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HP zBook x2 G4 DreamColor Review

Overview
Processor

Intel Core i7 8650 (Quad core 8th gen)

Screen Size

14" 4K UHD DreamColor touch with anti-glare

Memory

32Gb

Storage

512Gb HP Z Turbo PCIe (MLC) drive

Battery

70Whr Fast Charging

Materials

Metal & plastic

Operating System

Windows 10 v1703

When I first saw the HP zBook x2, it was connected to HP’s Sprout Pro interactive 3D scanning hardware at an HP demo event. I was mainly there to cover the new HP Envy x2 with its new Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running full Windows 10, but when I saw the zBook x2 I was very interested. This tablet PC was clearly unique. It didn’t look like all the other Windows tablets out there, which are mostly copying the Microsoft Surface Pro designs. It didn’t look like a laptop either, which are mostly copying MacBook Pro designs. This has a hexagonal shape! It has ports on the edges! It has tactile hardware buttons in the bezel! This “mobile workstation” is clearly something special, and we’re going to talk all about it in this review.

Specs

The HP ZBook x2 is available in a good number of different configurations for different price ranges. The version in this review has a quad core 8th generation Intel Core i7 8650 processor, 32Gb of DDR4 2133Mhz RAM, 4K UltraHD DreamColor touch screen with anti-glare, NVIDIA Quadro M620 with 2Gb RAM, a 512GB HP Z Turbo PCIe (MLC) drive, and a 70Whr fast charging battery. It’s also got the Intel vPro WLAN, backlit detachable Bluetooth keyboard, fingerprint reader, Windows Hello face recognition, and Wacom’s EMR stylus tech with tilt sensitivity and 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity.

In the box, we’ve got the tablet PC, a stylus/pen, detachable keyboard, charger, pen loop that attaches to the keyboard, a pen case, and extra pen tips along with a tool for removing the pen tips.

Hardware

Okay, actually the ZBook x2’s tablet PC design is kind of like the Microsoft Surface in that it has a kickstand and a detachable keyboard with a bit of a fold up against the bezel for the slight tilt, but the ZBook x2 has many differences that set it apart.

That kickstand isn’t just a flat piece of metal like a lot of other tablet PC kickstands. This one is just the rim around the bottom edge of the tablet. This design probably allows for more room on the inside of the tablet for all of the other hardware.

The kickstand is fully adjustable for a wide variety of display angles and there’s a good amount of friction to keep it steady. If you’re the type of artist that puts a lot of pressure down on the screen while you’re drawing, its position may slip, so be aware of that.

The kickstand even has offset double rubber bumpers on each corner.

The hinge is very clean and nicely designed with a large rotation barrel.

Now let’s look at the ports on this thing! The right edge has a round barrel power supply port at the bottom. That’s smart because round connectors don’t need any rotational angle orientation when inserting. You just have to point and plug. It’s got a little LED light there to tell you that it’s charging too. Above that are two USB-C Thunderbolt ports. You can charge the ZBook x2’s battery using a USB-C cable if you want to, but the barrel shaped port is much better for charging. The USB-C ports are good for plugging in all sorts of other peripherals like extra monitors, hard disks, etc. Then there’s a full-sized HDMI port. I don’t think I’ve seen one of those on a tablet PC in… ever. This is awesome for plugging into a big screen TV or projector while on the go. No need to remember to bring an adapter. Lastly on this edge we have one full-sized USB-A port because nobody has thrown away all of their USB-A peripherals and replaced them with USB-C versions. USB-C is still kind of awful as a standard, so it’s really great to have a tablet PC with the standard USB-A port on it.

On the upper part of the right edge, we’ve got a full-sized SD card slot! That’s right, you can take the SD card right out of a high-end camera, slip it in here and start working with the photos & video files right away. This is so much nicer than having to carry an SD card adapter dongle around. Above that, the little black rectangle there is a fingerprint scanner for secure logins.

