Despite worse than lackluster laptop sales projections for Q3 2013, HP is bullish enough to develop the HP ZBook 14, the first mobile workstation to meet Intel’s requirements for Ultrabook status. While pricing has not been announced, we recently had the chance to go hands-on with the October-bound ZBook 14.
Available in several configurations (some of which will not qualify as Ultrabook), the ZBook 14 comes in a sleek, all-black casing with gray soft touch accents and a glossy HP logo on its lid. A gray band of plastic wraps its smooth black plastic keyboard deck, complete with both a touch pad, point stick and click buttons as well as a fingerprint reader. This is one classy-looking machine, measuring 13.35 x 9.33 x 0.83 inches and weighing 3.57 pounds, according to HP.
Starting ZBook 14 configurations come with a 14-inch, LED-backlit SVA display at 1366 x 768-pixel resolution to start. This can be upgraded to a 1600 x 900, 10-point multitouch screen or a 1080p panel with the power-saving Panel Self-Refresh (PSR) feature. If you opt in for one, you’ll also get a 720p webcam above that screen.
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HP has stuffed quite a bit into its first business Ultrabook in terms of I/O. On the right side of the device, HP packed two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone/microphone combo jack, DisplayPort, media card reader, Ethernet, AC power and a dock connector. Two more USB 3.0 ports are found on its left side, one which with sleep charging capability, along with a security lock slot, VGA port and a Smart Card reader.
Flipping the ZBook 14 over reveals a particularly useful feature: easy access to the laptop’s internals. Popping off the ZBook 14’s Easy Access Door is is as easy as sliding the lock. Plus, its components are laid out in such a way that even end users could implement upgrades through what HP’s Jimmy Holbert calls toolless installation. This applies to the notebook’s two DIMM slots (up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM), spaces for mini SSD (up to 120GB) and 2.5-inch drives (up to 1TB, 7,200 rpm HDD, 500GB SATA SSD), and its 3-cell battery.
On the inside, the ZBook 14 will come Intel’s 4th-generation, 1.6GHz Core i5-4200U CPU to start, which is upgradeable to a 2.1GHz Core i7-4600U. Better yet is that all ZBook 14 models will come packing an AMD FirePro M4100 GPU with 1GB of GDDR5 RAM.
The ZBook 14’s Easy Access Door alone is enough to impress. But that HP brought all of this to a platform that’s less than an inch thick and less than 4 pounds is what HP will likely push as the ZBook 14’s major selling point. We’re told that HP’s target audience for the ZBook 14 is the mobile creative professional (i.e. folks that work in photography or video fields). Apple has long been king of those departments, so we’ll see whether the ZBook 14 can last in the ring with the MacBooks later this fall.