Notebookcheck

Review HP ZBook 17 (E9X11AA-ABA) Workstation

Tobias Winkler (translated by A Kammel), 11/27/2013

DreamBook? HP has changed the name of its mobile workstations to ZBook, shipping it not only with a different moniker, but also with a completely new chassis and updated components. Our detailed review will show whether this is enough to climb back to the top of our workstation ranking.

For the original German review, see here.

Next to Dell, Fujitsu and Lenovo, HP is one of the traditional manufacturers of powerful mobile workstations. Such laptops are mostly designed for a role as reliable corporate workhorses, offering better-than-average levels of configuration, support and warranty options. One additional unique selling point of mobile workstations has to do with the dedicated graphics cards (optimized for professional 3D applications, and shipping with special features such as ISV certification, special drivers, adjusted BIOS options and guaranteed reliability) with which they are commonly equipped and which – naturally – offer great performance levels.

This year, HP’s mobile workstations are once again offered in three different sizes, ranging from the compact HP ZBook 14 for mobile usage scenarios and the middle-class entry, the HP ZBook 15, to the HP ZBook 17, which offers the maximum amount of space for high-end components.

For this review, we have been provided with a pre-production unit of the HP ZBook 17 (the English version). Some noticeable changes might still occur before the final version hits the shelves, a thought which should be taken into account when glancing at our ratings of the ZBook 17.

The variety of features with which the ZBook 17 ships may be unusual, but not unattractive. For starters, HP has chosen to include a Quadro K610M, Nvidia’s low-end professional graphics board into this large chassis (instead of a usual middle-class or high-end GPU), a choice which will remain the same for the final version as well. On the other hand, it has equipped its new mobile workstation with a DreamColor display, an IPS screen with extraordinarily great color space coverage, which is a true (and often very costly) rarity even in expensive business laptops. Similarly, 16 GB of RAM is great, as is Intel's Core i7-4900MQ CPU, but 128 GB of SSD storage may not be enough for all application scenarios – at least, more HDDs and SDDs can be added.

We were not able to locate our exact test configuration at any online reseller at the time of this writing, and it is not yet possible to create an individual configuration for the ZBook 17 in HP’s online shop, thus we cannot give a precise estimate of the price. Different configurations start at approximately 2000 Euros (~$2718).

Case

How we test - Case

HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
HP ZBook 17 DreamColor
HP ZBook 17 DreamColor
HP ProBook 470
HP ProBook 470

The new visual design language of HP’s mobile workstations closely resembles that of recent ProBooks and EliteBooks, being dominated by straight lines, simple design elements and a less jagged outer shape at the sides when compared to its predecessor, the HP EliteBook 8770w. The metallic outer surfaces feel sturdy and premium. Both the display frame and the bottom of the laptop are made from a sturdy but rather unattractive plastic. Stability and torsion resistance of the ZBook 17 are top-notch, on par with its predecessor. The palm rests are rigid and the display hinges do not wobble. Basically, this pre-production model already comes very close to the quality expected from the final product. Something like the small scratch we found on the display hinge of our test device most likely will not occur once the actual customer version makes it to the shelves, undergoing a final inspection before.

maintenance hatch can be found on the bottom of the device. It can be lifted off without the need to loosen any screws. In addition, the 83 Wh battery can be found here, sitting flush with the case (it could be removed permanently as long as the laptop is plugged in, since no feet are attached to the underbelly of this beast).

One of the main disadvantages of such a 17-inch workstation? Its weight of 3.78 kg (~8.3 pounds), plus a power adapter of an additional 900 grams (~2.0 pounds). This means that the ZBook 7 can still be lugged around, but for truly mobile usage scenarios, an HP ZBook 14 or Dell’s Precision M3800 might be the better choice.

Connectivity

How we test - Connectivity

In terms of connectivity options, there are highs and lows all around. Starting with the latter, most ports are clustered very close to each other instead of being more evenly distributed around the entire sides. It is thus easily possible to block neighboring ports with special cables, wide flash drives or adapters, rendering them useless. Dell has been doing better than that for years with its Precision line, distributing some of the ports along the rear of the device.

One of the best things about the selection of ports is the inclusion of Intel’s Thunderbolt standard (known from Apple’s Mac computers), allowing for external devices to be used in a series thanks to the high bandwidth of up to 10 Gbit/s. For the bandwidth test, the only Thunderbolt device we could muster was Seagate's GoFlex Thunderbolt-SATA adapter. Unfortunately, while the adapter was recognized by the system, none of our external hard drives were. According to the Thunderbolt driver error messages, there appears to have been an incompatibility with this specific Seagate adapter – after all, using an external Thunderbolt display was no problem at all. Regular external Thunderbolt drives should work flawlessly.