On the left side we have a 3.5mm headphone & microphone port. Below that is the power button which has a distinct indentation that lets you feel for it very easily. The other two buttons are volume up and down, which again have a distinct feel, so you don’t have to actually look at the buttons in order to figure out which is which. Again, this is very smart design that often gets lost on other device manufacturers.

On the bottom end of the left edge there’s a slot for locking the computer up. This is good if you’re a business and you don’t want your hardware walking away, but it doesn’t look like there’s any way to lock the keyboard down.

The top edge houses some “Bang & Olufsen” speakers, but unfortunately their volume and sounds isn’t that great. You’ll want to plug in some headphones or other external speakers for audio work. You can also see here some of the cooling vents that surround the back.

There are two primary cooling vents on the back, but the fins surround the top half. We’ve also got a nice “Z” branding on the back here.

There’s an eight-megapixel camera on the back as well, but you’re probably never going to use it.

On the front in the top bezel there’s an RGB camera plus some infrared blasters and microphones. These sensors fully support Windows Hello face recognition. They seem to require a bit more training than the Windows Hello sensors on the Surface Pro, however. I’m not sure if these sensors are trying to be more accurate and therefore more secure, but it seems that way.

The side bezels are very thick. This is interesting to see in a world where most tech journalists are so attracted to very thin bezels on account of how nice it looks, but these thick bezels have genuine utility. First of all, we’ve got 12 hardware buttons to deal with. There are six on the left side and six on the right side and they’re all programable. Well, actually, the third one from the top on each side with the rectangular indent is hard-coded for mode switching. There are 3 small LED lights above the top button on each side which indicate the mode level the programmable buttons are in and you can press the mode switching button on each side to change the functions of the top two up/down arrow buttons. That gives you about 18 custom programable functions in the bezel and what’s more (as you’ll see in the software section below), those are all customizable on a per-application basis. That means you can have 18 button functions for Photoshop, another 18 for Premiere Pro, another 18 for AfterEffects, etc. This makes the tablet pretty awesome to use as a tablet, since you don’t need to set the keyboard down in order to access all of your keyboard shortcuts. All you have to do is assign your favorite functions to the bezel buttons and you’ve got quick “under-thumb” access to them with one hand while your other hand is using the pen on the screen. This is an extremely efficient way to work.

The bottom edge bezel is actually the largest, but it doesn’t have much user-facing function other than to server as an area for the keyboard to tilt up and secure against with magnets.

The bottom edge is where the detachable keyboard connects. There are pin contacts in the middle and it secures with fairly strong magnets, though they’re not strong enough to hold the weight of the tablet PC by the keyboard, so don’t try to hang it upside down.

The keyboard itself is very nicely designed. It’s a combination of stiff plastic with a rubbery fabric back cover and attachment hinge. The keyboard keys do have the flat chicklet shapes that aren’t as good as the concave/convex shaped keys although the top row and arrow keys do seem to have a different feel to them so that you can find them more easily. The keyboard also nicely has an extra column on the right side where you’ll find dedicated home, pg up, pg dn, and end keys which I love! If you’re a

 user, you probably don’t know what you’re missing in not having those keys. They make navigating text and selecting things in documents so much easier!

The keys are inset within the plastic shell and they have a great amount of travel. Unlike the new MacBook Pro’s from Apple, this keyboard is very comfortable to type on. The trackpad isn’t extremely large or wide, but it’s just as good as most other high-end laptops. Really, you’re going to want to use the Wacom pen and touch screen instead though.

When you detach the keyboard, you might notice a little button on the inside of the attachment bar. That’s a power button for the keyboard which has its own internal battery and Bluetooth radio so that it can connect to the zBook x2 wirelessly. Yes, that’s right, unlike most other 2-in-1 convertible tablet PC laptops, this removable keyboard still works when it’s removed. HP includes some special software that makes it easy to keep the keyboard paired and connected even when removed. You don’t have to do any weird keyboard button pair process like we had to with the Eve V and its Bluetooth keyboard.

On the back of the plastic keyboard attachment bar there’s a MicroUSB port. This can be used for charging the keyboard’s internal battery.

