HP's ZBook family of high-end mobile workstations provide desktop-like performance in a business laptop. The ZBook 17 is the largest model in the range, and can accommodate more powerful components than the smaller variants. It comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32GB of DDR3 memory and an Nvidia Quadro graphics card.
It's mainly aimed at people who work in fields such as graphic design, 3D modelling and engineering, who use power-hungry visual design software such as 3DS Max, AutoCAD and the Adobe CS suite, which need both processing and graphics power.
The ZBook's optional 1,920 x 1,080 DreamColor display is of particular interest then, since it's a bright and vivid colour-accurate screen that not only looks good, but ensures red, green and blue levels are a closer match to NTSC, sRGB and AdobeRGB colour spaces than you get with a standard laptop screen.
A hefty price of £2,950 (around US$4,630 or AU$5,500) accompanies this ultra-high-end portable computer, which isn't surprising given the performance it provides, although as always, a slightly less beefy configuration cuts the price considerably. With less memory, a standard laptop display and an entry-level Quadro K610M graphics card, the price falls to £1,545 (around US$2,415 or AU$2,885).
Like arch-rival Dell's Precision M6800 workstation, the ZBook 17 puts performance ahead of portability. This is not a thin or light laptop - it weighs 3.48kg, and its chassis measures 3.4cm. It stretches the definition of portable, since it really isn't the easiest thing to carry around.
But the large frame means the ZBook 17 has enough battery and thermal headroom to be kitted out with top-end components that are unsuitable for smaller systems. You wont find a 13-inch laptop with an Nvidia Quadro K4100M graphics card, or a quad-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ, which were included in the ZBook 17 HP sent me for review. You can choose an even faster Core i7-4900MQ processor and Nvidia Quadro K5100M if you want, or downgrade to less powerful components.
And while it may be portly, HP has ensured the ZBook 17 carries a stylish design that looks sleek and professional. The logo on the top of the lid is surrounded with aluminium, covering a dark grey solid plastic chassis. The keys are the common chiclet style, but large enough and providing enough travel for comfortable typing regardless of your finger size.
This notebook's large frame also ensures a good selection of ports - three USB 3.0, one of which is for charging gadgets, with another for USB 2.0. There are video outputs for DisplayPort and a legacy analogue connector, Ethernet and a 2x2 Intel 6235 802.11ac wireless adapter. Audio support is somewhat lacking - there's only a single 3.5mm jack for both input and output, and no digital connector.
A Blu-ray writer, optional ExpressCard and an SD card slot cater for external storage while there's a flexible range of internal storage options. You can have two 2.5-inch hard disks, up to 1TB in capacity, along with a 128GB mSATA SSD, or any other combination you like, including larger 2.5-inch SSDs.
The 2.4GHz Core i7-4700MQ processor is from Intel's first generation of 22nm Haswell processors, rather than this year's refresh. It's still one of the fastest mobile CPUs around, with 8 execution threads and a Turbo frequency of 3.4GHz. It's an order of magnitude more powerful than the processors in more portable laptops, but its 47W TDP puts a real strain on battery life.
Nvidia's Quadro K4100M is a similarly high performance DirectX11 GPU with 1152 shaders and 4GB of video memory, enough for rich, detailed models and scenes in 3D applications. It has certified drivers that are tested for use with graphic design software, unlike the GeForce series, which are better for gaming. Cuda-accelerated software, such as Nvidia's iRay renderer for 3DS Max, will see a major boost with this powerful GPU.