Reviewing the Four Laptops We Use at Fstoppers

Believe it or not, we work exclusively on Windows computers in the Fstoppers office. Normally, we work on desktops with dual monitors, but when we travel, we reach for one of four different laptops

The HP Zbook X2 G4 is a laptop-tablet hybrid. It comes with both a keyboard and a stylus. It also has customizable shortcut keys on both sides of the screen, making retouching without a keyboard a pleasure. 

Pros

  • Beautiful, matte 4K display 
  • Physical shortcut keys on bezel make retouching with a stylus a breeze
  • Stylus uses Wacom technology and doesn't require a battery
  • Kickstand allows for comfortable drawing positions
  • Keyboard can be used wirelessly via Bluetooth
  • Fantastic port options: USB 3.0, USB Type-C, HDMI, SD, headphone

Cons

  • Extremely heavy at almost 4 lbs
  • Shortcut keys make the bezel extremely thick, which eats into screen size

Who Is It for?

The only reason to purchase this computer is if you are constantly using a stylus for retouching or digital art. If you prefer using a mouse and keyboard, you'll probably want to buy a computer with a larger screen and more powerful components. It's currently $700 off at B&H, which is an incredible value. 

The Surface Book is also a laptop-tablet hybrid, but it actually looks like a normal laptop. Instead of all of the components being crammed behind the screen, the Surface Book moves the majority of the batteries and the graphics card into the keyboard. 

Pros

  • Quite possibly the most impressive laptop design I've ever seen (from an engineering standpoint)
  • When the screen is connected to the keyboard, you have a very capable laptop
  • The tablet portion is incredibly thin, light, and the bezels are relatively thin
  • Surface Pen is extremely well designed and has a fantastic feel

Cons

  • The tablet portion of this computer has only 1-3 hours of use when it isn't connected to the keyboard
  • Occasionally, the computer will not detach the screen from the keyboard
  • The tablet portion doesn't have a kickstand, making it difficult to draw on 

Who Is It for?

The Surface Book is an amazing choice for someone who wants a full-blown laptop with a graphics card, but also wants to draw on the screen. My main gripe with the Surface Book is that the battery life is so poor on the tablet portion that I almost never use it as a tablet. If you don't need the graphics card, I would suggest our next laptop, the Surface Pro.

The Surface Pro is very similar to the Surface Book, but it's made to be used more as a tablet. The Surface Pro does lack a dedicated graphics card, but it packs up to eight hours of battery life and a kickstand behind the screen, making it much more useful. 

Pros

  • Can be used as a tablet or a laptop with the optional Surface Pro Type Cover
  • Surface Pen is extremely well designed and has a fantastic feel
  • Kickstand makes using the Surface Pro as a laptop or tablet much easier

Cons

  • Type Cover works well, but can't connect wirelessly
  • Using it as a laptop on your lap can be awkward
  • Only one USB and one mini DisplayPort
  • Too thin to be a very powerful PC

Who Is It for?

I don't recommend anyone buy a Surface Pro as their only computer, but it is a fantastic companion to a more powerful machine. If you're looking for a computer that can easily be both a laptop and a tablet, the Surface Pro is probably your best bet. 

The Dell XPS 15 is the most powerful laptop that Dell makes that still fits in a sleek body. Yes, Alienware laptops can be configured with more powerful components, but they are much more difficult to travel with, and I prefer if my laptop doesn't look like a 12-year-old boy designed it. 

Pros

  • Incredible 4K display with ultra-thin bezels 
  • Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, HDMI, and SD card reader
  • Relatively thin for laptop with dedicated graphics cards
  • Most powerful of all laptops we own

Cons

  • Touchscreen works with fingers but not a stylus
  • Can't be used as a tablet

Who Is It for?

This Dell XPS 15 is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a powerful computer in a relatively compact body. If you're anything like me and you prefer working on a mouse and keyboard, the gigantic 15-inch display will probably be your favorite feature. If you're looking for a great deal, we've had good luck buying used Dell laptops on Dells Outlet and on eBay. You can save 50 percent and still get a laptop under warranty. 

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25 Comments

David J. Fulde's picture

I have an XPS 15 and it's just... Fantastic.

