The HP ZBook G4 17 inch laptop can handle just about anything you can throw at it.
We first saw the new ZBook G4 17 inch at NAB 2017. It impressed us so much we gave it our Best Workstation of NAB award that year. The fourth generation Zbook can be built for just about every need. You have many different configurations from the monitor resolution down to the CPU, GPU and RAM. The starting price is 1,529 dollars, but as reviewed, this machine costs 6,059 dollars. Thats a huge range, we know, but HP doesn't make it easy on us. Choosing between the five different CPUs offered across i5, i7 and Xeon chipsets can change the cost of the computer as much as 315 dollars. Then factor in the monitor resolution, from 1600 x 900 to UHD, and you have another option that costs as much as 610 dollars extra.
The biggest configuration cost for the G4 is the GPU. Arguably the biggest factor in performance for video editors, this component can put you back as much as 1,559 dollars for the NVIDIA Quadro P5000. The last two factors that greatly change the cost of your configuration are your operating system (OS) drive and your RAM. Choose from 16 Gigabytes(GB) of RAM up to 64GB for 1,380 bucks. Lastly, there are two flavors of OS drive: a more cost effective HDD up to 1Terabyte (TB) or the snappy 1TB SSD for a 550-dollar premium. There is space to add two more drives if you include a mini card SSD.
The G4 17 as evaluated is far from the standard machine. Optimized for video production performance, really, it was built to stun. With its 4 core, 8 thread, 3.1 Ghz Xeon processor, it’s a racecar out the gate. Pair that with a monster GPU, the NVIDIA Quadro P5000 with 16GB of VRAM and 2,560 CUDA cores with the new Pascal architecture and pump it into the 17.3 inch UHD DreamColor display, and we’re talking about a laptop powerful enough to edit on the go, regardless of the type of work you do. Lastly, the machine is packed with 64GB (16384MB x 4) of ECC RAM and two PCIe 512GB Z Turbo Drives. No doubt this isn’t a cheap computer, but it’s not likely to disappoint either.
Because we are Videomaker, we make editing performance the key metric used for evaluating a system for you. Starting off, the system boots very fast, because the OS drive is an SSD, this is as expected. SSDs make for snappy programs as well. Many of the Adobe Creative Suite applications have a longer than average load time compared to other applications, but with this system if you blink an eye, you might miss the loading screen. Plus, using in-program switching tools, opening sequences and applying effects is quite prompt. We rendered a few videos from complex to simple projects. We rendered a cut made only of Canon 5D Mark IV 4K 500 Mb footage. This video had only cuts and not titles; however, it did have some grading and a LUT applied. It rendered as fast as our main editing system — a completely spec’d out second generation Mac Pro. Next we rendered a project with motion graphics dynamically linked to After Effects. This project also had some camera tracking applied and attached to some text and graphics. Even though we threw much more at the system, it again rendered quickly — on par with the Mac Pro. The last project we rendered was from After Effects and was a completely graphic. The ZBook had no problem with it and rendered it a bit faster than our Mac Pro.
The 17-inch screen makes for a large form factor. It’s just large enough, you might feel a bit silly pulling it out at a coffee shop or at the airport. However, that shouldn't stop you if you need to; it’s just big and heavy. HP does a good job with hiding its size with its design. Its much smaller than it could be, and with its curves hide its heft.
On to the monitor, this 17-inch Dreamcolor display offers a large enough workspace, but the unit we reviewed had a small display anomaly near the webcam on the top of the screen. Blacks appear to be lighter than those found on the rest of the screen. With that said, it’s a beautiful screen and makes editing 4K footage and reviewing it in full resolution possible.
...it’s a beautiful screen and makes editing 4K footage and reviewing it in full resolution possible.
This reviewer isn't a big fan of editing from a touch pad, and when using an external mouse we had to turn the touch pad and its buttons off. This is because we often rested our hand on that area when using the keyboard. HP added a PointStick to this machine. You surely know what this is, even if the name isn’t familiar — it’s the little nub thingy in the keyboard that can control the mouse pointer. We found the PointStick to be helpful only when we didn't have a mouse plugged in.
