The HP ZBook series of laptops has been on my radar for years. However, frustrated by the shortcomings of the Dell XPS 15, I spent a long time looking for other laptops that combine the same performance with a relatively professional look and compact body.

I started looking at the 5th-grade ZBooks. Generation to pay more attention, but the 7. The second generation, available from August 2020, was the first with a really attractive (to my taste) design. It took a while, but thanks to HP, we finally got to test the pretty well-designed ZBook Studio G7.

One of the advantages of the ZBook Studio G7 is its relatively high configurability: With CPU options ranging from Intel i5-10400H to Xeon W-10885M, GPUs such as Quadro T1000, T2000, RTX 3000, 4000, and 5000 (with an incredible 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM) and four different display options, it’s clear that HP is targeting business users with specific mobile workstation needs.

Our review unit has a fairly balanced set of features with a 400 nit, 72% NTSC, low-power IPS FHD matte display, Intel i7-10850H processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM, Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 Max-Q GPU with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM.

So how does it meet expectations and, of course, competition? Can such a thin case handle a Quadro RTX 3000 without significant overheating or lag? We hope to answer these and other questions in this report.

Specifications

HP ZBook Studio G7 Mobile Workstation
show 15.6″ Diagonal FHD LED UWVA Anti-glare Ultra-thin Power Narrow Bezel (1920×1080/400 seats/Chi Mei CMN1519)
Processor Intel Core i7-10850H processor running at 2.70 GHz (up to 5.1 GHz with turbo).
Video Nvidia Quadro RTX-3000 Max-Q with 6 GB GDDR6 VRAM
Memory 16GB DDR4 2933MHz (solderable, but customizable up to 32GB)
Storage KIOXIA PCIe NVMe 256GB TLC SSD (1 x M.2 PCI x4 slot)
Link WiFi 6 (Intel AX201) 2×2 with Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Ports 1x USB-A 3.2 gen1, Mini-DisplayPort, SD card reader (full size, flash), 3.5 mm combo jack
Battery 83Wh long-life lithium-ion battery, 200W power supply, USB-C charging up to 100W (0.71 lbs.)
Size 13.93″ (W) x 9.24″ (D) x 0.7″ (H)
Weight 3.84 lbs (touch screen model is slightly heavier and 1 mm thicker at the lid)
In addition, Mac keyboard layout: Z command, 2 times up and down + 1 time up and down. Fingerprint sensor, 720p IR camera

I was surprised to see a mini display port instead of an HDMI port. SKUs with T2000 and lower GPUs get HDMI, and SKUs with RTX 3000 and higher get mini-DP – this is the first time I’ve seen a variable in port allocation on a GPU laptop. We have asked HP for clarification on this issue but have not received a reply at the time of publication.

Another important change is that our test unit was configured with the HP Z Command keyboard, which mimics the layout of the Mac. We will detail this in more detail in the Keyboard/Enter section.

Overall, despite the ample configuration options, there are a few more options we would have liked: An FHD option with touch controls, a second NVMe slot, options for Ryzen processors (we understand this is a business laptop with Thunderbolt 4), and a 16:10 screen to eliminate chin girth. Maybe next year!

Design and construction

The HP ZBook Studio G7 follows a sleek, professional, minimalist design philosophy that falls somewhere between the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme/P1 and the Dell XPS 15 9570 in terms of design and feel. The overall look of the Studio G7 is very professional and attractive, and I don’t think even the most aesthetically minded consumer will have anything to complain about. The most striking aspect of the workstation is the stylized Z logo on the tailgate. But it doesn’t light up or anything, and they certainly could have done a lot worse.

At first, I thought the material might be magnesium alloy, given the texture and strength of the frame when closed. However, HP claims that the Zbook Studio G7’s chassis is made of lightweight aluminum with a special wear-resistant finish that is five times more durable than painted carbon fiber. Given the fragility I’ve seen in some ThinkPads in the past, the durability of this aluminum over a carbon fiber coating wouldn’t surprise me at all.

As I mentioned earlier, it feels a little more textured (almost like a magnesium Surface Pro enclosure) than the carbon fiber bridge of the XPS 15 generation. At the same time, it also feels a little smoother than the carbon pads on the ThinkPads. So I think it’s almost the perfect material choice because it looks good and feels good while still being durable and not having the grease problem that plagues many other laptops like the carbon fiber ThinkPads XPS 15 and X1.