Here you can see how thick the HP zBook x2 is with its keyboard cover closed. It’s not a particularly thin device, but it’s not meant to be. This is meant to be a serious mobile workstation for high-end creative careers.

The left edge of the keyboard has a Smart Card slot for securely accessing your zBook x2. This is in addition to the infrared face recognition and fingerprint scanner, so we’ve got a lot of secure log-in options.

The smart card slot can also be used for this included pen loop stylus holder.

Screen and Pen

As a creative professional that the HP zBook x2 is essentially designed for, two of the most important things about it are going to be the screen and the pen interface. The HP zBook x2 G4 DreamColor edition that we’ve got here has a display on it that’s unlike anything else. First of all, this screen shows the full 100% Adobe RGB 1998 color gamut! That’s a pretty big deal. For a long time, we were happy to get 100% accurate sRGB color gamut, which is a much narrower gamut with a smaller number of colors. Adobe RGB is the larger gamut that’s closer to our human visible color range. It’s also the gamut used on many modern digital cameras to capture images. It’s difficult to show using photos on a web page, but the HP DreamColor display is really gorgeous. The color is practically perfect, and the 3840 x 2160-pixel resolution gives you beautifully crisp detail. By the way, each display is individually calibrated in the factory and the calibration profile is embedded in the recovery partition on the device. We’ve seen one other tablet PC that does factory display calibration for each device (Eve V Review), but they didn’t include the profile in the recovery partition, thus causing risk of losing the profile after a hard reset.  The DreamColor display has an anti-glare surface. In the above photo you can see a Surface Pro 4 on the right and the HP zBook x2 on the left. While, you can still see some highlights from the window light that wash out the color a bit on the HP zBook, it is far less obtrusive and distracting than the highly reflective Surface Pro 4. You’ll see a similar advantage when comparing the DreamColor display to the extra shiny MacBook Pro and iMac screens. The Apple MacBook Pros and iMacs use the DCI P3 color gamut which is larger than sRGB, but doesn’t cover as many of the visible blues and greens as Adobe RGB. Some other tablet PCs like the Wacom MobileStudio above come close to Adobe RGB at 96%, but those can also have backlight bleeding issues. The HP zBook x2 screen does feel very similar to 2016’s Wacom MobileStudio, but the HP zBook x2 is clearly superior. While we’re looking at the Wacom MobileStudio Pro here, there are a few other key differences. The Wacom has a “Wacom Link” accessory that allows you to use it as a pen display for a more-powerful desktop workstation tower or Mac while that’s not possible with the zBook x2. It also doesn’t have a detachable keyboard and you need to get the add-on stand separately. On the other hand, the Wacom has a nice holder for the pen that lets you set it down standing up on the edge for easy grab & go access whereas the HP zBook x2 doesn’t really have a good place to set the pen down while working. The feel of HP’s zBook x2 pen is excellent. You’ve got 4K levels of pressure sensitivity as well as tilt sensitivity. The pen itself feels a bit different from the Wacom Pro Pen 2 in that the pen grip isn’t as soft, rubbery, or contoured. It’s more of a straight barrel pen. That means it’s a bit more difficult to pick up the pen and instantly know by touch which end is the pointy drawing end. There is a springy eraser on the other end which feels practically the same as the Wacom pen erasers. One slightly disappointing thing about this pen is that it only has one barrel button. By default, it’s programmed as a right-click equivalent, but it can be reprogrammed either globally or based on which application you’re currently active in. I wish it had 2 or 3 customizable barrel buttons. I thought that considering the pen technology in the HP zBook x2 is made by Wacom that maybe some of the Wacom pens would just work with it and show up right away in the “HP Create Control Panel”. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. HP’s zBook pen interface was made by Wacom, but it was made to HP’s specifications and thusly is not compatible with Wacom’s other products. Another gotcha to be aware of is that while the pen hardware and tactile programmable bezel buttons are all Wacom, the touch screen hardware is not and therefor does not communicate with the Wacom pen drivers as well as if it were fully integrated. What that means is that palm rejection does not work as well. Palm rejection is actually handled by the operating system, not the hardware drivers. What’s worse is if you need to turn off the “Windows ink” API implementation in the HP Create Control Panel, then palm rejection won’t work at all because Windows 10’s palm rejection doesn’t recognize the older WinTab API interface. Personally, I often like to use touch gestures with my left hand and keep the pen in my right hand for precision interaction, so the segregated touch screen and pen drivers are pretty frustrating. However, I know many creative professionals like to turn the touch screen off completely while working, and with the HP zBook x2, that’s certainly the better way to work. Many professional pen displays and pen tablets that creative pros are used to have dedicated touch-screen on/off toggle switches. The HP zBook x2 does not have a hard coded switch for that, but one of the bezel buttons is programmed as a toggle switch by default, so that will be good to have.

