Detachable Workstation with a Pen!

Review by Bruce Bicknell

How many of you want the portability of a laptop, but need the functionality of your Wacom, 4K display, and accurate Adobe RGB out of the box? As you may know, I’ve reviewed quite a few laptops, desktops, and peripherals in the past, so when asked to take a look at the new HP ZBook x2 G4, I was more than intrigued: A laptop that had a removable keyboard and Wacom-like features so I could create on the go, and not be tethered to my tablet? I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and run it through its paces.

When I received the unit for review and opened the box, I was impressed, but skeptical. It was larger than expected, but I had to admit it looked cool—like something out of one of the recent sci-fi flicks. The new HP ZBook x2 G4 gives you the looks and a whole lot more! Its desktop-replacement features combine with the convenience of a detachable keyboard, so it’s like a “super” tablet that has the features and the horsepower to give the creative crowd something that blows the Microsoft Surface out of the water. Let’s take a look at what this one has to offer.

For me, it’s all about how it can help us, as creatives, to be more productive when we’re away from the studio. The ZBook x2 G4 that I tested definitely brings that to reality with its 14″ (3,840×2,160) 4K HP DreamColor touchscreen display, 1.9-GHz Intel i7-8650U processor, 32 GB of DDR4 SDRAM, 2-GB NVIDIA Quadro M620 video card, and 512-GB SSD drive, as well as a Wacom/HP custom-designed HP ZBook x2 Pen. The horsepower speaks for itself, but what’s impressive is the pen and its capabilities. The ZBook comes with Wacom EMR support, which allows the pen to draw its power from the screen rather than from batteries, so it makes the portability even more pleasant: no more batteries to swap out. The pen supports 4,096 levels of pressure, and the feel is similar to that of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro with similar latency and response, depending on the program you’re using. I used this for my digital paintings as well as retouching/restoring photos for clients while sitting in a deck chair on a cruise, so it’s definitely portable and powerful enough to handle the workload that’s usually reserved for my desktop. This configuration really allows the ZBook x2 G4 to perform, and it’s amazing that they got all of this into a small package.

Now, this is where it gets even cooler! Not only did HP create an amazing workstation, but the design and functionality are remarkable as well. It’s rugged and futuristic with angled corners, a firm kickstand, and cooling vents along the sides that definitely set it off from the crowd. What I loved most is the super-functional bezel design: They made it as thin as possible and functional as well. For example, the sides of the display hold programmable Quick Keys (with which you’ll be familiar if you use a Wacom Cintiq or Intuos Pro’s ExpressKeys). These are critical to maximizing your workflow, and will come into play particularly when you need your pen and not the keyboard. As with your tablet, these can be configured as shortcuts in a ton of apps (not just creative ones), making this highly customizable. The only downfall with the pen is that it only has one button. This had me figuring out new ways to get the same things done that I can with my three-button pen. Was it a deal breaker? No, more of an annoyance, but new hardware often does that to us

Lastly, the keyboard is built to withstand travel. I had it on and off many times, and it snapped back in and connected immediately every time with no issues. The keys reacted well with a feel that’s similar to my standard workstation and laptop keyboards.

This HP ZBook x2 G4 performed well above expectations with my workflow. There are tablets that can surpass the color gamut (iPad Pro), but there’s no system-wide color calibration (or hardware calibration) available in any of them. The price may deter some, but you owe it to yourself to at least check it out. ■