A year with ZBook Studio: misrepresentations, defects and downgrades

Discussion in 'HP Business Class Notebooks' started by Billy Cantor, Dec 22, 2016.

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  1. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

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    I apologize in advance for the length and sadness of this post. I've been an HP customer for twenty years: Pocket PCs, calculators, servers, laptops, tablets, desktops, you name it. But this year has been really, really rough and I am both genuinely worried about HP and emotionally drained.

    When HP announced the ZBook Studio, I was in love. I needed the laptop for work, it had the legendary ZBook branding, and the DreamColor 4K display justified the purchase since we could use it for multimedia creation.

    As HP's manager/executive explained in the keynote (with a big photo of the ZBook Studio on screen):
    “So for this generation, we've got 4K coupled with DreamColor. So if a customer buys a 4K display, they get DreamColor. If they want DreamColor, they get a 4K display. It's one and the same: it's no longer an add-on or an upgrade. And so some of the things that we've done--and again this is available on the ZBook Studio, the 15, and the 17--are provided 100% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB..."

    (fast-forward to 8 minutes into the video)

    So I ordered my ZBook Studio in the early morning the first day it was available, choosing the highest-end option with 4K display (since, as HP advertised in the keynote, it would come with DreamColor). The machine was delayed, so I called HP to get a status update. They gave me an explanation about the delay and promised to follow up with me. I didn't get a call back within the promised timeframe, so I called back. I was given a different explanation for an additional delay and was promised a callback. Again...no callback. After three or four rounds of callback promises by HP and about 30 days of delays, I finally called the sales staff to escalate the issue. I was told that the previous excuses I had been given weren't accurate and, long story short, a week or so later finally shipped my ZBook Studio. I got one of the first units off the line.

    Because there were no 1TB options available yet, I bought a Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe SSD to go with the built-in 512GB SSD. I had planned to RAID them (as the specs said that RAID was supported)--but it turned out that that wasn't actually supported. So I just used the Samsung drive (which was about 10% faster than the HP Z-Drive).

    Fast-forward...

    After talking to HP techs about the fact that my ZBook didn't seem to have DreamColor, I waited for the DreamColor software to be released. I tried installing it, and it told me that my laptop (which HP had advertised as having DreamColor built-in) didn't have the chip. The tech folks couldn't fix the problem by swapping me for the DreamColor parts, so I was forwarded to customer relations people who apologized and said they'd take care of me and swap the machine or refund the price so I could place a new order.

    Unfortunately, like so many of the previous promises, they never even called back. This happened...twice.

    Fast-forward...

    Last month, the TPM chip in my 10-month-old ZBook started dying. Or rather the machine, during boot, kept telling me that the TPM chip was failing. So HP had to replace the motherboard. They came out to do the service and I spent an hour or two with the tech--but after a while we realized the wrong motherboard (non-GPU version) had been sent out. So we put my notebook back together and scheduled another repair.

    Then the repair guy called on the repair day--but HP hadn't delivered the right parts. Eventually he got the right parts and came out again. We took apart the whole laptop, replaced the motherboard, and put it back together again. But it wouldn't boot. The keyboard worked and the splash screen came up--but it wouldn't go into BIOS.

    So we put the old motherboard back in so I could pull everything off the drives--and then HP had me ship the laptop to them, for the motherboard to be replaced and then the machine overnighted back to me (total turn time of about 4 days). It turned out to take about three times that long as HP decided that they wanted to run extensive testing on my old motherboard before replacing it--but the repaired laptop (with new motherboard) arrived today.

    When I got the laptop, I plugged in my Samsung SSD and turned it on. It had the same problem (lockup) as the other motherboard. So I called HP and they escalated the issue.

    I was informed that the new motherboard wasn't tested to be standard-compliant, and HP could only guarantee that it would work with HP-approved SSDs (i.e. Z-Drive). It seems that some motherboard revision between January and now basically downgraded the ZBook Studio.

    So after weeks of being without my laptop, not getting the DreamColor display I purchased, and now having my laptop basically forcibly-downgraded during warranty repair...I asked for the issue to be escalated. I was warned that all the customer relations staff had left for the year and would be back in about two weeks...so now I wait.

    As an aside, I also bought an HP Stream 8 (with free 200MB/mo. T-Mobile service). It broke about 11 months into its year warranty, no longer charging. But when I contacted HP they told me it was out of warranty. I had to send them a copy of my receipt from an authorized reseller to get them to honor the warranty.

    I also bought the new Elite x3 bundle (premium phone, desk dock, lap dock). It rebooted on its own about every 45 minutes, both new out of box and after all the firmware and OS upgrades. After checking on several forums, I wasn't alone. That went back right away. I'm still waiting, weeks later, for a refund from HP's authorized reseller.