Through our evaluation of this system we were very impressed with its speed, design and overall usability — except for one thing, the location of the headphone jack. The headphone jack is on the right up toward the front of the machine. This was right in the way of our external mouse. We ended up switching our headphones out with ones with a right angle jack so it could be routed around the computer. This is very minor, but a problem that could have been easily avoided buy putting the jack further back or on the other side.
Because this system is so capable, we wanted to see how it would do running a graphic intensive game. Playerunknown's Battle Grounds is still in beta, so many portions of the game are not optimized for best performance with the lowest resources. With all graphic controls pegged at their best we experienced zero issues — except for my own ability to actually hit the target I’m shooting at. I should change my screen name to potato. During game play, the cooling fans would switch on and off, but the game always ran smoothly.
Testing with PcMark 10, the ZBook G4 had an overall score of 8772 with a digital content creation score of 6674, photo editing score of 7571, a rendering and visualization Score of 7838 and a video editing score of 5011. These are good scores, and show that it can score high in all the right places. However, It didn't do much better than other systems we’ve tested with similar resources. The PCMark testing is very general. If you want to see how it lines up to other systems, see the PCMark test score logs.
At 6000 dollars plus, there are many many systems to compare to. Because so many systems can be configured any way you’d like it, we put together systems that were as close as possible or what many call the standard, starting off with the 2016 Apple MacBook Pro with touchbar.
With all features set to be as powerful as possible, the MacBook Pro comes in at a bit more than half the cost. For 3,400 dollars, you get a 3.1GHz quad-core i7 processor with 16GB LPDDR3 memory, 1TB SSD, a Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory and 1024 Pipelines. Overall this system should not have the same expectations as a 6,000 system, but it’s a system that is very popular.
Next up is the Boxx GoBOXX SLM VR mobile workstation. At 5,403 dollars it offers a i7 4.2GHz Quad-Core, 64GB DDR4 RAM, Nvidia Geforce 1080 GTX with 8GB of VRAM, and two 512GB SSD M.2 PCIe Drives. This should be a formidable system compared to the HP, however the GPU isn’t nearly as robust as its enterprise counterpart, the P5000. If it had the same GPU, then we’d expect it to come in at a similar price as the HP.
Last up is the Dell Precision 7720. Dell made it easy to compare the two computers, they can be configured with the same processor, same GPU, 64GB of ECC RAM and a UHD 17 screen. Because they are in essence the same system, it’s surprising the Dell comes with a bigger price tag of 6735 dollars. You might ask yourself what difference would you accept for 700 more? It’s not likely that this system could offer that much more value through its usability, size or other factors. With the same resources, it’s just a more expensive machine.
The HP ZBook G4 17 inch is a beast of a machine. It has all the resources you need to get the job done well and quickly. Is it worth 6,000 dollars? That greatly depends on the work you do. You can always configure it differently to fit your budget. We saw a small anomaly in the monitor and didn't like the headphone jack location. Outside of that, it’s very impressive and is almost limitless in configuration.
Starting at: $1,529
As reviewed: $6,059
- Sleek Design
- Inconvenient headphone jack location
The HP ZBook G4 17 inch laptop can be configured to amazing specs, if you are willing to pay the price tag. It’s got a large, high resolution screen and can handle just about anything you can throw at it.
- Configurable for all users
CPU: Xeon E3-1535 v6 (22)
Monitor: 17.3’’ UHD DreamColor
Memory: 64GB (16384MB x 4) ECC
GPU: NVIDIA Quadro P5000 16GB GDDR5
Internal M.2 storage: 512GB Z Turbo Drive PCIe
Secondary Internal M.2 storage: 512GB PCIe SSD (NVMe)
Battery: 6-cell 95whr
Chris Monlux is a big fan of DrDisrespectLIVE on twitch. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.