Hardware Review Video: The HP ZBook Studio x360

A look at whether the latest ZBook convertible holds up as a mobile workstation.

Full written reviewHP ZBook Studio x360: A Convertible for Designers and More

Video transcript: Today we’re going to talk about the HP ZBook Studio x360, the latest in HP’s ZBook lineup of mobile workstations. It’s a convertible laptop that targets the high performance requirements of engineers and designers. But does it live up to those expectations? Let’s take a look.

The ZBook lineup encompass a range of form factors, from your standard clamshell laptop in the ZBook 15 to the detachable Surface Pro-inspired ZBook x2.

The ZBook Studio x360 takes a different approach: as its name suggests, you can flip the screen all the way around, 360 degrees, to the back of the keyboard. This makes it sort of a two-in-one, but I’ve always found this form factor to be pretty clunky if you intend to actually use the device as a tablet. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s kick things off with the specs.

The ZBook Studio x360 supports a range of processors, from the Intel Core i5-8300H with an 8 MB cache and 4 cores, up to the CPU in our review unit, the Intel Xeon E-2186M, with a 12 MB cache and 6 cores. The GPU can be either an NVIDIA Quadro P1000 or P2000, both of which are workstation-class graphics cards, but they’re also both a generation behind the latest Quadro RTX cards. Though those did just start shipping, so I’ll cut the x360 some slack there.

Memory-wise, the ZBook x360 can go as low as 8 GB and as high as 64 GB. As for storage, there’s two M.2 SSD slots, each of which can hold anywhere from 256 GB all the way to 2 TB, for a maximum of 4 TB.

The display is a sizeable 15.6 inch touchscreen, with resolution options including 1080p or 4K. Our 4K display looks great. It’s bright and vibrant, and the 15.6 inch screen is a really comfortable size, especially for snapping two applications side by side. We measured an average luminance of 381.7 nits at 100 percent brightness, and a respectable contrast ratio of 1140:1. The color gamut falls a bit shy of other mobile workstations, coming in at 98 percent of the sRGB color space and only 76 percent of the Adobe RGB color space, but the touchscreen is as responsive as any, and it’s a really good display overall.

Okay, on to the ports. The ZBook Studio x360 has quite a few, which is always a good thing in a mobile workstation. On the left side of the x360 there are two USB 3.0 ports, a micro SIM slot, a security cable slot, a cooling vent, and the power button. For some reason this felt like an odd spot to put the power button. I’m more used to it either on or above the keyboard or on the right, but, I got used to it pretty quick. On the right side of the x360 there’s a charging port, two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI port, another cooling vent, a headphone jack, and an SD card slot.

As for the price of the ZBook Studio x360, if you really strip it back as much as possible, the bare boned entry level x360 will cost you just shy of two grand. On the other hand, if you max out the specs, the x360 will cost you a hefty seven grand and change. So there’s quite a bit of wiggle room there to fit a range of different budgets.

The performance of the ZBook Studio x360 is naturally going to depend on the specs you choose, but in our unit, with the Xeon E-2186M processor and the Quadro P1000 graphics card, the x360 earned its stripes as a mobile workstation. We ran a few different benchmarks, and you can see the detailed results of all of those in our written review which we’ll link in the description. But the gist of it is that 2.9GHz Xeon CPU is a great option. It’s in the 97th percentile of CPU Mark scores, however, its doesn’t provide quite the multi-thread performance of higher core count CPUs like the Xeon E5-2667.

As for the GPU, the Quadro P1000 is a perfectly acceptable graphics option, but it’s definitely underpowered compared to other graphics cards. If you’re spending a lot of time in GPU heavy applications, it would almost certainly be worth opting for the Quadro P2000 if you have the budget for it. And even that is on the lower end of Quadro cards, so if you’re really in need of powerhouse graphics you might want to look beyond the x360. The ZBook 17, for instance, can be configured up to a Quadro P5200 with 16 GB of VRAM.