    Anyway, long-story-short: I'm really, really disappointed by HP. Their keynote sold us on promises and specs which HP didn't honor. All three of my new HP machines have been faulty designs, have run into hassles for warranty repairs (even the ZBook...which has elite support), and/or don't work as advertised. 100% of them.

    I'm really bummed out. There are no laptops in the Windows arena which are as awesome as what the ZBook Studio promised to be (for my requirements). I'm honestly not sure what to do at this point.

    On a happy note, my twenty-year-old HP graphing calculator still works great. HP used to make great electronics. I sincerely hope that things turn around, as I would prefer to be a customer for twenty more years.

    Billy
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2016
    huntnyc and triturbo like this.
  2. triturbo

    triturbo Long live 16:10 and MXM-B

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    I feel you there. Just as bummed as you where HP is going. Actually it's not only them (wont be a stretch if I say that it's the whole industry), but I have a special place for HP... and the DreamColor. It was a REAL let-down when we (a few members around this sub-forum) found-out that the new "DreamColor"s are 8bit. That's a downgrade from the glorious DreamColors of old. Not to mention that these new 4K "DreamColor" panels can be found in "lesser" machines. DreamColor displays used to push the envelop and set new standards, obviously this is no longer the case. As an added insult, Rec.2020 (recommended, not to say required, for 4K) and HDR are right around the corner and ironically these older 10bit RGB LED DreamColors cover ~85% of the Rec.2020 (the 8bit RGB LED TN in 8730w including), while the 4K "DreamColor"s cover less than that.
     
  3. valuxin

    valuxin Notebook Evangelist

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    The laptop seems great to me, but yeah - several years ago HP produced better machines in terms of quality. What's really disappointing to me are:
    • the sound quality - rly, it's just slightly better than on my 8760w back then. I was expecting at least Precision M5510 level of sound. I can't get why it's impossible to make high volume, crisp with bass speakers like apple do. Bang & Olufsen is just a name - nothing related.
    • only one battery option available - there is plenty room near the 2nd SSD place to pack some more Whr. Dell offer 2 battery options, but not HP. Yeah, I'm getting 4-5 hrs with an overage use, but it could few hours more still.
    • wifi - the distance is horrible. I don't know what is responsible for this (intel wifi or antennas), but my Lumia 950 smartphone with built in Qualcomm MU-MIMO achieve twice as fast speed on the same location. Yeah, in room with router performance is great, but in other rooms it's just horrible (but at least better than on MacBook).
    But overall, I really like this machine. The plenty of I/O, nice workstation design, pretty cool under load, superb screen, powerful and compact PSU.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  4. valuxin

    valuxin Notebook Evangelist

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    From what I see considering the non-DC UHD tests on notebookcheck, the panel should cover no less then 80% of Rec.2020. I wish, I have a possibility to do a color space check on my DC. I had a professional 10 bit RGB-LED DC monitor some day and I should say, my laptop will not lose the battle :D Even new MacBook Pro 2016 screen is not so gorgeous.

    P.S. My opinion is that 4k 10bit panels should appear in Mobile Workstations only when Integrated graphics will be able to handle it. If I had it now on my ZBook, I would not last longer then 2hrs on light use - no, thanks, I need Mobile Workstation coz it's MOBILE. If you stick to work on the desk most of time, it's obvious to have at least 2nd monitor.
    P.S.S. 4K IGZO 8bit DreamColor panels are really amazing. I'm certain that it covers no less than previous gen 10bit DC panels.
     
  5. triturbo

    triturbo Long live 16:10 and MXM-B

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    It's not obligatory though. I do have 2nd monitor, but I still want my internal screen to be up for the task. Also my machine can't beat current power/performance but with a secondary battery it's still up for the task. Not to mention that if you have more than one secondary batteries you can hot-swap them and continue to use your machine (if your primary battery holds any charge that is). Of course, that's a weight not everyone is willing to carry, but I do.

    It is less than that. It covers aRGB 100% (at least, that's what the brochure says), but older panels covered more than that. That's why I said that the new panels are 8bit (confirmed) GB-r LEDs (not confirmed, but I've seen other GB-r LED panels listed as LED only). Why I was certain from the ground-up? I wasn't. There were news about new 4K panels and none of them was 10bit. Of course HP could've made a custom one (like it was the case with 8740w's DreamColor), that's why I was searching for confirmation. So when it was confirmed that it is indeed 8bit, it was logical (to me) that it can't be WLED (norow gamut), but it is not RGB panel either. I've already said why. If they paired the IGZO substrate (lets more light out compared to aSi) with 10bit panel and RGB LED backlight, they would've hit the Rec.2020.

