“The HP ZBook Studio G8 is fast and well-built, but is priced way too high.”
- Solidly built
- Spectacular display
- Thin and light for a workstation
- Excellent keyboard and touchpad
- Good productivity and creative performance
- Too expensive
- Performance doesn't match the price
- Terrible battery life
HP has a complete line of portable workstations aimed at creators and engineering users, from the highly portable ZBook Firefly G8 to the seriously powerful ZBook Fury G8. Smack dab in the middle of the lineup is the ZBook Studio G8, a workstation aimed at gamers as much as creative professionals. Simply put, it’s not your typical portable workstation that’s large, heavy, and highly upgradeable. It’s targeted at the same people who might buy a Dell XPS 15, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme, or MacBook Pro.
It’s also not an inexpensive laptop. I reviewed a configuration with the Intel Core i9-11950H vPro CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU that lists a whopping $6,863 as its retail price. As I’m writing this review, it’s priced at a still steep $4,392, though prices will fluctuate.
In either case, you’re spending a massive premium to get a laptop with high-end components and a handful of professional features. For most people, that won’t be a winning combination compared to today’s extremely powerful thin and light consumer laptops.
The ZBook Studio G8 looks more like traditional thin and light laptops than a workstation. That’s deliberate, given that the laptop is meant to appeal to both consumer-oriented power users and professionals looking for a highly mobile solution. Look at the ZBook Studio G8, and you’ll find a striking resemblance to an HP Spectre of a few years ago. There’s an aggressive angle along each side, sharp chamfers on various edges, and the rear edge is a sharp wedge that adds some flair to the design.
The color is dubbed “Turbo Silver,” and the overall aesthetic is refined but striking. It’s much more attractive than the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 that shares similar components, but is much boxier and old school. The ZBook Studio G8 more directly challenges the Dell XPS 15 in its look and feel, but the Dell is more streamlined and just as attractive.
Thanks to display bezels that are very thin on the sides and relatively small on top and bottom, the ZBook Studio G8 is a reasonably sized laptop given its 15.6-inch 16:9 display. It’s just slightly larger in width and depth than the XPS 15 with its 15.6-inch 16:10 display that boasts tiny bezels all around, and it’s considerably smaller than the ThinkPad P15. It’s also thin at 0.69 inches, compared to the XPS 15’s 0.71 inches and the ThinkPad P15’s 1.24 inches at its thickest point, and lighter at 3.96 pounds compared to 4.42 pounds and 6.32 pounds for the XPS and P15 respectively. The ZBook Studio G8 succeeds at fitting into the thin and light category while packing in some serious components.
The ZBook Studio G8 is as good as the best in terms of build quality. There’s zero bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere in the lid, keyboard deck, or chassis bottom, and HP subjects the laptop to a brutal suite of 21 military certification tests. The ZBook Studio G8 is easily equal to the Dell XPS 15 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4, making it quite a robust machine.
The ZBook Studio G8 does not have the same expandability as many workstations. It maxes out at 32GB of RAM, much less than others that can be upgraded to 128GB, and the maximum storage is 2TB. There’s only one slot for a solid-state drive (SSD), where many workstations have two — the ThinkPad P15, for example, has two slots and can be upgraded to a whopping 16TB of storage. That’s the price you pay for being so thin and light.
Connectivity is good for a thin and light laptop, though thicker workstations tend to have more ports. You’ll find a single USB-A port and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left-hand side, and two USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 ports, a mini-DisplayPort connection, and a full-size SD card reader on the right-hand side. Power is provided by a proprietary connector fed by a sizable 200-watt power supply. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 provide wireless duties.
There are a few “professional” features that you won’t find on the typical consumer laptop. For example, there’s built-in Tile support to help track down your laptop if it’s stolen. HP’s Wolf Security suite is on hand to provide hardware-enforced defense against BIOS corruption and attack, and there are some other security features that are only available on HP’s business-class laptops. The chassis can also be sanitized, and has been tested to 1,000 cleaning cycles with select household wipes. Whether these features add enough value to justify the ZBook Studio G8’s price is an open question.
My review unit was equipped with the 8-core/16-thread Core i9-11950H vPro CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB PCIe SSD. You can also choose up to an Nvidia Quadro A5000 GPU if you want truly professional graphics, but otherwise, my review unit was maxed out. I ran it through our suite of benchmarks and discovered that although it’s a fast laptop, it doesn’t outclass some consumer-grade laptops that cost less than half as much.
The ZBook Studio G8 did well in Geekbench 5, coming in third in our comparison group behind the Apple MacBook Pro 16 and the Lenovo ThinkPad P15. It tied the Lenovo for first in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, and third in Cinebench R23, again behind the MacBook Pro 16 and ThinkPad P15. Finally, in the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark that’s a great test of productivity performance, the ZBook Studio G8 came in third behind the ThinkPad P15 and the Asus Vivobook Pro 16X running a Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU.
Based on its performance alone, it’s hard to justify the ZBook Studio G8’s extremely high price.
