Wow Speed, Great Durability, ’Meh’ Design: HP ZBook Power G8 Review

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For photographers, choosing a laptop is often a balance between power and price. The HP ZBook Power G8 is designed to fit in that balance. The Power line isn’t as robust a performer as HP’s Fury line, but it’s a step up from the more portable Firefly and Studio lines. With the base model starting at $1,899, it is $500 less than a MacBook Pro with the same storage. Heading all the way up to $3,149 for the most memory, the Power G8 isn’t a cheap laptop. But, it offers a lot of high-end performance without the highest price tag.

Besides the substantial speeds, the HP ZBook Power G8 offers a beautiful anti-glare screen that a lot of photographers are going to love. But, like with the HP Firefly G8, I had a hard time loving the off-centered keyboard and touchpad. And, it’s yet another laptop in a continuing trend of eliminating SD card ports.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The HP ZBook Power G8 offers excellent performance at a mid-level price range. The screen is gorgeous and the laptop is durable. But, the off-center keyboard isn’t as comfortable to use. It also lacks an SD card port.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Beautiful, anti-glare screen
  • Fast performance
  • Durable design
  • Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Awkward off-center keyboard and touchpad
  • Lacks an SD card port

Gear Used

I primarily ran Capture One on the HP ZBook Power G8. That, the web browser, and Microsoft Word were my most-used programs. It doesn’t have an SD card slot and I didn’t have a dongle handy, so I imported images by plugging cameras directly into the computer.

Innovations

As a refresher to an existing laptop line, there’s nothing too earth-shattering about the G8. It does, however, have a few nice upgrades over the G7. It has a new NVIDIA RTX A200 graphics card and the 11th generation Intel core i9 processor. It also added the option for an 8K external display (or two 4K screens). It also has Tile built-in, so, with a subscription, you can locate a lost laptop.

Tech Specs

HP lists the following specifications for the ZBook Power G8, presented in a shortened version here. The amount of RAM and size of the hard drive can be customized, among other features.

  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro 64
  • Processor family: 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i9 processor
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i9-11900H (up to 4.9 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 24 MB L3 cache, 8 cores)
  • Chipset: Intel® WM590
  • Memory: 64 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM (2 x 32 GB)
  • Memory slots: 2 SODIMM; supports dual channel
  • Internal drive: 1 TB PCIe® NVMe™ TLC SSD
  • Display: 15.6” diagonal, FHD (1920 x 1080), IPS, anti-glare, 400 nits, 100% sRGB[21,23,24]
  • Graphics Integrated: Intel® UHD Graphics
  • Discrete: NVIDIA RTX™️ A2000 (4 GB GDDR6 dedicated)
  • Network interface: Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (2×2) and Bluetooth® 5 combo, non-vPro®
  • External I/O Ports:
    • Left side: 1 RJ-45; 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate; 1 HDMI 2.0; 1 nano security lock slot
    • Right side: 1 power connector; 1 headphone/microphone combo; 1 Thunderbolt™ 4 with USB4 Type-C® 40Gbps signaling rate (USB Power Delivery, DisplayPort™ 1.4); 2 Super Speed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate (1 charging)
  • Expansion slots: 1 smart card reader
  • Audio: HP Audio, dual stereo speakers, dual array digital microphones, functions keys for volume up and down, combo microphone/headphone jack, HD audio
  • Webcam: 720p HD privacy camera with integrated dual array microphones
  • Keyboard: HP Premium Quiet Keyboard, spill-resistant, full-size, backlit, keyboard with a Programmable Key and numeric keypad
  • Pointing device: ClickPad Mylar with multi-touch gesture support, taps enabled as default
  • Wireless technology: Intel® Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ AX201 (2×2) and Bluetooth® 5 combo (Supporting Gigabit data rate)
  • Finger print reader: Fingerprint Sensor
  • Power supply: 150 W external AC power adapter[20]
  • Battery: HP Long Life 6-cell, 83 Wh Li-ion polymer
  • Dimensions (W X D X H): 14.15 x 9.21 x 0.9 in
  • Weight: Starting at 4.16 lbs.