Apart from the Thunderbolt port, three USB 3.0 ports (one of these can double as a charger when the laptop is powered off), one USB 2.0 port, a full-size DisplayPort, a VGA port and a card reader are available. In order to expand the functionality of this laptop (should any ports be missing), an ExpressCard/34/54 slot on the left-hand side and a docking port at the bottom are included as well. The Thunderbolt port could actually be used for the same purpose, but so far, not many peripherals exist for the Windows ecosystem.

Left: USB 3.0, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, Smart Card Reader, ExpressCard
Left: USB 3.0, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, Smart Card Reader, ExpressCard
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, power adapter
Rear: Gigabit Ethernet, power adapter
Right: Card reader, audio jack, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, optical drive, VGA
Right: Card reader, audio jack, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, optical drive, VGA
Front: no ports
Front: no ports

Communication

The HP ZBook 17 ships with Intel’s Centrino Advanced-N 6235 module which comes equipped with two antennas, supports both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz band, reaches up to 300 Mbit/s (theoretical limit) and comes with integrated Bluetooth 4.0. During real-life usage, neither connection problems nor weak signal strengths occurred. Then there is a webcam with 720p – decent enough for video calls, but pretty noisy once the ambient light levels begin to drop. The only cabled option is Gigabit Ethernet on the rear.

Security

Our test device comes with all the usual bells and whistles, ranging from the fingerprint reader and a smart card reader to TPM 1.2, support for Intel’s Anti-Theft and a number of different password and security options – plenty of possibilities for securing one’s own data.

Accessories

No accessories are included with the ZBook 17. Optionally, a number of peripherals and other products are available for purchase, such as adequate docking stations (like the HP 2012 for 240 Euros (~$326) or the HP Advanced 2012 for 270 Euros (~$367)), power adapters, additional battery packs, bay adapters or mass storage drives, either specifically for the ZBook or as a universal accessory.

Maintenance

Exemplary: The maintenance hatch can be opened easily by just pushing two sliders away from each other. Beneath, all essential components and empty slots can be found. Two additional RAM slots are located beneath the keyboard. In our test device, these were already occupied by two further 4 GB modules. The remaining free mSATA slot can be accessed via SATA-III, offering data transfer speeds of up to 600 MB/s (our Crucial M4 mSATA-SSD managed to yield a read rate of 384 MB/s in our tests). Apart from this, an – untested – free m.2 slot can be found as well as an unoccupied 2.5-inch drive bay, although our pre-production model shipped without an appropriate drive cage and the necessary screws for adding another HDD or SSD.

Warranty

As could be expected given the potential customers of the HP ZBook Workstation, the ZBook 17 comes with 36 months of warranty and can even be expanded via numerous HP Care Packs. For example, an expansion to 5 years of pickup-and-return service within one working day costs 320 Euros (~$435).

Input Devices

How we test - Input Devices

Keyboard

The chiclet-style keyboard of our pre-production model comes with a US keyboard layout (QWERTY), while the final customer variant should ship with the appropriate localization options. Overall, the keyboard fits more than 100 keys in there, including a separate number pad. The vertical arrow keys are rather small, being positioned too close to each other. On a brighter note, the keyboard deck does not give in, does not wobble and does not get noticeably loud. The short key travel may take some time to get used to, but it might very well become preferable for those who have to do a lot of typing. The keyboard also ships with a configurable backlighting system for dark environments. The FN combinations are lit in a different color, making them a bit harder to find during our first tests.

Touchpad

The touchpad is large enough (103 x 59 mm; ~4.1 x 2.3 inches) to make multi-finger gestures a breeze. It has been split into different zones, only reacting to taps in the very center (something that we were not able to change in the Synaptics settings). Multi-touch gestures such as rotating images or scrolling with three fingers have to be activated first. Other than that, both the reaction speed and the sliding properties of the input area are quite decent, resulting in quick and effortless handling of the touchpad. In contrast to the freely configurable Dell Precision Workstation touchpad, the six separate buttons cannot be remapped – they retain their original touchpad / TrackPoint support functionality. Only between right- and left-handed use can be swapped. The TrackPoint is very precise, offering a viable alternative to the touchpad although it takes some time to get accustomed to it.

Keyboard
Keyboard
QWERTY layout
QWERTY layout
Numpad
Numpad
Arrow keys
Arrow keys
Touchpad
Touchpad
Touchpad with TrackPoint and 6 buttons
Touchpad with TrackPoint and 6 buttons

Display

How we test - Display

HP ZBook 17 with DreamColor display
HP ZBook 17 with DreamColor display

HP offers three different displays for the ZBook 17, ranging from an entry-level variant with an HD+ resolution of 1600x900 pixels (which is basically the minimum for a 17-inch device) and an official maximum brightness of 200 cd/m² with a contrast ratio of 300:1. In addition, one of two Full HD displays (1920x1080 pixels) can be selected, with the less costly one allegedly offering 300 cd/m², a contrast ratio of 500:1 and great viewing angles. Lastly, there is the Full HD DreamColor display with which our test device ships. This is a 30-bit IPS panel with an official contrast ratio of 600:1, also promising especially great viewing angles. Most importantly, this panel is supposed to cover 109% of the NTSC color space, 114% of the AdobeRGB color space and 154% of the sRGB color space.