    I'm not denying that, but they are NOT 10bit RGB LED, so they ARE inferior to the previous iterations (8730w's DreamColor including) when it comes to color gamut. They could've done better than that. After all the Rec.2020 color space is designed with what the current technology is capable of in mind.

    So for I-don't-know-which-time-already - they might be nice, I haven't seen one in person and I'm not tempted to do so either, but that doesn't make them automagically an upgrade over previous DreamColors. There other nice panels out there, but DreamColors always were a step above. Not anymore.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  6. valuxin

    valuxin Notebook Evangelist

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    "Mobile" definition is really personal and subjective. Several years ago, my "mobile" meant that I can handle 6-7kg with all accs 17inch 8760w with highest end CPU and GPU for that time with dual battery and have a runtime for 3-4 hrs depending on the use. Nowadays, "mobile" for me is powerful 2-3kg laptop with runtime of at least 5 hrs - and it's not only me, it's world's trend for past few years.

    IGZO panel in Zbook Studio covers 72% of CIE 1931. For example, Adobe RGB covers only 52.10% of CIE 1931, Rec 2020 - 75.80% of CIE 1931. Certainly, it's not a step back from Previous Gen DC and is really capable.

    We are the humans and have different visions on things, it's ok. I think, that current DC is a step forward in DC evolution. Next step, with Kaby Lake and Pascal laptops can drive 4k 10bit IGZO panels, then right after this gen I'm sure we will see 4k 12bit panels some day in laptops. It's all the matter of time and technology.
     
  7. triturbo

    triturbo Long live 16:10 and MXM-B

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    Doesn't mean that I have to agree with this trend. I don't don't agree with 16:9 on laptops either.

    Where do you saw that?

    OK, let's say that it is equal, but again that doesn't make it an upgrade. For yet another time again - if it covered Rec.2020 THEN and ONLY THEN I would consider it an upgrade (my current display covers it on ~85% and is 16:10, and no, 4K does nothing for me, 2560x1600 would've been better (on 17.1" (1920x1200 for 15.4") @100% scaling, since Windows' scaling is crap)).

    I think you missed where I said that Rec.2020 is designed with current technology in mind. So IT IS achievable with current tech!
     
  8. valuxin

    valuxin Notebook Evangelist

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    Here. It's not hard to find the info about the panel.

    We can't say, that they are equal till we test them face to face. But if they are, you are getting 4k resolution for the less power consumption. Surely, just IT at least is an upgrade over previous gen.

    Technologies exist, right. But how much do you think IGZO 12bit panel will cost? And what expensive hardware could run that?
     
  9. triturbo

    triturbo Long live 16:10 and MXM-B

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    Actually it is. I couldn't find the panel's model. Thanks for that. So now we are leveling. In that case, check this out (8730w's DreamColor (8bit RGB LED TN)). To save you some hassle, it's 110%. And BTW this value (the percentage coverage) is for the NTSC, not the entire visible color spectrum. If that's true (72% NTSC) it actually is lower than aRGB. I don't think that this is the panel though.

    I already said that I have no use of 4K over 17", let alone on 15".

    Firstly I already said what you need to get Rec.2020 coverage - 10bit IGZO RGB LED IPS. The IGZO substrate is known to let more light than the aSi that was used up until now (and it still is in most panels). This either can be used for power-saving (as it is the case), or wider color gamut (if paired with better backlight, which is not the case). Well you still get better gamut compared to an aSi panel with the same backlight. Since the older panels were pretty close to cover Rec.2020, the IGZO would've got them there (keeping everything else the same obviously). As for the bit depth, it means that you get finer gradient between colors. The backlight is the more important factor when it comes to color gamut, that's why 8730w's DC, even though 8bit TN, has slightly better color gamut than 8740w's 10bit IPS. And to finalize with the cost - DreamColors do command price premium, no? The 8740w's DC was a $500 option (and was 8740w exclusive, unlike the 16:9 panels, which were found in Precisions as well). A lot of people gladly paid it and a lot more regret that didn't and even more that can't afford it. The panel was/is a fact none the less. Forgot to add - as I said before, this panel can be found elswhere, so why should I buy HP, when I can get another machine that suits me better and has the very same panel? Gone is the edge (in color gamut and they were the only IPSes for quite a while) and exclusivity.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  10. markkmarkk

    markkmarkk Newbie

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    Rather sad hearing your story. I am currently at the fence of Studio G4...
     
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