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The HP ZBook 15u G2 is a lightweight work laptop that offers a rugged, military-grade design and solid overall performance.
Durable, lightweight design
Bright, accurate display
Graphics could be better
HP promises portable performance in its mobile workhorse, the ZBook 15u G2. This notebook features an Intel Core i7 processor, plenty of ports, and a rugged design that stands up to harsh conditions. Starting at $1,199 ($1,999 in review), the ZBook 15u G2 is a solid work companion, but its graphics performance could be better.
The HP ZBook 15u G2 wears a three-tone suit, a professional design that looks clean and understated - the strong, quiet type. The glossy HP logo in the center of the lid is the darkest, while the area around it is a little lighter shade of brushed aluminum. It is bordered by another layer of aluminum with a smooth finish that matches the rest of the notebook's magnesium-reinforced chassis.
The ZBook 15u isn't as chunky as its competition. At 4.23 pounds and measuring 14.78 x 9.98 x 0.84 inches, it's a little lighter than that
(4.36 pounds, 15 x 10.5 x 0.78 inches) and the
(5.47 pounds, 15 x 10.2 x 0.92 inches).
durability and safety
Don't let its pressed suit fool you - the ZBook 15u is a rugged workstation. It passed MIL-Spec 810G testing, so it's protected against drops of up to 3 feet, heights of up to 15,000 feet, and dust and bumps. It also withstands extreme temperatures and regularly works in minus 60 degree weather as well as a boiling 160 degree.
Even if your work doesn't involve you in extreme environments, the spill-resistant keyboard deck protects you from the occasional, panicked coffee mishap.
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To add another layer of security, HP gives you the option to add a fingerprint sensor and smart card reader. Other security options include TPM 1.2 and HP Sure Start, which checks the BIOS at startup and automatically repairs itself if corrupted files are detected .
keyboard and trackpad
The HP ZBook's full-size keyboard is comfortable enough for all-day use, and the backlight makes it easy to see even when the lights are off. The keys don't have much travel -- just 1.42 millimeters -- and with 60 grams of actuation they're clicky yet soft. On the TypingTestOnline.Org challenge, I averaged 80 words per minute, slightly below my 90 wpm average.
The roomy and sleek 4 x 2.6-inch trackpad sits under the spacebar, slightly left of center on the keyboard deck. The cursor responded quickly to all of my movements, including pinch-to-zoom and scrolling. I have those two too Valued sets of left/right buttons at the top and bottom of the touchpad, giving me more click options, as well as the TrackPoint in the center of the keyboard.
The ZBook's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display showed the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer in crisp detail. I could see all the pieces of debris flying through the air from huge explosions, but the colors were on a bit matt due to the matt display.
I appreciated just how bright the ZBook's display could get, averaging 307 nits on our brightness test. That's higher than the average for the mainstream category (250 nits) and the MSI WS60 (215 nits), and was beaten only by the Lenovo W550s (312 Nits). It also has great viewing angles - I had to rotate the notebook almost 90 degrees either side before the darkness interfered with the display.
It's also capable of displaying a wide range of colors, reproducing 103.4 percent of the sRGB color space spectrum. That's significantly better than the class average (82.6) and the MSI WS60 (78.1), and slightly better than the Lenovo W550s (100 ,2).
The ZBook 15u also accurately displays its color palette, scoring 1.68 on the Delta-E test (closer to 0 is better). That's slightly better than the class average (1.86) and significantly better than both the MSI WS60 (11th .6) as well as the Lenovo W550s (2.72).
The HP ZBook 15u G2's DTS Sound-equipped speakers don't offer the best audio quality. The vocals in the Lumineers "Ho Hey" were clear, but the guitars and other middle instruments were weak and sounded like they were being played from miles away.
During our testing, the ZBook stayed cool for the most part. After streaming 15 minutes of video on Hulu, the touchpad reached 82 degrees Fahrenheit and the area between the G and H keys reached 86.5 degrees.
At 96.5 degrees, the bottom slightly exceeded our 95-degree comfort threshold. The notebook's hot spot at 103.5 degrees is directly to the right of the HP logo on the monitor. Luckily, it's not an area you touch often would.
