HP ZBook x2 Hands-on: An Artist Tries This Supercharged 2-in-1

Technology and art are intertwined these days, but creative professionals may require several devices: a tablet to draw on, a PC for editing and, perhaps a Wacom stylus. What if it was all rolled into one? HP’s new ZBook x2, which the company claims is the most powerful detachable on the market, is aimed at letting creatives do everything on one device.

The ZBook x2 will start at $1,749 when it ships in December, and it’s got the specs to back that price up. You can get 8th Gen quad-core CPUs or 7th Gen dual-core processors, and serious GPU power — a unit we went hands on with had an Nvidia Quadro M620 — as well as up to 32GB of RAM. You also get up to 2TB of storage, and, perhaps most impressively, a 14-inch, 4K matte touch screen.

I showed the ZBook to one of our photo editors, Jef Castro, who is far more proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite than I could ever be. His current workflow for drawing includes starting on an iPad and transferring those images to a Mac. But being able to work directly in Photoshop and similar apps without any lag or other issues was impressive to him, and his favorite part was the stylus.

The stylus, designed in partnership with Wacom, has 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity on both the the nib and the eraser, the latter of which Jef said he missed on the Apple Pencil. The display also has keys on the sides for programmable shortcuts, and an app by HP lets you program individually for every app you might use, from Illustrator to Photoshop and beyond.

“The ZBook X2’s Wacom stylus was a welcome familiar experience, as I had switched over to the Apple Pencil over the last year,” Castro said. “Having access to a pressure sensitive eraser just by flipping the stylus was something I was glad to have back. The matte finish of the screen helped eliminate any annoying glare that would get in the way while drawing. My wrist didn’t stick to the screen either and glided smoothly across the surface.”

The keyboard attaches to the tablet in a similar manner to the Surface Pro, but it connects over Bluetooth. This means that you can use keyboard shortcuts from Adobe software (or other programs) with the keyboard set to one side while you draw. An HP rep says it's the same keyboard from the ZBook Studio laptop, though it didn’t feel quite as solid as a detachable.

“The Bluetooth keyboard was a very nice touch for accessing my keyboard shortcuts while not feeling tethered to the screen,” said Castro.

The ZBook x2 is MIL-STD 810G tested and it’s a bit of a beast at a little under 4 pounds, but you can jam it in a bag without worry. If you’re worried about heat, the back is covered in vents. It can be a little warm if you’re moving the unit, but during use the hot air is all blowing away from you.

We’re looking forward to getting to run full benchmarks on the ZBook x2 in our lab for our upcoming full review, but so far we’re quite impressed with what this hybrid can do.

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