- Intel Xeon Processor
- 4K display
- 2TB max
The HP ZBook Studio mobile workstation (starting at $1,699, about £1,118, AU$2,400) is the perfect compromise between style and performance. Unlike mobile workstations of the past, which were heavy, ugly and really only meant to be transported when necessary, the Studio blends consumer-level style with business-class performance.
This 15.6-inch laptop competes with devices like the Lenovo ThinkPad P50. Both notebooks feature 4K displays, Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro Graphics, which means you’re running top-of-the-line visuals with optimal processing and graphics performance.
Unfortunately for Lenovo, the Studio is a lighter and thinner device that looks and feels a lot cooler.
The Studio is only 0.7 inches (18mm) thick and 4.4 pounds (1.9kg), which is about 0.3 inches thinner and 1.2 pounds lighter than the P50. This isn’t exactly light, especially if you’re comparing it to consumer laptops. However, for a mobile workstation, this is an excellent size. In fact, it’s less about a pound heavier than the Surface Book and MacBook Pro, neither of which comes with a Xeon processor or more than 1TB of storage.
The laptop is built with a black, studded aluminum and magnesium chassis that is a pleasure to touch. You won’t notice any fingerprints or smudges when you handle this device, which can’t be said about the stain-heavy P50. The studs give the Studio a nice shimmering texture, especially when held up to sunlight or in dark rooms with heavy overhead lighting. The word “bling” comes to mind.
Although I’m not crazy about the tiny keys HP outfitted the Studio with, I absolutely love the dramatically long and wide trackpad, which is made of metal and feels perfectly smooth and responsive.
Unlike the HP ZBook lineup, which features two metallic hinges at the far ends of the laptop, the Studio is built with a single plastic hinge that is flexible, smooth and sturdy. I don’t love that the hinge is made of plastic, but it does feel a lot more pliable than the metallic hinges used on other devices, like the ZBooks and the Lenovo P50.
The bottom of the Studio is divided into two sections, both of which are surrounded by a single, thin rubber base, which is ideal for people like me who tend to drop their laptops on desks, rather than gently placing them. The lower portion of the panel is rubber, but it doesn’t feel or look cheap the way ruggedized devices do. The rubber material is designed with a snake-like pattern, so the rubber texture doesn’t overpower the laptop’s aesthetic. The texture should also help to absorb some of the brunt of the force when you place the laptop down at an angle.
The upper portion of the base of the laptop is mesh vented, which should help to keep the Intel Xeon-backed powerhouse from overheating. This isn’t the prettiest design you’ll find, but it seems a necessary one, especially for users who are running processor-heavy tasks like video editing and graphic design.
The entire bottom of the laptop can be removed simply by unscrewing four screws. This is great for IT departments and anyone else who likes to tinker with their internals.
Under the hood
Speaking of hardware, the Studio can run on an Intel Xeon desktop-strength processor, or it can be downgraded to an Intel Core i7 SkyLake processor. Unfortunately, the Studio only comes with up 32GB of RAM, which doesn’t hold up to the P50’s 64GB.
HP’s new flagship mobile workstation features an Nvidia Maxwell Quadro Graphics Card and a 4K display capable of displaying more than 8 million colors. The Studio Mobile Workstation is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, so you can drop it on a dock and connect to studio-level displays with no issue whatsoever.
You can house up to 2TB of data on the Studio, which is one TB less than the P50. The Studio comes with 1 RJ-45, 3 USB 3.0, 1 power connector, 2 Thunderbolt 3 and 1 HDMI 1.4 connector. The P50 comes with one additional USB 3.0 port, but it doesn’t feature Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.
HP hasn’t revealed how long the Studio is expected to run for on a single charge.
Don’t expect much. The P50 runs between 3 and 4 hours, which is typical for a mobile workstation, especially one that runs on a powerful processor. Expect the Studio to be in the same ballpark.
What we do know is that the Studio only runs on a 4-cell battery. The P50 is capable of running on a 6-cell battery, so expect to the P50 to win this head-to-head, especially at the higher-end configuration.
The Studio is a much more attractive device than the P50. However, both laptops feature comparable on-paper performance and similar spec-sheets, albeit the P50 outshines the Studio when it comes to storage and memory.
The P50 starts at $1,599 (£1,025, AU$2,156), which is slightly less than the Studio’s $1,699 price tag. In my opinion, the $100 extra dollars is worth the size and weight difference, as well as the Thunderbolt 3 connectors, especially if you don’t need the extra 1TB of storage.
You can’t really go wrong with either mobile workstation. In my experience, HP’s ZBooks have traditionally been the best laptops, both in terms of performance and in terms of style. In fact, the HP ZBook 14 G2 is techradar’s highest-rated mobile workstation. The HP ZBook Studio continues this trend. It looks like HP has created a new contender for best-in-class.