HP ZBook Fury 15 G8 Review
We pride ourselves on our painstaking performance benchmark tests, but benchmarks aren’t everything. The HP ZBook Fury 15 G8 (starts at $2,369; $5,750 as tested) is a spectacularly fast and powerful mobile workstation, ready to rip through the most demanding jobs in 3D rendering or CGI, computer-aided design (CAD), or data science, but its fellow 15.6-inch flagships—the recently reviewed Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 and Dell Precision 7560—were a few ticks faster still in most of our measurements. Any of the three is an awesome choice for crunching giant datasets or creating amazing virtual reality (VR) worlds, but the HP earns our Editors’ Choice award because of its sleek design and dazzling DreamColor display.
Top of the Top of the Line
Available in 15.6- and 17.3-inch screen sizes, the ZBook Fury is the big kahuna of HP’s laptop workstations, built to deliver the utmost in performance, expandability, and security and carrying a laundry list of independent software vendor (ISV) certifications for specialized apps. It outranks the ZBook Power, aimed at cash-strapped engineering students; the ZBook Firefly, for 2D designers seeking something lightweight; and the ZBook Studio, for video editors and content creators.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
The Fury 15 G8 technically starts at $2,071 with an Intel Core i5 processor and dim 250-nit display, but we don’t honor notebooks with integrated graphics with the “workstation” designation. Many ISV certifications upon which workstation users are likely to rely require discrete GPUs. The real base model is $2,369 with a Core i7 chip, 400-nit screen, and Nvidia T1200 GPU.
For a whopping $5,750, our test unit flaunts an eight-core, 2.6GHz (5.0GHz turbo) Core i9-11950H CPU, Nvidia’s 16GB RTX A5000, 32GB of memory, a 1TB NVMe solid-state drive, and HP’s finest mobile workstation screen, a 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) DreamColor panel. The DreamColor display supports a peak 600 nits of brightness and a game-worthy 120Hz refresh rate instead of the usual 60Hz. A fingerprint reader and face recognition webcam give two ways to skip passwords with Windows Hello.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Non-DreamColor screen choices include a Gorilla Glass 4K touch panel and a 1080p display with HP’s Sure View Reflect privacy filter to foil snooping airline seatmates. The maximum RAM loadout is 128GB (or 64GB of ECC memory if you opt for the Xeon W-11955M processor), with room for up to 8TB of solid-state storage. Sliding a latch lets you remove the bottom panel for access to two of the four memory sockets and three of the four M.2 slots.
With an aluminum top and a magnesium bottom and inner structure, the Fury 15 G8 measures 1.02 by 14.2 by 9.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.32 pounds, making it about an ounce more portable than the Precision 7560 (1.08 by 14.2 by 9.5 inches, 5.42 pounds). The ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is the bruiser of the group at 1.24 by 14.7 by 9.9 inches and 6.32 pounds. Like the Lenovo, the HP doesn’t qualify as a rugged laptop, but it has passed MIL-STD 810H torture tests for shock, vibration, and environmental extremes. There’s no flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Ports are plentiful, with the left edge holding an Ethernet port, an audio jack, SmartCard and security lock slots, and two USB 3.1 Type-A ports. On the right, you’ll find an SD card slot, HDMI and mini DisplayPort video outputs, and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 capability, along with the power connector.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
A Touchpad With Six Buttons
It wouldn’t be an HP laptop review if I didn’t kvetch about cursor arrow keys arranged in a row instead of the correct inverted T, with hard-to-hit, half-height up and down arrows stacked between left and right. But otherwise, the ZBook’s keyboard is enjoyable—brightly backlit, with a snappy typing feel. There are dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys above the numeric keypad, and top-row command keys, including one for microphone mute.
The ThinkPad-style pointing stick embedded in the keyboard is small and stiff to maneuver, but the touchpad is adequately sized. Both rows of mouse buttons, one below the touchpad and one above (for the pointing stick), include the middle button popular with CAD and other professional applications; the buttons have a comfortable click.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
It’s depressing to find the usual cheap-looking 720p webcam in a notebook that costs nearly $6,000. The camera has a sliding security shutter and captures adequately bright and colorful but fuzzy images with some noise or static.
Speakers above the keyboard pump out loud, surprisingly good sound, not harsh or tinny even at top volume and with respectable bass—I heard punchy drumbeats on the Fury that come out as just static on most laptops, and it’s easy to make out overlapping tracks. HP Audio Control software provides noise cancellation (the company even touts anti-barking software to drown out dogs during conference calls); music, movie, and voice presets; and an equalizer.
