CES 2015 | HP updates ZBook 14 with Broadwell, introduces ZBook 15u
Thin, light laptops with workstation features are a relatively new class but their popularity is slowly growing. HP recently announced two more such models at CES. The first, ZBook 14 G2, is simply a Broadwell refresh of the ZBook 14 we reviewed last year. The second, ZBook 15u G2, is a new model similar to the existing ZBook 15. The target audience for these laptops are graphics designers, architects and other professionals willing to sacrifice some processing power for extra portability.
Both laptops offer a choice of Intel Broadwell-U Core i5 or Core i7 dual-core processors and support up to 3 external screens connected via VGA or DisplayPort, both of which are present and in case of DisplayPort, in a full-sized version. In addition to Intel's HD Graphics 5500 there are workstation-class dedicated GPUs from AMD, namely FirePro M4150 (ZBook 14 G2) and M4170 (ZBook 15u G2). Both are equipped with 1 GB of GDDR5 video memory and support AMD Enduro power-saving technology which works similarly to nVIDIA's Optimus, deactivating the dedicated graphics when not in use. The buyers can choose from three screens: HD (1366x768 pixels), HD+ (1600x900) and Full HD (1920x1080).
The rest of the specifications are even more flexible. Up to 16 GB of DDR3L RAM can be installed and various storage devices are offered, including 5400 and 7200 RPM hard drives (500 GB or 1 TB), SATA SSDs (128, 180, 256 or 512 GB) and a 256 GB PCIe SSD dubbed "HP Z Turbo Drive". Some of these support self-encryption (see the detailed specifications list below). Several wireless modules from Intel are available, making the laptops eligible for Wi-Di; their Wi-Fi capabilities, however, differ considerably (2x2 802.11n and 1x1 or 2x2 802.11ac) and there's even one option without Bluetooth. Additional communications are provided by 3G/HSPA+ or 4G/LTE WWAN modem (varies by configuration) and NFC. In its effort to attract as many customers as possible, HP also allows to choose the operating system. Apart from Windows 7 and 8.1, users can also opt for a popular Linux distribution Ubuntu or FreeDOS (the latter essentially meaning no preinstalled OS at all).
As for the casing, both ZBook 14 G2 and ZBook 15u are quite light. The 15-inch model weighs 1.83 kg (4 lbs) and the 14-inch is only 1.62 kg (3.57 lbs). However, they should still be quite sturdy, since compliance with MIL-STD 810G standards is claimed. In our tests of the last-year ZBooks, we could not determine any issues with the cases and were very impressed with their build quality - hopefully this will carry over to the new models as well.
Both laptops should be available shortly with the prices starting at $1200 for the ZBook 14 G2 and $1500 for ZBook 15u G2, but expect the cost to grow considerably for the configurations with high-capacity SSDs and/or Full HD screen. Potential buyers looking for a more powerful mobile workstation with higher-wattage quad-core processor will unfortunately have to wait a few more months for such Broadwell CPUs to be introduced or settle with existing Haswell models.