297
cd/m²
305
cd/m²
292
cd/m²
318
cd/m²
320
cd/m²
330
cd/m²
314
cd/m²
298
cd/m²
327
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 330 cd/m²
Average: 311.2 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 319 cd/m²
Black: 0.359 cd/m²
Contrast: 891:1

Our usual nine measurements points yield maximum brightness levels of 292 to 330 cd/m² (upper left and center left segments respectively) and thus very good brightness homogeneity of 88%. In real-life usage, no differences in brightness can be noted with the naked eye, and only a very small amount of light bleeding is visible on all four sides when looking at a black test picture. Brightness can be adjusted with a high level of precision, ranging from 42 cd/m² at step 0 and 154 cd/m² at step 8 to the aforementioned maximum brightness at step 20. Strangely, our (pre-production) test device was quite slow to change the brightness via the FN keys, taking approximately two seconds for the effects to become visible.

DreamColor vs. AdobeRGB
DreamColor vs. AdobeRGB
DreamColor vs. NTSC1953
DreamColor vs. NTSC1953
DreamColor vs. sRGB
DreamColor vs. sRGB
Outdoors
Outdoors
Outdoors
Outdoors
HP mobile Display Assistant
HP mobile Display Assistant
HP mobile Display Assistant
HP mobile Display Assistant

The contrast ratio of 891:1, as measured by us, is actually much better than the manufacturer claim of 600:1. Blacks are very deep (especially for a laptop) and all colors feel vivid. In combination with the superb color space coverage, images as well as games look very lifelike, offering many subtle nuances that will never be possible to see on a "normal" display. Still, the color space coverage of the ZBook 17 is not as wide as promised in terms of expressible colors. In case of sRGB, 90% are reached, with 93% being measured in the case of AdobeRGB. A significant portion of the available colors remains outside of e.g. the sRGB color space, technically not counting when it comes to determining the overlap. As it had been the case with the HP EliteBook 8770w, the ZBook 17 comes with HP's mobile display assistant, making it easy to quickly select pre-defined color spaces, comfortably using different ones depending on the task at hand.

We have analyzed the rest of the display characteristics twice, once in its delivery condition and then again after calibration. Even before we did calibrate the display, only tiny flaws with a few DeltaE 2000 values of more than 3 or more than 5 could be noted. Especially the sRGB profile provided by HP's mobile display assistant is already perfectly useable as we were barely able to squeeze any more improvements out of it with a manual calibration. It is thus easily possible to stay very much true to the original colors while working with the DreamColor display, letting the small window of non-coverage with respect to the sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces feel like just a minor shortcoming.

Grayscale
Grayscale
Color accuracy
Color accuracy
Color saturation
Color saturation
Color mix
Color mix
Grayscale sRGB profile
Grayscale sRGB profile
Color accuracy sRGB profile
Color accuracy sRGB profile
Color saturation sRGB profile
Color saturation sRGB profile
Color mix sRGB profile
Color mix sRGB profile
Grayscale calibrated
Grayscale calibrated
Color accuracy calibrated
Color accuracy calibrated
Color saturation calibrated
Color saturation calibrated
Color mix calibrated
Color mix calibrated

Viewing angle stability is just plain great. The IPS panel makes the screen contents remain perfectly recognizable even when viewed under extreme angles with just tiny variations in terms of brightness and color reproduction.

We have not been able to find a single problem (inhomogeneities, dead pixels, areas with a different color hue...) with the display of our test device - which used to be a big issue for the preceding models with colorful IPS displays made by HP and Dell.

Viewing angles HP ZBook 17 with DreamColor display
Viewing angles HP ZBook 17 with DreamColor display

Performance

How we test - Performance

As it had already been the case with the EliteBooks, shortly after launch only a few configurations of the ZBook series are available, e.g. in Germany only models with the Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU and either the Nvidia Quadro K3100M or the Quadro K4100M GPU. Other configurations should become available shortly, making it easier to find the perfect machine for one's own needs. Our test device comes with an Intel Core i7-4900MQ and Nvidia’s Quadro K610M as well as 16 GB RAM (four RAM modules occupying all four available slots). The SSD is rather on the small side with just 128 GB, but it still serves as a decent operating system partition. Additional storage can easily be added. As we have already mentioned, we have not yet found out the exact price point of our test configuration.

