Hands on: HP ZBook 15u review

A lightweight, no-frills budget workstation

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

If you need a workstation, but budget is an issue, the HP ZBook 15u has just enough to do the job.

For

  • Price
  • Style
  • Portability

Against

  • Speed
  • Graphics
  • Innovation

Unlike the majority of consumer laptops on the market, mobile workstations are built to provide desktop performance on portable frames. This means organizations are likely to sacrifice thickness and heft in exchange for storage capacity, processing speeds and graphics power.

Most workstations offer no-frills design and don't break in more avant garde consumer-friendly features (for example: you won't see these badboys flip over and turn into tablets). And because these machines are built to withstand the rigors of long workdays, they're likely out of a typical consumer's budget.

HP ZBook 15u review

Among the best mobile workstations on the market are the boringly-designed Lenovo W540 ($2,573, £1,606, AU$2,946), which weighs 5.57 lbs, but offers an incredible 15.6-inch, 2880 x 1620 (3K) resolution IPS display and a high-end 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-4800MQ processor with a Nvidia Quadro K2100M graphics card. Dell offers the Precision M3800 ($2,236, £1397, AU$2569) a Haswell-based workstation with an Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia Quadro graphics card, up to 16GB of memory and a 15.6-inch 3200X1800 QHD display, all loaded into a 0.7-inch thick chassis that weighs 3.96 pounds.

Not to be outdone, HP offers the ZBook 17 ($4,630, £2,950 or AU$5,500), an expensive workhorse that weighs 7 pounds, is 1.3 inches thick, but can outperform some of the best desktops on the planet. Built with an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32GB of DDR3 memory and an Nvidia Quadro graphics card, the ZBook 17 can "chew through video encoding jobs, render scenes as quickly as a desktop workstation, and perform any number crunching you ask of it," according to our recent review.

HP ZBook 15u review

Hoping to capitalize off of the ZBook 17's power, but provide just a smidge more portability and accessibility, HP has released the ZBook 15u Mobile Workstation.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.