HP Unveils Its Answer to Surface Book 2

Posted on October 18, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 24 Comments

HP Unveils Its Answer to Surface Book 2

Well, that didn’t take long. HP today announced its ZBook 2, which the firm touts as the world’s first detachable workstation. But what this really is, I think, is an interesting answer to the Surface Book 2, and to the limitations of Microsoft’s laptop.

So interesting timing, that.

It’s not clear if HP knew that Microsoft was going to announce Surface Book 2 this month—my sources say no—but it is pretty clear that both devices target the same audience: creatives. It’s also clear, looking more closely at both devices, that HP may have an edge with that very audience. In fact, it is not coincidental that HP launched the ZBook 2 at Adobe’s Max Conference today. Whereas Microsoft announced Surface Book 2 virtually. The other day.

To be clear, I really like Surface Book. But I admit that there are some design curiosities—if not outright mistakes—that make this device less than perfect for the creative audience it targets. The key one being that the full power of the device is not available to it if you remove the screen from the keyboard: The GPU is in the keyboard. Likewise, you lose the keyboard and the touchpad, as there’s no way to use that keyboard base wirelessly.

HP addresses these and other Surface Book 2 issues in the ZBook 2. Like Surface Book 2, the ZBook 2 provides (up to) quad-core 8th generation Core processors (like Surface Book 2, it can be configured with much less capable dual-core chips), NVIDIA Quadro M620 graphics with up to 2 GB of RAM, and up to 32 GB of system RAM (compared to 16 for Surface Book 2), and speedy SSDs up to 2 TB (compared to 1 TB for Surface Book 2). And it features a high DPI 14-inch IPS or “Dreamcolor” display.

But the big deal here, I guess, is that all the PC guts are in the tablet part of the PC. So you don’t lose any functionality if you detach the keyboard. It’s large and heavy, for sure, but it supports an active pen with tilt and 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. The battery is rated at up to 10 hours.

As important to creatives, HP is really turning it up a notch with deep Adobe integration: It features customizable buttons that are preprogrammed with shortcuts for Adobe Creative Cloud applications like Photoshop. The cost is $1799 and up.

I saw this device a few weeks back at an HP briefing, but I can’t claim to have spent too much time with it. I’m not the target market, of course. But I have to wonder about the viability of this device versus the Surface Book 2 for working creatives. That is, the Surface Book 2 looks great for business users and even gamers. But it seems like HP may be onto something when it comes to creatives.


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Comments (24)

24 responses to “HP Unveils Its Answer to Surface Book 2”

  1. dhallman

    ugly. Would anyone that values design (creatives) work on this? It does not inspire. It repels.

  2. HellcatM

    It looks more like a Surface than a Surface Book. You need the kickstand, it doesn't look like it has a hinge like the Surface book.

  3. RickMac

    It does look like an intern put it together in a shed on HP's campus. A bit like a science project, but no doubt it is function over form.

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  5. GetEdumated

    Too bad it's so ugly.

  6. the_zeni

    Hard to believe this ugly monstrosity comes from the same company that gave us the beautiful spectre x360 and spectre 13. But I guess beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

    Other than that, the specs are top notch.

  7. wright_is

    Why not put all of the computing power in the base and just have the tablet part as a display? That would make it much lighter and easier to handle.

    I'm guessing pen-lag induced by current wireless technologies would probably be the limiting factor...

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  9. lvthunder

    If you noticed at the Adobe keynote today all the PC's were Surfaces. Or at least all the ones I saw.

  10. RobertJasiek

    This is not meant to compete with Surfaces but with Wacom tablets and shares their major advantages (semi-matte display, fast, Wacom digitizer, Windows) and disadvantages (16:9 display, fan, heavy, unpleasant chassis design for handholding). While I understand that there are people needing such devices for fast graphics editing (but why 16:9 for that purpose?), still I wait for the first tablet combining the advantages (especially a (semi-)matte display) except for being (too) fast (office speed is enough, and silent and long battery duration are much more important) with the opposite of the disadvantages so 4:3 (or 5:4 or - inferior - 3:2 display, silent, light to reasonable weight, handholdable). The ideal hybrid of Windows tablet / detachable, ebook reader and iPad is still missing.

  11. Nonmoi

    Paul, you ... got the name wrong, it is called ZBook x2.

    While there is never a ZBook x1, the current naming scam of HP seems to suggest that x prefixes are commonly used for tablet and convertibles. (i.e. EliteBook x2, EliteBook x360 and so on.)

  12. lancert

    I had THREE HP Envy's that completely fell apart due to their stupid hinge issues after a very short time. I will NEVER buy another HP computer, EVER...unless they're really low priced, but even then, it'd be tough to convince me.

  13. PhilipVasta

    This isn't directed toward you, Paul, but in general I'm growing pretty tired of the word "creatives" referring solely to graphic artists. I get it, pen integration (which I do love) on these tablets makes that demographic a low-hanging fruit. But it's slightly irritating that there seems to be no investment into musicians (that's me) or other creatives like videographers. In fact, although I personally have no use for it, I'd argue a GarageBand-style app would be used by WAY more people than the 3D stuff in the new Paint. For any high school with a decent budget, GarageBand is the go-to program because it's solid and cheap. Same goes for iMovie. Where is the support for these creative fields?

  14. Kevin

    To me this really isn't a proper comparison to Surface Book, but to Surface Pro. It doesn't address the biggest reasons as to why someone would want a Surface Pro type of detachable over a Surface Book style of device. For years we've heard bloggers and reporters disparage the Surface Pro styled device's lapability, screen size, processing power, battery life, etc. The Surface Book 2 addresses most of these issues whereas the Surface Pro styled device addresses a different category. I see in no way how this HP device changes that argument other than the bumped up memory. The dGPU in this device may be able to run MR, but it will most likely not run it nearly as well as the SB2. For me personally, who is looking for a single device that can do it all (game, work, MR, pen, dial,entertainment, etc,) this will barely be sufficient for the life of the device, whereas SB seems more reasonable despite the price difference.

    • wright_is

      In reply to drewidian:

      But for professional engineers etc. Quadro / Firepro is a minimum for graphics on a workstation... Given that the Surface Pro doesn't have a dGPU, it doesn't even come into the equation.

      And having those graphics available in detached mode is the USP for the ZBook x2. If you need the dGPU for your design software, detaching becomes an impossibility, or at the very least an inconvenience, because the display will stutter.

  15. sgbassett

    I agree with the other comments (Standard) that the ZBook 2 is truly ugly. I realize this is a business tool and it doesn't have to be pretty to do its job. But I have always been proud to pull out my Surface Book and it receives many compliments, particularly once onlookers see the magnificent display.

  16. skane2600

    Is "creative" development really an on-the-go activity? IMO, better to sink the extra 2-in-1 "tax" into a higher performance desktop PC.

    • William Kempf

      In reply to skane2600:

      Depends on the "creative" activity. Photographers, for instance, need such on-the-go activity. Final production will likely happen in the "office", but on locale editing is still important. Artists often have to go to their subject matter as well. Lot's of creative processes need mobile as much as any other person does.

  17. PincasX

    What is the point of a detachable screen it is to heavy to be used as a tablet? And sweet Jesus, that thing is ugly as all hell. Good luck HP I think you are going to need with this one.

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