HP ZBook 15 G6 Review
The ZBook 15 from HP is their biggest seller in the mobile workstation category. The newest G6 series brings Intel 9th Gen and Xeon CPUs, that HP claim will offer “full, unthrottled performance” and new RTX Quadro graphics options. On paper, the HP ZBook 15 G6 looks like a high-performance mobile workstation beast, let’s find out if this is true.
When you take the 15 G6 out of the box, you quickly notice this laptop means business. It tips the scales at 2.6kg or 5.7 Ibs and 1 inch thick. It’s not the type of laptop you will be travelling or holding in your hands too much with.
The 15 G6 is built to MIL-STD 810G and it shows. The chassis is solid and well constructed. The display lid doesn’t flex and the area around the keyboard and wrist rest is sturdy.
The ZBook was designed for users who put work and practically above style and substance. There’s a hint of design with its cut off corners but the 15 G6 is more workhorse than a supermodel.
There’s an easy-to-remove slide off rear panel with keyboard drain hole, exposing future expansion via three storage slots (2 x M.2 and 1 x 2.5”). Memory slots 3 and 4 are available for a maximum of 128GB in total. The 90wH battery is easily removable and replaceable.
Undo a few screws and the internal chassis opens up to reveal the dual cooling fans giving more component maintenance options if required.
The ZBook 15 G6 has a 15.6” IPS anti-glare display panel with 1080P resolution on this review model. HP has other models with 4K, SureView Gen2 privacy screen and Dreamcolour options.
The brightness on this model is 400 nits, useful for the occasional outside work or harsh office lighting. In general, the display has a good contrast ratio and comfortable viewing angles. Colour gamut coverage is rated at 72% OK for general office work but not if colour accuracy is important.
On the left side of the ZBook is the Kensington lock slot, RJ45 gigabit port, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 type-A ports (one for charging), and an SD card reader.
On the right reveals the smart card Reader, Headphone/Microphone Combo, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 type-A port, an HDMI 2.0b port, two USB Type-C ports (Thunderbolt™ 3, pass through support DisplayPort™ 1.4, USB 3.1 Gen 2, with BC 1.2), and finally a power connector.
The 15 G6 has an Intel® Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 AX200 (2×2) combo card with Bluetooth® 5. As more devices come online with 802.11ax, the ZBook will take advantage of the higher wifi speeds. In general use, the wireless connection was solid and worked well during file transfers on the network and downloads.
Thunderbolt Dock G2
To take full advantage of the ZBook 15 G6, there is the optional HP Thunderbolt Dock G2 230W with combo connectors to the power and Thunderbolt 3 ports on the laptop. This not only extends the number of ports and connectors available but also allows you to augment your workflow to external monitors.
An example setup is with an HP Z24x G2 Dreamcolor monitor. Opening up a larger secondary display with Dreamcolor accuracy on the Z24x G2 for your CAD or Photoshop work. The Z24x G2 has 97% of DCI-P3 and 99% Adobe RGB coverage.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The backlit spill-resistant keyboard is nicely spaced out and has an excellent tactile feel. Not quite ThinkPad level but close with a good typing experience.
The large clickpad is surrounded by three physical buttons with a scrolling button in the middle. Finger gestures on the clickpad was smooth and accurate. The touchpad is complemented by a pointstick in the middle of the keyboard flanked by a further 3 buttons. Useful when in tight spots like an aeroplane or crowded train.
Audio & Webcam
The dual stereo speakers above the keyboard have a discrete amp and tuned by Bang & Olufsen. Volume is plenty loud, finding myself turning down the volume to single digits most of the time. Audio quality is good enough for a spot of media consumption or presenting a digital project to a client.
On this review model, there are no webcam or IR sensors for Windows Hello. Dual array digital microphones are present if you wish to use an external webcam for collaboration work.
The ZBook 15 G6 is equipped with an Intel i7-9850H Hexa-core processor, 32GB DDR4 memory and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD.
On the ZBook 15 G6 you get unthrottled performance even with the heaviest multi-application workloads. The HP ZBook 15 has 30 % better thermal performance gen over gen to ensure it’s quiet and cool with the CPU and GPU running at max performance for long periods of time.
Using all the major benchmark tools like Superposition Benchmark, User Benchmark and SPECviewperf pointed to impressive workstation results.
In layman terms, this workstation blasts through most applications like a hot knife to butter. Speaking of hot, the HP engineers have done a good job with the thermals. The ZBook 15 stayed cool under pressure, thanks to the substantial dual cooling fans and large vents underneath and between the display hinges. Fan noise when it was taxed was moderate and not noticeable under an office environment.
