HP Labs: the Science of Technologyby Jarred Walton on July 1, 2014 6:00 AM EST
HP Multimedia Lab
Things started off somewhat slowly in the Multimedia Lab, where we were shown some of the testing that's being done to validate their workstation hardware and software. The new ZBook 15 and 17 were a major topic here, as these are the first two HP mobile workstations to support Intel's Thunderbolt 2.0 technology (and the first to support Thunderbolt as well, I believe). There was no mention or sight of the ZBook 14, if you're wondering – that's basically a different sort of ZBook, focused more on style and portability than on being a true mobile workstation.
HP showed us a demonstration of a single ZBook 17 streaming two 4K videos from an external Thunderbolt 2 array (from SSDs I believe, though it may have been HDDs) to two 4K displays over a single daisy-chained Thunderbolt 2 connection, and while this was going on they also started a copy from another Thunderbolt 2 SSD enclose on the same chain to a second Thunderbolt 2 SSD enclosure. Add all of that up and it's an impressive amount of data being shunted around, and throughout the demonstration the 4K video continued to roll with no apparent issues.
HP's DreamColor premium LCDs were also discussed, and we've talked about that in past reviews. DreamColor displays use 10-bit panels that come factory calibrated, and they're targeted at imaging/multimedia professionals. It's not hard to see how having accurate colors can really help certain workloads – film crews are one easy example, and HP commented on how they have customers that love the DreamColor panels as they no longer need to check footage on a larger display to verify the quality – they can simply look at it on their mobile workstation display and if needed reshoot a scene right there. For "normal" users the benefits aren't quite so dramatic, but then regular users probably aren't going to spend the money for a DreamColor display.
Another demonstration consisted of a single ZBook 17 powering five separate displays, with two displays running off the Intel integrated graphics while three other displays were powered by the NVIDIA Quadro GPU. Besides the integrated display panel (running off Intel HD Graphics), there was a VGA output (also running off the Intel iGPU), two DisplayPort panels in daisy chain off a DP 1.2 port (NVIDIA), and an Apple Thunderbolt display (NVIDIA). Not all of the displays had active content, but two were showing videos, one had Office open (Excel along with a stock ticker), another had IE running, and the laptop was showing the five connected displays. This may not be a common use case for most people, but it was good to see that HP is actually testing the possibilities.
One item HP did note was that the earlier Apple Thunderbolt displays were not fully validated for Windows use, so there can occasionally be problems. While they did have an Apple Thunderbolt display, the general advice was for Windows users to stick with devices that have been specifically certified to work with Windows.
Moving down to another aisle of testing equipment brought us more ZBook workstations running additional tests. One ZBook 17 laptop had four displays all running as a single large surface off of NVIDIA's Quadro GPU through the use of NVIDIA's Mosaic technology – basically, their alternative to Eyefinity. The screens in question were showing DiRT 3 (I think – it might have been some other Codemasters racing title), and while the looping "attract" demo did run, it wasn't too surprising to see that frame rates were likely in the sub-20 FPS range. Four 1080p displays off a single mobile dGPU? Yeah, that might be asking a bit too much.