CPU
caches
mainboard
memory
spd
gpu
dpc latency checker
HD Tune
System information HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA

Processor

Audio conversion
Audio conversion
Stress test
Stress test

The speedy quad-core Intel Core i7-4900MQ is exactly the right processor for such a workstation. With its Hyperthreading technology (up to eight simultaneous threads) and Intel Turbo Boost, maximum performance levels can be achieved in both single threading and multithreading applications. The CPU base clock speed of 2800 MHz climbs to up to 3800 MHz during single threading tasks. In Cinebench R10 32-bit, for example, it reaches 5408 points (single) and 20313 points (multi), respectively. Converting audio files via iTunes is done in 58.9 times the original speed.

Under concurrent full load of the CPU and the GPU, the CPU works at a constant level of approximately 3 GHz. We have not been able to witness any throttling or similar issues. While running on battery, the CPU clock speed quickly climbs in steps of 100 MHz each from 800 MHz (right after unplugging) to a constant plateau of 2800 MHz. Thus, the Cinebench R11.5 results are diminished slightly, reaching 1.22 points (single) and 6.11 points (multi).

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
5408
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
20313
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6819
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.67 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.15 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
27.95 fps
Help

System Performance

Unfortunately, the rather weak graphics section thwarts the rest of the system, resulting in reduced overall performance levels. Other than that, no weaknesses can be noted. The mass storage drive is very fast, 16 GB of RAM should be more than enough and, as already mentioned, the CPU performance is top-notch. This means that there are not going to be many tasks the HP ZBook 17 will not be able to handle - with the only exception being demanding 3D tasks making use of DirectX but without the availability of any special driver optimizations.

5.7
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.7
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.7
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.7
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.8
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
7.9
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage19605 points
PCMark 75362 points
Help

Storage Devices

Crucial M4 64 GB mSATA (not included)
Crucial M4 64 GB mSATA (not included)

The Micron SSD works far faster than conventional spinning drives, yielding far better fluidity during real-life tasks such as opening files or apps, doing much to turn the ZBook 17 into a snappy-feeling laptop. Unfortunately, the 128 GB (gross sum) SSD with which our test device ships is not a lot - actually, only 43 GB remain accessible to the user. It is still a great drive if it is only used as an operating system partition, utilizing one of the many extra slots for inserting an mSATA drive (offering SATA-III), a second 2.5-inch hard drive or even replacing the optical drive with a multibay module.

Micron RealSSD C400 MTFDDAK128MAM
Transfer Rate Minimum: 296.6 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 357.4 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 333.4 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 104.6 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

Graphics Card

Next to the Quadro K510MNvidia's Quadro K610M is one of the entry-level GPUs available for professional laptops. 192 shader units, 1 GB of GDDR5 graphics storage, a 64-bit memory bus and a GPU clock speed of up to 945 MHz place the Nvidia Quadro K610M (on paper) slightly above the Nvidia GeForce GT 720M used in consumer laptops. Intel's HD Graphics 4600 cannot be used, as it is not suited to drive the 30-bit DreamColor IPS display.

The graphics card is capable of offering a lot of extra performance through a specially adapted BIOS and certain drivers, which mostly have a noticeable effect via the OpenGL protocol. SPECviewperf11 tests the GPU performance when used in a number of different CAD programs. The results can differ quite widely depending on the exact program in question, showing that not all professional graphics cards are quite as good as expected in all possible programs. As one might have guessed, the Nvidia Quadro K610M is nowhere near the top of the list, no matter the benchmark. Still, it sometimes (specifically when testing with Lightwave and Pro/Engineer) manages to get surprisingly close to the Nvidia Quadro K2100M used in the Dell Precision M4800. In most cases (Solidworks, Catia, Maya, TCVIS, Siemens NX...) the distance is quite a bit more noticeable, but the K610M is still a viable middle-class solution.

Since it is mentioned again and again, that one might just use a powerful consumer GPU instead, we have compared the K610M to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M as used in the Schenker XMG P703. This GPU comes with 4 GB of GDDR5 RAM, a 256-bit memory bus, a core clock speed of 832 MHz and 1536 shader processors. Still, the GeForce GTX 780M offers far worse results than the Nvidia Quadro K610M in all OpenGL benchmarks with the exception of Ensight. However, if programs such as AutoCAD 2013 or Autodesk Inventor are used - which have made the jump to DirectX instead - the pure, un-optimized prowess of the GPU comes back into play, turning consumer GPUs into the better choice. It is thus highly recommended to check out in advance which usage scenario might be the most likely.

