Hands on with HP's ZBook Studio - its 'more powerful' MacBook Pro rival

We get some hands-on time with the HP ZBook Studio 15-inch laptop - which was launched alongside completely new line of ZBook laptops and some powerful add-ons for its desktop workstations.

HP's ZBook Studio is the company's thinnest, lightest pro-grade laptop with a quad-core processor. Launched in New York today as HP attempts to 'put the sexy back in workstations', the ZBook Studio is a rival to Apple's MacBook Pro and Dell's Precision 5510 (it's soon-to-be-released replacement for the Precision M3800).

I got some hands-on time with the ZBook Studio at HP's launch - though as it was a pre-production model (it's out in December), I wasn't allowed to benchmark it.

The ZBook Studio has an all-black design that's not necessarily better or worse than that of the MacBook Pro or Dell's Precision M3800 - though it does have a noticeable larger trackpad than the latter. It's only slightly larger than the 15-inch MacBook Pro (375 x 255 x 18mm vs the Mac's 358 x 247 x 18mm) - and you have to be a real stickler to spot the difference - and weighs the same (2kg).

There are four options for the 15.6-inch screen: HD (1,920 x 1,080), HD with a touchscreen, UHD (3,840 x 2,160) or a matte Dreamcolor UHD screen with higher colour accuracy and a wider gamut. HP says that a UHD touchscreen would limit them to a glossy panel, which would damage colour accuracy, so there's no option for that.

The ZBook Studio has a quad-core processor, with the option of a Xeon E3 chip with ECC RAM or a Core i7 (up to 2.7GHz) with normal RAM. Whichever you go for, you can install up to 32GB of RAM.

For graphics, you have an Nvidia Quadro M1000M graphics chip with 2GB of RAM (or built-in Intel graphics, but why would you). Its sound quality should be pretty impressive too, with Bang & Olufsen sound processing and speakers (though we weren't able to test this).

You can fit up to 2TB of storage in the ZBook Studio using two of HP's Z Turbo Drive G2 PCIe storage modules.

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Along the side of the ZBook Studio are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.0 (one powered), HDMI 1.4 and Ethernet (which is rare for a laptop this small).

Alongside the ZBook Studio, HP has also completely refreshed its line of mobile workstation-grade ZBook laptops under the 'G3' (ie third-generation) name - all due in January - a Thunderbolt 3-based Dock, and faster storage and quieter cooling systems for its Z-series desktop workstations.

The ZBook 15u is the cheapest model in the range. It's a larger ultrabook with a 15.6-inch display. It has a choice of Core i5 or i7 processors up to the Core i7 6600U (dual-core, 2.7GHz), up to 32GB of RAM, an AMD FirePro W4190M graphics chip, up to 1.5TB of storage and an 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen or a 3,840 x 2,160 display.

The ZBook 15 is nearer in size to a traditional 15.6-inch laptop - though 27% and 7% lighter than the previous generation. There's also a 27% longer battery life, says HP.

Under the hood is either an Intel Xeon processor up the forthcoming E3 1545M or Core i5 or i7 processor up to the quad-core 2.7GHz 6820HQ, up to 64GB of ECC RAM (if you have a Xeon chip, if not it's up to 64GB of regular RAM), and up to 3GB of storage (with two 1TB Z Turbo Drive G2s and a 1TB SSD).

You can order the ZBook 15 with either an 1,920 x 1,080 screen (or touchscreen) or a '4K' Dreamcolor display with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160.

To connect other devices, there are two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

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The ZBook 17 is still a huge laptop – but it's 25% thinner and 11% lighter than its predecessor. The 17.3-inch screen has either a resolution of 1920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 - and again the HD version has a touchscreen option.

Again, there's a choice of Intel Core or Xeon processors, up to 64GB of ECC RAM.

HP says that the ZBook 17 has a 67% longer battery life than its predecessor.

All of the laptops are available with Windows 7 or Windows 10.

The HP ZBook Dock connects to the ZBook range over Thunderbolt 3 (except the ZBook 15u, which doesn't have this port). It lets you plug in monitors and other devices over Thunderbolt 3 – supporting DisplayPort 1,2, PCIe and USB 3.1 - plus four USB 3.0, Ethernet, VGA, audio and two extra Displayports.

For creatives who prefer desktops to laptops, HP has also announced some new products. The HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro is a PCIe add-in card that includes up to four Z Turbo Drive G2 storage modules.

Designed to work with the company's Z440, Z640 and Z840 drives, HP says the card delivers up to 9GBps of throughput for tasks such as the editing of 8K video.

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