Software

The HP zBook x2 actually ships with an older version of Windows 10. You’ll get 1703, the original “Creators Update”. Our review unit arrived with the Windows Update service disabled in order to keep Windows 10 from updating itself to a newer version. We are advised to use the HP Support app to install updates instead of Windows Update. I thought this was strange, until I remembered how terrible the Fall Creators Update and subsequent Windows 10 Feature updates have been when it comes to the pen interface.

I decided to install the Windows 10 April 2018 update anyway, and sure enough, the pen interface turned to garbage on account of Windows 10’s new pen behavior. It became terribly unreliable to use with “Windows Ink” turned on (scrolling things instead of drawing or simply causing the whole system to become unresponsive), and still palm rejection didn’t work at all with “Windows Ink” turned off in the pen driver’s “HP Create Control Panel”. One of the later Windows 10 updates brought a registry edit option that helps fix the pen behavior only in Win32 based programs, but not the UWP apps and not the Edge browser. You can find out more about that on the Windows Ink Reddit where you’ll also see plenty of comments criticizing this change that has caused so many programs to break. If you do run the update, watch out for using the pen’s right-click in the Edge browser’s address bar… that will make the whole system unresponsive. If you want to be able to upgrade Windows 10 from 1703 in the future and still have a usable pen, please be sure to complain to Microsoft via Reddit, the built-in Feedback Hub, the Answers Forum, Twitter, etc. After installing the Windows 10 updates, I quickly realized my mistake, and did a full restore to factory settings using HP’s recovery partition in order to get it all back to Windows 10 version 1703 and that’s what this review is based on. Hopefully Microsoft will revert to the proper pen behavior in a future Windows 10 update.

Okay fine, I updated to Windows 10 v1803 again after receiving the Wacom HP Create Control Panel driver version 6.3.30-8. That new, as yet unreleased, driver makes the pen interface on 1803 more tolerable in combination with the Registry edit that disables pen scrolling in Win32 programs. Palm rejection still doesn’t work with “Windows Ink” turned off, but having Windows Ink turned on no longer causes system hangs as it did with the older driver. Still, version 1803 removes the ability to select text with the pen in the Edge Browser (without holding down the barrel button). You’ll also lose the ability to snap application windows to the edges of the screen by dragging them from the Task View, and you’ll lose the ability to close windows in the task view using the pen. For some reason, the “X” close button just doesn’t appear if you use the pen to open task view. These are all just more examples of how Windows as a Service really isn’t working. In the meantime, don’t upgrade your HP zBook x2 from Windows 10 v1703 to v1803 at least until you get the HP Create Control Panel version 6.3.30-8.

Of course, you get the usual Windows 10 bloatware games included even though this is really a professional tablet PC mobile workstation. These are easy to uninstall with a right click on the tiles though.

HP also includes a lot of their own software, but many of these programs are genuinely useful.

The “HP Jumpstart” app is probably the most bloat-ware style one that’s included from HP, but it does have some potentially useful links and accessory options especially for a beginner.

The HP zBook x2 has a lot of special security features. We’ve already mentioned the infrared facial recognition, the fingerprint scanner, and the smart card reader, but there’s plenty of software to go along with that. The Workwise software lets you protect and manage the PC with your iOS or Android smartphone. You can lock/unlock the PC based on phone proximity as well as receive tamper alerts.

