HP Zbook 14u G6 Review: A Thin, Powerful Mobile Workstation

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HP Zbook 14u G6: Build Quality and Teardown

Given the premium specs and price of the Zbook 14u G6, we expected that the build quality would match—and we weren't disappointed. To keep the weight down, HP built the system with a lot of textured, anodized aluminum panels. While not a total unibody construction like some ultra premium machines, it's pretty tough to find seams unless you really go digging for them. To keep it all together, the Zbook uses a frame constructed from aluminum and magnesium, which is both lightweight and rigid. There was a hint of flex to the palm rests, but it didn't feel flimsy at all. Likewise, the lid had a hint of give behind the 14" 4K IPS display panel, but it never gave us the impression that it was going to collapse or be easily damaged, and we never put any dents into the aluminum chassis. The metal body also keeps fingerprints at bay. 

all open hp zbook 14u g6

HP's Zbook 14u G6 doesn't quite open to a full 180 degrees. The hinge design stops the display at around 165 degrees, which prevents it from laying totally flat. The lack of a touch screen excludes the Zbook from being used as anything other than a traditional laptop anyway, so that doesn't really hurt this machine's possible use cases. We used the Zbook with both a VIVO notebook riser at the desk and a Rain Design mStand on a coffee table in the living room, and it was comfortable to use on both. The hinge requires minimal effort for adjusting the display's angle without falling on its own. 

camera with privacy guard infrared

The niceties don't stop with build quality on a premium notebook like this, though. A growing trend among laptops we really like is a physical cover for the webcam. HP includes such a cover on the Zbook 14u G6, which slides to the left to cover the webcam's lens. A little white LED glows when the camera is in use, too, so you'll never be surprised to find out if you're visible to someone on the other end. A pair of IR sensors flank the camera on either side for facial recognition, which provides Windows Hello compatibility to help you log in with Microsoft's password-less method.

When we tested facial recognition, it recognized us quickly and easily, both with and without glasses. Windows wouldn't authenticate until we looked directly at the camera, too, so the system makes sure you intend to log in before doing so. In the lower-right is a fingerprint reader, which also works with Windows Hello to provide a second form of biometric authentication to the system. While our review unit had the cutout for the fingerprint scanner, such a device was not included in the body for testing, but we expect no problems. 

bang and olufsen hp zbook 14u g6

Audio in the Zbook 14u G6 is provided by a pair of speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen, with whom HP has partnered for PC audio going back to 2015. The speakers in the Zbook are relatively small, but they can get plenty loud without distorting and they work fine for the typical voice chat or YouTube video. There's very little low-end definition with these speakers, since there's no bass module built in. They're laptop speakers, but you don't have to live with them if you don't want too since the Zbook has a dedicated 1/8" jack that works great with just about any set of headphones or PC speakers available today. 

There's a nice, wide vent on the bottom of this mobile workstation, which lets the cooling fan draw in air from underneath. Once the air travels across the cooler's fin array, it exits the Zbook 14u G6 through a vent on the left side. The aluminum bottom casing on our review unit is all that stood between us and the user-serviceable parts inside the machine. Loosen six captive screws and pry at one of the front corners with a plastic separator (or your fingernail) and the bottom case lifts away from the aluminum and magnesium frame. Replacing the bottom does involve a few tabs that snap into place, but it never felt like we were going to break that part of the laptop. 

bottom hp zbook 14u g6

Once you're in, replacing the user-serviceable parts is simple. A pair of 16 GB DDR4-2666 SO-DIMMS serve as the system's main memory, but the system's UEFI limits their speed to 2400 MHz. The fact that memory is user-replaceable is a pleasant surprise, since most 14-inch laptops ship with at least some (if not all) pre-installed memory soldered directly to the motherboard. Being able to buy only the RAM you need now and having the ability to replace it later, or just replacing it right out of the box with third-party memory, can be a real money saver.

Next to the SO-DIMM slots, a speedy Samsung PM981a 512 GB solid-state drive serves as main storage, though it can be replaced with any NVMe 2280 SSD if you need more space down the road. We've seen this particular model in a couple of other recent laptops, such as Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and it was blazing fast in those, and it should be here, too. The Zbook's 50 watt-hour battery occupies the front of the machine, and after loosening a handful of screws, it lifted right out, so replacing that should be easy. HP gives this battery the Long Life branding, which means that it's rated for 1000 cycles. Also, the Zbook's three-year warranty covers Long Life batteries for their entire duration, which is a nice benefit. The Intel 9560 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0 card is a standard size and easy to remove, as well. All told, we're very pleased with how user-repairable the Zbook 14u G6 is. 

bottom off hp zbook 14u g6

Since the Zbook has a Radeon Pro WX3200 discrete graphics processor, the system's cooling system needs to be robust enough to keep the processor and GPU both at acceptable operating temperatures. A pair of anodized heat pipes snake their way from the CPU and GPU to a relatively modest fin array which sits in front of a 50-millimeter blower-style fan. Heat plates cover the CPU, GPU, and PCH chips on the motherboard, which all sit relatively close together. We'll see later on if it's enough to keep the Zbook from sweating too much.

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