2018 HP ZBook X2 G4 review: This is the best detachable workstation for creative professionals

Hardware Reviews / Reviews
HP ZBook X2 G4

The 3840 x 2160 “HP DreamColor” 4K IPS display is coated with an anti-glare film and is simply stunning.

TA-ratings-94The 2018 HP ZBook X2 G4 is unlike any other detachable workstation most of us are used to. Most other detachable workstations or tablet/laptop hybrids are super thin and built around the idea of portability and general use. The idea of throwing desktop-like specifications into a detachable brings thoughts of a behemoth machine but HP had other ideas. While the 2018 HP ZBook X2 G4 is indeed heavier and bulkier than most other detachable PCs, it’s far from unruly.

This machine isn’t for everyone but its intended audience is going to appreciate it and I fully expect HP to sell these like hotcakes. Read on and find out why the HP ZBook X2 G4 is the best detachable workstation for creative professionals and why it has earned a Techaeris Top Pick for 2018.

Specifications

The 2018 HP ZBook X2 G4 sent to us had the following features and specifications:

  • Operating System: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 8650 (Quad Core 8th gen)
  • GPU:
    • Integrated: Intel® UHD Graphics 620
    • Dedicated: NVIDIA QUADRO M620 (2GB)
  • RAM: 32 GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Storage: 512 GB HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe (MLC)
  • Display: HP DreamColor 14″ diagonal 4K IPS anti-glare LED-backlit touch screen (3840 x 2160)
  • I/O:
    • Headphone/microphone combo port
    • Barrel style power port
    • HDMI 1.4
    • USB 3.0
    • 2x USB 3.1 Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 (DisplayPort 1.2)
    • Smart card reader; SD media card reader
  • Audio: Bang & Olufsen, dual stereo speakers
  • Keyboard: Backlit with function key row
  • Battery: HP Long Life 4-cell, 70 Wh Li-ion polymer (up to 10 hours battery life)
  • Dimensions:
    • Width: 0.53 (in tablet mode) 0.75 (in laptop mode)
    • Depth: 14.35 (in tablet mode) 14.35 (in laptop mode)
    • Height: 8.94 (in tablet mode) 8.94 (in laptop mode)
    • Weight: Starting at 3.64 lbs (in tablet mode) 4.78 lbs (in laptop mode)

What’s In The Box

  • 2018 HP ZBook X2
  • Keyboard
  • Wacom stylus
  • Stylus tips
  • Stylus holster
  • Stylus tip covers
  • Power adapter with barrel style tip
  • Instructions, warranty, and documentation

Video Review

Design

The 2018 HP ZBook X2 G4 is easily the most interesting laptop or tablet design I’ve ever used, period. The unique shape is interesting, fun and eye-catching. I had many people ask me what device I was using when out in public. The combo of its sheer size and shape was enough for curious bystanders to ask the question.

One of the things you’ll notice right off the bat with this device is just how well it is made. All of the materials here are very high-quality. Aluminum is the main material used along with plastics, rubber, and soft-touch materials. Everything fits together solidly and nothing feels cheaply done or like any corners were cut.

HP ZBook X2 G4

The keyboard is the nicest keyboard I’ve used on a detachable.

Starting off on the rear of the device. You’ll find the rear-facing camera, the “Z” logo, and two very large vent ports for pushing the heat away from the internals. HP is particularly proud of this heat management system as the fans are placed in a way that pushes the heat away from the user.

HP ZBook X2 G4

The fans and vents are designed to push heat away from the user.

When you have the HP ZBook X2 G4 in laptop mode you can see the fans push the heat up and away from you. When in tablet mode, if the user is holding it with the vents away from them, the heat will also be pushed up and away. HP thought it would be a good idea to design it this way seeing as this device has the potential to have its CPU and GPU pushed to their boundaries.

Moving along to the bottom edge of the device you’ll find the connectors for the included keyboard. Flipping it over, Bang & Olufsen are proudly featured complete with B&O branding. Moving on to the left edge you’ll find the headphone/mic jack, power button, volume up/down buttons and security slot.

HP ZBook X2 G4

Ports.

Jumping on over to the right edge is where you’ll find your I/O. The barrel port for power, 2 USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI 1.4, USB 3.0 port, SD card reader and fingerprint reader.

Finally, on the front, you’ll find that 4K display with a matte finish that cuts glare down nicely. The front also houses the front-facing camera, WLAN antennas, camera lights, and internal mics. But HP isn’t done with the front of this device because you also have “HP Quick Keys” on the front. Flanking either side of the display are a row of buttons that can be programmed to quickly access shortcuts you might use frequently.