The motherboard’s BIOS has HP Sure Start Gen3 which protects the firmware from tampering as well. Of course, it also has TPM 2.0 hardware-based encryption, and there’s an HP Client Security Suite that lets you add biometric fingerprint scanning requirements just to power on the device.

The HP DreamColor Assistant is a system tray icon application which you can click to switch between color profiles. This is what loads the factory calibration and gives you 100% Adobe RGB color gamut. You can also switch to other color profiles such as sRGB, DCI P3, DICOM, and BT.709, but I’d stick with Adobe RGB.

The HP Support Assistant is what you’re going to want to use to install driver updates, software updates, and even Windows 10 security updates… especially if you’re going to try to keep this device on Windows 10 version 1703 in order to avoid the awful new pen behavior found in newer versions.

The HP Performance Advisor has some really awesome features and lots of interesting details about your computer. Want to see a block diagram of your computer’s hardware components? No problem!

You can also edit your BIOS settings right here! No need to reboot and attempt some keyboard combination to get into the BIOS. Just launch the HP Performance Advisor, edit the settings, and reboot. It even lets you save profiles for BIOS settings! Incidentally, you’ll have to go here in order to turn on the hardware virtualization options so that you can use Hyper-V to load multiple virtual machines on the HP zBook x2 mobile workstation.

The HP Performance Advisor even has information and controls for software programs you’ve installed. In the above you can see some information about the best Quadro GPU drivers for using Adobe After Effects CC 2018. What’s really awesome about this is that middle part where you have some options for the modifier keys. If you’re used to Mac OS X, what’s the most annoying thing about switching between a Mac keyboard and a Windows keyboard? That’s right, it’s those Ctrl, Alt, Command, Option modifier keys. If you’ve built motor memory for the locations of the Command & Option keys on a Mac, you’ll quickly find that the Ctrl & Alt keys on a PC keyboard have the opposite functions of the Command & Option keys that are in the same locations on the keyboard! This software lets you swap the keyboard modifier key locations so that your keyboard will behave just like a Mac keyboard. That way if you have an HP zBook x2 as a mobile workstation and a Mac Pro or iMac Pro on your desk in the office, you don’t have to adjust your brain for the slightly different keyboard shortcut locations every time you switch computers. How awesome is that?

The HP Create Control Panel looks exactly like a darker version of the Wacom Preferences Control Panel probably because it’s made by Wacom. This is where you’re going to be able to configure all the awesome pen features and the customizable buttons in the hardware bezel. If you already use a Wacom Cintiq, Mobile Studio, Intous Pro, or other Wacom tablet, you’ll already be familiar with this control panel, but if not, there are a lot of useful configuration options here. In the above screenshot, you can see the bezel button configuration screen. In the “Application” row at the top, you can add other programs to the list with the “+” button and then select that program icon to create a completely different hardware button configuration for use when that program is open. By default, many Adobe Creative Cloud applications will pre-populate those settings with recommended button configurations, but there are no limits to how you can customize them. You’ll also see 3 mode buttons where you can configure different functions for the upper two buttons on each side (shaded in blue) while one button on each bezel side can be used to switch between the modes. In the lower area you can select from a bunch of pre-made options as well as several programmable keyboard shortcut options. It’s extremely robust! My photo editor of choice is Adobe Bridge, so I’ve programmed the bezel buttons for easy culling with ratings and select labels along with a dedicated button for opening a selected photo in Adobe Camera Raw for quick edits.

