HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 review: An ultra-portable with firepower

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TOP-PICK-2021-TOP-OF-ARTICLE

Like other top PC manufacturers we’re used to hearing about; HP has been in the game for a very long time. Also, like the others, HP has had its ups and downs. The company has had its share of hits and misses, and oftentimes the misses harmed the HP name. But the company has been turning things around with products like the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

The ZBook series, in general, has been a positive for the company. I would liken it to Dell’s XPS series and a direct competitor to Apple’s MacBook Pro series. It’s a fantastic line of premium laptops intended for power users, and the HP ZBook Firely 14 G8 certainly delivers plenty of firepower.

With an ultra-portable form factor and ports not offered on other comparable ultra-portables. The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 is a Top Pick and among the best in its category. Read on for the full review of this thin, light, and powerful power user’s laptop.

Specifications

The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 sent to us has the following features and specifications:

Model3F7H0AA#ABA
ProcessorIntel® Core™ i7-1185G7 (up to 4.8 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 12 MB L3 cache, 4 cores)
Display14″ diagonal, FHD (1920 x 1080), touch, IPS, anti-glare, 250 nits, 45% NTSC
GraphicsIntegrated: Intel® Iris® Xᵉ Graphics
Discrete: NVIDIA® T500 (4 GB GDDR6 dedicated)
Memory32 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM (1 x 32 GB)
Storage512 GB PCIe® NVMe™ TLC M.2 SSD
PortsLeft 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 and Charge)
KeyboardHP Premium Quiet Keyboard – spill-resistant, full-size, backlit keyboard with programmable key
MouseClickpad with multi-touch gesture support
Wireless TechnologyIntel® Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (2×2) and Bluetooth® 5 combo
ChipsetIntel® Integrated SoC
AudioAudio 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.
Fingerprint ReaderFingerprint Sensor
Webcam720p HD IR privacy camera
BatteryHP Long Life 3-cell, 53 Wh Li-ion polymer
AC Adapter65 W USB Type-C™ adapter
Power CordStandard
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64
SoftwareBing search for IE11; Buy Office; CyberLink Power Media Player; HP Hotkey Support; HP Noise Cancellation Software; HP Performance Advisor; HP Recovery Manager; HP Support Assistant; Native Miracast support; HP Connection Optimizer; HP ZCentral Remote Boost Software; myHP; HP QuickDrop
Dimensions12.73 x 8.45 x 0.71 in
WeightStarting at 2.98 lb
Warranty3 year (3/3/0) limited warranty includes 3 years of parts and labor. No on-site repair.

What’s In The Box

  • HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8
  • 65W power adapter
  • Setup instructions
HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 1
The top of the G8

Design

HP has taken its ZBook series and made it one of the best designs on the market. This series is right up there with Dell’s XPS and Apple’s MacBook Pro. The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 is built of high-quality aluminum, which has a very nice mid-gray color. It’s somewhere in between Dell’s XPS silver look and the MacBook Pro’s Space Gray look.

The form factor is very slim, and the weight is just under 3-pounds. While the 13″ Dell XPS is thinner and lighter, not by much, the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 offers up ports that the XPS doesn’t. So you’ll sacrifice a little in weight and thinness in exchange for more I/O.

The top of the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 has the Z logo in a mirror finish, and I love what HP has done with the logo. It really gives the Z series its own identity and also offers the line a premium footprint. The lines and angles on the chassis are sharp and give it a sporty and aggressive look.

Turning the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 over, you’ll find a vent for the fans and two long rubber feet, which do an excellent job of keeping the laptop planted on the surface. There’s not much to see along the back spine or the front lip.

Along the left side, you’ll find the headphone/microphone combo, one SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate port, and one SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate (charging) port.

Along the right side, you’ll find the power connector, one HDMI 1.4b, and two Thunderbolt 4 with USB4 Type-C 40Gbps signaling rate (USB Power Delivery, DisplayPort 1.4, HP Sleep and Charge).

Opening the laptop up, you’re greeted by the 14″ display, more on that in the next section. The 720p IR webcam with privacy shade is at the top. The backlit keyboard is comfortable to type on, and I love the big font printed on it. The fingerprint sensor is on the bottom right of the keyboard, and it works very well.

The trackpad is not huge, but it’s also not small; it sits somewhere in the middle and works really well. There is a left and right-click button at the top of the trackpad, but you can also press down on the trackpad itself for that. HP, like Lenovo, includes a track point nub in the middle of the keyboard. I’m sure some people like this, but I’m not a fan.

Top-mounted speakers really polish the overall look off. HP made a nice aesthetic decision by adding an aggressive pattern to the speaker grille.

Overall, the design, look and build quality of the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 is fantastic. While nothing will ever be perfect, the Firefly G8 is as perfect as it can get, and most users will love this design.

HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 1
Buy the 500 nits display

Display

So here we are at the display. First, let me say this. HP initially sent over a review unit with its brighter and better 500 nit display, but it arrived from FedEx wet. So I returned that unit to HP due to damage. Because HP only had a limited number of units, the replacement they sent, this one, came with a 250 nit display.

That was a disappointment because 250 nits really isn’t good in any bright condition. I scored the display on the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 based on the 500 nit version, and that is the version you should consider if you’re considering this laptop at all.

This display is not the DreamColor display that I initially received, and in some ways, I am glad I had hands-on with both. That all being said, please do not get the 250 nit panel, don’t do it.

The 500 nit display is far better with deeper blacks, clean whites, and a vibrant and bright display. The matte finish of the display is also nice and reduces glare significantly. HP also offers a 4K version which is sure to impact battery life but is also an option.

Overall, I was disappointed in the 250 nit panel, but the 500 nits FHD+ panel is amazing and should be the one most users pick.