Partnering the Intel H CPU in the 15 G6 is the Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 high-end GPU with 6GB of dedicated memory. The Quadro GPU offer certified drivers, which are optimized for stability and performance in professional applications like CAD, VR or Medical apps. In professional applications, the Quadro RTX 3000 can be faster than a GeForce RTX 2070 due to the optimized drivers and bigger VRAM and roughly on par with a GTX 1080.
Working with AutoCAD Architecture 2020, Unreal Engine 4, and Adobe Creative Cloud apps like Photoshop and Premiere Pro was a breeze, thanks to the combined high specs in the ZBook 15 G6.
The Quadro RTX 3000 can handle the majority of recent games in high setting but will struggle with resolutions greater than 1080P at ultra detail levels. No problem playing Apex Legends, Far Cry and Total War in high-resolution settings.
The ZBook naturally comes pre-installed with enterprise security features to protect your intellectual property data saved on the workstation. HP Client Security Suite Gen5 and HP Sure Start Gen5 and Sure Sense are some of the software apps that help lock down your workstation. Authentication options include the smart card reader, fingerprint sensor, and IR sensors for Windows Hello login.
When the ZBook 15 G6 is not being taxed, the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 and 4-cell, 90 Wh replacement battery keep the workstation ticking for a relatively long time. Basic web surfing, video consumption and Office apps the battery life kept going for a useful 9 to 10 hours. Taxing the workstation reduced the battery life to 2-3 hours max.
At least you can fast charge the battery from zero to 50% in 45 minutes with the fairly compact 150W AC power adapter.
3 Pros and Cons before buying the HP ZBook 15 G6
Strong Performance – On this review model, the 15 G6 brushes aside anything put in front of it with its i7-9850H processor and Quadro RTX 3000 GPU. It is capable of effectively running virtually any resource-intensive professional application that comes its way with space to spare.
Easy Upgrade Options – If only every manufacturer followed the ZBook with a simple latch to slide out the service panel. From here you will be able to change almost everything you will possibly need. Undo a few screws on the bottom chassis to allow repairs to further components.
Good I/O ports – Sometimes there’s something to be said for the pursuit of slim laptops at the detriment of ports and connectors. No such issue with the ZBook, Three USB Type-A 3.1’s, HDMI, RJ45, SD and SC readers plus two USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connectors. Who needs expensive dongles and adapters to carry?
High Price – The ZBook 15 G6 has a basic starting price of £1365 plus tax, all the way to the review model at just over £2700. Not cheap and definitely not for the masses.
Bulky Dimensions – People who buy the 15 G6 will not be bothered about the bulky dimensions. It looks like a tank, built like one and weights like one. Don’t think about moving the ZBook around too much.
Is 1080P enough? – For most users of the ZBook 15 G6, architects, designers, videographers and coders, one would want maximum screen estate. This review model has a nice 1080P but for productivity I would probably choose the 4K panel instead.
To give you a quick synopsis of the competition to the HP ZBook 15 G6. We have the Apple MacBook Pro 16” with a gorgeous 3072×1920 panel but lesser AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU. Four Thunderbolt 3 ports but adapters needed for everything else.
The other two main manufacturers to the HP ZBook is the Dell Precision 5540 with an older T2000 GPU and the Lenovo ThinkPad P53, available with an RTX 4000 GPU and an arguably superior keyboard. Both have configurable specs just like the ZBook 15 G6 and comparable pricing.
Let me know your thoughts on the competition in the comments below.
The HP ZBook 15 G6 is a stunning mobile workstation. Performance is up there with the very best. Firstly, the six core Intel i7-9850H is a beast of a CPU, full fat compared to the U variants. Throw in plenty of memory, a quick M.2 drive and tasty Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 GPU and you have a Millennium Falcon in hyperdrive.
If that’s not enough, you can easily upgrade the military standard workstation to 128GB RAM, two x 4TB M.2 NVMe drives and a 4TB 2.5” SSD.
The keyboard is comfortable to type on and the stereo speakers are not bad to listen to. The IPS Full HD screen is clear and bright. The display and CPU helps the battery life run surprisingly long for a mobile workstation.
The ZBook 15 G6 is big and heavy, although HP have that covered with the ZBook 15U and Studio if you prefer a lighter workstation.
Overall the HP ZBook 15 G6 mobile workstation has proven to us that it is capable of effectively running virtually any resource-intensive professional application thrown at it. If you want the very best components and have deep pockets, it’s well worth it.
What do you guys think? Leave your comments and discuss below.
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