HP Takes Innovation Past Thin, Light And Low Power At Computex 2019

By Patrick Moorhead - June 21, 2019
HP ENVY x360 2-in-1 with wood finish

Last week at Computex 2019 in Taipei, Taiwan, HP Inc., announced its updated lineups of business and consumer laptops that you can expect to see for corporate Windows 10 refreshes and the “back to school” buying season. HP Inc. announced growth last quarter in its PC business with a 2% improvement and big commercial gains of 7%.

Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag was on the ground in Taipei, and I took in the show from the Austin office. Let’s take a look at what HP announced at the show.

Wood inlays for the ENVY laptop 

At the show, HP introduced a new take on laptop design by putting wood on the palm rests of their ENVY series laptops versus the usual metal or plastic. Unique materials on laptops are nothing new for HP as the company already has fully enclosed the Spectre Folio in leather. The ENVY example is just HP expanding on the innovative use of natural materials. I absolutely love the wood inlays as it differentiates the model, likely to attract any market segment of style-conscious consumers. Three choices are available for the new wood inlay: black with natural walnut, ceramic white with birch, or natural silver with pale birch. HP isn’t the first to market with the integration of wood into a laptop design, but HP may be the first to gain traction.

The wood ENVY is similar to its recently released metal ENVY series in terms of overall chassis design, but the HP ENVY x360 also gives the buyer a choice of Intel or AMD processors with Radeon Vega graphics. HP says the new ENVY series laptops are Project Athena laptops with 10th gen Intel core processors. Project Athena is Intel’s latest project that focuses on enhancing the performance and responsiveness of ultrabooks while giving the user all-day battery life. Analyst Anshel Sag wrote about Athena here

HP Elite series is a bright competitor

HP’s 2019 Elite 1000 series, designed for all work styles, has a lot to offer in the competitive business ultrabook market. The Elite x2, Elitebook x360 1040 G6, Elitebook 1030 G4, and the Elitebook 1040 G6 all are configurable to 1000 nits of brightness. HP is offering the brightest business detachable and 14” convertible on the market. This translates to significantly better visibility in outdoor environments where the usual 400 nits brightness on a laptop simply doesn’t cut it.

The Elite 1000 series also includes next-gen specs like WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5 on Intel's 8th gen processors. On top of this, HP is increasing the security of these devices with its new Sure Sense technology. HP led the industry charge last year by declaring that it’s the most secure platform and it has been an arms race with Dell and Lenovo ever since. HP partnered with Deep Instinct to create Sure Sense, which uses deep learning to address modern malware. I saw a demo of Sure Sense months ago, and I was impressed. I’d like to do a bit more digging on this for a final verdict, but for right now, I am excited about the capability as it is truly differentiated. The 2019  Z mobile workstations also offer the Sure Sense technology. It's unfortunate that HP didn’t put the new 9th gen Intel processors into the Elite 1000 series, but at least they have the latest Sure Sense technology.

The HP Elite x2 G4 now has the option of a leather keyboard folio to go along with the metal option. For added privacy, the Elite x2 G4 has an integrated dual camera privacy shutter as well as a privacy screen, the HP Sure View Gen 3, to prevent prying eyes from seeing sensitive material in a public space or a plane. HP caters to personality as well as privacy with the x2 G4, and I like it. The HP Elitebook x360 1030 G4 competes with the Dell XPS 13(9380) in being the thinnest and lightest laptop while also being a convertible. The EliteBook x360 1040 G6 offers 41% longer battery life compared to the last generation according to HP due to the innovative 1W low power panel option. This panel option is separate from the 1000 nit brightness option also available but caters to a different type of user pain point. The EliteBook x360 1040 G6 also has a next-gen keyboard that is quieter and improves accuracy.