SPECviewperf 11
1920x1080 Catia AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
28.32 fps ∼41%
Dell Precision M4800
41.47 fps ∼60% +46%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
16.28 fps ∼23% -43%
Schenker XMG P703
12.88 fps ∼19% -55%
1920x1080 Ensight AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
17.02 fps ∼17%
Dell Precision M4800
27.43 fps ∼27% +61%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
18.8 fps ∼19% +10%
Schenker XMG P703
22.73 fps ∼23% +34%
1920x1080 Lightwave AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
49.84 fps ∼62%
Dell Precision M4800
50.89 fps ∼63% +2%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
61.01 fps ∼76% +22%
Schenker XMG P703
20.14 fps ∼25% -60%
1920x1080 Maya AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
35.14 fps ∼31%
Dell Precision M4800
52.59 fps ∼47% +50%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
52.84 fps ∼47% +50%
Schenker XMG P703
15.86 fps ∼14% -55%
1920x1080 Pro/ENGINEER AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
15.9 fps ∼84%
Dell Precision M4800
18.97 fps ∼100% +19%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
6.27 fps ∼33% -61%
Schenker XMG P703
1.51 fps ∼8% -91%
1920x1080 SolidWorks AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
36.1 fps ∼56%
Dell Precision M4800
45.41 fps ∼70% +26%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
45.85 fps ∼71% +27%
Schenker XMG P703
11.88 fps ∼18% -67%
1920x1080 Tcvis AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
25.26 fps ∼42%
Dell Precision M4800
33.86 fps ∼57% +34%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
18.62 fps ∼31% -26%
Schenker XMG P703
1 fps ∼2% -96%
1920x1080 Siemens NX AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
21.28 fps ∼34%
Dell Precision M4800
30.39 fps ∼48% +43%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
23.69 fps ∼38% +11%
Schenker XMG P703
2.54 fps ∼4% -88%

Legend

 
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K610M, Micron RealSSD C400 MTFDDAK128MAM
 
Dell Precision M4800 Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
 
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD Intel Core i5-3360M, AMD FirePro M4000, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
 
Schenker XMG P703 Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M, Samsung SSD PM841 MZMTD256HAGM

Looking at the usual DirectX benchmarks, the Nvidia Quadro K610M is back on par with the Nvidia GeForce GT 720M, yielding 1306 points in 3D Mark 11 and 4598 points in 3D Mark Vantage. That is actually not even enough for the Quadro K610M to put some distance between itself and the Intel HD Graphics 4600, which yielded 1364 and 6048 points, respectively.

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
8157 points
3DMark Vantage4598 points
3DMark 111306 points
3DMark Ice Storm47399 points
3DMark Cloud Gate6133 points
3DMark Fire Strike714 points
Help

The Quadro K610M might also not be the first choice when it is time for the GPU to handle OpenCL or CUDA tasks. During the Luxmark raytracing benchmark, even the Intel HD Graphics 4400 as tested in the Dell Latitude E7240 fares better. Nvidia's own CUDA engine also does not stand a chance when compared to Intel's Quick Sync Video once it comes to video conversion tasks. Other OpenCL tests (from categories such as finance mathematics, cryptography and video as well as photo filters), there are no non-Quadro benchmarks as of the time of this writing. Comparing it to other Quadro-GPUs, it unsurprisingly takes one of the last spots in terms of performance.

OpenCL finance mathematics
OpenCL finance mathematics
OpenCL video, photo, physics
OpenCL video, photo, physics
Video conversion
Video conversion
OpenCL cryptography
OpenCL cryptography
LuxMark v2.0 64Bit
Sala Scene, OpenCL GPUs-only (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
48 Samples/s ∼1%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
470 Samples/s ∼10% +879%
Dell Precision M4800
145 Samples/s ∼3% +202%
Lenovo ThinkPad S440
250 Samples/s ∼6% +421%
Dell Latitude E7240
218 Samples/s ∼5% +354%
Room Scene, OpenCL GPUs-only (sort by value)
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
102 Samples/s ∼4%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
270 Samples/s ∼11% +165%
Dell Precision M4800
67 Samples/s ∼3% -34%
Lenovo ThinkPad S440
150 Samples/s ∼6% +47%
Dell Latitude E7240
137 Samples/s ∼6% +34%

Legend

 
HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K610M, Micron RealSSD C400 MTFDDAK128MAM
 
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD Intel Core i5-3360M, AMD FirePro M4000, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
 
Dell Precision M4800 Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
 
Lenovo ThinkPad S440 Intel Core i7-4500U, AMD Radeon HD 8670M, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
 
Dell Latitude E7240 Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Liteonit LMT-128M6M

Gaming Performance

This is no gaming laptop - most titles that we tested were only playable with minimal or medium settings. With games such as Alan Wake or Metro: Last Light, even this is barely possible, rendering them more or less unplayable on this workstation. Some racing games fare much better, even remaining playable with everything set to high. The same holds true for Torchlight II (although this game seems to have a problem with the XGA resolution, resulting in strongly reduced frame rates when playing in XGA).