Despite its aluminum construction and 15.4-inch screen, the ZBook Studio G7 weighs just 3.84 pounds. It’s lighter than the FHD version of the XPS 15 9570 and much lighter than the 4.4-pound XPS 15 7590 UHD and the new 4.5-pound XPS 15 9500. It’s slightly heavier than the ThinkPad P1 G3 (£3.75 for the matte, £4 for the touchscreen), but having owned a few ThinkPads already, I’m more confident in the G7 Studio’s build and finish.

HP has opted for the tried-and-true articulated cooling but has also added a cooling grill to the left side of the device, giving the X1 Carbon a slightly more attractive look. This is good for thermostats, but it loses I/O: On the left side, there is only room for a USB-A port and a 3.5mm audio jack. It’s good to have at least two USB-A ports since one of them is almost always occupied by the Logitech pooling dongle for my keyboard and mouse, but one is always better than none.

Finally, the top design allows the lid to be lifted with a finger and opened to about 165 degrees, which is better than the maximum angle of the XPS 15 but not 180 degrees on many MSI GS laptops and ThinkPads.

Overall, I have no complaints about the design and construction of the Studio G7. Yes, in terms of aesthetics, a 16:10 screen would be the icing on the cake, but that’s also not a fair criticism for a laptop designed and released in the early 2020s.

Inputs

A good keyboard is one of the most important aspects of a user’s laptop. So how does the ZBook Studio G7 perform? Very good, with some footnotes.

First, HP offers two keyboards: a silent high-end keyboard and a Z-command keyboard. I wish the definition of the Z Command keyboard was clearer in the HP configurator because I was surprised when I received the test copy and saw that it had a different layout than the Ițm designed for the Mac. We’ll come back to this later, as choosing the right layout will affect your experience somewhat, but first, let’s talk about the overall feel.

The keyboard is a chick/membrane with a travel of about 1.2-1.3 mm (I think because I could not find its specifications). The feedback from the keys is clear and pleasant, and I’m happy to report that the keys are also very stable.

HP says it’s a quiet keyboard, but honestly, I can’t tell if it’s significantly quieter or louder than any other luxury keyboard I’ve used recently. However, it is silent, so you don’t have to worry about disturbing your desk or classmates. Overall, I think the writing experience is great.

The extra buttons for the starting line on the far right are probably preferable. You get specific keys per house, high side, low side, and ends. It also means that the whole keyboard is shifted to the left, but if you use three or four keyboards a day, like me, that can be very hard to get used to. The first week of typing on the ZBook’s keyboard was frustrating because almost every time I put my hands in a familiar place, my right hand moved one row too far to the right. After two weeks of daily use, this doesn’t happen to me often, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

Also, the Mac-like Z Command keyboard pictured above is not for me at all. I often use a Mac, but the Fn/Win/Alt/Ctrl layout is not optimal for Windows. The reason for this is muscle memory and the position of the Alt-key. For example, alt + F4 is a common keyboard shortcut in Windows and Linux, and it’s pretty hard to do with the Z command format because your thumb has to bend way inward to the palm of your hand while your middle or index finger reaches for the F4 key. However, with the standard keyboard, this shouldn’t be a problem, so I don’t think it’s fair to deduct points for something that’s totally unnecessary.

The 4.5 x 2.8 touchpad is spacious and uses accurate Windows drivers, and I had no problems with it. It is a functional touchpad for almost all comparisons. If I had to find one complaint, it would be the 1-2 second delay between the touchpad and cursor movement compared to the touchpad of the XPS 15 or the MacBook. However, this is not something you will notice if you are using the ZBook alone.

The optional fingerprint reader is located on the top right, and I have no complaints about it. However, if you chose the Windows Hello IR camera, like me, you probably won’t use it. IR login with Windows Hello works well, and I’m usually logged in within half a second of opening the lid. Unless you have a very limited budget (and you probably don’t if you’re considering the ZBook Create G7), I highly recommend IR camera sources.

Speaking of the camera: The webcam itself is 720p and nothing special:

The 720p camera is functional, but don’t expect to win photo contests.

I find it kind of funny that we have these high-resolution cameras on smartphones, but 720p is still the standard for laptops in 2021. It would be nice if manufacturers opted for at least 1080p webcams in the next generation of laptops.