Ergonomics

Let’s start with the screen. The HP ZBook Power G8 uses a 15.6-inch screen with a 1920×1080 resolution. It boasts 100 percent sRGB color and, true to that specification, the colors on the display are very pleasing. The colors are close in color to my MacBook Pro. Comparing the screen to a print, it’s difficult to see the difference. The ZBook has slightly more saturation. It’s also a little brighter, but that’s a given because it’s a backlit screen versus a piece of paper. And all of that is straight out of the box, without any sort of color calibration.

Something I love about this screen is the matte look. The ZBook uses an anti-glare coating. While it doesn’t eliminate glare entirely, it softens it. Windows on my MacBook are sharp and detailed; on this ZBook, it’s a blurred, soft spot of light. If you’re editing photos near a window, the anti-glare coating will help.

Moving away from the screen, the HP ZBook Power G8 has a keyboard sandwiched by a long speaker and a touchpad. The keyboard includes an extra set of number keys on the side. But, with the number pad at the side, the keyboard isn’t centered. I tend to sit with my shoulder tilted forward when working with an off-center keyboard. Ergonomically, that’s not ideal and I could feel my shoulders tiring a bit faster.

While the off-center design earns a hard no from me, I know that some prefer that extra set of number keys. The keyboard is nicely backlit. The typing experience is also very smooth. The keys are almost silent. If you’re uploading photos on-site, key taps aren’t going to be distracting. And, there’s a row of extra controls at the top.

The touchpad is also off-center, in order to match the keyboard. Again, this means I’m sitting with a slight twist in my back. The touchpad also needs a firmer press than I’m used to. And, as a PC, if you click on the right of the touchpad it’s the same thing as a right-click. I was forever accidentally right-clicking, but, to be fair, I’m accustomed to MacBooks. PC users will probably feel right at home.

Just under the keyboard on the right sits a fingerprint scanner. It’s a little bit smaller than a letter key on the keyboard. This was a fast way of signing in without typing in a password. A few times, I had to adjust the angle of my finger, but most of the time it logged in smoothly.

On the left side, the laptop houses a SuperSpeed USB, an HDMI port, and a nano security lock slot. The opposite side has the power cord port, two USB ports, and a headphone port.

The ZBook lacks an SD card port. And, with only two USB ports, it’s more than simply the annoyance of bringing a card reader along. If you use an external hard drive to import images from a USB card reader, there’s no room left to also have a keyboard, mouse, or Wacom tablet plugged in. Photographers using a non-Bluetooth keyboard and mouse when at a desk are going to need a USB port splitter to gain access to more plugs. That’s another dongle to buy and mess with.

Build Quality

The HP ZBook Power G8 is made in part from recycled materials., including up to almost half of the metals and up to 42 percent of the plastics. HP says just the speakers have 25 percent ocean-bound plastics in them.

But while that recycled material is earth-friendly, it also looks to be durable. And, well, post-2020 HP says that the keyboard is designed to withstand at least 1,000 rounds of disinfection. 

HP says that this laptop passes 21 military standard durability tests for things like drops and temperature. Frankly, that’s marketing speak that doesn’t always translate into real-world experience.

But, while I didn’t back over it with my car or spill hot coffee on it, it did stand up to more minor torture tests. I splashed the keyboard with some water. The keyboard — which HP says is spill-resistant — kept working. A little water later leaked out when I tipped the keyboard upside down, and yet everything was still working. I even dropped it off a desk with no ill effects.

The second thing that I love about this screen is the matte look. The ZBook uses an anti-glare coating. While it doesn’t eliminate glare entirely, it softens it.

The HP ZBook Power G8 doesn’t give me any doubts about the laptop lasting a few years. I still have to say, though, that I prefer the feel of my MacBook more, with the aluminum exterior. The ZBook feels a bit plasticky. Not bad, but it doesn’t scream luxury laptop either.