Software/Ecosystem

Windows 10 Pro 64 is installed on the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8, and there’s not much to say about Windows 10. This laptop will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 11 as it meets all the requirements.

HP does add in its own stable of software as it normally does. Here’s the rundown of all the HP software included. Some of which are useful and some of which are annoying.

  • HP Audio Control
  • HP Client Security Manager
  • HP Documentation
  • HP Easy Clean
  • HP PC Hardware Diagnostics Windows
  • HP Power Manager
  • HP Privacy Settings
  • HP Programmable Key
  • HP QuickDrop
  • HP Support Assistant
  • HP Sure Click Secure Browser
  • HP System Information
  • HP Wolf Security
  • HP WorkWell

That’s a load of stuff, and thankfully, that is the extent of it. At least HP didn’t include bloatware like games and extra antivirus software.

About the only interesting HP app here, at least for me, is QuickDrop. QuickDrop works like AirDrop in that you can install the app across your devices and instantly share them to your HP computer. That could be handy for many people.

Overall, there’s nothing new to see here in terms of software. Windows 10 Pro 64 is the same as it ever was, and HP’s array of software is typical for HP. It doesn’t seem to slow anything down, so it’s just annoying more than anything.

HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 1
The keyboard is comfortable to use

Performance

The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 sent to us is fairly loaded with an Intel Core i7-1185G7, NVIDIA T500 (4 GB GDDR6 dedicated), and 32GB of RAM. And we reiterate our previous commentary. Get the FHD+ 500 nits Dreamcolor display and not the FHD+ 250 nits display.

The ZBook series is billed as a mobile workstation, and this laptop certainly lives up to that. It has more than enough power to run day-to-day tasks like email, browsing, spreadsheets, office work, and light software loads.

But when you need something more, the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 has the firepower to knock out what you throw at it. The G8 can run photo editing, light video editing, and other heavier programs with ease. It is important to note that this is an ultrabook, so while it can handle most of these things, it does have limitations.

The CPU and GPU combo are great, but if you’re looking to run 3D applications and run even more intensive applications, the larger ZBook’s are probably better. While the G8 is a mobile workstation, it’s also designed to be easy to take with you and, in my opinion, is more of a supplemental device to a larger device. That is, of course, your work calls for heavy workloads.

If you’re buying this as a main machine, you can expect excellent performance with this configuration for every daily task and boosted performance for more intensive tasks. Performance is also very dependent on how you configure your order. A system with 8GB of RAM and a slower CPU will not perform like this system with 32GB of RAM and Core i7.

Overall, the performance of this laptop is way above average compared to its competition, and most users purchasing this will be very pleased with this particular configuration.

Speakers/Sound

Like all ZBook’s the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 comes with Bang & Olufsen speakers. And like all the other ZBook’s, these speakers are good. But they’re not outstanding. They are loads better than normal laptop speakers, but they still lack bottom end and can sometimes be tinny sounding.

But they do well at high volumes with no sign of breaking down from the drive. They’re certainly not cinema speakers but do a decent job of delivering okay sound for music and movies when used at a lower volume.

What these speakers do well is voice. Video conferencing sound is excellent, and these will serve you well for meetings and video calls.

HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 1
The 720p camera with privacy shade

Camera

The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 comes with a 720p camera, just like most laptops on the market. Honestly, we’ve been in a situation for well over a year in which many people use video conferencing. New laptops should be coming with a minimum 1080p camera in 2021.

This camera is okay but is nothing spectacular. It’s your basic 720p webcam, and laptop makers need to retire their 720p stockpile and upgrade new laptops to 1080p. Even lower-priced models should get 1080p cameras, especially since many now use these laptops for work and school.

Battery Life

The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 has outstanding battery life! I think this has a little to do with the 250 nits display on this model we have. I’m sure the 500 nits model would drain the battery faster and the 4K display even more so.

Still, I’ve read other reviews where they have used the FHD+ 1080p display and are also getting excellent battery life.

The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 will get most people through a normal light to medium workday with no problem. But, as with any laptop, the more intensive work you throw at it, the more battery life will be impacted.

Price/Value

Pricing is going to depend on how you configure your G8. The configuration we have here is priced out at US$2439. There’s no doubt that these ultrabooks are pricey. But the firepower and performance you get from this are well worth the money.

Wrap Up

The HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 is a powerhouse packed in a small floor plan. I can see the G8 being purchased and deployed to employees as their main work from home laptop. There is more than enough power for some intensive tasks, and the small footprint is excellent for portability and space savings.

The 720p webcam is a disappointment, and our 250 nits display isn’t the right choice. I think the sweet spot for this laptop is the HP 500 nits Dreamcolor display. The speakers are also weak, but this is an ultrabook, after all.

We think the HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 should be on your shortlist when considering high-performance ultrabooks.

*We use revenue-generating affiliate links and may earn a commission for purchases made using them. Read more on our disclaimer page.

Last Updated on August 22, 2021.

HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8

As Configured US$2439

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.0/10

Software/Ecosystem

9.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Speakers/Sound

9.0/10

Camera

8.5/10

Battery Life

10.0/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Amazing build quality
  • Modern and sleek design
  • Lightweight and portable
  • The 500 nits Dreamcolor display is outstanding even though it didn't come on this unit
  • Outstanding performance for an ultrabook, best in its class
  • Phenomenal battery life

Needs work

  • Can get pricey
  • 720p webcam in 2021 during a time when video is more important than ever? Fix this!
  • Speakers are just okay, great for voice but not much more
  • Trackpoing nub needs to be retired. Lenovo keeps it as a tribute but others should retire it.
  • 250 nits display is not a good choice, if you're considering this laptop get the 500 nits Dreamcolor display
HP ZBook Firefly 14 G8 Feature Image Techaeris
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