Ever since Compaq created the first popular “portable” PC — often called “the sewing machine” — there has been a tension between computing power and portability. By far, the bulk of the laptop market has settled in around relatively lightweight models, which eke out the maximum battery life possible. But for power users, the choice is often between the sort-of-workstation machines such as the MacBook Pro and my personal favorites, the Dell XPS 15 and Precision 55xx models, versus moving up in weight by at least a couple of pounds and quite a bit in size to a traditional mobile workstation weighing in at 7 or 8 pounds.
HP is working to change that with its newest-generation machine. The HP ZBook Fury G7 has most of what engineering and creative portable workstation users want, but in a fairly streamlined design that weighs in at under 6 pounds. I’ve been using a review model for a couple of weeks now to do a variety of scientific computing and image processing, and have come away quite impressed.
For starters, the Fury 15 can be equipped with a range of CPUs. Our review unit came with a beefy eight-core Xeon W-10885M, but you can also get it with a Core i5, i7, or i9. I always wonder if anyone actually buys a product like this with an i5, or if it is just to keep the starting price low. Speaking of which, the unit we tested retails for about $6,500, although a lot of that is the high-end GPU. Our Xeon-equipped unit zipped through the multi-thread version of Cinebench R23 with a 9063 score, an over 7x multiple of its still impressive 1263 single-thread score. (Those scores were after a firmware update mid-review that improved overall system performance, and that is available on HP’s support site.)
The GPU on my review machine is a monster Quadro RTX 5000. It blows away any laptop GPU I’ve tested, but of course, it should since by itself it costs more than my entire Precision 5540 did. As expected, it blows away most laptops when it comes to 3D performance, scoring 7122 on Time Spy.
You can get a Fury with a number of less-expensive Nvidia and AMD GPUs, though, depending on your use case. Like any self-respecting mobile workstation, the Fury is certified to work with a wide variety of engineering and scientific applications. For home and hobbyist users of those applications, I’m not sure those certifications mean much, as these days most apps run well on plenty of different hardware. But if you’re a professional who relies on vendor support, for example, then certification is much more important. You can also stuff the machine full of up to 10TB of storage, using a combination of high-speed SSDs and HDDs. LTE is an option. There is a dedicated Ethernet port, along with HDMI, Thunderbolt, and a variety of USB ports, along with an SD card reader. For corporate users, there is also a Smart Card slot and lots of security and encryption-related features.
The Fury 15 comes with plenty of display options. My review unit featured a 4K, non-touch, DreamColor display. It’s breathtaking. HP said it’s worked hard to ensure DreamColor doesn’t cost as much battery life as in previous generations. This version covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut and rated as DisplayHDR 400 qualified. Personally, I’d probably go for the 4K touch screen, as I’ve become fairly accustomed to touch as an option over my mouse or the trackpad in some cases. As with previous generations, you can get a privacy-enhancing SureView display that has also been improved for this new model.
The Fury 15 G7 has a lot of thoughtful ergonomic touches. A tool-free case back, for example, certainly beats out the dozen or so Torx screws many other “pro” models have. The keyboard is rock solid and for me, the key feel is perfect. The keyboard is also fully loaded with a ThinkPad-like pointing device with one set of keys and a full trackpad with another set of keys. Alongside the typical laptop keyboard is a full numeric keypad. That leads to the one gripe I have about the design. To fit all those keys in a 15-inch laptop means shrinking the keys and moving the regular portion of the keyboard off to the left. I’ve found that a little bit hard to get used to and prefer the wider key spacing on my Dell.
When I asked HP about the need for a numeric keyboard, they pointed to CAD software users. Now, I do use a number of CAD-like tools, but perhaps because I’m left-handed, I never got used to a numeric keypad. So I polled five of my favorite mechanical engineers, and indeed four of them said they use their numeric keypads quite a lot. So whether you love the keyboard design may depend on how you plan to use it.
Overall, the machine is a joy to use, as it cuts through computing tasks as befits its monster specs. While straight-line benchmark numbers were impressive, what I enjoyed most is that the laptop handled thermals really well. I could lean on both the CPU and GPU and have them both perform. When you move down in weight and size to the sub-five-pound units, there is typically some tradeoff and mixed workloads suffer.
Most of the work I did with the Fury was scientific computing in Matlab and Python, along with a lot of CPU-bound ray-tracing. Our test suites and internal benchmarks showed anywhere from a 20-40 percent speedup for CPU-consuming tasks over the Core i9 in my lighter Precision, which I expect might increase for longer runs as the superior thermal design started to help more. Given that I haven’t gone anywhere for the last year, I would have enjoyed the extra horsepower, and not minded the extra weight and power consumption. GPU speedups, as you’d expect, were even more impressive.
The first question is whether you need the weight and expense of a laptop this powerful, or can “make do” with one aimed more at creatives in the 4 pound range. If you need the power, then an obvious head-to-head competitor is Lenovo’s latest P15. I priced one with the same specs as our review Fury 15, and Lenovo’s site said it listed for over $9,000 (!), but it also said I could buy it with a coupon code for just over $5,300. So, your mileage may vary. Our sister publication PCMag has done a full review of Dell’s Precision 7550, which also competes in this space.