low med.high ultra
World of Warcraft (2005) 3451322712fps
Total War: Shogun 2 (2011) 131.523.77.5fps
Batman: Arkham City (2011) 72482311fps
Anno 2070 (2011) 6231197fps
Alan Wake (2012) 26.8166fps
Diablo III (2012) 69474325fps
Dirt Showdown (2012) 7648329fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 54.540.914.85fps
Torchlight 2 (2012) 4810947fps
F1 2012 (2012) 73585221fps
World of Tanks v8 (2012) 11931229fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 38.82314.57.5fps
Assassin´s Creed III (2012) 33267fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 66.931.820.74.9fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 52.526.422.26fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 21.516.19.14.8fps
GRID 2 (2013) 99.850.535.712.5fps
Saints Row IV (2013) 4432138fps

Emissions

How we test - Emissions

System Noise

The noise emissions of the HP ZBook 17 scale pretty well with the amount of stress exerted. While idle, the laptop remains silent (at least when the "fan always on when AC" function is deactivated in the BIOS settings). Under light and medium loads, very low noise levels of just 29.1 dB(A) are measured. In fact, and very unusually so, the display is much louder, generating an acceptable but audible high-frequency buzzing sound. The optical drive can easily be heard (35.8 dB(A)) during quieter parts of playing a DVD, getting quite loud when reading data (up to 46.2 dB(A)). Under medium to high loads, as simulated with 3D Mark '06, the ZBook 17 reaches up to 40.5 dB(A). Its maximum loudness of 46.8 dB(A) under full load is just slightly more annoying than the DVD burner, getting rather uncomfortable after some time.

Noise Level

Idle 27 / 27 / 29.1 dB(A)
DVD 35.8 / 46.2 dB(A)
Load 40.5 / 46.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    PCE-322A (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The temperature levels of the chassis remain exemplary at all times, reaching no more than 34.1 degrees Celsius (93.38 degrees Fahrenheit) even after one hour under full load. Only next to the fan vent at the left-hand side of the laptop did we measure a higher temperature of 46.2 degrees (115.16 Fahrenheit), but this does not really have a noticeable impact during most actual usage scenarios.

Max. Load
 33.6 °C23.7 °C21.7 °C 
 34.1 °C29.5 °C22.3 °C 
 26.2 °C23.3 °C21.7 °C 
Maximum: 34.1 °C
Average: 26.2 °C
28.4 °C31.3 °C25.3 °C
31 °C29.5 °C24.7 °C
30.4 °C26.1 °C23.5 °C
Maximum: 31.3 °C
Average: 27.8 °C
Power Supply (max.)  48.5 °C | Room Temperature 20 °C | Fennel Firt 550

Speakers

The integrated stereo speaker is not really suited for movies or music, being dominated by highs, with few mids and little bass. External solutions can be connected via Bluetooth, USB or the 3.5mm combined audio jack (requiring the user to employ an adapter or choose a headset with combined microphone and headphone cables).

Energy Management

How we test - Battery Life

Power Consumption

While idle and running in energy-savings mode, with the display brightness set to minimum, the HP ZBook 17 already requires 16.5 Watts. This is mostly due to the large display and the dedicated GPU. Using the balanced profile, this value soars up to 27.8 Watts, with the main culprit being the maximum display brightness. Switching to the high performance profile only yields another 0.5 Watts, although all wireless modems are now active. Under load, around 76 Watts are reached (3D Mark '06). The absolute maximum was measured at 100.3 Watts (right after our full load stress test with FurMark + Prime95 started), being reduced to a 89.1 Watts plateau shortly afterwards. The CPU clock speed decreased to almost 3 GHz, being able to remain at this level for hours.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.2 Watt
Idle 16.5 / 27.8 / 28.3 Watt
Load 76.2 / 100.4 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

Battery Eater Reader's Test (maximum runtime)
Battery Eater Reader's Test (maximum runtime)
Battery Eater Classic Test (minimum runtime)
Battery Eater Classic Test (minimum runtime)

Our test device comes with an 83 Wh battery, offering a capacity that is on par with most other high-powered workstations. This primary battery can be complemented by an HP BB09 Ultra Extended Life Battery with a capacity of 100 Wh (160 Euros (~$217)) or an HP ST09 Extended Life Battery with a capacity of 73 Wh (160 Euros as well), weighing a hefty additional 620 grams (~1.4 pounds) and 550 grams (~1.2 pounds) respectively.