The keyboard is a full-size keyboard with a huge amount of keyboard functions and features. There is a MicroUSB port to charge the keyboard should you want to do that separately. The HP ZBook X2 G4 will charge the keyboard when attached but it’s nice to have that option. There is also a smart card reader (select models) which doubles as a slot to slide the stylus holder. I wasn’t a huge fan of the stylus holder and felt it was an afterthought.

I will say that this thing is built like a tank. HP says this machine was designed to pass expanded MIL-STD-810G testing and has HP Active Cooling designed for 24x7x365 workloads. I know I wouldn’t want to drop it on my foot.

HP ZBook X2 G4

Fingerprint reader

Overall, the HP ZBook X2 G4 is a brilliantly designed detachable with tons of features and functionality. It is a bit heavy and not the easiest to bring along if you’re wanting to pack light. But we have seen heavier portable devices than this and it is impressive the amount of tech packed into this footprint.

Display

The 3840 x 2160 “HP DreamColor” 4K IPS display is coated with an anti-glare film and is simply stunning. The display is LED-backlit and also touch-enabled, which should be expected from a detachable configuration. HP says this display has 1 billion colors and 100% Adobe RGB. Colors are true to life, vibrant, yet not oversaturated or unnatural.

The matte display reduces glare and improves viewing angles really well. HP says the display gives you a “paper-like” inking experience when using the Wacom stylus due to its textured finish. The display does a good job of resisting fingerprints unless you’re picking the HP ZBook X2 G4 up and your fingers get on the display. Simply tapping and interfacing with the touchscreen resists fingerprints well.

4K display

The fact that the colors on this display are true and not oversaturated is important for creatives. Most photographers, videographers, and artists like to work with clean and true colors so they can throw in their own color grading. Having an overly saturated display might look good to a normal user but these artists need a more natural rendering.

If you’re looking for slim and thin bezels, well, you’re not going to find them on the G4. The bezels around the display are significant but there are some great additional functions in those bezels with the HP Quick Keys.

HP ZBook X2 G4

HP Quickkeys

Now, the display is very amazing but I’ve said it before: for day to day use, 4K is overkill and text is hard to read on a 14″ screen at 4K. So I ran the display scaled up 200% for regular work and web browsing. Scaling it back to 100% while using Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom is great.

Overall, the display is amazing. Colors are true, blacks are deep, whites are clean, and everything is crispy even scaled up.

Software/Ecosystem

The HP ZBook X2 G4 is running Windows 10 64-bit for its core operating system. There’s not much to say about Windows 10 and I think most of us are very familiar with it. Since Windows 10 is compatible with touchscreen devices using this in tablet mode is perfect.

HP also includes some other software with the G4. The HP Client Security Suite Gen3 is one of the additional software features. This software adds things like data protection, device protection, and identity protection. HP’s Sure Start Gen3-11 is also included. This software adds things like BIOS protection, self-healing, and regular checks.

HP ZBook X2 G4

Made with Adobe CC users in mind.

The HP ZBook X2 G4 was built around the use of Abobe CC but you will need a subscription to Adobe’s suite of apps in order to use these. HP does add the Adobe CC login to its menu so it makes it super easy to get started in downloading the Adobe apps you want.

I didn’t find much bloatware here unless you count the added security features HP adds. Overall, the software is what you would expect here. If you’re an Adobe CC user this machine was built with you in mind.

Performance

The HP ZBook X2 G4 is built for performance. Our review unit was pretty much the maxed out version with the following performance specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 8650 (Quad Core 8th gen)
  • GPU:
    • Integrated: Intel® UHD Graphics 620
    • Dedicated: NVIDIA QUADRO M620 (2GB)
  • RAM: 32 GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Storage: 512 GB HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe (MLC)
  • 3D graphics

These are impressive specifications for a device of this size and style. While there are other similar devices on the market such as the Surface Pro, they do not have the muscle the G4 has. First, I found the G4 handled everyday tasks with ease. So web browsing, email, social media, content consumption, productivity apps, and most of the day to days were fast and had absolutely no issues.

Now, that’s not exactly what this machine is built for so let’s get to what it is built for. The included Wacom Stylus is very precise, I’m not an artist but I did test a few drawing apps and I can just imagine what a real artist would be able to do with this. The stylus has great control allowing for easy fast or slow strokes without any jitter or lag. The stylus also does well with alternative brushes in Photoshop, again, no lag that I could detect.

HP ZBook X2 G4

Matte display with little to no glare.

