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Reviews

HP ZBook Fury 15 G8 Review

The ultimate professional laptop with ultimate upgrade options
By Adam Z. Lein January 23, 2022, 5:00 am
HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's a new king in town when it comes to mobile workstation laptops. HP's ZBook Fury G8 is the eighth generation of the top-of-the-line Fury model, and... spoiler alert... this is how high-end laptops should be made. "Right to repair" has been gaining steam a lot lately as people are learning more about the advantages of sustainability and also getting kind of tired of disposable computers that need to basically be completely replaced when something breaks. The ZBook Fury is almost completely user upgradable and repairable, and that's awesome. But that's not all... the Zbook Fury is also capable of housing some extreme desktop class computing power! You can fill this thing with $15,000 worth of components if you want (or you can choose a lower priced configuration.)  The mobile workstation capabilities of the ZBook Fury are extremely powerful, so if you're looking to work from home or the beach or a nice resort with the power of a massive desktop tower but the portability of a laptop, the ZBook Fury is going to be worth a look.

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

Hardware

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

In the box, there's nothing special. Just the laptop itself, plus the power brick, some thin documentation, and a CDROM. There's no optical disk drive for the laptop, so you'll have to buy a separate one to use the disk if you need to, but you probably won't.  The cable on the power brick has this premium fabric covering by the way. It's really nice.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

This model of the ZBook Fury comes with a next generation Dreamcolor screen and it is beautiful! The colors look great. My fashion models love it during photography editing sessions, and the screen has an anti-glare material which makes it even better for creative work. Having less glare on the screen is so much better than those Macbook Pro's other people use with big window and lighting reflections interfering with the display.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Our review model has an Intel Core i9 11950H series processor with 32Gb of RAM, 1Tb NVMe SSD, and an NVIDIA RTX A5000 GPU with 16Gb RAM. It's very powerful, but that's not even the top of the line specs that you can get on the ZBook Fury.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

On the right side, we've got a full sized HDMI port, a displlay port, two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, and a circular power adapter port. I much prefer the circular barrel shaped port for charging because it doesn't require any specific orientation as USB-C ports do. It's also more robust as USB-C ports can bend or break kind of easily.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Also on the left side is a full sized SD card reader which is awesome. Having one of these built in is so great for injesting video recordings or photo shoot images quickly and easily. No need to carry around a separate SD card adapter.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

On the left side we've got an ethernet port, a hole for a Kensington lock, and two full sized USB-A ports. Having an ethernet port here is great because it's a much more reliable and secure network connection interface than Wi-Fi.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's also a 3.5mm headset/microphone jack on the left edge along with a smartcard reader for secure log-ins.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The hinge between the screen and the base has an extra arm piece on each end.  This makes some separation between the screen and base and provides a little extra room for airflow from the cooling vents on the back.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The trackpad on the ZBook Fury is excellent, and get this... it has 6 actual hardware buttons on the top and bottom edges!  I haven't used a laptop with real physical buttons like this in years. Most laptops these days have just a trackpad where you press fairly hard to click or simply tap. The press-to-click is much more difficult than having actual buttons and it's so refreshing to have these buttons back on a laptop. Not only are they easier to use, they're easy to feel, too. There's a lot of travel in these buttons and they have a slight triangular slope to them which makes them easy to identify by touch.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Another awesome thing about this layout is that not only are there dedicated buttons for the left click and right click functions, but there's also a middle click button. For most basic office work, I'm sure that doesn't mean anything, but the middle click button is very useful for high end 3D animation, modeling, texturing, and lighting applications.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's also a trackpoint joystick in between the G and H keys on the keyboard. This type of pointing device has fallen out of favor in recent decades, but there are some people who still swear by it (especially Lenovo ThinkPad users.) The advantage here is that you can move your mouse cursor with your index finger without moving your whole hand off of the keyboard and over to the trackpad or external mouse. The right/middle/left click buttons are right below the spacebar too, so you can very easily access mouse functions while your fingers remain on the keyboard. It's an efficiency thing since it reduces motor movement.  I find that it's great for mouse movements that don't require a huge amount of accuracy as I've never been super skilled with the trackpoint joysticks. Personally I prefer a Wacom pen for the most accuracy especially in creative programs.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's also NFC built into the trackpad as well as these little rubber bumpers on the left and right sides of the top trackpad button row.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Like the HP ZBook Studio, the ZBook Fury includes the extremely loud and beautifully sounding Bang & Olufsen speakers.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The camera bar in the bezel of the screen includes an infrared sensor for Windows Hello face recognition bio-metric logins. The camera itself shoots at 1280x720 pixels. It's not particularly sharp, nor does it have great dynamic range, so you'll want to do your video calls in fairly well lit areas. Video conferencing is becoming more important in the post pandemic age, so hopefully future versions will have options for better video call cameras.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The keyboard on the ZBook Fury is excellent. It's the same as most of the other ZBook series keyboards in terms of feel (though a little different from the less expensive ZBook Power).  The ZBook Fury's keyboard also nicely has the full number pad on the right side in addition to the row of numbers at the top.  Having the number pad on the right is very important for extended keyboard shortcuts in programs like InDesign and high-end 3D animation programs.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Here you can see the profile view of the ZBook Fury on top, the ZBook Power in the middle, and the ZBook Studio on the bottom.  The ZBook Fury is clearly the beefiest and thickest of the bunch, but of course it's also the most powerful.

