Lake Xeon 1535M v6 CPU and 32GB of RAM, which makes it perfect for power users. I saw no lag after splitting my screen among a streaming 1080p YouTube video and 15 Chrome tabs (including Slack, Google Docs and TweetDeck).

On Geekbench 4, the Studio G4 scored 16,908, which obliterates the 10,597 mainstream notebook average and beats the 15,309 from the Precision 5520 (Xeon E3-1505M v6, 32GB of RAM) and the 15,170 from the MacBook Pro (Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM).

HP ZBook Studio G4The 512GB HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe SSD in the ZBook Studio duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 9 seconds, for a speed of 565.4 MBps. That outpaces the 208-MBps category average and the 462.7 MBps from the Precision 5520 (512GB M.2 PCIe SSD) but can't touch the 654 MBps from the MacBook Pro (512GB PCIe SSD).

Productivity users will get good use out of the ZBook Studio G4, which matched 20,000 names to addresses in OpenOffice in 2 minutes and 59 seconds. That's quicker than the 4:13 category average and the 3:08 from the Precision 5520.

MORE: Which Laptop CPU is Right for You?

The ZBook Studio's Nvidia Quadro M1200 graphics card enabled it to score a strong 145,911 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test. That's similar to the 143,124 from the Precision 5520 (Nvidia Quadro M1200) and high above the 87,519 mainstream notebook average.

The ZBook Studio won't enable VR gaming or competition-crushing rounds of Tekken 7, but it will handle modest gaming needs. It ran Dirt 3 (set to medium graphics, 1080p resolution) at a smooth 45 frames per second. While that's leaps over our 30-fps smoothness threshold, it's below the 57-fps category average and the 76 fps from the MacBook Pro.

Battery Life

If you take the ZBook Studio G4 on a day trip, you'll want to bring its power cord. Even with its optional 8-cell battery ($39), the notebook lasted only 4 hours and 30 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 100 nits). That's shorter than the 7-hour mainstream notebook average, and less than half as long as the Precision 5520 (11:57) and the MacBook Pro (10:59).

If you do find the ZBook Studio running on empty, you'll appreciate the convenience of its HP Fast Charge technology, which brings the battery to 50 percent full (from empty) in 30 minutes.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Webcam

While the ZBook Studio G4 is a premium machine in most ways, its ho-hum 0.9-megapixel webcam is inarguably basic. It blew out the red of the wall behind me, and its resolution was so splotchy, it appeared as if I had applied a Photoshop filter to my skin.

Heat

It might be best to use the ZBook Studio G4 on a table or a desk, away from your lap. After we streamed HD video on the workstation for 15 minutes, our heat gun recorded 100 degrees Fahrenheit on  the ZBook's underside, which breaches our 95-degree comfort threshold. Its touchpad (80 degrees) and G and H keys (86 degrees) stayed cool.

Software and Warranty

The ZBook Studio G4 features a relatively clean installation of Windows 10 that focuses on HP's utilities. HP DreamColor Assistant allows you to choose from display color ranges (including Adobe RGB, sRGB, BT.709 and DCI P3) and manage custom calibrations. Other applications focus on maintenance, such as Performance Advisor (for micro-level tracking) and Touchpoint Manager for IT technicians working remotely on machines.

Because this notebook is such an investment, it comes with a 3-year on-site warranty. To learn more about HP, check out our annual Tech Support Showdown and our Best and Worst Laptop Brands roundup.

Configuration Options

We tested a $3,510 configuration of the ZBook Studio G4 that the most-demanding power users should check out. It features a Xeon 1535M v6 CPU (its fastest processor option), 32GB of RAM, a 512 HP Z Turbo PCIe drive and a 3840 x 2160 DreamColor screen.

The $1,354 entry-level model features a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. For more power, the $1,950 version features a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 8GB and a 256GB  HP Z Turbo PCIe SSD.

Bottom Line

The HP ZBook Studio G4's luxurious looks, phenomenal performance and decadent display make for an excellent experience. If only it didn't need to be tethered to an outlet for extended use.

For an extra 7 hours of battery life, the half-pound-lighter Dell Precision 5520 is a solid option, though it has a slower processor. Still, the ZBook's brilliant performance and display make it an amazing workstation that is a joy to use.

CPU Intel 7th gen Xeon 1535M
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
RAM 32GB
RAM Upgradable to 32GB
Hard Drive Size 512GB
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe (MLC)
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 3840 x 2160
Native Resolution 3840 x 2160
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card NVIDIA Quadro M1200 with 4GB dedicated GDDR5 memory
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel 8265 ac 2x2
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.5 x 3.1 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
USB Ports 5
Card Slots SD memory reader
Warranty/Support Protected by HP Services, including a standard limited 3 years parts, 3 years labor, and 3 years onsite service (3/3/3) warranty.
Size 14.8 x 10 x 0.7 inches
Weight 4.9 pounds
Company Website http://www8.hp.com/us/en/workstations/zbook-studio.html
Add a comment
15 comments
  • Mike dibble Says:

    My studio zbook g4 lasts much longer than you got in your test. And that is with a heavy workload. I got almost 10hrs with the 92Whr battery.

    The pictures of the article are wrong as well as the specs of the dell. 4.4 pounds, 0.4 inches is wrong. Its actually the same as the g4 at 0.7 inch thick.

    Second article this was wrong in.