Pen and eraser as well as driver API configuration options are also customizable on an active-program basis. For example, if you want to turn off the “Windows Ink” API interface in an application such as Freehand (which may not work properly with Windows Ink), simply add that program to the Applications row listing, select its icon there, and turn off the “Use Windows Ink” checkbox. Be warned that the Wacom drivers on the HP zBook x2 DO NOT control the touch screen palm rejection like they do on Wacom Cintiq, Intuos, and Mobile Studio products, since the zBook’s touch screen tech was implemented by HP not Wacom. The palm rejection is handled by the Windows 10 operating system instead and that only works through the “Windows Ink” interface, so if you have to turn off “Windows Ink” for some programs, you’ll also want to turn off the touch screen via one of your programmable bezel buttons. Also note when “Windows Ink” is turned off, the pen can use the “WinTAB” pressure sensitive interface, which many graphics programs are capable of using via a preference setting as well. Photoshop’s WinTab usage preference requires creating a text file in the right place, by the way.

Be sure to make a backup of your custom programmed bezel buttons after you’re done setting them up! You never know if a driver update may delete them.

One big thing missing from the HP Create Control Panel is the “Toggle Display” option. So, if you’re using multiple monitors and you want to use the pen on the external monitor instead of the HP zBook x2’s own screen, there is no way to do that. You’ll need to use the trackpad or plug-in a mouse to access applications on the external monitor(s), although another option is to simply mirror the external display as opposed to using it as an extended display.

Pro Graphics Software

The HP zBook x2 actually comes with the Adobe Creative Cloud app pre-installed. That means you don’t even have to go out into a web browser to download it. Just sign in with your Adobe ID and download your Creative Cloud programs. That’s how seriously designed for creative professionals this HP zBook x2 is.

Since the HP zBook x2 has an NVIDIA Quadro M620 GPU, Adobe AfterEffects beautifully takes advantage of that extra graphics processing and CUDA support. This is a big step up from other professional grade tablets that still only had Intel integrated GPUs that didn’t support CUDA.

 

Adobe Dimensions is another graphics program that I had previously been unable to even run on other pro-quality Tablet PCs like the Surface Pro, Eve V, and Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 since it required a dedicated GPU with at least 512Mb of VRAM. That’s no problem on the HP zBook x2 thanks to that Quadro GPU with 2Gb of dedicated RAM! Now I can easily whip up packaging design and swag mockups on the go without having to do my own modeling in a 3D program or get back to my HP zWorkstation tower at the office.

After a photoshoot, I can easily sit down with the art director and rank & cull a large number of high resolution RAW photos very quickly thanks to those programmable hardware buttons in the bezels and of course its huge amount of processing power.

Of course, Photoshop works great. The high-resolution color accurate screen is a joy to work with when it comes to editing photos and video content.

In terms of touch screen features, Adobe has made some huge improvements in the last few years to the touch support in many of their high-end Creative Cloud programs. Lightroom now has touch support that works pretty nicely for scrolling, panning, zooming, though you’ll still need the pen for some precision controls. InDesign and Illustrator both include their own full-touch workspaces which have a completely different UI design from the normal workspaces, although they do have many limitations due to their simplicity. Premiere Pro has some great touch gesture options integrated with the various panels. You can scrub playback in the project panel for selected videos in thumbnail view, you can set in/out points, drag/drop, and even pinch to change the timeline view scale. Photoshop supports multi-touch zoom & panning as well, and they’ve got a new touch panel for modifier keys (though you won’t need that with the bezel hardware keys). Of course, Photoshop supports tilt sensitive controls in the brushes as well as the pressure sensitive control it has supported via Wacom drivers for decades.

Battery Life

Of course, this is going to vary greatly depending on how hard your running the Core i7 processor, Quadro GPU, screen brightness, etc., but with medium to light usage I can easily get through 8am-5pm… about 9 hours. I’m pretty comfortable saying that I wouldn’t need to bring a charger for it on a half-day photo shoot. If you’re using this for an all-day workstation, you’re probably going to want to be close to an electrical outlet at least once a day. The fast charging helps a lot for topping off during lunch, too. Incidentally, you can charge the zBook x2 with a USB-C charger, but that’s going to be a lot slower than using the dedicated circular barrel shaped charger.

As a professional device, I really wish it had a user-removable battery. Internal batteries are always the first things to wear out, so considering how expensive the zBook x2 is and how powerful it is, a removable battery would have extended the life of this tablet PC significantly.

