HP ZBook Firefly G9 review: premium features outweigh lack of range options

The HP ZBook Firefly G9 is a powerful premium laptop, but does it hold up in comparison to its peers?

HP ZBook Firefly G9 side view
(Image: © Beth Crane)

Our Verdict

The HP ZBook Firefly G9 laptop is a pleasure to use, although the fan kicks in early and often. It should be able to handle the majority of creative tasks, but creatives looking for a real powerhouse will need to invest in expensive RAM and graphics card upgrades, which aren’t available worldwide.

For

  • Fantastic speakers
  • Great keyboard
  • Strong and solid

Against

  • Annoying pg up/pg down keys
  • Upgrades not available worldwide
  • Noisy fan

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Specs

HP ZBook Firefly 14 inch G9 Mobile Workstation ZBook Closeup

(Image credit: Beth Crane)

CPU: Intel®️ Core™️ i7-1265U (10 cores)
Graphics: NVIDIA® T550 Laptop GPU
RAM: 16 GB DDR5-4800 (8GB-64GB available with custom options)
Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1200, IPS, anti-glare, 250 nits, 45% NTSC
Storage: 512 GB PCIe® NVMe™ TLC SSD (256 GB-2 TB available with customisation)
Ports: 2x USB-A 5Gbps, 1 HDMI 2.0, 2x Thunderbolt Type-C 40Gbps, 1x headphone/microphone combo
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E AX211, Bluetooth 5.3 (optional)
Camera: 5 MP webcam
Battery: 51WHr
Size: 315.6 x 224.3 x 19.9 mm (12.4 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches)
Weight: 1.47 kg (3.24lb)

The HP ZBook Firefly G9 is the latest offering from HP’s ZBook series, aimed specifically at pro-level users; businesses looking to run pro apps, display powerpoints and with an expectation of reliability. 

At $2,049 for the basic model, it’s in the market alongside the Dell XPS 17 9710 as a customisable, high-grade laptop suitable for creative tasks across the board. If you’re looking for something more specific, check out our list of the best laptops for graphic design

I used the 14-inch version of the HP ZBook Firefly G9 for a week, across a range of writing jobs, design work, video calls and photo editing. I also ran a series of benchmarks to see how it compares to other laptops and workstations.

 HP ZBook Firefly G9: Design and display 

HP ZBook Firefly G9 front view

(Image credit: Beth Crane)
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The first thing you notice with the HP ZBook Firefly G9 is the minimal outside; it’s a silver aluminium construction on top and bottom, with a thin plastic bevel around the screen. Out of the box, it looks and feels great to use. The 16:10 screen (as opposed to the standard 16:9) is pleasantly tall, giving a larger workspace, and the anti-glare coating is effective; I’ve frequently used it sitting with my back to a bright window and had the screen still be legible.

The keyboard is well-spaced and solid, with good travel and a satisfying yet not-too-loud sound. There are three backlighting options, bright, dim and off, and as a night owl, that’s appreciated!  There’s also a programmable key, which is always welcome. The touchpad is also very spacious, making it very easy to move the mouse around.

The one issue I’ve had with the keyboard is the close proximity of pg up and pg down to the arrow keys; while editing text I’ve often leapt up and down pages while trying to go a single space to the left or right, which is a pain. There is a fingerprint scanner included as an upgrade option, although I was unable to get it to function or even be detected as a device. Unfortunately, as per some online sleuthing, this seems to be a relatively common problem with integrated HP fingerprint scanners, and one without an easy fix.

Build-wise, the port locations are very practical. I appreciate the flexibility of having two USB-C ports, either of which can be used to charge the laptop, as well as a USB-A on either side, meaning that wired devices can be sat on either side without trailing cables everywhere.

Another welcome addition is to the F-row: a microphone mute key, meaning you aren’t left scrambling for the in-program button if you urgently need to turn off your mic during a call. And for those worried about webcam security, a physical webcam cover makes it quick and easy to hide yourself with a single flick.

HP ZBook Firefly G9: Protection features 

HP ZBook Firefly G9 Fingerprint and Directional Keys

(Image credit: Beth Crane)
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As a constant user of Tiles (on my keys, my wallet and, with slightly less success, my dog) I’m always keen to see a product with an inbuilt Tile. This adds GPS tracking and the ability to “phone” your laptop, meaning that if you’re in the habit of leaving it in slightly odd places around the house (or elsewhere), it’s far harder to lose. The laptop also comes with HP Wolf Security, business-focused security software that works across the majority of HP business products, including printers, ensuring that security can be maintained throughout an organisation. 

