HP ZBook Studio x360: A Convertible for Designers and More
Steven Schain posted on February 13, 2019 |

With its first computer hitting the market way back in 1966, HP is a true pioneer in the hardware industry. Today, with machines like the HP ZBook Studio x360, the company continues to prove that it can still continue to innovate with the best of them. Starting at $1,999, the HP ZBook Studio x360 is powerful 2-in-1 that is notable for its pure strength and aesthetically-pleasing design. Engineers are going to love how easy it is to take this machine from the office to the field. With the option to purchase a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus, visual artists are also a clear target market.

Weighing 4.9 lbs, measuring 0.8-inches thick, and 15-inches across, the ZBook isn’t the thinnest or the lightest in the category. But, while it may lose a point or two with its relative heft, the Intel Xeon E-2186M, coupled with an NVIDIA P1000, makes up for it in performance. Pure power like this means that software users will have no problem with more intensive programs, and the touch-screen and optional stylus come in handy when sketching out preliminary designs.

First Impressions

The HP ZBook Studio x360’s has a contemporary look with a smooth matte silver finish. I particularly appreciated the unique angled corners on the bottom. Made from precision-crafted machined aluminum, the laptop goes through 14 MIL-STD-810G3 tests to ensure it can survive whatever demanding users can put it through. Holding the machine in your hand, it is clear that HP took great care when considering even the more minute details of its construction. 

Opening the very solid feeling lid requires a little finesse. Yet, once you have it properly positioned, it stays in place nicely. Optional positions include tent, tablet, and laptop mode. Booting the system up, I noticed that the colors on the 15.6-in 4K IPS UHD touch-screen display really popped.

Navigation

The keyboard/trackpad layout of the HP ZBook Studio x360 is typical of many standard laptops. However, since this is both a touchscreen and a convertible, the user can change to tablet mode and work with either finger-based gesture input or the optional Wacom stylus.

Speaking of the stylus, this laptop configuration included a Wacom AES Pen, which is an optional accessory. The pen has a solid feel in the hand and seems very well balanced. The 4096 levels of pressure, tilt sensing, and low latency make it a must-have for any digital artist.

Security

The ZBook Studio x360 is loaded with features to make it a more secure platform. Next to the keyboard is a fingerprint scanner that makes it easy, and super safe, to log in to the system. If you prefer to leverage facial recognition, the built-in infrared camera enables Microsoft Windows Hello. You can even  equip this workstation with an instant-on privacy screen to prevent prying eyes from viewing your work-in-progress.

Besides the physical security features, the HP Sure Start helps keep you one step ahead of malware, rootkits, and bios corruption with self-healing BIOS. Now you don’t have to worry about whether or not your workstation will start when you need it to.

Connectivity

Unlike some of the new breed of ultra-thin laptops, the HP ZBook Studio x360 offers plenty of inputs and outputs to connect your devices. Along the right edge, you’ll find the power port and power LED, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, HDMI port, headset jack and an SD card slot.

On the left edge of the system, there are two USB 3.0 ports (one can be used as a charging port), a Micro SIM slot, security cable slot and the power button. Both sides of the chassis have vents to keep the HP ZBook Studio x360 cool under heavy workloads.

The system comes with a 150-Watt Smart/Fast charger that includes enough cord length to give you flexibility on the road. 

I always recommend that users purchase a dock for an easier office setup. HP’s Thunderbolt Dock lets you quickly hook in to multiple monitors, external speakers, keyboards, and more. 

All-in-all, the ZBook Studio x360 gets high marks in the connectivity department.

Specifications

The as-configured price for the ZBook Studio x360 I was sent is $4,243. The review machine includes an Intel Xeon E – 2186M CPU that comes equipped with six cores and 12 threads. The machine also included a 12 MB cache that ran at 2.9GHz with a boost that went up to 4.8GHz. There are 32GB of DDR ECC 2666MHz RAM and a 1TB solid-state NVMe SSD. You can upgrade to 64GB of RAM and up to a whopping 6TB of internal storage.

The display is a 15.6-in UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS multi-touch with a NVIDIA Quadro P1000 card and 4GB of memory. The Quadro P1000 is a good mid-tier graphics card that utilizes NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture.

The Entry level ZBook Studio x360, offered at $1,999, includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and Windows 10 Pro. The next level starts at $2,699, and includes 8th Gen Intel Core i7 and Windows 10 Pro. The top-of-the-line model features an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor and HP’s 4K Dreamcolor display running Windows 10 Pro for $5,597.

Rounding out this powerful machine, you will find an Intel 9560 802.11AC V Pro wireless-AC adapter, HP’s lt4120 LTE HSPA + Gobi 4G, and Bluetooth 5.0 support.