Pricing and Availability

The HP zBook x2 is available in a good number of different configurations. You’ll want to start at the HP online store. Pricing starts at $2,279 for a model with 7th generation Intel Core i7, 8Gb RAM, and 128Gb SSD… and goes up to $5,037 for a version with 8th generation Core i7, 32Gb RAM, and 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD.

There’s even a custom configuration option for the HP zBook x2 so you can really get exactly the options you need or can afford.

Conclusion

We don’t see really high-end powerful tablet PCs too often, but as a graphic designer, it’s a huge treat to see some excellent innovation for creative power users. It’s certainly a niche market, but a very important one. HP likes to compare the zBook x2 to the Microsoft Surface Book 2 since we’ve got a discreet GPU, Core i7 CPU, and a tablet PC 2-in-1 form factor, but I say the zBook x2 is far superior especially for its intended audience. It just has so much more going for it in terms of RAM, Wacom pen interface, wireless keyboard, lots of ports, programmable bezel button commands, and a much nicer screen.

A lot of creative professionals are still buying Apple MacBook Pro laptops based on the misconception that they’re better for creative work, but I’d rather use the HP zBook x2 G4 DreamColor. It has a much better display with 100% Adobe RGB color. The anti-glare coating is extremely useful in areas where a MacBook Pro screen would be riddled with bright reflections. The zBook X2 has a much better keyboard than the MacBook Pro as well. The keys feel so much nicer to type on and of course there are those indispensable “home” and “end” keys. Plus, if you’re not Bi-OSual like me and used to switching between Macs and Windows every day, the zBook x2 even has keyboard modifier customization options so you can make its Ctrl + Alt keys act like the same Command & Option keys on a Mac. The Wacom pen digitizer is again far better than anything you can do on a Mac without plugging in a Cintiq pen display or Mobile Studio Link or turning it into a Modbook. Adobe even had a hand in developing the HP zBook x2 to be the best tablet PC for working in Adobe Creative Cloud programs.

The last time we saw a tablet that was seriously designed for the creative professionals was the Wacom MobileStudio Pro which was released in late 2016 early 2017. I think that one is a more comparable competitor to the HP zBook x2, however both are still quite different. The Wacom doesn’t allow for any keyboard cover attachments, so you’ll have to find your own wired or Bluetooth one. It doesn’t come with a stand either. But the one big advantage is that the Wacom can be used as a pen display for a more-powerful workstation when you’re at a desk. Although the zBook x2 can be configured with hardware that’s much more powerful than what you could get in the older Wacom MobileStudio.

The biggest problem with the HP zBook x2 is the fact that the pen digitizer and the touch screen drivers don’t communicate directly with each other for reliable palm rejection, but I know many artists intentionally turn the touch screen completely off while working and if you do that, the Wacom hardware is top notch. It feels like a Cintiq pen display, which of course feels much better than the pen tech that Microsoft purchased (N-Trig) (which incidentally is used in some of HP’s other tablet PCs like the Envy x2). Wacom’s pen hardware is so much better than Microsoft’s especially given the huge number of customization options in the driver preferences software, I don’t even care that the palm rejection doesn’t work very well.

If you have anything to do with the visual creative side of things and may have a career in graphic design, photography, film making, video editing, motion graphics, 3D animation, 3D modeling, 3D printing, environmental design, architecture, etc., maybe with a little bit of virtual reality design and programming… then the HP zBook x2 G4 DreamColor should be at the top of your list for a new mobile workstation.

Discuss This Post

Positives

- Extremely powerful specs
- 100% AdobeRGB color gamut display
- Wacom pressure/tilt sensitive digitizer
- Detachable bluetooth keyboard
- Programmable hardware shortcut buttons in the bezel
- Lots of expansion ports means no dongles
- Lots of security features

Negatives

- Touch screen and Pen drivers don't communicate directly with eachother for palm rejection
- Thicker & heavier than less-powerful tablet PCs
- Nowhere convenient to keep pen while working

Our Rating
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Bottom Line

This is the most powerful, most capable Tablet PC and mobile workstation of the year.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!