Product Review: HP's ZBook 14U G6 Mobile Workstation

eWEEK PRODUCT REVIEW: HP's latest mobile PC is basically a desktop workstation masquerading as a power laptop, as its 32GB of RAM and half-terabyte of storage will testify. Great for general business use and storing / presenting video and presentations of all kinds.

Download the authoritative guide: The Ultimate Guide to IT Security Vendors

ZBook.14U.G6.10.15.19-2

HP’s newest ZBook laptop, which came out this summer, and I are now old friends. We’ve been working together at home, at the office and on the road now for more than two months. We’ve come to know each other pretty well during that time span, and, like getting to know a real person, we have each learned how to live with each other’s pros and cons.

Yes, people indeed have pros and cons. Ask any laptop.

The ZBook 14U G6 model I tested for most of the summer is one of my favorites, for several good reasons noted further on in this review. One of them is that whatever I asked it to do, it never went over more than 50 percent usage of the CPU and random-access memory. The ZBook 14u G6, the sixth generation of the company’s enterprise entry-level workstation-type laptops, encompasses an all-aluminum, smoke-gray design, an Adobe RGB UHD display, Intel Core i7-8665U Quad-core processor and AMD Radeon Pro professional 3D graphics.

The ZBook 14u G6 display is equipped with a 600 nit brightness 4K 14-inch screen. This ZBook line also comes with an optional 15.6-inch screen.

Pros and Cons, Off the Top

Off the top, things I really like about the newest HP ZBook are:

  • It is basically a desktop workstation masquerading as a power laptop, as its 32GB of RAM and half-terabyte of storage will testify. Great for storing and presenting video and presentations of all kinds.
  • The ZBook is solidly built, being somewhat heavier (3.6 lbs.) than most other late-model laptops, but not so heavy as to be a distraction or a reason to leave it home in favor of a lighter device.
  • The 4K ultra high-definition screen shows excellent resolution and the colors are true.
  • The ZBook’s battery lasts significantly longer than other recent competitors, and this is a very important factor for someone who’s often mobile and isn’t always near a power plug. I can count on a full half-day (about 5 hours, sometimes 6 hours) of activity on the ZBook.
  • It charges up faster than other competitors, always past 50 percent within 30 minutes (from under 10 percent).
  • Good selection of ports, with two old-school but still valuable USB 3.0 (one can be used for charging), one Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, HDMI, smart card reader, microphone/headphone combination jack, a side docking connector, RJ-45 Ethernet, a security slot and power connector. See specs below.
  • For added security, there is an optional fingerprint reader located on the right side under the keyboard. This ZBook 14u 6G uses HP’s Collaboration Keyboard with a Dual Point Stick. The keyboard is back lit, and the key action is easy, smooth and comfortable when typing. All laptops have their own look and feel, and this one is well-designed.

There are some things I don’t particularly like about this ZBook, although they are way fewer in number:

  • The model I reviewed doesn’t have a touch screen. Touchscreens are a huge plus, especially when you’re in a hurry and want to scroll through email, news feeds or other lined-up content. However, laptop manufacturers tell me business people don’t really seem to need a touchscreen, so a number of laptops or notebook computers don’t include it. For the record, I’ve never met a business person who refused to use a touch screen or was upset that a touchscreen was inhabiting his/her device.

HP does provide a touchscreen as an option for the ZBook 14u 6G as well as the 15.6-inch screen unit. Get it if you choose one of these models to buy.

  • Maybe I don’t know how to use the touchpad correctly (I’ve always preferred a mouse, anyway), but it doesn’t always do what I tell it to do. The Microsoft Precision Touchpad features gesture support.
  • When you power up, its camera searches for your face and logs you in if you’re you. Although lately, it’s not recognizing me very quickly. Maybe I’m getting older faster than I think. This I don’t like, but it’s not the device’s fault.

Business Use Cases

Often at events I cover, there is no power supply within reach, so having a laptop with a long-lasting battery is obviously a huge advantage. HP claims the battery can last as long as 14 hours, but that hasn't been my personal experience. The 14-inch screen is small enough to be usable on planes—even in coach seating. The slightly thicker and heavier body (than, say, Apple laptops) hasn’t been an issue for me on road trips at all.

The device itself is very solidly built, so I’m sure it would perform well in rugged conditions—although it is not specifically a ruggedized machine for use in harsh climates. The keyboard is spill-resistant with a drain and a thin layer of Mylar film under the keyboard.

This laptop would serve just fine as a stationary desktop PC.

Memory/Storage

  • Up to 32 GB RAM; up to 512 GB storage

Operating System Options (English)

  • Windows 10 Pro 64
  • Windows 10 Home 64
  • Windows 10 Pro 64
  • Windows 10 Home Single Language 64
  • FreeDOS 1.2

Security Features

HP’s onboard Sure Sense security software utilizes the company’s deep learning and neural networks to identify behavioral traits in hacker attacks. It is fast at recognizing and neutralizing malware, whether new or old. HP Sure Start Gen 5 protects devices from firmware attacks with what HP calls “the world’s first and only self-healing BIOS.” The Sure Sense software automatically recovers a BIOS from attacks or corruption, HP said. Other security components:

  • Microsoft Defender (opt in and internet connection required for updates)
  • HP Client Security Suite Gen3 (requires Windows and Intel 7th-generation processors)
  • HP Fingerprint Sensor
  • Power On Authentication
  • HP Device Access Manager

Audio/multimedia features

  • Bang & Olufsen audio
  • Duel stereo speakers
  • HP World Facing Microphone dual array digital microphone
  • Button for volume mute
  • Function keys for volume up and down
  • Combo microphone-in/stereo headphone-out jack
  • 720p HD webcam with IR (optional near infrared imaging)
  • Wireless cards are optional or add-on features. Wireless access point and internet service is required and not included. Availability of public wireless access points is limited.

Other value-added features:

  • HP Jumpstart
  • HP Recovery Manager
  • HP Hotkey Support
  • HP Support Assistant (requires Windows, internet access)
  • HP Noise Cancellation software
  • HP Performance Advisor
  • HP Remote Graphics

Battery

  • Primary: HP 3-cell Long Life Li-ion Polymer Battery (50 WHr); company claims it can last up to 14 hours. In testing for three months, the best this reviewer saw was six hours of nonstop usage.

Pricing

  • Ranges from $1,784 (PC Nation) to $2,058 (CDW), depending upon configuration options; can buy from HP on Google for $1,929.

For more detailed specifications, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...