Power to the portable: 3 high-performance mobile workstations

While most laptops are reasonably priced and powered, sometimes you need a little extra. We test three high-end Windows mobile workstations.

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Conclusions

I found it hard to choose among these three well-designed and well-built workstations.

For example, while I loved the all-out performance of the appropriately named Eurocom Racer 3W, I found its relatively short battery life and lack of a Trusted Platform Module to be definite negatives. More to the point, at $4,582 the review unit is close to a luxury item -- and even if you opt for a less option-packed version, it will require an extra $295 to bring the unit's warranty up to three years of coverage.

At the other end of the price-performance spectrum is Toshiba's Tecra W50. The laptop is thin and light (at least compared to other mobile workstations), performed well and could run for more than 3.5 hours of continuous use on a charge. On the other hand, it is only now getting certified with key software vendors, and there aren't enough configuration options.

That leaves HP's ZBook 15. While it is a little overweight, I found no serious faults with it. The system did well on the specialized workstations benchmarks, ran for nearly three hours of continuous use and has one of the best docking stations available.

In the final analysis, software certification counts for a lot in the genre of mobile workstations and HP has worked with just about every specialty software vendor of importance to insure that it can get the job done. It doesn't matter if you're going to use it to edit video, design and manufacture products or even explore for oil and gas deposits, the ZBook 15 has the right stuff to get it done.

3 mobile workstations: Specs

Eurocom Racer 3W HP ZBook 15 Toshiba Tecra W50
Dimensions (HxWxD) 1.6 x 14.8 10.1 in. 1.4 x 14.8 x 10.1 in. 1.4 x 14.9 x 9.9 in.
Weight 7.0 lb. 7.5 lb. 5.9 lb.
Processor* Intel Core i7-4930MX Intel Core i7-4800MQ Intel Core i7-4800MQ
Graphics Nvidia Quadro K5100M Nvidia Quadro K2100M Nvidia Quadro K2100M
Display 15.6-in. 15.6-in. 15.6-in.
Resolution 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080
Storage* 1TB HDD / 240GB SSD 500GB HDD / 32GB SSD 500GB HDD
RAM installed/Maximum 16GB/32GB 16GB/32GB 16GB/32GB
Ports 3 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, eSATA, audio, S/PDIF, FireWire 400 3 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, DisplayPort, VGA, Thunderbolt, audio 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, 1 ESATA/USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, audio
Flash card/Xpress card/Smart card reader Yes/No/No Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes
Fingerprint reader/TPM Yes/No Yes/Yes Yes/Yes
Communications Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Operating System Windows 8.1 Windows 8.1 Pro Windows 8.1 Pro
Warranty One year Three years Three years
Starting price / Reviewed price $1,699 / $4,582 $1,699/ $3,191 $1,899 / $1,999
*Review unit specs; alternatives are available
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