HP ZBook 14 review

The first workstation ultrabook keeps it simple

HP ZBook 14 review
Workstation, meet ultrabook

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

With the ZBook 14, it's clear that HP isn't interested in reinventing the wheel. This business ultrabook is simply about providing the best, most focused computing experience for its enterprise audience. This laptop delivers on that promise, diverting from the core feature set only when it makes sense.

The result is a mobile workstation that seems to have made consideration for the business user from remote connectivity to security and beyond. The only aspect of the ZBook 14 that lacks focus is it chassis design. While the laptop's aluminum and magnesium makeup is choice, it's also inconsistent – particularly where the lid and bezel are concerned.

We liked

The standard fingerprint sensor on the ZBook 14 makes me want to see such tech on every laptop from here on out. Never before have I seen a fingerprint sensor act so quickly and reliably as HP's, thanks in part to Validity's hardware. As soon as I had registered my right index finger, it was simpler and faster to log into via fingerprint than password. That HP Password Manager can extend this to any login you use online makes this feature all the sweeter.

There's also plenty to be said for the mouse and keyboard experience on the ZBook 14. Honestly, quality inputs are tough to find on Windows laptops – it's usually one or the other that turns out to be a dud. Not so with this ultrabook. With snappy keys that are easy to grip and a well-placed pointing stick, typing this review was a breeze. Plus, a silky smooth tracking surface with buttons that provide just enough give made for worry-free navigation. It's too bad that the touchpad isn't center on the palm rest, though it's a minor complaint.

Overall, I appreciate how much the ZBook 14 considers not only the user, but the business doling several of these laptops out to employees, with features like an Easy Access Door. That's bound to make repairs and upgrades less painful for all parties involved. Also, HP's choice of software adds some welcome features, like fingerprint logins on any website and a stopgap document scanning solution while on the go.

We disliked

Aside from the fingerprint sensor and Easy Access Door, few of these marquee features actually come standard, namely the beefy processor, backlit keyboard and screen resolution. All of these arguably necessary niceties together drive the ZBook 14's price up to 15-inch MacBook Pro levels, putting its value into question.

This might be a vain concern, but the ZBook 14 isn't an attractive machine. Between brushed aluminum and soft touch paint on the lid and a magnesium frame and keyboard deck, this laptop's design is the only thing about it that lacks focus. That said, I've at times forgotten that this ultrabook was even in my backpack – a testament to how thin and light a profile HP achieved with this workstation.

Finally, the ZBook 14 is one speedy business rig, but I ran into more than a few snags during my time with the laptop. Namely, the blue screen of death reared its ugly head more than a few times, not to mention lockups that forced me to hard restart the system. Of course, all of these were easily recovered from, and my data was intact. And while it happened more often than I would like, this issue is likely exclusive to my review sample and not the entire lot.

Final verdict

The HP ZBook 14 neither turns the world of business computing upside down nor does it bring anything relatively new to the table. When your primary concern is an ultrabook that provides the tools you need to get your job done quickly and securely, none of that matters. HP knows this, and that philosophy drives this laptop through and through.

The result is a mobile workstation that's more than capable and offers the features you need, like dedicated, pro-level graphics processing and several security options. These two items should be standard on all business laptops, and the ZBook 14 looks all the better for it.

However, the optional features – some of which that should be standard issue – that were crammed into the review unit sent to TechRadar heavily skew the ZBook 14's value. At this price range, other more stylish or better-specced options become viable alternatives, like the 15-inch MacBook Pro, despite its lack of hardware-level security.

This ultrabook is a fantastically-equipped, 14-inch workhorse at its most expensive, but is easily outshadowed by larger, shinier and cheaper competitors in some regards. If effective, simple security, a pro-grade GPU and easy access are concerns for you, an entry level or mid-range HP ZBook 14 will serve you well.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.