The stylus also has a pressure sensitive eraser allowing for cleaner and more precise erasing of lines. As for comfort, the stylus felt natural in the hand and was a good thickness where it felt like a real writing utensil. HP also provides some extra stylus tips with varying feels so you can really hone your preference and feel.

The 4K display performed fantastically. Pinch to zoom was smooth and clean and is really helpful in Photoshop and Lightroom when trying to touch up photography work. As I mentioned before, the colors on the 4K panel are true, giving the creator a clean canvas to create their work as they want.

I don’t do much drawing at all but the few drawing apps I used, very briefly, worked very well. Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro all worked brilliantly here. I was able to have multiple files open in all of these Adobe apps without feeling any lag or bogging down of the system. With the dedicated NVIDIA graphics you are better able to edit 4K video, other laptops without this can do it but they struggle.

Since everything is inside the tablet portion of the HP ZBook X2 G4, meaning the CPU, GPU, and all the performance goodies. I found no performance differences between tablet and laptop modes. I will say, for my use case, I didn’t find myself using tablet mode very often. I don’t know if it’s just because I am used to a keyboard and laptops or if it didn’t fit my workflow.

HP ZBook X2 G4

Controls

That being said, having the tablet mode option with this much performance and power is certainly a great option. Especially for those who might benefit, which I think are artists who create with the stylus. The HP Quick Keys along either side of the display are also super convenient for those who use certain tools and want quick easy access to them.

Overall, the HP ZBook X2 G4 should earn a well-deserved reputation as a powerhouse performing detachable. It has all the internals most creators using heavy apps such as Adobe CC need inside a relatively small and portable package.

Speakers/Sound

The Bang & Olufsen speakers on the HP ZBook X2 G4 are really impressive for a laptop/detachable. I actually found myself enjoying movies with just these speakers. They’re not perfect for entertainment consumption but they are certainly better than a lot of other laptops on the market. They have some low end to them and they’re not as tinny as some of the competition.

That being said. If you’re a video editor, it goes without saying you’ll want a nice pair of headphones. While these Bang & Olufsen speakers do a good job for general use. They’re not going to give you the absolute best audio quality needed when editing videos with sound.

Overall, these are really great speakers for general use. For serious audio, you will need headphones.

Camera

Yes, the HP ZBook X2 G4 has a front and back camera. The front camera works just fine for video conferencing but is really nothing super special, it’s your typical laptop camera. The rear camera, I mean, I’m really not sure who’s going to be snapping photos with this thing. It would be very awkward and heavy to hold so it would be pointless in my opinion. The cameras are fine, and I guess in a pinch they’ll do but users won’t be buying this device for its cameras.

Battery Life

HP says you should get up to 10-hours of battery life on the HP ZBook X2 G4. That’s with basic regular use though, don’t even pretend to think you’ll get that battery life when running Adobe apps with a lot of files open. I was able to get almost 10-hours a few times with regular use but any sort of heavy load will stress the battery. Battery life is going to depend heavily on your use case. Not everyone uses a device the same way so you could get more or less than others.

Price/Value

The new HP ZBook X2 G4 starts at $2699USD for the base configuration. You can run it up further with RAM and SSD upgrades but even the base model still gets the 4K display and 16GB of RAM so it’s no slouch. As for value for money, this is really going to depend on the user. The target audience for this device is likely buying it as an investment into their art form. For those users, this may hold a vastly higher value than someone just buying a device for personal use.

Wrap Up

There is no doubt in my mind, the HP ZBook X2 G4 is the best detachable PC for creators and artists. It has the power and features under the hood to satisfy the work needs of photographers, designers, videographers, and artists. I wouldn’t recommend this device for the average consumer just looking to do basic work or even basic Adobe work. This is a power users device and it’s a stellar one at that.

*We received a review unit of the 2018 HP ZBook X2 for the purposes of this review.

2018 HP ZBook X2 G4

$2699USD +
2018 HP ZBook X2 G4
9.4

Design

9.5 /10

Display

9.5 /10

Software/Ecosystem

9.5 /10

Performance

10.0 /10

Speakers/Sound

9.0 /10

Camera

9.0 /10

Battery Life

9.0 /10

Price/Value

9.5 /10

Nailed it

  • Really bad ass design
  • Great keyboard
  • Premium build quality built to last
  • Great I/O options for a detachable
  • Power and performance
  • Great display
  • Tablet can be used for pro apps

Needs work

  • Heavy and awkward
  • Price tag is high
  • Pen holder was an afterthought
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