The most exciting product in HP’s ‘Creativity to Life’ launch

Creating a Windows laptop that appeals to MacBook buyers isn’t easy. But the new HP ZBook Studio is the latest, and arguably best, MacBook rival to date. With so many 'creators' working from home now, a laptop workstation powerhouse may be just what the doctor ordered.

ZBook Studio

Disclosure: Most of the vendors mentioned are clients of the author.

During this ongoing COVID-19 event, it’s nice to see what appear to be normal product launches. We aren’t likely to see what we think of as “normal “that often anymore, so we’ll all have to adjust to the new normal. But as I watched this launch of well-designed mobile products, one caught my attention: the HP ZBook Studio. I think it’s the most potent anti-Apple MacBook product yet created.

Let’s talk about that.

The importance of creators during the COVID-19 event

First, during this pandemic, one of the most valuable resources the world has is its creators. It is their innovation that will help us find release from our days locked up at home. Many creative types work from home – even when there isn’t a pandemic. Historically, a significant number of them gravitated to the Apple platform, representing some of Apple’s most stalwart fans.

But as Apple pivoted to become a consumer electronics company, it seemed to treat its PC customers increasingly as afterthoughts, particularly in the creator space. The current Apple direction appears to favor a future iPad Pro over the next PC for what is now the PC space  that won’t work for most creators without a massive Cloud back end – and Apple doesn’t do cloud well.

So, with what appears to be ever-declining Apple attention, these creators are vulnerable to being picked off by rivals on the Windows side of the world. But they don’t just want an ugly workstation or laptop; they want something that has an iconic design they can be proud of and, of course, offers the performance they haven’t been getting from Apple. Ideally, the machine would also run the MacOS they know and love.

That, however, remains a bridge too far for the other OEMs.

The iconic ZBook Studio

When you look at new ZBook, you’ll note the Z on the cover. Not an HP, a Z. This Z identifies this as something distinctive and different – even the machining of the box is elegant and attractive. It is, as it must be to compete with an Apple product, a piece of desktop art.

But, if it were just pretty, it wouldn’t get much traction. While dated, existing MacBooks are still desktop art themselves.

Underneath that sleek cover, HP packed in a ton of performance. You can configure the ZBook Studio with Intel’s highest performance Xeon Mobile Processors and NVIDIA’s industrial-grade mobile Quadro graphics. This configuration would represent the most power in the smallest form factor currently in the market (and wouldn’t be a cheap date).

It should be a rendering beast. But laptop users still need to do productivity work – and cranked up all the way, this machine isn’t going to deliver much battery life. So, the ZBook Studio has a Power Slider that allows the user to adjust performance on the fly to address more low-intensity needs. If you are just watching videos on a plane or doing email, you should be able to drop the performance down and get battery life in line with laptops that aren’t as powerful. (HP reports up to 17.5 hours of battery life in this low-powered mode.)

This kind of power in this small form factor requires some unique engineering. For those who like to geek out on such things, the ZBook Studio also has an exceptional vapor-cooling chamber that uses liquid crystal polymer. (Sounds cool, no?)

Other features are a near borderless color-accurate display, a keyboard designed to emulate a MacBook keyboard (with ultra-quiet keys), and one of the best sound systems (Bang and Olufsen) ever put into a PC, with incredible low-end sound. Oh, and it is built with ocean-bound plastics, making it one of the most ecologically friendly (in terms of build materials) products in the segment.

Wrapping up

While it is incredibly difficult to get a MacBook user to move to a Windows machine, creators are paid based on what they produce, and this level of performance should significantly increase the productivity of those that switch. That, alone, is a powerful incentive. And in this class, price is often not a big problem. (Prices for the ZBook Studio, which arrives in August, have not yet been made public.)

My favorite part remains the Z on the cover. Maybe it is a Zorro thing, but I can’t seem to get over how cool it looks. I just wish it lit up.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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