The battery runtimes vary from a minimum of 1:14 hours (Battery Eater Classic Test, maximum-performance profile, maximum brightness, all wireless modems activated) to 5:22 hours (Battery Eater Reader's Test: Energy-saving mode, minimum display brightness, all wireless modems deactivated). Both values are rather unrealistic, marking the extreme points of the spectrum. Closer to real-life usage scenarios is our Wi-Fi test (display brightness of 154 cd/m², energy-saving mode activated, wireless modems activated) as well as our video test with the movie Big Bug Bunny playing in an endless loop (same settings, but wireless deactivated). The 3:21 and 2:56 hours of battery life resulting from these tests already show that our test sample may not be one of the longest-lasting laptops (which is not a surprising result for a mobile workstation). Still, the above-mentioned extended batteries can increase battery life considerably - while also adding a lot of extra heft.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 22min
WiFi Surfing
3h 21min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
2h 56min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 14min

Verdict

HP ZBook 17 with DreamColor display
HP ZBook 17 with DreamColor display

The HP ZBook 17 is a worthy successor to the HP EliteBook 8770wAll fundamental properties that one might have come to expect from a mobile workstation are there, and more than decently so. The chassis is sturdy, the system performance is great, expandability is a no-brainer and a large variety of different customizations allow for a truly individual device to be purchased.

Those who wish for better 3D graphics performance might want to choose one of the more powerful Nvidia Quadro graphics chips, which are available in alternative configurations of the ZBook 17. The Quadro K610M with which our test device shipped can rarely make use of optimized drivers, often falling back to the performance levels of integrated graphics solutions.

Although our test device was from a pre-production batch, we had nothing to complain about in terms of the stability of the system, its build quality and its overall features.

When compared to its predecessor, we would have liked to see an improved placement of ports. Depending on the exact kind and number of external periphery devices in use, some of them cannot be connected due to insufficient empty space between the ports.

Also not great is that there is little storage left in its delivery condition - still, its measly 43 GB can be easily expanded.

Other disadvantages such as the high weight, the non-usable integrated Intel graphics and the resulting, rather short battery runtimes are more or less in the nature of such a workstation.

But there is some restitution: The DreamColor display is absolutely superb. Despite some small flaws (flaws with respect to the extremely high standard of this panel), the screen of the ZBook 17 is one of the best which can currently be had in any laptop worldwide.

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In Review: HP ZBook 17. Test device (pre-production model) provided by the manufacturer.
In Review: HP ZBook 17. Test device (pre-production model) provided by the manufacturer.