Most telling, though, was the workstation’s performance in the real-world Pugetbench benchmark that runs in Adobe Premiere — a demanding application for which the machine is explicitly designed. The ZBook Studio G8 scored 612 in the benchmark, a solid score but one that fell behind the ThinkPad P15, the Dell XPS 17, and the deliriously fast MacBook Pro 16 that trounced the rest of the field. The ZBook Studio G8 wasn’t even that much faster than the Dell XPS 15 with a slower CPU and GPU. In short, HP’s workstation was underwhelming in perhaps the most important benchmark.
The only way to characterize its performance, then, is that it’s certainly a fast laptop that will serve its professional market well while pleasing productivity users at the same time. But at the same time, it’s not necessarily faster than the high-end consumer thin and light crowd. Based on its performance alone, it’s hard to justify the ZBook Studio G8’s extremely high price.
|Cinebench R23 (single/multi)||Handbrake (seconds)||PCMark 10||Pugetbench Premiere Pro|
|HP ZBook Studio G8 (Core i9-11950H)||1637 / 9139||1594 / 11788||84||6432||612|
|Lenovo ThinkPad P15 (Core i9-11950H)||1691 / 9250||1596 / 12207||84||6866||724|
|Apple MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Pro)||1773 / 12605||1531 / 12343||95||N/A||956|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (Core i7-11800H)||1520 / 7353||1519/10497||106||6251||432|
|Dell XPS 15 (Core i7-11800H)||1556 / 7692||1513/9979||103||6024||509|
|Dell XPS 17 (Core i7-11800H)||1568 / 8801||1525/10145||109||6209||692|
|Asus Vivobook Pro 16X (Ryzen 9 5900HX)||1544 / 8299||1486/11478||90||6486||571|
Given that HP explicitly mentions gaming as one of the ZBook Studio G8’s strengths, and that it offers a per-key RGB-lit keyboard and ithe OMEN Gaming Hub utility, it’s fair to evaluate its gaming performance. The RTX 3070 should make it a competitive gaming machine, but as it turns out, its performance was decidedly mixed.
The ZBook Studio G8’s 3DMark Time Spy score was low compared to the comparison group, especially the Razer Blade 14 and Lenovo Legion 5 Pro that both sported RTX 3070 GPUs. The HP redeemed itself in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, where it tied for first place, and it came in between the Razer Blade 14 and Legion 5 Pro in Battlefield V. Its Fortnite score was second-lowest, though, and it wasn’t terribly fast at Civilization VI, where its CPU should have paid some dividends. Overall, the ZBook Studio G8 is undoubtedly capable of competent gaming at 1080p and even 1440p, but it’s not going to beat out many dedicated gaming laptops.
|Laptop||3DMark Time Spy||Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
(1080p Ultra High)
|Civilization VI (1080p Ultra)|
|HP ZBook Studio G8 (RTX 3070)||7391||77 fps||83 fps||89 fps||112 fps|
|HP Victus 16 (RTX 3060)||7341||59 fps||72 fps||99 fps||118 fps|
|Razer Blade 14 (RTX 3070)||8605||60 fps||96 fps||96 fps||111 fps|
|Lenovo Legion 5 Pro (RTX 3070)||9175||61 fps||73 fps||101 fps||114 fps|
|Asus ROG Strix G15 (RX 6800M)||10504||77 fps||109 fps||108 fps||150 fps|
|MSI GS66 Stealth (RTX 3080)||9097||70 fps||117 fps||140 fps||149 fps|
|Razer Blade 15 (RTX 2080 Super)||7637||58 fps||98 fps||110 fps||134 fps|
|MSI Creator Z16 (RTX 3060)||6322||50 fps||57 fps||56 fps (1600p)||92 fps|
I’ll note here that the ZBook Studio G8 gets very loud when under full load, and during our gaming benchmarks produced enough noise that I wanted to put on a pair of headphones. The chassis also got quite warm, with parts of the palm rest exceeding 126 degrees Fahrenheit and the bottom of the chassis hitting more than 140 degrees F. CPU temps stayed under 90 degrees F during the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark. So HP did an excellent job of keeping component temperatures within a reasonable range.
My review unit came with the 4K (3,840 x 2,160) OLED display, one of four choices, along with two Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) options and HP’s DreamColor 4K display running at 120Hz. You typically can’t go wrong with OLED displays, and mine certainly looked great. Colors were dynamic without being oversaturated, the display was plenty bright in all of my working environments (which doesn’t include outside in the Southern California sunlight), and I enjoyed inky blacks.
My colorimeter was mostly pleased with the display, but it wasn’t quite as spectacular as some OLED panels I’ve tested. It was bright at 413 nits, well above our 300-nit threshold, and contrast was excellent at 28,880:1 (note that this is a lower score than some of my previous OLED tests, but I changed colorimeters, and it apparently tests OLED displays differently). Colors were wide at 94% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB. Color accuracy was just OK at a DeltaE of 2.16 (1.0 or less is considered excellent). This compares to the Dell XPS 15 OLED display at 397 nits, 27,770:1 contrast, 97% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and color accuracy of 0.41. The ThinkPad 15 had a more average IPS display that was very bright at 542 nits, and had a 1,040:1 contrast ratio, 76% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and color accuracy of 1.49.
