First quad core workstation Ultrabook highlights broad HP workstation refresh

While HP highlighted its HP ZBook Studio, a brand new model in the ZBook family, the major enhancements to the whole family were arguably bigger news.

HP Studio

The new HP ZBook Studio workstation

NEW YORK CITY – “The news of the day is the world’s best selling mobile workstations got completely reinvented.”

That was the theme that Jim Zafarana, vice president and general manager, HP Workstations and Thin Clients, HP Inc., outlined at a press event here unveiling the first new workstation products HP is announcing post-split.

While the enhancements went up and down HP’s mobile workstation line, the highlight of the event was clearly the HP ZBook Studio, the world’s first quad core workstation Ultrabook, which HP is heralding as its thinnest and lightest full performance model ever.

“We talked to many hundreds of customers when designing this product,” Zafarana said. “The breadth of interest is amazing, including product design, media and entertainment, and power users.”

While the larger HP ZBook 17 has more power, the Studio product is designed for power users who want a smaller machine.

“The target audience for Studio target audience is the ‘no compromise,’ user,” Zafarana said. “They want a hot rod that is as thin and light as possible. It could be a desktop replacement or just looking for desktop performance.”

The HP ZBook Studio has a 15.6” inch screen, is 18mm thin and starts at a 4.4. lb weight. Customizable choices include the memory, processor and graphics. The Studio offers a choice of Intel Core or Xeon processors – the first time the Xeon server technology has been available in a mobile workstation. New NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 2 GB GDDR5 Professional graphics or Intel HD graphics 530 give it the ability to handle heavy graphics loads. It also has  dual 1 TB HP Z Turbo Drive G2 for up to 2 TB of total storage, up to 32 GB ECC memory, dual Thunderbolt 3, dual cooling fans, and optional HP DreamColor UHD or FHD touch displays.

Zafarana acknowledged that while the emphasis was on the Studio announcement, it could easily have been on the strong across the board enhancements throughout the ZBook portfolio.

“The Studio is a new category for us and we want to make sure that the market heard that loud and clear,” he said. “But the across the board improvements are the biggest single step forward we have ever made.”

The other family members start with the HP Zbook 15u, the entry price point model – for customers with lighter workloads, where performance is less important than mobility. The HP ZBook 15 is the best seller, and most expandable solution. The HP ZBook 17, the flagship of the line, is the highest performance model.

“We reinvented everything about the new Zbooks,” said Josh Peterson, Director Worldwide Product Management, HP Workstations. CPU, graphics, memory, storage, batteries, IO, power adapter – everything has been reinvented from the ground up. Every single element of the mobile technology has a major new story of its own.”

Peterson said the choice of the Intel Xeon processors, as well as up to 64GB of ECC memory, is an extremely big deal.

“Having server grade technology inside the mobile workstations for the first time across the board means that much bigger projects can be taken on,” he said. “Intel’s road map enabled this. They had never had a mobile class CPU that had Xeon capabilities. Once they did, we could support it with the necessary motherboard design and connectors.”

The HP ZBook Studio, ZBook 15 and 17 all feature the new NVIDIA Quadro Professional graphics.

“The graphics performance gains from this are huge, and per watt offers more than 2x the graphics performance at any level,” Peterson said. “This itself is a good reason for customers to move from Gen2 to Gen3.” These systems also provide a choice of Intel Iris Pro Graphics P580, Intel HD graphics P530 or Intel HD graphics 530.

The DreamColor 4k graphics technology, which has been on the mobile workstations for some time, has been significantly enhanced.

“This time we wanted to drive really high resolution,” Peterson said. “Before, these displays would have required you to sacrifice battery life. Now we have driven power consumption down from 20 to 6 watts while improving the colour, and the performance of DreamColor is calibrated right out of the box.”

Storage is enhanced through the 2nd generation HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro, which is 16 times faster than a SATA SSD at a similar cost and has a revolutionary heat-transfer solution that reduces system noise. It also now has power loss protection, where the card doesn’t lose data in the event of a sudden power loss.

“This is the same as the performance leap from hard drives to SSDs,” said Jim Douglas, Product Manager for Workstations- Z Turbo drive, at HP Inc.

Peterson said that the enhanced battery life itself is due to a combination of new advances from HP’s industry partners and HP’s own advances to make batteries more efficient. The top-selling HP ZBook 15 has 27 per cent improved battery life over previous generations, while the flagship HP ZBook 17 features a 67 per cent increase in battery life. The HP ZBook 15u’s battery life is basically unchanged, because it made the move to the energy-saving polymer cell battery technology in a previous generation, while the other models are benefitting from it now.

“We have also developed a brand new docking solution that drives multiple 4k displays through a single cable connection to the ZBook,” Peterson said. This new HP ZBook Dock with Thunderbolt 3 is an optional offering now available with all HP ZBook Workstations. Users can link up to 10 devices at once through ports that include Thunderbolt 3 (supporting DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.1 Gen 2, and PCIe), four USB 3.0, RJ-45, VGA, combo audio, and two additional DisplayPorts.

HP ZBooks come preloaded with HP Remote Graphics Software for remote collaboration and remote access.

“The Remote Graphic Software (RGS) available on all mobile and desktop workstations is one of a kind,” Peterson said. “Other vendors have similar solutions but they are expensive and have performance issues. This is free and gives tremendous performance.

HP Velocity, which facilitates more reliable and fast network performance, has also been enhanced.

“It adds an element of RAID to transfer packets so you can increase bandwidth significantly,” Peterson said. “With the 3rd generation we packaged it separately. This comes into play if a customer doesn’t need RGS for whatever reason, but still needs to access and copy files from the server, Velocity can work to improve that network bandwidth. Many customers don’t need RGS if they don’t collaborate, but they still may need to access a big database. Everyone needs to access files.”

The power adapter is now half the weight of the previous generation, and 37 per cent smaller, making it much easier for customers to move. Bang &Olufsen audio, which is specifically optimized for voice sound clarity, enhances this clarity to improve customer workflows.

Thin and light have also been improved across the board. The ZBook 17 is now 26 per cent thinner and 11 per cent lighter, while the ZBook 15 is 27 per cent thinner and 7 per cent lighter. The ZBook 15u is 7 per cent thinner.

The HP ZBook Studio is planned for availability in December starting at $USD 1699. HP ZBook 15u is planned for availability in January starting at $USD 1099. HP ZBook 15 and ZBook 17 are planned for availability in January, with pricing not yet available. HP ZBook Dock with Thunderbolt 3 is planned for availability in December starting at $USD 229.