Imagine that you’re a digital artist. You like the idea behind Microsoft’s Surface Pro—a good touchscreen with pen support, tablet form factor for convenience, but adaptable into something like a laptop for when you’ve gotta write an e-mail—but you want something with a bit more potency. Perhaps you need to do 3D modeling, perhaps your Photoshop files are a bit too big and complex, perhaps you use Chrome so the Surface Pro’s 16GB of RAM is too limiting.
Boy, does HP have the answer for you. The ZBook x2 joins HP’s line of Surface Pro-like hybrid tablets, but as the Z in the name will indicate (at least, to those who are overly familiar with HP’s product naming terminology), this is positioned as a workstation-class machine, sitting alongside HP’s other PC workstations.
HP worked with digital artists, designers, and engineers to design and build the ZBook x2. A common theme among such artists is that they use one system for sketching and drawing—typically an iPad—but then have to switch to another computer to do the heavy lifting in Photoshop or other applications. HP’s goal was to build a tablet that supported all the creativity of a tablet and stylus but with enough power to serve as the sole computer. No more migrating workflows between devices; the ZBook x2 should be enough to do it all, whether it be graphics, CAD, or video production.
We know the basic deal of this kind of machine—it’s a tablet with a kickstand and a detachable keyboard—but HP has pushed it far beyond the competition. It has a range of processor options, topping out at the “8th generation” Kaby Lake-R Core i7-8650U: a four-core, eight-thread chip running at up to 4.2GHz. It can have up to 32GB RAM. The chip has an integrated GPU, of course, but the ZBook also has an Nvidia Quadro M620 with 2GB of dedicated video memory. The ZBook can pack in up to 2TB of PCIe SSD storage.
There are two screen options: both are 3840×2160, 14-inch multitouch IPS displays with reduced glare, but you can opt to have a 10-bit-per-pixel DreamColor screen capable of showing the full Adobe RGB color space. HP’s stylus uses Wacom’s technology for 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support with no pen battery required. It supports the inevitable 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.2, as well as mobile broadband. It has both a smartcard reader for corporate authentication and an SDXC card reader. There’s a 720p front-facing camera with IR support for Windows Hello facial recognition and a rear-facing 8MP camera.
Oh, and it also has Thunderbolt 3, with two USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, alongside a USB 3.1 generation 1 Type-A port, HDMI 1.4, and a headset jack.
The detachable keyboard also uses Bluetooth, which means that it still works as a keyboard and touchpad even when detached.
As the Wacom stylus would indicate, HP is aiming the machine at digital artists, and it has a few extra features that may add additional appeal. There are six buttons, each with three functions per button, down each side of the screen. These buttons can be programmed to perform specific commands in whichever application you’re using. The buttons on both sides do the same thing, so a total of 18 different functions can be made quickly accessible through the hardware buttons. The system ships with a profile of Adobe Photoshop shortcuts for these buttons, but they can be customized however you see fit.
In short, the HP ZBook x2 is a lot of computer. Naturally, this has some downsides in terms of size, weight, and price. The tablet weighs 3.6lb/1.7kg. Together with the keyboard, the whole package comes in at 4.8lb/2.2kg. The tablet is 0.6 inches/15mm thick, too. Artist working with HP on the ZBook told us that they didn’t find it prohibitively bulky, however, and that they enjoyed its ability to serve both as their tablet and their PC.
Prices start at $1,749, and the ZBook x2 will become available starting in December.
Listing image by HP