HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 Review: For those that need a bit more
HP’s ZBook Firefly 14 starts at under three pounds, but don’t let that fool you. As far as ultrabooks go, this is meant to be powerful. In fact, it’s meant for 2D design, power users, and more. HP says it’s for those who want to push a business laptop past its breaking point. If the HP Elite Dragonfly Max is almost enough for you, but it’s not quite there, this is where you end up.
Ultimately, it doesn’t feel too different than say, an HP EliteBook 1040. It’s got a metal chassis, B&O speakers, a premium keyboard, and the perks I’m used to in the Elite series. But it’s also got dedicated graphics, a DreamColor display, and more.
Navigate this review:
- Design: The HP ZBook Firefly G8 is made partially of recycled aluminum
- Display: The 14-inch DreamColor display
- Keyboard: The keyboard on the HP ZBook Firefly G8 has a pointstick
- Performance: It has Intel Tiger Lake and NVIDIA graphics
- Conclusion: Should you buy the HP ZBook Firefly G8?
|CPU||11th Generation Intel Core i7-1185G7 (3 GHz base frequency, up to 4.80 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB|
cache, 4 cores) supporting Intel vPro technology
|Graphics||NVIDIA T500 (4GB GDDR6 dedicated)|
|Body||12.73×8.45×0.71in (32.3×21.46×1.79cm), starting at 2.98 pounds (1.35kg)|
|Display||14″ diagonal, FHD (1920 x 1080), IPS, anti-glare, 500 nits, 100% DCI-P3, HP DreamColor|
|Ports||Left side: 1 headphone/microphone combo; 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate; 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate (charging)|
Right side: 1 power connector; 1 HDMI 1.4b; 2 Thunderbolt 4 with USB4 Type-C 40Gbps signaling rate (USB Power Delivery, DisplayPort 1.4, HP Sleep
|Memory||32GB DDR4-2666 non-ECC SDRAM|
|Storage||512 GB Intel PCIe NVMe QLC M.2 SSD with 32 GB Intel Optane memory H10 PCIe NVMe M.2 QLC SSD|
|Battery||HP Long Life 3-cell, 53 Wh Li-ion polymer, 65W USB-C charger|
|Audio||Audio by Bang & Olufsen, dual stereo speakers, HP World Facing Microphone dual array digital microphones, functions keys for volume up and down, combo microphone/headphone jack, HD audio|
|Input||HP Premium Quiet Keyboard – spill-resistant, full-size keyboard with drain and DuraKeys; HP Premium Quiet Keyboard – spill-resistant, full-size, backlit keyboard with drain and DuraKeys|
Dual pointstick; Clickpad with multi-touch gesture support, taps enabled as default; Microsoft Precision Touchpad with gesture support
|Connectivity||Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (2×2) and Bluetooth 5 combo, non-vPro|
|Webcam||720p HD camera; 720p HD IR camera|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
The HP ZBook Firefly G8 is made partially of recycled aluminum
The HP ZBook Firefly G8 comes in an aluminum chassis, which is made partially of recycled aluminum. Starting at under three pounds, it looks and feels like a business ultrabook. It has a streamlined design that’s sleek but subtle, and it comes in a shade of gray that actually differs from the traditional Natural Silver found on HP’s EliteBooks.
It also has its own branding, which makes it a bit different. The only other HP brand I know of that has its own logo is OMEN. Then of course, HP has two separate logos for entry-level and premium laptops. But rather than one of those, this one has a Z stamped on the lid, which is fine. It just feels a bit strange because, while I’ve reviewed lots of HP laptops, I’ve never reviewed a ZBook.
On the left side of the device, you’ll find dual USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, getting you 5Gbps speeds, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a smart card reader. On the right side, there are two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI 1.4b, and a barrel charger port. Naturally, I never used that charging port, since I charged it with USB Type-C.
Either of the Thunderbolt 4 ports can be connected to dual 4K monitors, one 8K monitor, an external GPU, and pretty much anything else. That’s particularly important for a machine like this.
Z is HP’s workstation brand, so this is a mobile workstation that’s designed for creators that don’t need the power of the ZBook Studio or Fury. But if you need more power from it when it’s docked, you can use an external GPU for that.
The front of the device has chamfered edges, making it easier to lift the lid. It’s something that was missing on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max that I recently reviewed, and it’s a nice touch that I’ve seen a lot from recent HP PCs.
The 14-inch DreamColor display
HP is promising deeper blacks, brighter whites, and more from a display that delivers the kind of accuracy you need for creative work. For sure, it gets the job done. This display is beautiful. It’s also a matte anti-glare display, something that usually leads to colors looking washed out, but that’s not the case here. It’s pretty impressive.
The HP ZBook Firefly has all of the display options you’d normally find on an EliteBook, such as a 4K UHD panel and a 1080p panel with HP’s Sure View Reflect privacy screen. The 500 nit FHD option that HP sent me seems to be the only one labeled as DreamColor though.
As you can see from the tests that I ran, the DreamColor delivers, offering 100% sRGB , 86% NTSC, 88% Adobe RGB, and 97% P3. I’m really impressed with it, and if you’re doing things that require this kind of display, I think you will be too.
