Talk about going all in. If like me and many other creatives you have been used to working with Macs for the majority of your creative career, you may have noticed something in the air, specifically for 3D artists, which is that the old misnomer of Macs being more expensive but better for creative types, really doesn’t hold true anymore.
There are a couple of key reasons for this, first of all was Apple’s decision to bet the farm on OpenCL for GPU acceleration to try and break the stranglehold on NVIDIA’s CUDA dominance which many 3D and Video apps have integrated into their workflow, which means many things happen faster (and cheaper than they have in the past). Unfortunately for Apple, most developers where happy enough on CUDA that to retool for OS X and Open CL wasn’t worth the ROI.
While this has meant in the desktop space many artists have switched (myself included) over to Windows as a lot of the app developers as they now work by subscription don’t penalise by switching platform, so Adobe/Autodesk/Maxon/Allegorithmic can all be accessible on Mac or PC.
The last bastion of Mac superiority still seems to be the laptop, and as the owner of a 2015 15” Macbook Pro, I can confirm that prejudice still works.
To rid me of these pre-conceptions Escape Technology and HP have been kind enough to let me have a HP ZBook Studio G3 mobile workstation to use for the next couple of months as my primary mobile and ‘in the house' solution. As you can see from the picture the ZBook is already out in the field. Allowing me to run MAYA (with Redshift), Cinema 4D (with Octane) and Adobe apps with Mercury acceleration, which is either or deprecated impossible on my Macbook Pro because of it’s lack of an NVIDIA Card.
Speaking of which the HP ZBook Studio G3 is running a NVIDIA Quadro M1000M with 4gb of RAM and with an Intel Xeon E3-1505M @ 2.8GHZ with 16gb RAM and a 512GB SSD drive. The price for this is a shockingly reasonable £1,558+VAT when compared to the eyewatering amount I paid for the Mac, admittedly it does have 1tb of SSD, but is that really worth the extra £700 or so. It also comes with a UHD Matte Screen with a 16:9 3840*2160 pixel count.
My first impressions of the HP ZBook Studio G3 where a bit muted, as first of all it shipped with Windows 7, and the screen was noticeably less bright than my Macbook Pro in direct light. I am not a lover of Windows 7 so after a quick upgrade to Windows 10, I wanted to see if I could get over the screen. Turns out it isn’t too bad, yes it could be brighter and the viewing angles are not as good as they are on the Macbook. The speakers aren’t as good as the Macbook’s even with the fancy pants Bang & Olufsen branding, especially in the base. And overall the general fit and finish just isn’t quite as ‘robust’ as the Macbook.
However all is not doom and gloomon the hardware front, the keyboard is lovely, I mean properly, very nicely lovely, as precise as the Macbook’s while being a little softer. The HPlike the MacBook Pro doesn’t have a full keyboard with numpad, but there is a row of home, pg up, buttons etc, and there is a numpad cleary labelled when using the fn and numlk keys. The trackpad is ok, not on a par with the Macs, but, it is big, and since I am mainly working with a mouse for what I need it is fine.
It is also great to (finally) have a laptop with a decent amount of ports, no Apple less is not more, as far as ports go, more is more, the HP ZBook Studio G3 has 3 no. USB, one HDMI, two thunderbolt 3 ports and a real proper honest to goodness Ethernet port, as well as a full size SD card slot, that ‘shock’ allows me to insert the whole SD card with no annoying bit sticking out as it does on the MacBook Pro, but it does mean I have to find somewhere to put the annoying SD card slot cover, but I can live with that if it allows me camera input options and extra storage.
After a day out in meetings with the HP ZBook Studio G3. I realised that although the screen isn’t as necessarily as bright as the Macs, the non-reflective surface means……less reflections, and therefore makes the screen more usable, and as it is attached to a PC I can show off more stuff.
I had expected in my Apple naivety that having a High DPI 16:9 ratio screen would be a disadvantage, especially when the MacBook gives me more proportional height with it's 16:10 ratio.
Turns out, I am an idiot, Windows 10 manages the screen real estate really well, and apps like Maya especially and to a lesser extent C4D can be made to look good on the HP ZBook Studio G3 with lots more room than is immediately available on the Mac.
Also a lot of the stock Windows 10 productivity apps look gorgeous on the Zbook 3, alongside the new Windows 10 Browser ‘Edge’. But when apps aren’t optimised for the UHD screen… well a lot of squinting is required.
My favourite new thing is definitely the fingerprint scanner, logging in with a finger is cool – end of!
In terms of grunt, everything opens up quickly, much more so than on the Macbook Pro, and on my Home-Brew workstation running with an NVIDIA Quadro M5000.
So overall my first impressions are encouraging, I get the impression would never want to be too far away from a power source compared to the Mac, but for the price difference I can live with that in terms of what the HP is giving me in return, which is a complete mobile platform to do ALL my work on. Time will tell if it lives up to that.. check in next week for more, and who knows maybe some benchmarks.
RGBHQ would like to thank Escape Technology for the opportunity to review the HP ZBOOK G3 MOBILE WORKSTATION. Escape Technology are the one of the leading providers of Hardware solutions to creative specialists and studios in the UK