HP ZBook Firefly G9: Performance 

HP ZBook Firefly G9 Mobile Workstation showing Photoshop

(Image credit: Beth Crane)
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The HP ZBook Firefly G9 is (in the US) an extremely customisable unit, making it easy to add extra RAM and storage without the hassle of self-installing. The unit I tested had 16GB RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB storage, a backlit keyboard and a fingerprint scanner included. The base unit has 8GB RAM, an Intel Core i5 processor, 256GB Storage, no backlighting on the keyboard and no fingerprint scanner and a maxed-out version can have up to 64GB RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor, and 2TB storage.

An issue that is relatively common with slimline laptops is overheating, and unfortunately, it’s no different for the Firefly. When running a fairly ordinary game (Stonehearth) the laptop fans became very loud and the underside of the laptop was warm. This was not unexpected, however, and is easily solved with a riser stand. The noisy fan doesn’t bode well for creative work that may require more attention to audio detail, however.

The laptop claims a battery life of up to 13 hours, although with my heavier use I found myself reaching for the charger cable around twice a day. It is definitely extremely quick to charge.

I ran the HP ZBook Firefly G9 through several benchmarks to see how it measures up and the results reflected my opinion: it’s a good machine, but not the top of the line.

PCMark recommends an Essentials score of 4100+ (which the Firefly more than doubles with an Essentials score of 9525). This reflects how well the computer does a variety of simple tasks, such as opening apps, video conferencing and web browsing. They recommend a Productivity score of 4500+ for typical office work and light media content (typically for elements such as using spreadsheets and writing). The HP ZBook Firefly G9 scored 8638. And for digital content creation, which the Firefly G9 is specifically designed for, the recommended Digital Content Creation score is 3450+, with the workstation scoring 6380. This covers elements such as photo editing, rendering and video editing.

Going into more depth in terms of benchmarking, I also ran the Pugetbench for Photoshop and Premiere Pro benchmarks. These compare the system with a benchmark system (AMD Ryzen 5900X 12 Core processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 10GB graphics card, 64GB of RAM, Samsung 960 Pro 1TB storage and running Windows 10 Pro). The Photoshop Puget score was relatively good at 654, beating the Dell Inc. XPS 15 7590 and the Acer Predator PH315-53 but falling short of the Apple MacBook Pro. Its Premiere Pro score was lower at 493, with its lowest score being in Effects, beating the Dell XPS 9570 but overall comparing quite poorly.

Another model of the HP ZBook Firefly G9 had also been run through Puget, and it showed the difference that the graphics card and RAM can make; with the levelled-up graphics card and 32 GB RAM, the higher-spec version almost doubled its Premiere Pro score to 892.

HP ZBook Firefly G9: Speakers 

HP ZBook Firefly G9 B and O Closeup

(Image credit: Beth Crane)

The HP ZBook Firefly G9 has excellent speakers, worthy of the Bang & Olufsen label. They offer crisp, clean high end and the low end is tight and clean, if a little quiet (which can be expected from laptop speakers. The high mids could stand to be a little more articulate, but this is likely a tradeoff for not having the typical laptop scratchy present peak that haunts most laptop speakers.

The speakers are mounted underneath the laptop, meaning that for the best audio performance the laptop should be on a hard, flat surface. They still perform admirably on a lap while working, and give their worst performance on soft, flat surfaces such as sofa cushions.

Should you buy the HP ZBook Firefly G9?

The HP ZBook Firefly G9 is only available in one iteration in the UK at present, which is the model tested (16 GB RAM, i7 1255U Processor, 512 GB SSD storage) at a price of £1438.80. In the US it’s available in a far more customisable format and a customisable price range to match, ranging from $2,049.00 for the base model to $5,389.00 for the top of every spec.

In comparison with the Dell XPS 17 9710, which is equally customisable, and the MacBook Pro 16-inch, the The HP ZBook Firefly G9 pulls its weight, but the 16GB RAM version is underpowered for higher-powered jobs like video rendering or audio design. While it should be able to handle most of the work that’s thrown at it, anyone looking to focus on video rendering or music production will want to upgrade to a more expensive version — an option that isn’t yet available in the UK.

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The Verdict
8

out of 10

HP ZBook Firefly G9

The HP ZBook Firefly G9 laptop is a pleasure to use, although the fan kicks in early and often. It should be able to handle the majority of creative tasks, but creatives looking for a real powerhouse will need to invest in expensive RAM and graphics card upgrades, which aren’t available worldwide.