Connections and webcam
The HP ZBook 15u G2 has enough ports to handle any work situation. There is a VGA port and two USB 3.0 ports on the left. On the right are the headphone jack, a DisplayPort, a memory card reader, two additional USB 3.0 ports, a docking port, the power connector and an Ethernet port.
The notebook's 720p webcam accurately captured my skin tone and the red ombre color in my hair, but the overall image was dark and grainy.
Powered by a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-5500U dual-core processor, 16GB RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD, my HP ZBook 15u G2 multitasked with ease. Even with 11 Chrome tabs and multiple PDF files open music streaming has never slowed down.
On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the ZBook 15u scored 6,892, slightly better than the Lenovo W550s (6,860, with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-5600U CPU) but below the average of the mainstream Notebook category (9,259). and the monstrously powerful MSI WS60 (13003, with 2.5 GHz Core i7-4710HQ CPU).
The ZBook 15u completed the Open Office Spreadsheet test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses, in 4 minutes and 15 seconds. That's faster than the class average (5:10) and Lenovo W550s (4:42), but not as fast as the MSI WS60 (3:53).
The ZBook 15u was moderately fast in our file transfer tests, duplicating 4.97GB of mixed media files at a speed of 175.5MB/s. That's faster than the Lenovo W550s (159MB/s), but the MSI WS60, which has over two 128GB SSDs in RAID 0 outperformed both (365.52Mbps).
The HP ZBook 15u G2 comes with an AMD FirePro M4170 GPU, which is competent but not the fastest out there. On the 3DMark Fire Strike graphics benchmark test, the system scored 1,461, beating the Lenovo W550s (1,457 with Nvidia Quadro K620M graphics) but not nearly as good as the MSI WS60 (1649 with Nvidia Quadro K2100M graphics). .
In World of Warcraft, the ZBook 15u hit 22 frames per second at 1920x1080 on full settings. That's the worst, with the MSI WS60 (44 fps) and Lenovo W550s (36 fps) both doing better at the same settings.
The HP ZBook 15u G2 lasted 6 hours and 44 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi). That's about half an hour longer than the mainstream category average of 6:12 and more than twice as long the 3:05 battery life on the MSI WS60. However, the Lenovo W550s beats them all with an insane 15:54 lifespan, thanks to its 3-cell and 6-cell 72-Wh batteries.
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software and warranty
My test model of the HP ZBook 15u G2 came with Windows 7 Professional 64, but is also available with Windows 8. It also has programs like HP Client Security to protect your data at the software and hardware level, and HP Drive Encryption. HP Performance Advisor lets you optimize your device's settings based on your most popular applications.
The ZBook 15u comes with HP's standard 3-year warranty, which covers parts, labor and online service.
HP offers four models of the ZBook 15u G2, two with Intel Core i5 and two with Core i7 processors. Once you've selected the processor you want, you can customize your RAM and hard drive to accommodate a machine with up to 16GB of RAM and 1 .25 TB of storage. You can also opt for HP's Z Turbo Drive, which the company says offers up to 40 percent better performance than regular SSD hard drives.
Our $1,999 review model featured a dual-core Intel Core i7-5500U processor, AMD FirePro M4170 graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB Z Turbo Drive.
The cheapest model starts at $1,199 and is powered by an Intel Core i5-5200U processor with AMD FirePro M4170 graphics. It comes with Windows 7 Professional installed and has 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
There's no denying that the HP ZBook 15u G2 is a competent notebook workhorse. I've used it as my primary work computer for many days, and it's always been quick to download files and easy to use with multiple programs open. Though bulkier, you can get the Lenovo W550s with comparable specs -- and its exceptional battery life -- for about $200 less. However, if you're looking for a workstation to take with you on the go, the HP ZBook 15u G2 is a solid choice.
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HP ZBook 15u G2 Specifications
Intel Core i7-5500U
AMD FirePro M4170
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
Connections (except USB)
USB 3.0, Audio out, DisplayPort, Ethernet, VGA
4 x 2.6 inches