Repairs & Upgrades

I would say that most laptops these days are designed to be disposable or difficult to repair.  Manufacturers do this so that you'll basically need to buy a totally new one later on. It's good for business, but bad for the environment and sustainability. Many laptops are glued together with components permanently soldered in. For example, if you were to get a MacBook, you would need to decide which components you want before you buy it because it's not going to be upgradable later on.  That's not the case at all with the HP ZBook Fury.  This thing is probably more upgradable than the Framework Laptop, and certainly more capable of containing high end hardware.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's a latch on the bottom that gives you very easy access to swapping the battery. That's a huge advantage as the battery is usually the first thing to start to show its age and go bad in a laptop. If you want the bottom to be more difficult to access, under the latch is a screw hole too. 

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The battery is super easy to replace!  It's also easy to add a 2nd or 3rd M.2 NVMe SSD drive, as well as replace two of the 4 RAM modules. The other two are on the other side of the motherboard which takes more disassembling to access, so it's possible to replace all RAM modules, but two of them are easier than the others. There's also a 2.5" hard drive bay easily accessible under the battery. That can be replaced with a holder for two more NVMe SSD drives too in case you wanted to load this thing with 5 NVMe SSD drives.

I thought I would add some more RAM and another terrabyte of SSD storage. It was very easy, except I didn't realize all 4 RAM DIMM slots were already taken up by four 8Gb RAM cards, so everything was full. Sure I could swap out some 8Gb RAM modules, but honestly 32Gb is enough for the things I've been doing lately. 

HP has a full video about disassembling the ZBook Fury in order to replace or upgrade any of the parts.

Pretty much everything seems to be user replacable on the ZBook Fury. It's almost as repairable as the Framework Laptop. The only thing that isn't as easy to repair is the display panel which looks like it needs to be totally replaced when broken. But... unlike the Framework Laptop, the ZBook Fury has options for way better hardware and even discreet graphics processing units.

Included Software

The version of the HP ZBook Fury 15 G8 that I have shipped with Windows 10. It's fully compatible with Windows 11 and the first boot set up process prompted me to upgrade to Windows 11 a couple of times. I refused this completely because I hate the new Windows 11 interaction design as it brings many efficiency problems and the ZBook Fury is something that's designed for real work and real efficiency. So I don't want Windows 11 bringing that down. See: Explaining Windows 11’s bad design.  Windows 10 is much more customizable than Windows 11 and customization is something that's very important for professional work. When purchasing a new ZBook Fury, you can choose between Windows 11, Windows 10, or Ubuntu Linux.

HP does bundle a good number of software programs with the ZBook Fury. They're mostly the same security focused programs that you'll find on other ZBooks.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Some bundled HP programs may start giving you annoying notifications, so you might want to find a way to turn some things off.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The myHP app is mainly an area for promotions and tutorials to learn more about a Windows PC.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The HP Support Assisstant is much more useful as this provides some good troubleshooting options as well as access to HP's authorized driver and firmware updates.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Making sure your system firmware is up to date is pretty important and that can be done from the HP Support app.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's an HP Power manager app that nicely gives you some good information about the condition and lifetime of your battery.  When your charge cycle count gets closer to 1000, it might be time to order a new battery.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

There's one programmable keyboard key in the F12 spot, and the above included program lets you define all sorts of functions for that key. You can even add different functions for it when combined with modifier keys.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

HP even includes a Sure Click Secure Browser that's basically an HP branded version of Chromium with a few extra security features. uBlock Origin is bult in, too, for blocking tracking and malware type sites.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

HP's Wolf Security antivirus and malware protection software is pre-installed, too.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow
There's an audio control app for the Bang & Olufsen speakers and microphones as well. This gives you alot of options for customizing the excellent sound system in the HP ZBook Fury.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

You've also got HP Sure Recover and HP Sure Run for even more security and recovery features.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow
The Tile app is bundled on the ZBook Fury as well.  This is good if you have some "Tile" accessories that you want to manage the locations of.  These are good for adding to your keys or wallet so that you can keep tabs on their locations.

