HP ZBook 15u G5 review – ultra-mobile workstation
Although the interest in gaming laptops is several times greater than that in professional machines, we’ve decided to pay some attention to the latter. The information about them is far more scarce, while for users in need of such a computer it is of great importance to know everything about the product they invest a serious budget.
For the purposes of our review, we have chosen a model from HP’s 15u G5 lineup. The letter “u” in the notebook’s name comes from “ultrabook” – a term that has been used until recently for marketing the ultra-thin Intel laptops. The rest of the 15.6-inch members of the latest generation are Studio G5, 15v G5, and 15 G5. The subject today’s review, however, is the most portable of all models with this screen size which makes it a fairly attractive choice for those in need of not only reliability and speed, but also convenience when working on the go.
Whether the HP ZBook 15u G5 will be able to live up to the high expectations, we have yet to find out.
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: http://laptopmedia.com/series/hp-zbook-15u-g5/
HP ZBook 15u G5 technical specifications table
What’s in the box?
HP’s ZBook 15u G5 retail package doesn’t offer anything out of the ordinary – just the usual user manuals, the laptop itself and its 65W charger.
Design and construction
For starters, just like its predecessor HP ZBook 15u G4, the new 15u G5 has undergone 14 endurance tests (MIL-STD-810G) that the US Department of Defense uses to determine if a type of equipment is suitable for military conditions. And while the 15u G4 was surprisingly thin for its rigidity (19.9 mm), the 15u G5 also impresses with its 18.25 mm (0.72″) thickness and weight starting at 1.77 kg (3.89 lbs).
Apart from being really thin, HP ZBook 15u G5 also boasts elegant design – something rarely found in workstations where appearance is generally not a leading factor.
The model features thin bezels (although it can’t fall into the “frameless” category notebooks) and all its elements on the chassis are simple and pleasing to the eye. In addition, the keyboard is of the Island Style, has a backlight, and under the G and H keys you can find the so-called Pointstick joystick – a classic mouse/touchpad replacement that is present in many business laptops. It is also the reason why the Clickpad buttons are at the top, and not at the bottom.
We have no complaints whatsoever about the Clickpad itself – its area is large, it is comfortable and we also don’t expect it to wear out given its glass surface. Actually, the keyboard keys also have a special protection that HP calls “Durakeys”. According to the manufacturer, this makes them 50 times more durable compared to conventional keys.
The keyboard structure makes the computer resistant to spills of liquid (beneath the buttons there is a thin layer of polyester and tiny tunnels that take liquids out of the laptop), but in case this happens we recommend saving your work and turning off the machine the fastest way possible.
To close the topic about the chassis protection, we have to note that HP’s ZBook 15u G5 construction is a mix between aluminum and magnesium. As it suits a high-end machine, there are no awkward noises, gaps, and other inaccuracies.
Our unit came with a sticker on the touchpad reminding us that the computer is equipped with an NFC module (NXP NPC300) that you can use to easily transfer data between it and your smartphone, for instance.
On the left, ZBook 15u G5 features a USB 3.0 Type-A port, Smart Card reader, and a lock slot, whereas the right side accommodates a combo audio jack, another USB 3.0 Type-A port, full-size HDMI, Ethernet LAN, Docking connector, Thunderbolt 3 port and a charging port. And although in the image below there is one, a SIM card slot is actually missing. All ZBook 15u G5 constructions feature a slot for such (+ a “SIM” inscription) but some configurations (including ours) are not connected to cellular networks and under the slot, there is a plate that doesn’t allow the installation of a SIM card.
If we have to compare the ZBook 15u G5 and ZBook 15u G4 in terms of ports – the G5 lacks a VGA port, the DisplayPort is replaced with an HDMI (we are thankful for that), and the USB Type-C port, which was 3.1 Gen1 (the other name of 3.0) in G4, here is Thunderbolt.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
The good news is that ZBook 15u G4 can be very easily disassembled. You only need a screwdriver and a couple of minutes to access all the components of the business machine. The model features two RAM slots and one 2280 M.2 slot for a PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD module.
In the configuration we tested, HP ZBook 15u G5 is equipped with a Full HD IPS panel with a model number AUO AUO23ED. It has a diagonal of 15.6 inches and a resolution of 1920 x 1080. This results in a 16:9 aspect ratio, pixel pitch of 0.18 x 0.18 mm and a pixel density of 142 ppi, thus making it appear as “Retina” when viewed from at least 60 cm.
Viewing angles are comfortable.
We measured a peak brightness of 257 nits in the center of the screen and 246 nits as an average across the surface with 8% maximum deviation. The optimal correlated color temperature in sRGB is 6500K. This device goes close to that value with 6530K on a white screen and slightly warmer along the grey scale – 6400K. You can see how values change at 140 nits or in other words – 74% brightness.