HP’s All-in-One (AIO) series is part of a growing category of “mini-in-one” PCs and modular displays. Rather than having a USB-C dock to connect your computer to a workstation desktop, the modular display implements a display into the “dock” allowing you to plug in a mini PC and experience a minimalistic setup. Fewer cords and more room on the desk, modular displays provide aesthetically pleasing work experience. The Mini-in-one display pairs with small form factor PCs like the HP EiliteDesk 800 G5 desktop mini PC or the HP ProDesk.  HP also offers docking monitors in 27-inch and 21.5-inch (HP E223d and the HP E273d) models for other PCs or peripherals. As we see smaller form factor PCs and mobile devices, the integration of a monitor into a PC dock is an innovative and future-proof accessory to any computer arsenal.

VR backpack

While Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag will dive deeper into HP’s new VR backpack in detail, I had to mention for no other reason that it’s so damn sexy. 

Backpack computers for VR need to excel in two critical factors: performance to run the highest-end VR applications and portability for workflow. HP has enhanced its newest generation of VR backpacks by powering them with 8th Gen Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA GeForce.

RTX 2080 for what it says is a “30 percent performance boost and 25 percent more powerful graphics over the previous generation.” HP has provided a free-roam tetherless experience for VR applications in design, training, and entertainment segments of VR. I believe HP is on the right track when it comes to VR and backpack computers. These backpacks are proving very popular for location-based VR experiences as well as working on high-complexity 3D graphics in VR.

VR backpack announced at Computex 2019

Dual screen gaming

The week before Computex, HP showed off its dual-screen HP Omen X 2S, the world’s first dual-screen gaming laptop. The keyboard is pushed up and eliminates the palm rest while a second screen takes the place of where a regular keyboard would be. The second screen is for multitasking with high efficiency. Most gamers are listening to music, watching a stream, or looking up a how-to video while also gaming, and this secondary screen enables the user to do all that with efficiency. The placement of the keyboard could be hard to get used to and could be awkward to type on even in the lap. However, many gaming laptops are just portable gaming desk setups. The secondary screen would only be useful when away from a desk setup that doesn’t already have a secondary monitor.

HP Omen X 2S in action

The Omen X 2S also includes an innovative liquid metal compound called “Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut.” HP says the liquid metal compound has heat dissipation at 10 times the thermal conductivity of traditional silicon thermal grease which is nuts. In a good way. The result is a cooler system and an increase in gaming. Intel’s 9th Gen Core processors power the Omen X 2S with a GPU up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q graphics and 32GB of memory for top tier performance.

A new family of HP ZBooks 

Last but not least, HP Inc. unveiled the newest generation of its ZBook commercial mobile workstation line. The ZBook series is designed to deliver the performance of a desktop while offering the freedom of a laptop and aim at satisfying the professional needs of the next generation of designers, architects, and engineers. These are truly mobile workstations that are designed and built to meet workstation software and hardware specs.

This year, HP unsurprisingly emphasized the use of VR and multithreaded apps for its users. VR is becoming more real in the enterprise market, and developers need decent horsepower to create the latest VR-optimized content. Spec-wise, the ZBook 17 is beefy with the next generation of VR-ready NVIDIA Quadro 5000 RTX graphics and 9th Gen Intel Core i9 processors tackling the most strenuous of multithreaded apps.  On top of all this performance, the ZBook 17 hasn't lost any of its ports, and its design is similar, if not the same, as the previous generation. HP has kept what is good about the ZBooks and added more performance. This laptop is a portable workstation for professional applications, no doubt. 

Wrapping up

HP announced a plethora of powerful devices at Computex 2019. HP updated its impressive line of mobile workstations that are AI and VR ready, without compromises. HP Set the bar for bright and power efficient laptops while also turning heads with its wood inlay ENVY series. While HP did introduce some products with Intel’s 10th Gen Core, most of these new products are still using 8th or 9th Gen Core processors. Part of that is because 10th Gen Core right now is only targeting a certain power profile and will only be available in the holiday season.

In conclusion, HP brought a new and exciting line of computers with technologies that shape the future of privacy and security. Devices are getting more mobile while at the same time more powerful. Moreover, many of the new features these PC OEMs are integrating are not just gimmicks. These new features are solutions to real problems and innovations, driven for the technology-centered future.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy intern Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.  

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.