HP ZBook x2: a tablet workstation

100% Adobe RGB, NVIDIA Quadro, ports, fast charge

Today at Adobe MAX in Las Vegas, Hewlett-Packard announced the HP ZBook x2, a “detachable PC” tablet more powerful than Microsoft’s Surface Pro that uses a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard akin to mobile devices. HP favors function over form in this machine, with 8th generation Intel ultrabook CPUs, a workstation-style Nvidia graphics card, a nice assortment of inputs, an HP Wacom EMR pen, and a high quality 14″ screen.

The HP ZBook x2 operates in four modes: laptop, detached, docked and tablet. The machine is designed to solve the performance and mobility needs of 2D and 3D artists, engineers, designers, and digital imaging professionals who want to push pro applications higher wherever they might find inspiration. To better meet the needs of the creative community, HP is offering a discount on Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as 18 time-saving shortcuts with its customizable, application-aware HP Quick Keys.

The battery-less, HP-designed pen is based on Wacom EMR technology, offering 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with multi-directional tilt capabilities and a dedicated eraser.The HP ZBook x2 is scheduled for order in December starting at $1,749, with no other pricing info available yet (datasheet).

Feature highlights include:

  • Faster 8th generation Intel ultrabook CPUs — Intel i5-8250U (Turbo Boost, 6 MB cache, 4 cores, Intel 620 graphics), or i7-8550U or i7-8650U (Turbo Boost, 8 MB cache, 4 cores, Intel 620 graphics)
  • NVIDIA Quadro M620 (2 GB GDDR5) with dual-fan active cooling system
  • 14-inch diagonal, 4K multi-touch matte-finish display
  • Optional 10-bit (8+2 FRC dithered rather than true 10-bit as explained in previous PVC review by Alan Tepper), one-billion color HP DreamColor display with 100% Adobe RGB color
  • Up to 2TB of local PCIe SSD storage
  • Up to 32 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports (DisplayPortTM 1.2) , HDMI 1.4, USB 3.0 (charging), 2 USB 3.1 Type-C, full-sized SD card slot
  • Front and back HD webcams
  • Bluetooth keyboard works without needing to be attached.
  • Fast charge (50 percent in 30 minutes) for an estimated 10 hours of battery life
  • Secure and manageable system to protect data, device and identity, including facial recognition and fingerprint reader
  • Aluminum and die-cast magnesium body at 3.6 pounds in tablet mode and 4.8 pounds in laptop mode

The HP ZBook x2 compares well with other recently announced 8th generation “Kaby Lake R” ultrabook CPU machines like the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and the HP Spectre x360 that also offer nice displays, pen support, and GPU acceleration. Note that the 8th generation ultrabook processors increase core count, and are much faster than before, but they do not outperform 7th generation true quad core machines like the MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 15.

The HP Spectre x360 (Mobile Tech Review video) offers the best value of the bunch with good if somewhat less capable pen, screen gamut, RAM, and GPU — but it comes with very pleasant 2-in-1 design (see earlier review for artists).

The Surface Book 2 (see video from The Verge) is also very attractive, but has better pen support than the HP Spectre x360 and much more capable GPUs (Nvidia GTX 1050 2GB or 1060 6GB). Its tablet section is very light and has a bright screen with a high contrast ratio. The base section offers a decent number of ports, but lacks Thunderbolt 3 unlike both HP computers. The Surface Book 2 is also limited to 16 GB of RAM.

The HP ZBook x2 may not beat the others noted here on keyboard quality, but it outdoes the other two machines with better pen support, greater number of ports (including Thunderbolt 3), 10-bit 100% AdobeRGB screen gamut, 32 GB RAM option, 2 TB SSD support, and pro 3D app support. Of course, all this must come with a price still to be determined.

There a few interesting looks on this new product out already, including HP’s new workstation tablet makes Surface Pro look like Surface Amateur at ArsTechnica, HP ZBook x2 Hands-on: An Artist Tries This Supercharged 2-in-1 at Laptop magazine (artist comments in video), and HP ZBook X2 hands-on: A hulking tablet for a niche audience at Engadget. Here’s video from Engadget and ProPost News video.


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Rich Young is a long-time After Effects user from the San Francisco Bay Area. His After Effects and Premiere Pro round-ups provide viewers with an easy-to-digest summary of developments. He also supplies info and links…
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