Screen

There are four different screen options for the HP ZBook Studio G7:

  1. 15.6 FHD (1920 x 1080), IPS, non-glare, 1000 nits, 72% NTSC, HP Sure View Reflect integrated privacy screen
  2. 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080), IPS, anti-glare, 400 nits, low power consumption, 72% NTSC.
  3. 15.6″ 4K UHD (3840 x 2160), IPS, anti-glare, 600 nits, HDR 400, 100% DCI-P3, next-generation HP DreamColor.
  4. 15.6″ 4K UHD (3840 x 2160), touch-sensitive, UWVA, BrightView, Corning Gorilla Glass 6, 400 nits, HDR 500, 100% DCI-P3

As mentioned above, the review unit has a second 400-nit matte FHD display with low power consumption. This is also the option I would personally choose for myself, as the 400 fps on the matte screen is bright enough for me. Especially with the 83 Wh battery, 4K is just too battery-consuming for me as a mobile work device.

However, I like the look of glossy screens, and I like the touch option, so the FHD/touch option is something that is on my wish list.

The 400 nits FHD matte display is super compared to many FHD displays on the XPS 15 and ThinkPad P1/X1E that I’ve seen recently. Color accuracy, contrast, and black levels are certainly good by my standards, but if you’re into photography, you’ll probably want to go for one of the DreamColor or 100% DCI-P3 options. Viewing angles on the 400-nit screen are also good; content can be viewed easily and with very little blur, even with wide viewing angles.

The screen is set to maximum brightness, producing the calibration image.

Equally important to me is the evenness of the backlighting and the complete absence of backlighting. I can’t speak for all ZBook G7s, but the matte FHD display on this machine really appealed to me: In the past, almost every laptop I’ve looked at over the years has had serious (for me) problems with inconsistent or flared backlighting.

The quality of the screen is remarkable while loading, with good contrast and no glare in the backlight.

However, I have a problem with this screen, and it seems to be some sort of CABC (Content Adaptive Backlight Control) firmware control, which means that the screen darkens slightly when displaying dark content. This is especially noticeable when viewing an application or site with a dark theme and then switching to a Word document or other application. It then takes a few seconds for the screen to clear and return to normal mode.

This happens despite disabling power management in Intel Graphics Command, and I couldn’t find a setting for it in the BIOS. It’s not a problem for me, but I know it is for some people. However, please let me know if there is a firmware update or hidden settings for this product that I have missed.

Equipment and power

Our test model is a mid-range variant of the ZBook G7, with an Intel i7-10850H processor, 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, a small SSD, and an Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM.

As a workstation-class laptop, gaming performance is secondary to accuracy and stability. Therefore, we’ve added Blender and Specviewperf for benchmarking while focusing less on gaming performance. The ZBook Studio can certainly play games, but if you want a ZBook Professional design with better gaming performance, you’re better off with a Geforce-powered ZBook Create. Finally, we compared the ZBook to other thin and light pro-summit laptops with similar form factors, such as the Dell XPS 15 and the MSI GS66.

Processor performance

The Intel i7-10850H is a 6-core, 12-thread 14nm processor with 12 MB of cache and a base clock speed of 2.7 GHz. It tries to differentiate itself from the relatively more common i7-10750H, which claims a 5.1GHz boost with a faster 100MHz base and boost clock. However, as you can see in the Cinebench R15 cycle test graph below, this does not translate into a real performance improvement over the i7-10750H :

  • CineBench R15 (Best): CPU 1311, single-core CPU 198 ;
  • CineBench R23 (Best): CPU Multi 6745, CPU Single Core 1212

Although the i7-10850H performs better in its first run, it quickly falls back to a more consistent performance level, very similar to other six-core Intel processors. Moreover, as we can see, the i7-10850H cannot always keep up with some implementations, even those of the i7-9750H. As a result, when configuring the Studio G7, we don’t see a cost-effective argument for replacing it with the i7-10750H unless you’re working with sporadic CPU loads that last less than a minute and you give your laptop time to cool down between configurations. However, the HP ZBook Create G7 compares favorably to other thin and light laptops, including the Dell XPS 15 and its Precision 5550 workstation counterpart.

Other CPU/general benchmarks:

  • PCMark 10 : 5469 (Basic: 8827; Performance: 7241; Digital content creation: 6941)
  • GeekBench 5.33.1 64-bit : Mononuclear: 1295, multi-core: 6262 ;

Overall, the ZBook far outperforms the XPS 15 here (both the 7590 and the 9500) while still coming close to the performance of the GS66. The i7-10850H can run at a steady 55W at constant load (see the thermal performance section for details), with fan noise very acceptable for its class (~47dB). This is not a bad performance for this category of laptops.