Values above 4.0 are unwanted and should not be present.
The contrast ratio is good – 1330:1 (1270:1 after profiling).
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
HP ZBook 15u G5 covers only 53% of the sRGB color gamut.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
Below you can compare the scores of HP ZBook 15u G5 with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. In the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
Response time (Gaming capabilities)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 26 ms.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
The light emitted by HP ZBook 15u G5’s display doesn’t pulsate at any brightness level, making it comfortable for extended periods of use, without being particularly harmful to the eyesight in this aspect.
Blue light emissions
The installation of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
The HP ZBook 15u G5 display has an IPS panel with Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles and good contrast. The modest color range is a disadvantage.
Buy our profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for the HP ZBook 15u G5 configurations with 15.6″ AUO AUO23ED Full HD IPS screen and the laptop can be found at: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
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Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.
Design and Gaming
This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.
Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.
Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount
HP ZBook 15u G5 has a crisp sound with clear low, mid and high frequencies.
In case you need to reinstall your system, you can get the drivers from here: https://support.hp.com/us-en/drivers/selfservice/hp-zbook-15u-g5-mobile-workstation/18865627
Now we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with.
HP ZBook 15u G5 is equipped with a 3-cell 56Wh battery. Surprise – even though it is thinner, the G5’s battery is 10% bigger that that of G4 (51Wh).
The HP ZBook 15u G5 comes with 6 different processors – two of them are part of the Kaby Lake architecture (i5-7200U, i5-7300U), whereas the other four are from the latest ULV Kaby Lake Refresh generation. The KBL-R representatives are i5-8250U, i5-8350U, i7-8550U, and i7-8650U.
For our tests, we chose the i7-8550U, which we believe will be the most popular processor among the 15u G5 configurations. The TDP of all the chips offered by the series is 15W, but the Kaby Lake Refresh version is much more powerful when it comes to computing performance.
More information about the processors can be found on their own pages, which can be accessed via our top CPUs ranking.
In case the graphics performance is not of such importance for you, we recommend opting for a configuration without a dedicated GPU as the laptop price will be fairly lower. However, we chose a ZBook 15u G5 with AMD Radeon Pro WX3100 in order to find out how powerful the professional AMD card is. The main reason between the Radeon Pro models and the conventional Radeon solutions lies in their CAD / CAM / CAE certified drivers. The WX3100 is one of the most affordable desktop workstation graphics card on the market.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Although it is highly unlikely that every ZBook 15u G5 will be equipped with the same SSD model, our configuration came with the ultra-fast PCIe NVMe module – Samsung PM981. The unit we tested was able to reach 3.4GB/s Read speeds and 2.0GB/s Write.
Temperatures and Comfort
Even after extended load, the ZBook 15u G5 remained cool – the hottest point was above the Backspace button – 42.4℃. What’s more, we have no complaints about the internal temperatures – the CPU didn’t exceed 60 degrees at 100% CPU Load which gives good hopes for long-term reliability.
Although the good performance of HP ZBook 15u G5 was entirely expected, the model surprised us with a great multitude of merits. The reliability and rigidity are very important for business machines and the HP company has made sure its 15u G5 is able to withstand 14 of the MIL-STD-810G military tests for work in harsh environments. Despite that, the model weighs just 1.77 kg and it also doesn’t lack elegance given the thickness of the aluminum body of just 18.25 mm.
Another important aspect which is often the number one thing to be considered when choosing a business notebook is the battery life where ZBook 15u G5 does a brilliant job – our web browsing test stopped the stopwatch at 8 hours and 53 minutes, so even if you forget your charger at home, the computer won’t let you down throughout the entire working day.
Those who love to take advantage of the latest technologies will be pleasantly surprised by the ease with which the 15u G5 can be upgraded, as well as the support for Thunderbolt, NFC, and 4G connectivity.
However, if screen quality is important for your work, we would recommend using an external monitor for your purposes. The Full HD version we reviewed came with AUO AUO23ED (B156HW02 V.3) panel that covers just 53% of the sRGB color gamut, while the color accuracy is far from the optimal (our Design and Gaming profile improves the overall image quality though). However, if they are not important to you, a good news is that the display isn’t PWM-adjusted. If you want to further reduce the harmful impact, of course, you can get our Health-Guard profile.
- Stable and rigid chassis that has undergone MIL-STD-810G military tests
- Thin (18.25 mm) and ultra light (1.77 kg)
- A special cover to protect the keys and touchpad from wearing out
- Spill-resistant keyboard
- Long battery life
- Thunderbolt port
- Easy to get inside and upgrade
- PWM-free across all brightness levels (for the Full HD AUO23ED version)
- NFC module for wireless data transfer (optional)
- 4G Internet support (for some configurations)
- Modest coverage of the sRGB gamut and inaccurate colors (for the Full HD AUO23ED version)