HP establishes a new category—detachable workstations

Expanded line reaches semi-professionals, high-end designers, engineers, and content creators

Robert Dow

When HP announced the new ZBook x2 series back in October 2017 they were not just introducing a new workstation but a new category—the detachable workstation. The ZBook x2 is a culmination of hundreds of hours of research by HP. HP talked to graphic designers, artists, photographers and Creative Cloud Users and the result of their interviews and research is the new detachable workstation and the ZBook x2.

The ZBook x2 is designed for the creative professional from the top down. The processor in our demo machine is the Kaby lake based 8th generation Core i7-8650U (unthrottled version) built on 14nm architecture, and has 4 cores, 8 hyperthreaded running at 2.1GHz. 7th gen Intel processors as well as dual core versions will be available in different SKUs.

The GPU in our unit is a Nvidia Quadro M620 with 512 active shader cores, The M620 is based on Nvidia's Maxwell architecture. Its important that HP is using a workstation GPU, it provides the certified drivers that creative professionals can rely on. The Quadro has a relatively low power consumption (TDP: 30 W) which makes it suitable for the ZBook x2. Unlike the Microsoft Surface book series, the GPUs in the ZBook x2 are housed in the tablet itself (not the keyboard), so users don’t have to compromise when using the machine in tablet mode when the keyboard is detached. This gives one the ability to create and edit while in tablet mode, users are not forced to sacrifice horse power when the keyboard is detached, an advantage over other detachable PCs. HP utilizes a dual-fan active cooling system to keep the processor and GPU cool in the tablet.

The GPU powers a 14-inch, 4K anti-glare UHD Dreamcolor display with over 1 billion colors and 100% Adobe RGB. The display’s matte finish has an etched treatment that allows the Wacom pen to feel more natural and gives one the feeling they are drawing on paper rather than a screen. The Wacom pen is battery-less and is charged from the display itself. The stylus has 4096 pressure sensitive levels with virtually zero latency. HP says the combination of the Wacom pen and textured display is going to provide artists with a great experience.  Adobe CC desktop manager is installed on every ZBook x2 and HP offers 20% off Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan, one-year membership. On the sides of the tablet there are 6 buttons (3 on each side) that can be dedicated keys of Creative Cloud app shorts cuts giving the using the equivalent of 18 short cuts.

Just by its nature a detachable is better suited to artists who have different says of drawing and working with a screen. They can hold the screen in whatever way they are most comfortable, lay it down, etc. In addition the side buttons enable them to avoid switching between screen and keyboard when they’re working.


ZBook Tablet with stylus and dedicated shortcut buttons shown (Source: HP)


The inclusion of Nvidia’s Quadro graphics isn’t the only feature that puts the ZBook in the workstation classifacation; it also has enhanced security. The ZBook includes the HP client security suite, has a finger tip reader, TMP 2.0 providing encryption and Secure Authentication thru Smart Card Reader and FPR. 

The ZBook G2 operates in 4 different configurations, standard laptop and tablet mode and also detached mode when the user can still utilize the Bluetooth keyboard even though detached and also docked mode where the ZBook x2 can power additional displays via its HDMI and Thunderbolt ports. 

ZBook’s 4 distinct modes


The ZBook’s CNC Aluminum cover houses 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, and HDMI, a USB 3.0 port as well and a combined headphone/ microphone jack, a mini-USB port and it also has a Integrated SD flash media slot. The backlit keyboard is also of the same aluminum construction with a leather back.

The new ZBook in Detach Mode

Three cameras are included in the tablet; two front facing 720 HD and a world facing 8MP that also includes Microsoft Hello technology. These cameras along with the Bang & Olufsen speakers are designed to be useful for collaborations and meetings.

The battery life of the ZBook can leave a bit to be desired  with roughly 5 hours. This is understandable considering the horsepower this tablet is packing, not to mention the cooling required. Understandable but could be seen as a drawback.

We ran the ZBook though a variety of benchmarks but did not have a machine that we felt it compared to, the detachable workstation is new category, but just for the sake of comparison, we used a Dell Precision 7710 and a Microsoft Surface Book 2.








The scores were mixed depending on if the test focused on consumer or workstation tasks, both the ZBook and the detachable Microsoft Surface Book 2 show impressive test scores, detachable PC’s have come a long way and can now compete with laptops in performance on many levels. The diffrence between the ZBooks performance and the Surafe Book 2 is that the ZBook houses the GPU in the tablet. This is a very important feature, artist do not have to sacrifice performce when drawing in tablet or detach mode. 

ZBook offerings

The ZBook will be available in a variety or SKUs giving the end-useer the ability to tailor the workstation to their needs. 


HP unveils wide range of workstations for creative professionals.

What do we think?

HP has Spent years interviewing customers in all the categories, and as a result has learned a lot about their needs and desires. The ZBook is the culmination of those studies. At NAB HP showed the widest range of machines for professionals. This ZBook is a machine seeks to appeal to a wide range of creative users including limited budget early-stage designers all the way to super experienced creatives. We think they’ve hit a sweet spot.

HP is has created a new category of Workstations, we think designers are going to really take to the new design and the flexibility it offers. The detachable Workstation is here to stay.