Among the relatively prosaic refreshes to HP's mainstream Envy and pro-graphics ZBook laptops for 2020, a couple of bright spots shine through. Thanks in part to HP's continuing pursuit of the elusive MacBook Pro buyer, the good news includes the return of the Envy 15-inch clamshell model, which brings Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics into its nongaming consumer laptops for the first time. There's a new ZBook Create too, a variation of the Quadro-based ZBook Studio incorporating GeForce graphics in HP's pro mobile line for the first time for a (presumably) more affordable pro graphics solution.
These moves are just the beginning of a wave we'll be seeing across all laptops targeting "creators" thanks to Intel and Nvidia's recent announcements of more power-efficient 10th-gen mobile CPUs, mobile versions of the GeForce RTX Super GPUs and a vastly improved Max-Q Design. The latter is what lets laptop manufacturers cram gaming-level discrete GPUs into the slim, silent, battery-friendly models preferred by, well, everyone. Until now, the best we've gotten has typically been a GeForce GTX 1650, which is fine for most photo editing, but for video editing, CAD, game design and so on, you need something with more acceleration oomph and graphics memory.
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The Envy 15 is clearly the new flagship of the Envy line. It's got up to an eight-core Core i9, GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q, 32GB RAM, RAID 0 option and factory-calibrated 4K OLED display, and even the recently announced Envy 17, with a barely-better-than-integrated MX 330 GPU, quad-core i7-1065G7, 1080p display and 12GB RAM, pales in comparison. The Envy 15 also adds the Dynamic Power mode we first saw in the Omen X 2S dual-screen gaming laptop, which more intelligently balances power between the CPU and GPU. Plus it gains the new HP QuickDrop utility, which lets you set up a direct connection to a mobile device for file and data transfers.
All the Envys, except the x360 13, reap the benefits of the update to the newer 10th-gen Intel processors and supporting chipset, most notably Wi-Fi 6 support and two Thunderbolt 3 controllers. They also level up to the MX 330 from older equivalents. The one model that comes in both Intel and AMD flavors, the Envy x360 15, will also be refreshed to the most recent AMD Ryzen 4000 series processors.
There's one unpleasant surprise, though. The all-in-one keyboard adds buttons for camera shutter, mute mic and HP Command Center. But the layout sandwiches the tiny power button between the equally small delete and camera shutter buttons. That's an accidental shutdown waiting to happen.
The updated Envys are slated to ship over the next two months. Specifically:
- Envy 13, available in May, starting at $1,000
- Envy x360 13, available in May, starting at $700
- Envy 15, available in June, starting at $1,350
- Envy x360 15, available in May, starting at $700 with an AMD CPU or $850 with an Intel CPU
At the other end of the spectrum, HP's ZBook mobile workstation series is getting what promises to be a cheaper member, the ZBook Create. Cheaper, because it will be equipped with Intel Core CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs rather than the pricier Xeon and Quadro workstation parts. But because it's a Z model, you can configure it with an HP Dreamcolor display — that's HP's technology for in-monitor color profiles.
For the new ZBooks, HP's offering a new optional "Z command" keyboard as well, intended to ease the transition for MacBook Pro defectors. It's supposedly quieter than the standard keyboard, and the keys in the lower left corner are reorganized to mimic the Fn-control-opt-cmd lineup on a Mac keyboard.
HP boasts that the ZBook Studio is "up to 7x faster rendering" than the MacBook Pro 16. But that's on the Arnold GPU benchmark — Autodesk's Arnold GPU rendering doesn't support AMD GPUs for rendering because it's optimized for Nvidia RTX cards, making that a misleading claim. (There are a dearth of cross-platform GPU benchmarks.) But the MacBook Pro 16's AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU maxes out at 8GB of graphics memory, the same as the GeForce RTX 2080S and Quadro RTX 4000, while the ZBook Studio can go up to an RTX 5000 with 16GB VRAM. More memory can give it a big advantage for high-resolution video editing and real-time 3D rendering.
The ZBook Studio and ZBook Create are currently slated to ship in August. Pricing will be announced nearer the time.