Creative types will love this display, although they’d want the colors to be a bit more accurate. Everyone else will also enjoy the colors, brightness, and contrast, making the ZBook Studio G8 an excellent laptop for both creative and productivity work.
Four speakers, two tweeters and two woofers, provide the audio, and they put out copious amounts of volume when turned all the way up. There was zero distortion as well, with clear mids and highs and a touch of bass. These are some of the best speakers you’ll find on a Windows laptop, rivaling the Dell XPS 15 that’s the Windows benchmark, but not quite rising to the level of the excellent MacBook Pro audio.
You can use these speakers for all your listening needs, from gaming to Netflix bingeing to music. No headphones or external speakers are required.
The keyboard on the ZBook Studio G8 looks a lot like the one on HP’s Spectre line, with plenty of key spacing, large keycaps, and a row of cursor movement keys along the right side. Its switch mechanism is very different, though, being equally deep but with more of a click than a snap. It’s a comfortable and quiet keyboard that’s the equal of the Spectre’s excellent version, even given its different feel. My review unit featured the optional per-key RGB lighting that can cycle through 16.8 million colors, and it’s as good as you’ll find on a gaming laptop like the Razer Blade 14. It’s odd to have such lighting on a portable workstation, but again, that demonstrates how HP sees its customers using the laptop.
The touchpad was large and comfortable, with a glass surface that made swiping precise. As a Microsoft Precision touchpad, it supported Windows 10’s multitouch gestures and was a pleasure to use. The display was also touch-enabled and as precise as usual.
Windows 10 Hello support is provided by both an infrared camera for facial recognition and a fingerprint reader in the upper-right corner of the palm rest. Both worked quickly and reliably.
There’s no privacy switch or slider for the webcam, which was disappointing. And the webcam itself is stuck at 720p.
The ZBook Studio G8 has an 83 watt-hour battery installed inside, which isn’t huge for this class of machine. The Lenovo ThinkPad P15, for example, has 94 watt-hours of capacity and the Dell XPS 15 almost matches the HP at 86 watt-hours. Toss in some high-end components and a power-hungry 4K OLED display, and my battery life predictions were dire.
Things were just as bad as I expected. Starting with our web-browsing test that cycles through a series of popular and complex websites, the ZBook Studio G8 managed just five hours, about half of what we like to see on this test. The XPS 15 OLED went for nine hours and the ThinkPad P15 hit 9.5 hours. In our video test that loops a local 1080p movie trailer, the ZBook Studio G8 lasted only 6.25 hours, compared to the XPS 15 OLED at 11 hours and the ThinkPad P15 at 11.15 hours.
I also ran the PCMark Applications battery test, the best indication of productivity performance, and the ZBook Studio G8 hit 5.5 hours, where the XPS 15 managed eight hours and the ThinkPad P15 hit 6.35 hours. Finally, in the PCMark Gaming battery test demonstrating how hard a laptop works while running on battery power, the ZBook Studio G8 went for 91 minutes, around the same as the XPS 15 OLED and about 40 minutes more than the ThinkPad P15.
Overall, the ZBook Studio G8’s battery life was poor. You’ll need to haul around the large power brick and plug in well before a working day is complete. In fact, if your workload is at all demanding, you’ll be plugging in before lunchtime.
The ZBook Studio G8 succeeds at packing workstation-level components into a thin and light chassis. However, it does so at the cost of pure performance and expandability. In fact, other than a few professional features that may or may not be useful to the typical creator or even engineer, the ZBook Studio G8 doesn’t exceed some consumer 15-inch laptops like the Dell XPS 15 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (which is actually more expandable than the HP).
That makes the ZBook Studio G8 an odd laptop. It’s a great machine, no doubt about it. But it’s also horrendously expensive without adding much to justify the investment.
Are there any alternatives?
The ThinkPad P15 performs similarly to the ZBook Studio G8, but is much more expandable, at the cost of extra thickness and weight. It’s equally expensive, but you’ll be happy that you can upgrade the RAM and storage if the need arises.
You can also consider MSI’s WS65 Mobile Workstation. It supports the same basic components and can be configured with up to 64GB of RAM, but it’s also thinner and lighter and doesn’t have the same expandability as some workstations.
Finally, the Dell XPS 15 is an excellent choice if you don’t need those professional features. It’s equally well-built and good-looking, and it’s almost as fast in our review configuration that wasn’t maxed out. Buy an XPS 15 with its highest-end components, and you’ll likely get similar performance for thousands less.
How long will it last?
The ZBook Studio G8 is solidly built and will last for years and years of productive service. It’s not as expandable as many workstations, though, so what you buy is what you get. The three-year warranty is welcome, however.
Should you buy it?
No. Again, the ZBook Studio G8 is a great machine. It’s just too expensive compared to the competition.
- Nvidia’s enigmatic GA103 GPU finally spotted in the wild
- Intel Arc Alchemist leaks again with fresh benchmarks
- Best gaming laptop deals for January 2022
- Best laptop deals and sales for January 2022
- Best desktop computer deals for January 2022