Performance and reliability are needed wherever you work. If that means pulling a desktop workstation out of your shoulder bag, the HP ZBook 15 proves to be a good choice. PW looks at why it is a desktop system for the road.

HP’s 15-inch ZBook is packed with features and expandable to an extreme. This ZBook can be scaled to a perfect match to your computing demands. I look at the details of the test unit and options for scaling performance.

What is in the test system?

The system under test has NVIDIA Quadro P1000 graphics, a six-core Intel Core i7-8850H, a 4K display, 16 GB of 2666 MHz RAM, and a 500 GB SSD. This is a reasonable configuration for 2D CAD, Adobe graphics applications, mid-level 3D modeling, and basic video editing.

The ZBook 15 is a desktop replacement for the road

The 3840x2160 display on the test unit has excellent color even though it was not the DreamColor model, nor was it one of the anti-glare displays.

The Quadro P1000 in the test unit is a decent workhorse GPU. The latest model has replaced the Quadro P1000 with the Quadro T1000. While it has good performance for CAD and 3D modeling, it is still the most basic level of discrete graphics for this ZBook and moving to a faster model is worth the investment if you are using applications with decent GPU acceleration.

While this ZBook configuration works fine for CAD, modeling, and 2D graphics,, it is far from the highest level of performance possible. The ZBook expandability is extreme.

Today’s 15-inch ZBook can take eight-core Intel i9 9880H or Xeon E-2286M. With max Turbo clock speeds of 4.8 and 5.0 GHz, respectively, these processors are ideal for number-crunching on the road.

It supports NVIDIQ’s Quadro RTX 3000, too. This GPU is the fastest GPU that HP offers in any of their 15-inch mobile workstations and it uses 6GB of GDDR6 graphics memory.

RAM and storage in this ZBook top out at 128 GB and 6 TB, respectively. Along with this, HP supports a 4K resolution, DreamColor display.

The 16 GB RAM found in the test unit is simply not enough for anyone other than the most basic user. With support for 128 GB of RAM, the ZBook’s memory capacity is expansive enough for all but the most extremely demanding work.

The workstation is loaded with connectivity options

And if your work pushes that limit, the newest model ZBook supports a 16 GB Intel Optane memory cache option. Intel Optane is a non-volatile memory cache that sits between run-time RAM memory and the workstation’s SSD storage.

The ZBook 15 is a mobile workstation which does not pretend to be a MacBook Pro killer. So instead of just four Thunderbolt ports like the MacBook Pro, it sports a full set of connectivity ports: ethernet, USB 3.1 Gen 1, SD reader, Thunderbolt ports with DP 1.4 pass-through support, HDMI, audio, and a smart card reader.


How does the ZBook 15 Perform?

Is the performance up to being called a desktop replacement? The short answer is yes. With the test configuration, I compare the ZBook 15 to a small form-factor desktop workstation. The desktop workstation has a slightly faster CPU and the desktop version of the Quadro P1000.

Consider the anti-glare display option

This comparison works well for the tested ZBook configuration.  If you chose a configuration with a Quadro RTX 3000, the eight-core Xeon with a Turbo frequency of 5.0 GHz, 64 GB or more of RAM and 6 TB of storage, then your mobile workstation / desktop replacement will out-pace most desktop workstations in any office.

Viewperf 13 came in with decent results. The mobile Quadro P1000 trails the desktop system slightly thanks to the Quadro P1000 desktop GPU having more cores, higher memory bandwidth, and a larger power budget. But the results are close - as they should be.

Viewperf 13 from SPEC.ORG focuses on graphics performance and does a good job of measuring GPU power for typical 3D tasks. What can be seen is that the GPU performance for 3D models is pretty good.

In another test, 3D performance as well as CPU performance are measured by Cinebench. Here, I see the expected level of performance with the same slight difference favoring the desktop system.

Non-3D GPU performance is measured with Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Here, the tests are application tests with the workstation encoding different, real-world video content. The content is in FHD and 4K, and there are different effects and corrections applied to videos being rendered.

Once again, the ZBook performance reflects the performance levels of the desktop workstation and it delivers good results given its configuration. With the Premiere Pro tests, it is interesting that the ZBook and desktop workstation sometimes tie in performance, sometimes the ZBook is faster, and sometimes the desktop is faster.

Of the five tests, The ZBook out-performs the desktop workstation on the more complicated 4K rendering test. On the other hand, the desktop system out-performs the ZBook on the simpler 4K test which renders straight 4K video with a single effect applied, namely color correction.

A second application benchmark using Adobe After Effects stresses the CPU, the storage system, memory, and to a lesser extent, the GPU. Of the five results, the slightly faster desktop performs a bit better – as expected. On the green screen rendering test, the ZBook has an ever-so-slight advantage.

To summarize, this configuration for the ZBook 15 tracked very closely a similarly configured desktop system. In most tests, the faster GPU and CPU in the desktop workstation gave it the edge, however in a few tests, the ZBook pulled ahead.

How does it compare to other options?

How does the technology in the ZBook compare to the desktop workstation as well as to a much higher configuration?  Below is a table to provide an overview.


Intel Core i7 8850H

Intel Core i7 8700

Intel  Xeon E-2286M

Intel Architecture

Coffee Lake

Coffee Lake

Coffee Lake

Clock frequency

2.60 GHz

3.20 GHz

2.40 GHz

Turbo frequency

4.30 GHz

4.60 GHz

5.00 GHz

Number of cores




Number of threads




Total Power Dissipation (TDP)





  Quadro P1000 (mobile) Quadro P1000 (desktop) Quadro RTX 3000 (mobile

GPU architecture




Cores / shader units




Memory size

4 GB

4 GB

6 GB

Memory type




Bus width

128 bits

128 bits

256 bits

Total Power Dissipation (TDP)





Comparing the HP ZBook 15 G5 and the G6

The test unit is a ZBook 15 G5. The G6 version is available now. Much has not changed at all. The industrial design is the same so there are no clearly visible differences between the systems.

What is new is the technology inside. The G6 machines support the latest generation processors from Intel. This includes the Intel Xeon E-2286M listed above which was launched in the second quarter of 2019.

The GPU options are new, too. The G5 supports the Quadro P1000 as in this test, the Quadro P2000, and the AMD Radeon Pro WX 4150. The G6 drops the AMD option and supports NVIDIA Quadro T1000, T2000, and RTX 3000. All three Quadro GPUs are based on NVIDIA’s newest Turing architecture.

The change in processors moves the G6 to eight-core CPUs. The change in GPUs is probably the most significant update for many users with both the move to the Turing architecture as well as the addition of the 3000-class GPU, the Quadro RTX 3000.


A Final Perspective

The ZBook 15 is clearly meant as a desktop replacement and it doesn’t pretend to be a MacBook-killer. This means it is loaded with connectors and highly expandable. It also means that it is around 600 grams heavier.

If you need to take a desktop workstation on the road and if you want to find one that can be tailored to your exact workloads, then the HP ZBook 15 will fit perfectly into your shoulder-bag.


The desktop GPU has a bit more muscle and slightly outperforms the mobile version

Similar differences occur with Cinebench. Performance as expected and the ZBook 15 is close to, but just trailing, the desktop.

The ZBook 15’s system performance for video encoding is sometimes faster than the desktop workstation.
The ZBook has a slight edge on the green screen rendering test.
The Puget Sound After Effects benchmarks give the edge to the desktop workstation’s faster GPU and CPU.

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