I'd reccomend installing Throttlestop as well to deal with some of the throttling issues that can pop up though

Stas F's picture

That HP looks dope, but 8GB is a joke. In the video you can even tell it's lagging when you use that "wacom" pen. The problem is - 16GB version with 8th gen Intel is double the price! 8gb - $1100, 16gb - 2300! Explain this shit... When the companies would stop overcharging for a little more of gigabytes.
Also so tired of many other laptops not having SD Card slot. Like srsly how am I supposed to copy pictures from the camera - dongles? DUH.

P.S. I'm so happy to see you guys not using macbooks. Those new ones with 100500 dongles is just stupidity. And people support all that bs...

P.P.S. Thanks for the video, Lee, good reviews.

Bhphoto have 16 or 32 GB upgrade to the 8 GB they are selling both I think less then 1500 USD.

Stas F's picture

C'mon Lee, give me a code for 16GB version for $1600 I'll take it right now.

Stas F's picture

Wow, thx. This is much better price! I don't get it though, it's cheaper because they upgrade it themselves at BH instead of factory? Also, what's the difference between two? I'm on a phone right now can't fugue out...

While Macs are not user upgradable these are, you basically need to take it apart to be able to fit ram, but you can. BH seems to offer upgrade to the one they have sale on with 8 GB ram. And testing included so it shuld be tested and all good.

Stas F's picture

Cool, thx. What did you click on the 8gb sale model so it let you upgrade? I couldn't find how up upgrade.
Also, you posted 2 links - price is a bit different but I don't see what's different...

I found searching for zbook x2 bacuse it's not with the original configurations. On is 16 and the other 32 GB ram - I think.

Stas F's picture

Oh gotcha, thx!

Simon Patterson's picture

I believe it, and in fact I am not surprised.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Love the hybrid!!!

Oliver Kmia's picture

Dongle hate. Thanks. +1

Xander Cesari's picture

Anyone have a Lenovo X1 Tablet? I have a Surface Pro 4 right now but that looks like an appealing replacement. More ports, better keyboard, looks like it'll hold up better.

Rui Bandeira's picture

I also have the DELL XPS15, with i7,32Gb of RAM,4K monitor and 1Tb SSD, and i just love it.
It was supposed to be my computer for out of the studio work, but it just took me a few days to decide that this should be my main computer.
Its a beast!

Nico Socha's picture

I have the same config, its really amazing.

Funny enough, I have 2 of these, the Surface Pro (3, old I know) and the Dell XPS 15 9560. I highly recommend them. I've had several clients comment on how great their work looks on the 4k screen.
I believe you can use the 9570 4k screen with a stylus now, but the screen doesn't flip around so it's pretty awkward.

How nice to see a review of Windows machines. First, Fuji says that, yes, APS-C is a valid format, and now this. I expect to wake up from my dream any minute now.

That being said, I'm just ready to get a much-better-than-what-I-have on-the-road laptop, and the Dell may fit the bill. I hate it when I have an extra half hour between gigs and can't be productive getting some work done. (My huge and powerful 17 inch laptop is too big to travel easily; and my travel laptop is way too sloooooow.)

Finally, +100 points for also including some text narrative on the page to help us get a first glance of what to concentrate on in the video.

New HP Spectre 360 is looking pretty killer with to be honest.

I bought 2 of the new HP Spectre X360 17", the wife frustratedly uses hers, I`ve continued mostly to use my 5 year old Asus instead.
The mouse on the Spectre is maddening, it constantly grabs and opens web pages/links as you move around a page, we turned the sensitivity all the way down but it still constantly does this.
Unless they have upgraded/changed the mouse, I would think twice.
There are several threads on the HP support site with complaints of this from users, but alas no fix.

David Wierzbicki's picture

I recently purchased a surface book 2 and to clarify you can have the screen configured in a way that's better for retouching and have a full power of the keyboard dock available...
Was thinking about MacBook Pro and had previously used the hp spectre with just the USBC / thunderbolt ports I think the world of photography is not ready for this yet.
Great review though!

I love my Surface Book 2! It checked every box I needed and then some for a computer. It handles light video games, does a decent job with video editing, and the main reason I wanted it was for my photography work. The surface pen and even the surface dial make it easy to edit photos on the go. It is a little bit heavier than my previous ultrabook (2013 Samsung Series 9) which is a fine trade off since I never have to carry a Wacom drawing tablet with me anymore.

Vincent Portais's picture

does the Dell G3 have the same screen than the XPS 15 ? i can't find the answer on websites even on dell.com