The user upgradable components, including two M.2 solid state drive slots, are found by removing the back cover. This system came configured with 32GB of memory on one module, but you can upgrade to 64GB at the time of purchase.

Battery Life

The ZBook Studio x360 is equipped with an 11.55 Volt, 7965 mAh battery that HP claims should provide up to 14 hours of battery time. In my first battery test, using only the dedicated P1000 graphics option, running full brightness, and playing full-screen 1080P video, my battery runtime was just over six hours.

During my second test, in which I try to optimize battery life, I opted for the hybrid graphics mode and dimmed the screen to just 25 percent brightness. While performing a series of low-intensity tasks, like reading documents, and browsing the internet, my battery life improved to 9 hours and 57 minutes.

Camera and Sound

The built-in camera is a 720p HD, which gives users just enough clarity for basic video recording. It is more than enough for a sharp picture on most conference calls.

The system includes a built-in microphone, along with a front-facing microphone that works great for everything from calls to advanced noise cancelation. The four Bang & Olufson speakers, two above the keyboard and two toward the front of the base, sound great when watching movies or listening to your favorite music. The sound was really clear, and I felt that it was a real standout for this workstation. The available Dolby Atmos feature provides even better quality when using headphones.

The Display

The UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS 15.6-in panel is a touch screen that includes standard HDR capability and specified brightness of 400 nits. With the help of the Datacolor Spyder 5 Elite monitor calibration system, I found that  the laptop put out an average of 381.7 nits at 100 percent brightness, with a black level of 0.34 nits. The contrast ratio was 1140:1. I found the screen easy to view and work with under indoor conditions, and passable when viewed in direct sunlight outdoors. 

The color quality of the HDR monitor is impressive to the naked eye. But, using both the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, the results weren’t as good as expected. The ZBook Studio x360 screen displayed 98 percent of the sRGB, but just 76 percent of the AdobeRGB Color Spaces. Regardless, all of the video I viewed during the battery test boasted a crisp, clear display. 

At 100 percent brightness, this laptop’s display showed very little variation. The brightest registry was 381.5 nits (or cd/m2), while the lowest was just 359.6 nits, just 6 percent difference in luminance. In other machines, I have seen as high as 40 percent, so this is really impressively stable. 

Out-of-the-box, the color accuracy of the computer was pretty good. The average Delta-E of 2.22 means that the human eye won’t be able to detect much, if any, color differentiation.

Performance and Benchmarks

With its 6-core/12-thread Intel Xeon E-2186M Coffee Lake processor running at 2.9GHz, the ZBook Studio x360 with 32GB of RAM proved that it has the specs to stand out in the crowd. 

Scores

The average multi-core Cinebench 15 clocked in at 1144, which means that the ZBook Studio x360 can hold its own when it comes to heavy-compute rendering tasks. The Xeon processor boasts a single core CPU score of 198, proving that computer users should expect superior performance. 

After performing a Geekbench 4.1 analysis, the single CPU scored 5537 and the multi-CPU scored 22370. This sore again reiterates that the ZBook Studio x360 is clocking in right where you would expect the Intel Xeon E-2186M processor to score. 

From the overall Passmark rating of 5752, we see that the the ZBook Studio x360 ranks in the 96th percentile when compared to like systems.  At its core, the ZBook Studio x360 is a powerful workstation with ample memory and CPU power.

Finally, I ran the SPEC series of benchmarks, but there were no real surprises here. The 2.9GHz Intel Xeon processor really stands out with single thread processes, but, according to the benchmark speed, it doesn’t stack up well when compared to faster multi-core processors. While the NVIDIA P1000 is a fantastic graphics option, I find it a bit underpowered for this level of workstation. The SPEC results prove that the HP ZBook can truly be considered a workstation class machine.

Conclusion

The ZBook Studio x360 is a powerful machine that is worth consideration for individuals looking for a professional portable system. Aesthetically, its sleek design and beautiful 4K UHD touch-screen display, which doubles as a pen tablet for artists is sure to impress. But the real showstopper is the powerful Xeon processor, large number of I/O ports, and easy access to additional storage expansion that are what really make the machine special. Unlike other 2-in-1s that feel a bit flimsy, the rugged durability of the ZBook means that you won’t be uncomfortable taking it to a job site or on the road. 

Of course, all of this design power and durability comes at a price. With a relatively steep entry price of nearly $2k, and optional design features that can boost the price up to more than $5k, expectations are likewise high. After running the tests and benchmarks, I haven’t quite been convinced that you get the boost in power and productivity that I would expect from a machine at this price point. That being said, if you are willing to splurge, I think you are going to be very happy with this machine for years to come.   


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