Speaking of HP software, the company bolsters Windows 10 Pro with an arsenal of useful utilities, ranging from one that briefly freezes the keyboard and touchpad while you clean it (the Fury is rated to withstand 1,000 rubdowns with household wipes) to HP QuickDrop for transferring files between PC and phone and ZCentral Remote Boost to let another system tap the workstation’s CPU and GPU. Security is a top priority, with everything from a sandboxed browser to BIOS protection and tamper alerts if someone removes the bottom panel. In addition, Tile software works with the Bluetooth subscription service to help find a lost or stolen laptop.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
I usually discuss the screen earlier, but I’ve saved the best for last: The DreamColor panel offers ultra-fine details and letters free of pixelation around the edges, as you’d expect from 4K resolution, but it goes beyond that with Pantone-validated colors that are rich, vivid, and lavish. Viewing angles are wide, and brightness and contrast are fabulous; white backgrounds are as pure as the driven snow. The screen’s IPS technology may not quite match the ultra-black blacks of OLED displays, but in every other way it’s simply superb.
Testing the ZBook Fury 15 G8: Not Absolute Fastest, But Still Formidable
Besides its direct competitors, the Dell Precision 7560 and Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2, I compared the Fury 15 G8’s performance with that of HP’s more affordable ZBook Power G8 and a high-end not-quite-workstation for content creators, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4. The Extreme lacks ISV certifications and has one of Nvidia’s GeForce consumer or gaming GPUs instead of its professional RTX A-series graphics silicon. You can see the contenders’ basic specs in the table below.
The main benchmark of UL’s PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop’s storage. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).
Our final productivity test is workstation maker Puget Systems‘ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s famous image editor to rate a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The Fury finished near the back of the pack in PCMark 10, but it was a wildly overachieving pack, with even the lowest score nearly half again the 4,000 points that indicate excellent office productivity—these machines are total overkill for Word and Excel. Its Core i9 CPU took the gold medal in Geekbench and HandBrake, and it placed second in Cinebench. And it was right in the thick of it on our Photoshop test; its competitive performance and sharp, vivid screen make it a fine choice for Photoshop pros.
We test Windows PCs’ graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics), and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).
We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
We’ve seen an unnerving range of variation in testing gaming laptops with Nvidia’s “Ampere” architecture GPUs, and it apparently extends to the company’s formerly-known-as-Quadro professional graphics as well: The ZBook Fury’s RTX A5000 trailed not only its mate in the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 but the supposedly slower A4000 in the Dell. Make no mistake, this HP is more than quick enough to enjoy gaming after hours and let players appreciate its faster-than-60Hz screen, but it’s not as speedy as we expected.
We run two additional programs to simulate workstation applications. The first, Blender, is an open-source 3D suite for modeling, animation, simulation, and compositing. We record the time it takes for its built-in Cycles path tracer to render two photo-realistic scenes of BMW cars, one using the system’s CPU and one the GPU (lower times are better).
Our most important workstation test, SPECviewperf 2020, renders, rotates, and zooms in and out of solid and wireframe models using viewsets from popular independent software vendor (ISV) apps. We run the 1080p resolution tests based on PTC’s Creo CAD platform; Autodesk’s Maya modeling and simulation software for film, TV, and games; and Dassault Systemes’ SolidWorks 3D rendering package. The more frames per second, the better.
The flagship workstations tied in Blender’s CPU test—which was won, in a major upset, by the X1 Extreme’s Core i7—but the Fury’s GPU underperformed again. Similarly, the Fury’s numbers in SPECviewperf, while impressive, fell short of its Precision and ThinkPad P15 rivals’.
Battery and Display Tests
We test laptops’ battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen’s color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
Battery life is less important for mobile workstations—which are usually plugged in for lengthy rendering sessions or data analysis—than for traveling execs’ ultraportables, so the Fury’s seven hours is satisfactory. HP’s DreamColor display is much more than satisfactory, providing unbeatable color coverage (even if we saw only 99% of DCI-P3 instead of its claimed 100%) and stellar brightness.
Verdict: The Winner When Looks Matter
If you want the fastest laptop workstation you can buy (and arguably the best keyboard), we’d recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2. If you want a great performer for under $5,000, our Dell Precision 7560 test unit takes the cake. But most workstation apps are visual affairs, and the HP ZBook Fury 15 G8’s DreamColor display is about the best laptop screen we’ve ever laid eyes on.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
That, plus its unparalleled expandability and security, offsets its non-record-breaking benchmark results. So while any of the three titans will serve you splendidly, the Fury narrowly nabs Editors’ Choice honors as our favorite mobile workstation—and we suspect it would perform virtually as well for $1,000 less with Nvidia’s RTX A4000 rather than the A5000 GPU.
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