The top bezel includes an IR camera and a 720p webcam. Yes, in the age of working from anywhere, it still has an HD webcam instead of 1080p. For the latter, you’d have to look toward the Elite Dragonfly Max.
Audio quality is solid, but no better or worse than any other premium HP laptop that I’ve used. That’s a good thing. HP has been partnering with B&O for audio as long as I’ve been reviewing its products. The speakers are placed on either side of the keyboard, so they’re firing up at you. If you’ve used another recent HP laptop with speakers on the keyboard deck, you know what it’s going to sound like.
The keyboard on the HP ZBook Firefly G8 has a pointstick
HP says it reimagined the keyboard with rubber domes and an ambient light-sensing backlight. I assume that means it’s a new keyboard since the previous ZBook Firefly, which I didn’t review. The keyboard seems similar to one you’d find on an EliteBook 1040, which is a good thing. It’s one of my favorite keyboards around and I highly recommend it. I’m also super-happy to see HP bringing it to more devices.
The bad news is it has a pointstick between the G, H, and B keys. Frankly, I’m not sure why these still exist, since they’re a relic from the days when Windows touchpads were terrible. Lenovo puts them on every single ThinkPad it makes, while companies like Dell and HP only put them on select models.
The existence of a pointstick also means there are physical buttons above the top of the Precision touchpad, which is fine. It does take away some height from the touchpad though, of course.
The touchpad and the buttons are pretty quiet too, something HP said it put some effort into doing. It’s appreciated, because there are some devices that make such noisy clicks that it’s embarrassing to sit in a quiet room with them.
There’s also a fingerprint sensor to the bottom-right, which is fine. It goes nicely with the facial recognition that’s available. HP has been pushing the fingerprint sensor to the keyboard on other models, and I’m surprised to not see that change here. The power button is still on the keyboard though.
It has Intel Tiger Lake and NVIDIA graphics
The model HP sent me is pretty specced out with an Intel Core i7-1185G7, NVIDIA T500 that has 4GB GDDR6 memory, and 32GB RAM. As I mentioned earlier, ZBooks are mobile workstations; however, this is the least powerful ZBook HP makes. It’s not for 3D rendering, but it can definitely handle 2D projects. If you spend a lot of time in Photoshop or Illustrator, this could be the machine for you.
I want you to think of an ultrabook for those that need a bit more than an ultrabook can offer. Intel’s Iris Xe graphics are are pretty great, as I’ve pointed out in countless reviews. If you’re down for some FHD gaming or some FHD video editing, you can do it without the T500 graphics that are here. This is a boost that allows you to do stuff like that more comfortably, and also take things to the very next level.
My primary use case is productivity, but I do often have to edit images in apps like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These days, I don’t edit 4K 60fps video as much as I used to, and this machine fits my use case quite nicely.
The combination of the CPU and GPU, along with the DreamColor display, are what makes this thing great for creators. But of course, I ran benchmarks too, using PCMark 8, PCMark 10, 3DMark, Geekbench, and Cinebench.
Core i7-1185G7, T500
|Elite Dragonfly Max|
|ThinkPad T14s Gen 1|
Ryzen 7 PRO 4750U
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1|
|PCMark 8: Home||4,406||3,916||4,298||4,344|
|PCMark 8: Creative||4,682||4,337||4,568||4,560|
|PCMark 8: Work||4,168||3,873||3,857||3,980|
|3DMark: Time Spy||2,212||1,320|
|Geekbench||1,546 / 5,386||1,117 / 3,663||1,526 / 5,623|
|Cinebench||1,485 / 4,401||1,191 / 3,251||1,449 / 4,171|
Battery life on this thing is phenomenal. Doing regular work with the power slider at one notch above battery saver and the screen at 50% brightness, I was able to get eight hours of usage, regularly. You could stretch that to beyond 10 hours depending on your use case, but you probably won’t. The discrete graphics are a key selling point of this PC, and if you don’t need it, you’d probably be better off with an EliteBook 1040.
Conclusion: Should you buy the HP ZBook Firefly G8?
Several times now, I’ve tried to outline the use case for this product, but I’ll say it again. This is something for people who need a bit more than what a standard ultrabook can provide. HP says it’s for Office power users, 2D design work flows, and reviewing both 2D and 3D content.
Aside from the dedicated graphics, it’s pretty much a business PC. It has a lot of the same features as a 14-inch EliteBook 1000 series PC. It has 5G options, an option for the Sure View display, the new rubber dome keyboard, and even HP QuickDrop for sharing small files between your phone and your PC.
I have two key complaints. One is it has an HD webcam. Seriously, there’s just no excuse for that anymore. The pandemic shined a light on the issue, but really, you can buy a $300 phone that has a front camera that’s nine times better than the webcam on this laptop that costs nine times as much. My other complaint is it has a pointstick for navigation, something that’s not nearly as popular as it used to be. I have to trust HP on that one. I have to assume it has data that shows that customers actually want this thing.
Other than that, it’s a great laptop. I absolutely love the DreamColor display, as I’m a big fan of matte screens that actually have accurate colors. And of course, the keyboard is phenomenal. For my use case, I’d still go with the Elite Dragonfly Max, but if this fits yours, you can’t go wrong with it.