HP's ZBook Studio G3 is a powerful workstation you can actually take with you. That’s because the system is pretty thin and light for a PC with such beefed-up hardware. Plus, the ZBook -- reviewed at $2,651 and starting at $1,399 -- can handle the most graphically demanding workloads, and features a sleek, sturdy design and solid security credentials.
The ZBook Studio G3 is surprisingly thin and light for a Windows workstation, weighing just 4.6 lbs. and measuring 0.71 inches thick. That puts it on a par with Dell’s Precision 5510 workstation (14.06 x 9.27 x 0.66 inches and 4.6 lbs.), but it’s more portable than larger Windows workstations such as Lenovo's 17.3-inch ThinkPad P70 (7.6 lbs. and 1.2 inches thick). That's a perk for commuters who need to carry their laptop between home and the office.
And anyone who needs to lug around their laptop will appreciate the ZBook Studio G3’s tough design. The notebook comes with MIL-Spec 810G durability credentials, which means it was tested to withstand vibrations, shocks, extreme temperatures and even short drops. Plus, a textured diamond pattern on the system’s underside will help you keep a good grip when you’re toting the ZBook around.
Just about every port a worker could want is available here. The notebook’s left edge includes two USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet port. The right edge, meanwhile, adds two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI port and a third USB 3.0 port.
The system's 15.6-inch display, meanwhile, is extremely sharp and more than roomy enough for split-screen work. The 4K panel pumped out vibrant colors and crisp text, and made screen-intensive tasks like editing large spreadsheets feel really comfortable.
It’s a bit on the dim side, though. The display topped out at 252 nits of brightness, which is well below the laptop average of 293 nits, as well as the ThinkPad P70 (277 nits) and Precision 5510 (322 nits). A brighter display would be easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight, but the ZBook Studio G3’s display is plenty bright for typical indoor use.
The ZBook Studio G3's keyboard is nice and springy, with a solid 1.51 millimeters of travel on each key stroke. That’s right on par with what we look for in a work laptop. You also get a good amount of tactile feedback on each key stroke, so typing feels snappy. Overall, it’s a really comfortable keyboard to work on.
It’s a bit disappointing that the ZBook lacks a ten-key number pad, which is really hand for working in many CAD and 3D software packages, not to mention being useful for more typical work tasks. Other 15-inch workstations like the Precision 5510 also lack a number pad. For that feature, you’ll have to opt for a larger system like the ThinkPad P70.
Every security measure your company could need is available here. The ZBook Studio G3 comes equipped with Trusted Platform Module-based hardware encryption, as well as an optional fingerprint scanner, which costs $24 extra over the base price of the system. The scanner – located under the right edge of the keyboard – is of the older, swipe-based variety, requiring users to slide their finger down over the sensor. It’s not quite as quick or reliable as the single-touch sensors you’ll find on a few business laptops – like Lenovo’s ThinkPad T460p – but it works well enough to get you logged in to your desktop without much fuss.
Additionally, you get Intel vPro functionality in all hardware configurations of the ZBook Studio G3, which allows IT departments to remotely manage the notebook in a secure fashion.
While it didn't exactly impress on our battery life test, the ZBook Studio G3 did last for a respectable 5 hours and 8 minutes, which isn't bad for a desktop-replacement laptop. The time beats the category average of 4 hours and 24 minutes, though the Dell Precision 5510 (5:34) and the Lenovo ThinkPad P70 (5:53) lasted longer on the same test.
The Studio G3 provides blazing-fast performance, equipped with an Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 processor, 32GB of RAM and 512GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. The setup provides enough power for heavy multitasking, and I never noticed any slowdown while researching and typing up this review on the system.
It cranked out an excellent score of 14,276 on the Geekbench 3 benchmark test, which measures overall performance. That beats the workstation average of 12,541, as well as the Xeon E3-150M-equipped Thinkpad P7 (13,158). It’s about on par with what you get from the Xenon E3-150M-powered Precision 5510 (14,316), though.
Meanwhile, HP’s system edged out all competitors on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in just 3 minutes and 23 seconds. That’s a few seconds faster than the Precision and ThinkPad.
The most graphically-intense of tasks are no sweat for the ZBook Studio G3. With its Nvidia Quadro M1000M graphics card, the system comes well-equipped for CAD work, 3D animation, video editing and other similar tasks. It racked up a strong score of 117,745 on the synthetic 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, which outpaces the workstation average of 113,088, and is about on a par with the Dell Precision 5510.
HP sells the ZBook Studio G3 in a wide array of hardware configurations, with the ability to custom order special configurations for your business in volume. Among the pre-configured models, the low-end starts with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, an Nvidia Quadro M100M GPU and a 1080p display.
The system featured in this review is much more powerful, equipped with an Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 processor, 32GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, an Nvidia Quadro M100M GPU, a 4K display and a fingerprint reader.
HP’s ZBook Studio G3 is powerful, but so are most competing workstation laptops. What sets this system apart is its relatively thin and lightweight design, which is surprisingly commuter-friendly. You also get a durable design, excellent security options and a comfortable keyboard. On the other hand, the ZBook Studio G3’s dim display is a bit disappointing, and so is its modest battery life.
Ultimately, Dell’s Precision 5510 is the better laptop, with a brighter display, slightly longer battery life and similar performance compared to the ZBook Studio G3. Plus, it’s about equally portable. On the other hand, the Precision’s keyboard isn’t as nice to type on as the ZBook’s, and its awkwardly-placed webcam makes videoconferencing a pain.
That makes the ZBook Studio G3 worth a look for workers who want a portable 15-inch workstation that can handle any task you throw at it.