  • Isabelle Says:

    for solidworks and Catia V5: HPzbook 17 G4
    Y6K24EA or
    Y6K38EA ?
    Merci beaucoup. "baci"

  • Thom Kelte Says:

    Thanks Dave - hard to find any info on this machine right now, even on the HP forums..

  • Peter Jackson Says:

    There are many <=2kg laptops with GTX 1060 and 1070 Max-Q, some of which have over 9 hours of battery life and most of which have much better performance than this "workstation". No reason to buy these "lightweight" power laptops that has only up to M1200 (between GT950m and GTX960m, close to MX120), costs twice as much and claim its somehow all worth it because of "slightly more premium" materials and keyboard. Mobile workstations are the most ridiculously overpriced pieces of crap in this entire industry.

  • David Kuhn Says:

    Maybe it goes without saying... but I'd not recommend this laptop. I'm staying with the Dell and holding the HP as a loaner machine for short term use by folks in my group or for someone who needs 32gb (the one area where it exceeds the Dell).

  • David J Kuhn Says:

    Thom I have the Xeon version (E3-1505M V5)... I've played with it some more and now I'm even MORE down on it than I was last month. I benchmarked it against my current Windows laptop, a 2 year old Dell 5510 (which also cost a bit over $3k new). It was within 3% performance wise... and it's 2 YEARS OLD! Not just that, but it's quiet, has an equivalent monitor with touchscreen, and is more compact! the Zbook Studio is nothing but disappointing. The 2 year old Dell is more usable because it doesn't sound like a jet is flying around my office when it's running.

  • Logan Scharlden Says:

    Possibly one of the worst "premium" laptops released this year. An astounding epic failure, even for a crap company that is HP

  • Thom Kelte Says:

    Dave - do you have the xeon or i7 version ? am wondering if i7 would give less fan / noise.. am looking at this for music production, and any noise issues will be a problem. Thanks !

  • Dave Kuhn Says:

    I've got a new loaded ZBook Studio sitting next to my years old last gen MBP. The Zbook fan is wizzing loudly even though I've only Chrome running (this site only), the screen is lovely (much better black level relative to MBP), the sound system is rubbish (can't believe B&O have fallen so low). Adding an EQ to crappy hardware is not upscale. Visually the MBP is a cleaner design. As a "Studio" machine the HP is a mixed bag... I'd give it 3 stars because for a 4 year old laptop to compare at all is not good.

  • jean laplante Says:

    my zbook studio g4 was shipped by default with the intel integrated graphic card disable maybe that why the battery life is so bad, did you check yours.my keyboard as no flex at all

  • nullclue Says:

    After a month with the Studio G4 4k dreamcolor model, I do like this laptop, but honestly there is room for improvement:

    1. The keyboard is very mushy, and flexes too much on the right side. Pressing the "K" key hard you can see the entire ride side of the keyboard move. The keyboard is probably the single biggest complaint I have about the hardware.
    2. The fingerprint reader (or Window's use of it) is way too finicky. It only seems to work about 50% of the time.
    3. The speakers are not good quality. Coming from a macbook pro, Apple's speakers are at least twice as good. The HP speakers are not as loud and aren't as rich at any volume, with any EQ setting. I would seriously be embarrassed if I were B&O and listened to this next to a Macbook Pro.
    4. On conference calls I get a lot of complaints that my microphone is not good and it sounds like I'm in a fishbowl.
    5. The trackpad is OK, but there seems to be a noticeable delay before two-finger scrolling is picked up. Switching to the precision drivers doesn't seem to help.
    6. There should really be a 4k glossy touchscreen option.
    7. The screen/lid is a bit too flexible.
    8. HP sells this 4K model ready-to-ship as "16GB (1 dimm)" but its actually 2 8GB dimms. Which makes sense, but is not what their website says. When contacted about this their team said simply that I can order a custom one if I wanted a different configuration, which is not helpful.
    9. The headphone port is in a poor position on the right side, which means for right-handed mouse users the wire is in the way of your mouse.
    10. The fans are just always on. No, it's not because its set to always on in the firmware - they are just constantly running trying to keep this machine cool. I've had this problem with other HP laptops too like the ENVY 15t. They really need to spend a little more for better thermal management, even at the cost of something else. Additionally the pitch of the fan noise seems a more noticeable higher frequency than other laptops I've used, so it feels louder than it probably is.
    11. I'm mixed on the finish. It looks awesome, really, but it also picks up finger prints or palm prints quite easily.

    There are a lot of positives, but I hope that HP continues to improve on this model as it can be a really amazing machine if they address some of these issues. I'd also like to see them extend the design features into a thinner-than-the-17-g4 17" model. Not everyone wants a numeric keypad or the 5-button trackpad.

  • nullclue Says:

    (They've since updated the photos)

  • IronicEnigma Says:

    Purchased this model and must say it's a great workstation laptop. The only complaint I would have yes, is the bit of heat and the fan running but it's not a show stopper.

    Any recommendations for a Thunderbolt 3 dock given the current HP dock seems to have some varied issues?

    Oh, and the pics in the review are of the Studio G4.

  • jojojo Says:

    Nice review,
    However I miss a more critical review of the weakpoints of the older model, the G3.

    The noise emition is not covered at all... and also the heat development during the benchmarks instead of playing a video.

    Maybe you could provide ome additional information regarding those points?!

  • nullclue Says:

    This article refers to the HP ZBook Studio G4, but all of the pictures are of the HP ZBook 15. Wrong laptop.

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