Work Software

Bundled software is great and all, but the ZBook Fury is really about getting work done, so I had to try a bunch of serious work programs; mostly related to graphic design.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

My graphic design clients are completely spoiled by the ZBook Fury's rendering speeds and capabilities. I'm able to turn around Adobe After Effects animation revisions faster than ever before and it's fantastic.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Photo editing with Adobe Photoshop, Bridge, & Lightroom is excellent. The anti-glare screen is so much better than the Apple Macbook screens, and its DreamColor color gamut makes photos look incredible.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

The ZBook Fury is certified to work with Adobe Substance; a 3D texture creation, modelling, and lighting suite of programs. I had to make sure these programs were set to use the NVIDIA GPU at all times in the NVIDIA control panel because it seems that on battery power, they'll default to using the less powerful Intel GPU (in order to improve battery life).

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

Of course, Blender takes full advantage of the ZBook Fury's hardware too.

While the ZBook Fury really is meant more for programming video games rather than playing them, I decided to try Halo Infinite on the Nvidia GTX A5000 GPU anyway.  At top-end "ultra" graphics settings, the game is beautiful. It works quite well, but did show one or two frame drops. That's not bad at all with maxed out graphics settings and a 4K screen!

On the hardware drivers side, at first I had some issues with the Intel Wi Fi 6 AX201 drivers. Maybe once a week the driver would crash and lose access to the network. This was really annoying as it often happened while I was transfering large files. I think I fixed the corrupt driver by followingthis community thread on Intel's website. It seems to be a common issue with that WiFi module.  There were also some driver issues with the Intel GPU where I would randomly and rarely see some screen flickering.  That issue seems to have been fixed by HP's 1/11 release of new Intel Video drivers. There was also an NVIDIA GPU OpenGL crash on driver version 472.84 while editing an image in Photoshop which also killed Photoshop and lost the work I was doing. Updating to NVIDIA driver version 511.09 or higher should be better. Normally, the ZBook laptops are rock solid, so I think this might be a case of having to wait a little while for the new drivers to iron things out.

Battery Life

The ZBook Fury 15 G8 is a serious portable workstation, but not so much of a mobile all-day battery-life laptop with its 94 Wh battery. I like to run some pretty heavy duty programs on it and making big use of the NVIDIA RTX A5000 GPU on battery life means I'm going to have to plug it into a charger before 3 hours of use. That's enough to do plenty of photo editing on a 1000 plus frame photo shoot, or some quick editing for a 60 second social media video post. Doing some serious work quickly is really what the ZBook Fury is about when it's on battery and that means we don't get a huge amount of battery life. Of course I could change the settings to make it more power efficient and last longer, but I'm not carrying around this beast filled with high-end computing power to only open little web pages, emails, and Word documents.

Pricing and Availability

The HP Zbook Fury 15 G8 is available in a fairly large number of different configurations and customization options. Prices range from around $1700 for a low-end model and go up into the $15,000 range. You can customize the HP Zbook Fury on the HP store website in order to see the pricing for whichever configuration you're interested in.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

During Black Friday 2021, the ZBook Fury configurations were on sale with more than $5000 of savings!

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

If you max out the configuration, the price could be almost $15,000.

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

On the other hand, a low end configuration could be about $1700.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • A huge range of CPUs, GPUs, Storage, and RAM options
  • Extremely powerful Intel H series and Xenon processors
  • Extrmely powerful NVIDIA RTX GPU options
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Trackpad and joystick with 6 mouse click hardware buttons that have excellent travel and easy responsiveness.
  • Best-in-class DreamColor display with very little glare
  • Tool-free user-replacable battery
  • User-replacable everything (with a screwdriver)
  • Room for 5 M.2 solid state drives if you want many terrabytes of storage
  • Plenty of expansion ports

Cons

  • Battery life will suffer with all of this power
  • It's a bit heavy at over 6 lbs
  • The bottom gets hot when taking on heavy workloads for a few hours

Conclusion

HP ZBook Fury G8 Source: Pocketnow

I am totally in love with the ZBook Fury's capabilities, speed, display quality, upgrade-ability, keyboard, trackpad buttons, and style. Sure, it's on the thick & heavy side and the battery life isn't great especially when taking advantage of the high end NVIDIA RTX A5000 graphics processor, but I would much rather be able to get things done quickly and beautifully than to have something slower with longer battery life. Let me finish my work in 3 hours and have a nice long lunch instead of making me do the same thing over 6 hours. While all of the other ZBook series laptops are excellent for high-end work while being very portable, the ZBook Fury is clearly "la crème de la crème"... or "the best of the best".

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