In the SPECviewperf 13 and SPECworkstation 3 benchmarks, which give a summary of the graphical performance and overall capability of a workstation, respectively, the ZBook Studio x360 performed similarly to comparable mobile workstations like the Lenovo ThinkPad P1. It was a little underwhelming in the Catia, Creo, 3DS Max, and Maya viewsets in SPECviewperf, but again that probably comes down to the Quadro P1000 we had in our review unit. The x360 did perform better than the competition in the product development category of SPECworkstation 3, so by all means it deserves the workstation moniker.

The battery life of the x360 is decent, but it’s certainly not the 16 hours advertised by HP. Our unit had a 7434 mAh battery, and the most we could get out of it, doing as much as we could to save power, was just under 10 hours. The higher performance tests got us just over 6 hours before we had to recharge. So the battery isn’t bad by any means, but you’ll want to keep the charging cable close at hand when you’re out and about.

Ok, we’ve touched upon the specs, the ports, the price, and the performance of the ZBook Studio x360. I want to finish off with a few miscellaneous thoughts about this laptop.

For starters, it’s a nice looking device. It’s got that sleek gunmetal finish and these unique chamfers on the top corners of the case and bottom corners of the display, as well as the two distinctive hinges. So it kind of stands out but in a subtle way.

The keyboard and trackpad on the x360 are both top notch. Those are two elements I pay particular attention to, as I usually don’t plug in any external peripherals. So when a keyboard or trackpad are bad, it’s noticeable. And these were great. It’s the same typing experience as on other ZBooks I’ve tried, which is to say there’s generous key spacing and a surprisingly comfortable amount of key travel. And the trackpad is good enough that I never notice it at all, which is exactly where you want it to be.

One thing I would love to start seeing in mobile workstations is a dedicated function key row. But alas, like most laptops, the top row on the x360’s keyboard is shared between the function keys and system-specific hotkeys like volume, brightness, etc. Actually, in our unit the screen brightness hotkeys just didn’t work at all, which was frustrating, but presumably that’s just an issue with our unit.

While I’m o n the topic of minor complaints, I often noticed that the x360 emitted a high-pitched whine while I was using it. Now, it was barely audible, but I’m pretty sensitive to high frequency noises so it kind of drove me crazy. But a pair of headphones solved that problem pretty quick, and again it might just be an issue with this unit in particular.

At the beginning of the video I mentioned I find the flip-around form factor to be clunky in tablet mode. And I think this is especially true of the x360 given its size and weight. It’s almost 5 pounds and it’s quite big, so it’s not convenient as an on-the-go, walking around the office tablet. But if you’re sitting at your desk and want to flip it into tablet mode, it works great. You can also flip the screen between 180 and 360 degrees to put the x360 in two modes that HP calls stand mode and tent mode, which are a nice option for collaborating or watching a movie or just getting the base of the laptop out of the way. So the versatility is a nice option to have.

Ok, the last thing I want to talk about is the HP Active Pen, the optional stylus you can get with the x360. Bottom line, it’s great. It’s made by Wacom, so no surprise there. If you’re into using a stylus or taking notes by hand, or you’re a digital artist, you’ll be happy with the pen. HP provides a pen holster that you can stick into the SD card slot, which is kind of clumsy compared to the magnetic attachment you see in a lot of devices, but it’s something. You charge the pen through a USB-C port on the side, and I had to plug it in out of the box before I could even pair it, but I didn’t use it often enough to say how frequently you have to charge it after that. Ah well, what’s one more device to plug in. Oh, and the eraser on the pen does not actually work as an eraser, unlike many other styluses. But you can of course customize the two buttons on the side, so that’s not a huge deal.

Alright, that’s the HP ZBook Studio x360 in a nutshell. It’s a reasonably powerful mobile workstation with enticing features like the great touchscreen display, good selection of ports, fantastic keyboard and trackpad, excellent stylus, versatility of display modes, lots of options for storage and memory, and a pleasing design. It would be nice to see a few more processor options in future generations, and the laptop is a bit bulky compared to the competition. But overall, it’s a great option for engineers and designers looking for a mobile workstation.

To read our full written review of the HP ZBook Studio x360, check out the link in the description below. And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more hardware reviews. Thanks for watching, now go do something else.

Written by

Michael Alba

Michael is a senior editor at engineering.com. He covers computer hardware, design software, electronics, and more. Michael holds a degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Alberta.