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

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HP Zbook 14u G6: Graphics And Gaming Benchmarks

HP didn't design the Zbook 14u G6 to be a gaming notebook, but relative performance is still most easily represented by gaming tests. That's not all we'll look at, though—those ISV-certified Radeon Pro drivers need to stretch their legs in 3D modeling apps, too. Let's take a look at what the Zbook's discrete graphics brings to the table. 

SPEC Viewperf 13
3D Rendering Performance

The SPECviewperf benchmark is the best-known test for measuring graphics performance based on pro 3D modeling and animation applications. The benchmark measures the 3D graphics performance of systems running under the OpenGL and DirectX APIs. The SPEC benchmark's workloads—or view sets—represent graphics content and behavior from pro apps like 3ds Max or Catia. We ran the first three tests to get an idea how well the discrete graphics processorvv would perform against both an integrated GPU and a faster consumer chip.
graph spec viewperf 13

The results here are pretty interesting. To start, across the board the Radeon Pro WX3200 graphics processor in the Zbook 14u G6 was more than twice as fast as the integrated graphics of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Both AMD and Intel's drivers can accelerate all three of the tested applications. On the other hand, the GeForce GTX 1650 in the Dell XPS 15 did great in 3ds Max and Catia, but look at the Creo-02 score. This test is based on the rendering engine in Creo version 4, and the GTX 1650 slowed to a crawl while the Zbook turned in its best result of the three.

The reason here is apparently drivers, since Quadro cards use the same silicon but don't have any problems. While PTC, the makers of Creo, say that while the app may run on consumer GPUs, it's up to the graphics processor's drivers to supply all of the necessary functionality. It certainly seems like Nvidia's drivers on the XPS 15 couldn't handle Creo, and as a result the Radeon pulls out in front. This behavior persisted across multiple runs, so it doesn't seem like an aberration, but with a sample size of one it's impossible to say. The takeaway from this is that if you want to be sure your 3D apps work with your workstation's graphics, it's probably wise to get a pro graphics card. 

Blender bmw27 Cycles Benchmark
3D Rendering with CPU and GPU

Blender is an open-source 3D modelling and rendering package which uses ray-tracing techniques to generate a completed image. We used the Car demo from Blender's latest Cycles benchmark package. The demo includes projects to force the scene to be rendered on either the CPU or the GPU using OpenCL. 

graph blender bmw27

We compared the Zbook 14u G6 to Lenovo's 7th-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon for this comparison. The two machines have the same CPU, but the Lenovo turned in a faster time thanks to its TDP-up configuration. On the other hand, relying on the integrated graphics processor actually slowed down the Lenovo while the Radeon Pro WX3200 cut the time required to render by more than half. As a result, HP's mobile workstation turned in both the fastest and slowest rendering times out of the four. The discrete graphics card paid off in this case. 

3DMark Benchmarks
3D Performance

UL’s well-known 3DMark benchmark suite features tests that target different types of computing devices. We selected the Sky Diver and Night Raid tests since they are light-duty 3D graphics and gaming benchmarks aimed at PCs that weren't built specifically for gaming. We also have plenty of comparison data for Sky Diver, which is the more strenuous than the omitted Cloud Gate test. Night Raid is UL's newest addition, which measures DirectX 12 performance in mainstream PCs.

graph 3dmark sky diver

Sky Diver doesn't really get the 3D tests off to a good start for the Zbook 14u G6. The GeForce MX150 in Huawei's Matebook 13 and Acer's Swift 3 is based on Nvidia's tiniest current GPU which only has a 64-bit path to memory. By contrast, the Radeon Pro WX3200 in the Zbook has 640 stream processors and a 128-bit memory bus. Sky Diver has both a GPU and a CPU component used to determine the overall scores. It's hard to tell from this data, but the 15-watt limit on CPU power consumption might be rearing its head here again. Still, the Zbook's score doubled up on systems that relied solely on integrated graphics. 

graph 3dmark nightraid

This is not a typo. HP's Zbook 14u G6 got beat by the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with integrated graphics. To get to the bottom of this mystery, we fired up the GPU-Z graphics monitoring tool and started profiling. During the entire Night Raid run, the Radeon Pro WX3200's GPU utilization refused to budge from 0%. During another run, we profiled the UHD 620 graphics, and this time the utilization pegged at 100% throughout. This means that, for whatever reason, UL's latest DX12 benchmark would not run on the discrete Radeon graphics processor. 

There are a couple of things we should remember, though. First and foremost, the Zbook 14u G6 is not a gaming laptop. The Radeon Pro drivers are meant for 3D applications, not games or even gaming benchmarks like 3DMark. It's entirely possible that the driver either excludes certain gaming-focused features that 3DMark requires or otherwise prevents the app from running on the dedicated GPU. Neither the Radeon Pro control panel nor Intel's graphics utility provided a means to force 3D applications to run on one or the other, so we're at the mercy of the application at hand when it comes to figuring out which is which. UL's System Info utility saw the discrete GPU, but this test just didn't use it. As long as professional graphics tasks complete successfully and use the tool, the Zbook is doing its job. We'll get to that in a moment. 

Middle Earth: Shadow of War
Gaming Performance

Monolith’s fun Orc-slaying title Middle Earth: Shadow of War, delivers a ton of visual fidelity even at its lower quality settings. To get an overview of gaming performance, we tested at high, medium, and low image quality settings at 1920x1080

graph middle earth shadow of war

Perhaps to put an exclamation mark on the point that this Zbook is not intended for gaming, the Radeon Pro WX3200 could not produce playable frame rates at any resolution with in Shadow of War. Still, the discrete graphics processor did better than the UHD 620 in this machine, which could only muster 12 frames per second on Low at 1080p. We had hoped that the discrete Radeon Pro could best the Ryzen 5 2500U's Vega 8 integrated graphics, but it was not meant to be. This is likely related to the drivers which are optimized for professional applications and not gaming. 

Next up we'll take a look at battery life performance in our video playback test and see how the Zbook 14u G6 handles heat and fan noise. 

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