Let’s not forget that something like the little Asus ROG Flow X13 with the AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS absolutely crushes Intel’s current H-series offerings (and that probably applies to most, if not all, Ryzen 7 and 9 implementations). Still, it’s not HP’s fault that the last three generations of Intel H-series CPUs have very similar performance numbers. Also, AMD probably has a lot of paperwork to get their processors certified for professional/workstation use. Governments and companies buying workstations in bulk are extremely risky, and AMD doesn’t have the scale to supply chips to the entire industry as Intel does. So I don’t expect Ryzen-powered H-class laptops to appear this year, but it shouldn’t take long since Ryzen Pro hardware is already available for U-class models.

GPU performance

Despite its name, the Quadro RTX 3000 is based on the mobile Geforce RTX 2070 but with lower clock speeds and shaders. The Max-Q variant of the Quadro RTX 3000 has even lower clock speeds and shaders, as it is optimized for efficiency and typically has a maximum power consumption of 60-70W. On this machine, the highest GPU consumption was 62.5 W in the demanding Time Spy benchmark, with an average consumption of around 50 W. Despite being based on the same TU106 chip as the Geforce RTX 2070, most benchmarks slightly place the RTX 3000 Max-Q closer to the GTX 1070 Max-Q.

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 11,735
  • 3DMark 13 – Time Spy : 5225
  • Mixer: BMW27: 5m 9s, classroom: 14m 56s
  • SPECviewperf
    • 3dsmax-07 – 63.09
    • cation-06 – 57.4
    • Creo-03 – 100.83
    • Energy-03 – 29.07
    • maya-06 – 196.24
    • medical-03 – 33.68
    • snx-04 – 210.16
    • Oil Work-05 – $119.45
  • Rocks: Eternal (Ancient Gods: Part 1) 1080p, Ultra Detail, Vsinko: 80-125 FPS. GPU stability at about 50W rendering, CPU at 20W.

Rocks: The gameplay of Eternal was very smooth, and based on that, I see no reason why you couldn’t seriously game on this device along with other titles if you wanted to – but since the screen is only 60Hz, you’ll probably want to hook it up to a 120Hz+ monitor or TV to get the most out of the game.

Overall, the ZBook Studio G7 performed better than expected of its size and weight.

The GTX 2070-powered MSI GS66 Stealth may surpass this workstation in terms of gaming, but the ZBook’s design and the quality of its display and speakers suggest it’s in a different class than the GS66. Compared to the XPS 15/Precision 5550 (which outperforms the Geforce 1650Ti and Quadro T2000m, respectively), you get significantly better performance in a similar package. The ZBook can also be equipped with an RTX 4000/5000 GPU, although I expect the RTX 3000 to be a better value for this chassis.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

1. Cinebench R15 Loop

Here are the HWiNFO64 measurements during a loaded Cinebench R15 cycle. We saw the processor go to 88W at the start of the benchmark and reach 100C fairly quickly before dropping back to 84C and about 55W of power consumption after that. The same behavior was observed after examining the HWiNFO protocols with other constant loads. We can conclude that the case (as expected) cannot efficiently cool the processor beyond a stable temperature of 55W.

2. Timeshare

During our test, the maximum power recorded by the Quadro RTX 3000 MAX-Q was 62.446 W, while it should theoretically have an upper limit of 70 W in this configuration. We believe there is a soft performance limit in the drivers, as we have observed similar behavior on other Quadro computers.

3. Blender

Blender is a 3D workstation benchmark that simulates 3D modeling and rendering, which loads the CPU while the GPU is used more heavily in light mode. Given the slimness of the body, we were impressed that the processor managed to maintain a steady 4.4GHz throughout the test. This is the maximum frequency for which the chip is designed when all six cores and 12 chains are loaded.

4. Rocks: Eternal

Rocks: Eternal represents a pretty healthy mixed CPU/GPU workload and a AAA gaming segment. With an average CPU and GPU load of 30W and 52.5W, respectively, the ZBook Study G7 seems to get pretty hot with a combined load of ~82.5W, which seems to be the most appropriate cooling solution. While most of the laptop is just warm, the top of the keyboard gets hot: I don’t have a thermometer to measure the surface temperature, but I estimate it at ~44C. You certainly don’t want to run this laptop under a combined load on your laptop.