Specifications

HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA Quadro K610M - 1024 MB, Core: 954 MHz, Memory: 650 MHz, GDDR5, Forceware 312.65
Memory
16384 MB 
, 4x 4GB PC3-12800, max. 32 GB, 4 Slots
Display
17.3 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, LGD02FC, LED IPS, > 90 % sRGB & AdobeRGB, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel QM87 (Lynx Point)
Harddisk
Micron RealSSD C400 MTFDDAK128MAM, 128 GB 
, 45 GB free
Soundcard
Intel Lynx Point-LP - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
1 Express Card 54mm, 1 USB 2.0, 3 USB 3.0, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: combined Line In/Out, Card Reader: SD, SDHC, SDXC, 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader, TPM 1.2
Networking
Intel I217-LM Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 (a b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
Optical drive
HP CDDVDW SU-208CB
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 34 x 416 x 272 ( = 1.34 x 16.38 x 10.71 in)
Weight
3.78 kg ( = 133.34 oz) Power Supply: 905 g ( = 31.92 oz)
Battery
83 Wh Lithium-Ion, 14.8V
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64 Bit) + Windows 8 Pro (64 Bit)
Additional features
Webcam: 720p, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, CyberLink Media Suite, Cyberlink Photo Director, CyberLink Power Director, 36 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The HP ZBook 17 is the successor to the HP EliteBook 8770w.
The HP ZBook 17 is the successor to the HP EliteBook 8770w.
Not only the internal components have been swapped in the ZBook 17 ...
Not only the internal components have been swapped in the ZBook 17 ...
...but also the case.
...but also the case.
The DreamColor display is just plain superb. It comes with both a tremendous color space coverage and a matte surface.
The DreamColor display is just plain superb. It comes with both a tremendous color space coverage and a matte surface.
The display lid sports two different colors ...
The display lid sports two different colors ...
...consisting of a rubber grip area on the sides and brushed metal inside.
...consisting of a rubber grip area on the sides and brushed metal inside.
The fan definitely gets the job done, keeping the device cool.
The fan definitely gets the job done, keeping the device cool.
The only port at the rear: Gigabit Ethernet.
The only port at the rear: Gigabit Ethernet.
Our test device had a nasty scratch on the rear part of the hinge.
Our test device had a nasty scratch on the rear part of the hinge.
The ports are placed very close to each other, but they offer a wide selection of options.
The ports are placed very close to each other, but they offer a wide selection of options.
The plastic used for the bottom part does not feel premium, but it is a sensible choice.
The plastic used for the bottom part does not feel premium, but it is a sensible choice.
The card reader is easy to access. There is also a combined Line In/Out port ...
The card reader is easy to access. There is also a combined Line In/Out port ...
... as well as VGA (still often used in companies).
... as well as VGA (still often used in companies).
The LEDs display information about the mode of operation with a subtle glow.
The LEDs display information about the mode of operation with a subtle glow.
The display hinges feel very sturdy; they don't wobble.
The display hinges feel very sturdy; they don't wobble.
There are separate buttons for the radio modems and the mute switch.
There are separate buttons for the radio modems and the mute switch.
The keyboard of our pre-sample device comes with a US layout.
The keyboard of our pre-sample device comes with a US layout.
The touchpad is large, but there is not much finetuning that can be done.
The touchpad is large, but there is not much finetuning that can be done.
Bright, high contrast ratio, great viewing angles, superb colors: DreamColor.
Bright, high contrast ratio, great viewing angles, superb colors: DreamColor.
The webcam comes with a resolution of 720p. It should suffice for well-lit video conference rooms.
The webcam comes with a resolution of 720p. It should suffice for well-lit video conference rooms.
A large maintenance hatch can be found at the bottom.
A large maintenance hatch can be found at the bottom.
Two sliders are located below the docking port, keeping the battery and the cover in place.
Two sliders are located below the docking port, keeping the battery and the cover in place.
Large fan vents make it easy for the laptop to provide enough cool air.
Large fan vents make it easy for the laptop to provide enough cool air.
The 83 Wh battery sits flush with the case.
The 83 Wh battery sits flush with the case.
The docking port hasn't changed from the predecessors, remaining compatible with older docks.
The docking port hasn't changed from the predecessors, remaining compatible with older docks.
Most major components can be found beneath the maintenance hatch.
Most major components can be found beneath the maintenance hatch.
A number of slots are still available ...
A number of slots are still available ...
... and a third mass storage drive can be inserted.
... and a third mass storage drive can be inserted.
Two further RAM slots are located beneath the keyboard.
Two further RAM slots are located beneath the keyboard.
The fan is not as easy to access as e.g. with the Dell Precision M4800.
The fan is not as easy to access as e.g. with the Dell Precision M4800.
Intel's Centrino Advanced-N 6235 combines Wi-Fi and wireless modems.
Intel's Centrino Advanced-N 6235 combines Wi-Fi and wireless modems.
The SIM slot can still be found in the battery compartment.
The SIM slot can still be found in the battery compartment.
Our Crucial M4 mSATA-SSD reaches data transfer rates of almost 390 MB/s.
Our Crucial M4 mSATA-SSD reaches data transfer rates of almost 390 MB/s.
The power adapter is amply sized: 200 Watts will be enough for all application scenarios.
The power adapter is amply sized: 200 Watts will be enough for all application scenarios.
Then again, 900 grams is quite a bit of extra weight!
Then again, 900 grams is quite a bit of extra weight!
The display is a joy to use outdoors ...
The display is a joy to use outdoors ...
...unless extreme angles are chosen.
...unless extreme angles are chosen.

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Links

Price Check

Pro

+Chassis
+Display
+System performance
+Upgradeability
+Noise emissions (while idle)
+Surface temperatures
 

Cons

-Amount of storage
-Location of ports
-Weight
-(Display "noise")
-(Speed of brightness adaptation)

Shortcut

What we like

The low noise emissions while idle (or only under medium load) as well as the superb image quality of the DreamColor display.

What we'd like to see

More space in between the ports, a configuration with an AMD FirePro GPU and more configuration options for the touchpad and its 6 buttons. Most other potential disadvantages can be mitigated by choosing different components.

What surprises us

---

The competition

The Dell Precision M6800, the successor to Fujitsu's Celsius H920 and numerous 15-inch workstations. Also a number of manufacturers using Clevo barebones, such as MSI, Schenker and Bullman.

Ratings

HP ZBook 17 E9X11AA-ABA
03/21/2014 v4
Tobias Winkler

Chassis
92 / 98 → 94%
Keyboard
90%
Pointing Device
83%
Connectivity
80%
Weight
51 / 66 → 73%
Battery
78%
Display
92%
Games Performance
66%
Application Performance
87%
Temperature
93 / 95 → 98%
Noise
87 / 90 → 97%
Audio
43%
Camera
42 / 85 → 49%
Average
76%
86%
Workstation *
Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review HP ZBook 17 (E9X11AA-ABA) Workstation
Author: Tobias Winkler, 2013-11-27 (Update: 2013-12- 4)