All those features make a laptop that weighs more than four pounds. The ZBook feels a bit heavy, but it isn’t going to be terrible in a bag and the weight is rather expected for the larger screen.

Ease of Use

My father disowned me when I switched from Windows to Mac. (Kidding, of course…but threats were made.) I’m most comfortable with MacOS, where I can find more things without doing a Google search. But, this is the second ZBook that I’ve tested and, with that experience, I jumped into the laptop easily.

Those that are familiar with Windows 10 Pro 64 will be able to get started without any effort. Not familiar with Windows 10? Right next to the windows icon on the bottom left is a search bar. This is handy for finding apps, but it’s also helpful for locating settings. For example, I used the search bar to change the time that was incorrectly set to the wrong time zone. Yes, a search bar isn’t unique, but it’s so large and prominent that it’s easy for the technology challenged to find and use.

Outside of the fingerprint scanner, there aren’t many extras that are going to add a learning curve over another HP. And Windows walks you right through the set-up of the fingerprint scanner. If you love Windows OS, I see nothing to scare you away. I don’t see anything to sway me from MacOS either, but that’s a purely personal preference.

Required Maintenance During Testing

I performed few maintenance tasks while working with the ZBook Power G8. Once, the laptop didn’t want to wake up very quickly. Once it did, I saw that it was initializing after an update. I’ve had some laptops that had so many curveballs, even brand new, that I wanted to throw them. This wasn’t one of them.

Performance

I was blown away at how fast the HP ZBook Power G8 imported and exported images with Capture One. Importing from the camera instead of a card reader was a bit awkward, so I imported to the hard drive first, which was relatively quick. After opening Capture One, thumbnails were generated quickly. Then, once I pulled in the files, building the previews seemed rapid-fire. The laptop imported 256 images to Capture One from the hard drive in under a minute, building previews in only about three or four minutes. Local edits like the heal tool had only the slightest delay, even with several spots on one image. That’s pretty good considering the Power isn’t even the most expensive HP laptop out there.

Similarly, the laptop seems perfectly capable of multi-tasking. I downloaded internet files while working in Capture One and browsing the web. While modern programs and even the internet are getting more data-intense, the 64 GB of RAM is plenty.

I tested the version with 64 GB of memory and more than 1 TB of storage. Models with less memory won’t be as fast. Similarly, if you start filling up the laptop with tons of photos, it will affect the performance as well.

Conclusions

Likes

  • I love the anti-glare on the screen, and the colors are good too.
  • Uploads are super fast, and performance is good for multi-tasking.
  • I dropped and spilled water on this thing, and it’s still working just fine.
  • The fingerprint reader allows for faster sign-ins.

Dislikes

  • I hate off-center keyboards; I much prefer the tenkeyless.
  • There’s no SD card port.
  • It has a more plastic feel than my MacBook.

The HP ZBook Power G8 offers excellent performance. With 64 GB of RAM for the most decked-out model, that’s hardly surprising. The laptop breezes through uploads and building catalogs and does just fine when multitasking too. Made from partially recycled materials, it’s also pretty durable and didn’t break when dropped or even splashed. The screen is also close to print, with an anti-glare coating.

While the performance and durability are excellent the design didn’t wow me. (Besides that screen.) The keyboard and touchpad are off-center, which is awkward and tends to strain my shoulders. Outside of the fingerprint scanner and durability, there are no major innovations in the design. The biggest changes from the G7 lie in the move to the latest Intel i9 processor and updated graphics cards. It lacks an SD card.

If you love the num pad and want a durable, fast laptop that’s not going to break the bank, then the HP ZBook Power G8 is a good buy. That off-center keyboard and lack of an SD card slot, however, is going to be a deal-breaker for many — including myself. 

I’m giving the HP ZBook Power G8 four out of five stars for that performance — but I’m reserving a star for that awkward keyboard and lack of an SD card port. Want one? Check out HP or Amazon for the latest prices.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.