5. Speaker

Sound is an area that deserves special attention on the ZBook Studio G7. HP says it features downward and upward-facing speakers are the most powerful Bang & Olufsen speakers ever installed in an HP laptop, delivering 150 Hz of bass. I assume they mean that the lowest frequency the speakers can deliver is 150 Hz; for a technical comparison, the range of my Rokit KRK 6 studio monitors is between 38 Hz and 35 kHz – but 150 Hz is pretty good for laptop speakers.

In my experience, the speakers worked for gaming and video consumption. You can feel the bass resonating in the soundtracks or the explosions and roar in the doomsday scenarios. Music is a real test for speakers, and as an audio professional/audiophile, I would rate them as decent. However, the speakers (like many others) falter a bit in the midrange, where there’s a lot of meat on the melodic tracks.

Overall, these speakers are ideal for watching a movie together on a night out or playing on the go. However, if you want to get the party started with music, you’ll probably need big Bluetooth speakers like the BOOM 3 (which I have and love) or a soundbar.

6. Other

I have not had any uncategorized problems or issues other than those with the HP Sure Sense software. However, shortly after using the viewer for the first time, I kept getting pop-up warnings from HP Sure Sense :

HP Sure Sense was pre-installed but irritated me (probably) with false alarms. I quickly judged it to be bloated and deactivated it.

Since the device was fully charged at the time and had just installed Windows and new user settings, I found it particularly strange that Sure Sense was still issuing false alarms. This sounds like something the developers should have discovered during user acceptance testing.

 8. Battery life

The HP ZBook Studio G7 is equipped with an 83 Wh battery. That’s not as much as the 97 WHr of the XPS 15 7590 or even the 86 WHr of the XPS 15 9500, so I’d recommend most people avoid 4K displays if they want to run on battery.

Here you can see the battery life of our low-power FHD test device with a screen brightness of about 300 nits (75%) :

  • Standby time (browser open, WiFi on, sporadic use): -~7600 mW, or ~11 hours of battery life.
  • Easy to use (browsing, chatting, text editing – no multimedia playback): -~10,000 mW, or ~8 hours of battery life.
  • Heavy office work (Word, Teams, Slack, Outlook, synchronous editing): -~12,500 mW, or ~6.5 hours of work
  • 3D game (Doom: Eternal): -~85,000 mW, or ~<1 hour of operation.

It’s important to remember that using any of the 4K displays results in a significant (~25%) reduction in battery life, meaning you’ll likely get <6 hours of battery life with a 4K display in most usage scenarios. With a low-power FHD display, you get a pretty solid battery life, but it doesn’t stand out from the competition.

The 200 W power supply is quite thin and braided.

L-connector.

 9. Price and availability

The HP ZBook Studio G7 has been around for almost a year, and it should be available from HP in most countries.

At the time of writing, the price of the ZBook Studio G7 ranges from $1,636.05 for a Core i5/Linux/graphics integrated configuration to over $3,000 for a more heavily equipped configuration with i7 RTX 3000 and UHD display. Follow this link to see the current configurations and prices in your area at the time you read this article.

Final Thoughts

With a stable keyboard, a stylish and professional design, good speakers, and enough CPU/processor power, the HP ZBook Studio G7 is a high-end notebook that can also be used as a media center. Beyond the exorbitant price tag, however, there are disappointments with the G7: the soldered RAM, the lack of a second NVMe slot (more and more laptops in this category will be offered in 2021), a less reliable port selection may make some buyers hesitate. However, with the introduction of the HP ZBook G8 series, there is a chance to lower the price of the G7 and fix some of its weaknesses, which is a benefit to consumers.

Although the ZBook Studio can be equipped with more powerful processors and GPUs, our thermal calculations show that the i7-10850H and Quadro RTX 3000 can more or less handle this chassis. For the most interesting configurations for this system, we recommend aiming for this configuration or the i7-10750H with the Quadro T2000.

General: If you have the money and are looking for a well-designed notebook for professionals that falls into the same niche as the XPS 15 7590 or ThinkPad X1E or their counterparts, the Precision 5550 or ThinkPad P1, you’ll be quite satisfied with the HP ZBook Studio (or Create, for that matter).

Denial: Our content is supported by our readers. If you purchase some of the links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. Read more.

Based in Washington DC, Douglas Black is a technology veteran, academic speaker, DJ, and consultant.

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