Illustrators, photographers, and videographers are often forced to switch between tablets and desktops for fine detail work on the former and power for finishing projects on the latter. HP’s fix is the workstation-class Zbook x2 ($1,749), a detachable-hybrid 2-in-1 tablet with a 4K screen, 32GB of RAM, and Nvidia Quadro graphics, so you can go from raw footage to a finished video on one device. We’ve tested mobile workstation laptops like the HP ZBook 15 G4 and convertible-hybrids like Lenovo’s ThinkPad P40 Yoga, but this is the first detachable workstation we’ve seen. I was able to spend some time with the ZBook x2 prior to its release and have some initial thoughts.
Brilliant Screen and Keyboard
From the front, the ZBook x2 has a little family resemblance to the HP Spectre x2 tablet, though its thicker sides and beveled corners are unique and eye-catching. Its aluminum and magnesium body is bright silver all over, aside from the black bezel around the touch screen. From the rear, with the kickstand deployed, the ZBook x2 looks like the Surface Pro and other 2-in-1 tablets influenced its design.
The ZBook x2 measures 0.8 by 14.35 by 8.94 inches docked to the Keyboard, and 0.57 by 14.35 by 8.94 inches for the tablet alone. It’s about an inch wider than the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Book 2, because of its 16:9 aspect ratio screen, but it’s less than an inch shorter and 0.1 inch slimmer. The tablet is 0.57-inch thick, which is not bad, but still almost twice the bulk of the Microsoft Surface Pro (0.33-inch). It’s thicker to accommodate a large number of configurations, which we’ll cover below.
The 14-inch touch screen has a 3,840-by-2,160 resolution, so you can view up to four full HD streams or a single 4K video natively. It’s available with optional DreamColor technology, which boosts and enhances color levels. Images and videos have a high level of detail, with bright colors, and the display supports 100 percent of the Adobe RGB color gamut, an important stat for color reproduction.
I had no trouble drawing on the screen with the pressure-sensitive HP Pen, which is powered by the magnetic field under the display rather than discrete batteries. It supports new features in Windows 10 Creators Update, including tilt-pen line thickness and a dedicated eraser tip. The tablet portion of the 2-in-1 weighs 3.64 pounds, which is balanced and light enough to hold in one arm for a few minutes. The ZBook x2 comes with a keyboard base, which increases the combined weight to 4.78 pounds.
The front-mounted webcam is in the usual spot above the display. It has a 720p HD sensor and features IR support for Windows Hello logins. The rear-mounted 8-megapixel camera is mounted top center, and has a wide field of view.
A kickstand pops out to support the tablet on your desk, or you can magnetically attach it to the keyboard base to use it like a traditional laptop. As a laptop, it feels like using a larger version of the HP Spectre x2 or the Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1 because the keyboard’s flexible magnetic connection to the tablet isn’t as steady as the physically locking latch on the Surface Book 2. It’ll instantly switch to Bluetooth wireless mode so you can continue to type and use the touchpad after you disconnect. This setup is more ergonomic when you connect the tablet to an external display. You’ll naturally want to keep the keyboard close for typing, but this setup gives you some distance between your eyes and larger monitors. The keyboard recharges itself when you reconnect it.
The keyboard was comfy to use in the short time I had with it, with flat chiclet-style keys, based on the same key switches as HP’s EliteBook laptops. The wide one-piece touchpad is as responsive as the keyboard and touch screen, even when the keyboard is detached from the tablet body.
Ports are modest, including a headset jack on the left side of the tablet. On the right, there’s an HDMI jack, a power connector, an SD card slot, a USB 3.0 port, and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports with support for charging as well as driving two 4K monitors. A Smart Card slot is built into the keyboard base. Built-in Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi handle wireless connections, and there is an option for an HSPA+ mobile broadband module.
The system can be equipped with a selection of quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 2TB of SSD storage, an optional Nvidia Quadro M620 discrete GPU, and up to 32GB of RAM. The latter is most important to video editors, who often experience slowdowns editing 1080p HD videos with 16GB of memory, the maximum for current 15-inch Apple MacBook Pros, the Microsoft Surface Pro, and the new Surface Book 2.
Flexible Form, Power to Spare
The HP ZBook x2 has the potential to be a videographers’ favored mobile companion, with its combination of power, up to 32GB of RAM, spacious SSD option, and bright 4K screen. It’s a good choice for artists and engineers who like the aesthetics and design of the HP Spectre x2 or Microsoft Surface Pro, but need workstation-certified graphics or twice the RAM. We’re looking forward to running the HP ZBook x2 through its paces in our labs in the coming weeks, check back for our full review with benchmarks .