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Blog: HP’s latest laptops, displays, virtual workstations

By Cory Choy

I started my career as a sound designer and re-recording mixer, but as independent film imploded in the early 2000s and was beginning to be replaced by Internet video, I found myself adding more and more “work hats” to my collection. In order to succeed in this business I needed to adapt to the ever-changing NYC film and TV landscape, and that meant adding more disciplines to my professional offerings.

So now, in addition to post sound, I find myself also post producing — mostly color correction, but I do a bunch of other things as well.

While I have access to state-of-the art sound workstations at Silver Sound, a New York City-based post sound studio, my personal computer (that means a laptop) is woefully heavy and old, and as time passes and newer and lighter products come out, it feels even heavier and older.

While it can still run my favorite sound software relatively competently, I’m unable to continue video editing projects started at work at home or on the go, which is becoming more and more of a requirement for someone wishing to keep on top of projects and clients these days.

HP Z34c with HP ZBook

HP Z34c with HP ZBook

So as the tech arena continues to rapidly develop and change, I have been keeping a watchful eye for the perfect time and product to jump on, which is why I was so excited when I recently had the privilege to check out HP‘s new line-up of laptops, displays and Virtual Workstations while they were in New York on a press tour.

Here’s a rundown of what I saw, and a few of my brief impressions:

HP Ultrabooks
New “business class laptops” that give our favorite fruit company’s products a run for their money in lightness and toughness. You can drop them and spill things on them without breaking them. They are made partially with carbon fiber, are completely solid state and are light as all heck. They also pack really impressive specs: i5/i7 dual-core processors, up to 16GB of RAM, etc.

Downsides: Not expandable (integrated everything onto one board) and instead of a display port, they only have HDMI out (or the standard HP out) and they use MicroSD slot instead of SD slot to save space.

I could see these being really great to travel with, but the lack of expandability is a big con for me as a post professional who doesn’t want to have to buy a new computer every tech cycle.

HP ZBooks
New “workstation” laptops. The cool: smaller and faster than they used to be. The coolest: they have PCIe solid state hard-drive slots that are faster than 7200 RPM drives. I like that these are expandable and components are easily swapped with no tools.

Downsides: The trackpad still isn’t perfect, especially when compared to that of the fruit company. These laptops are super powerful and lighter than they used to be — but they are still really big machines.

I could see setting this up at home instead of a desktop, but I would always wonder if I should have just gotten a more powerful desktop instead. These guys, while 10x more powerful than my current laptop, are around the same size, if not bigger.

New 4K and 5K IPS Displays
These look really nice. Price point will be extremely competitive. I wonder, however, if they will have burn in issues like the “1st gen” IPS 4K displays. HP had no comment on that.

HP Z34c

HP Z34c

Curved Display
A big, sleek-looking, curved monitor (basically the length of two large monitors put together). Looks really nice. HD monitor (not 4K) and you would need a really big desk to accommodate it.

Virtual Workstation
Finally, a 3D/VR monitor and demo virtual reality app licensed from Z-technologies. This was really, really cool. Other 3D displays I’ve demo’d have had noticeable lag. This one had no noticeable lag, and with four sensors on the special glasses you put on that do eye tracking, the experience was more seamless and immersive than I have previously experienced.

Control was with a stylus. The display moves with your head. Putting glasses on top of glasses for me wasn’t that fun. They did report that there are clip on ones available, but not available at the demo I had.

I have been hearing a lot about virtual reality, but I wonder when and if it will hit the mass market i.e. require me to develop for it. For now, I’m sitting that one out and seeing how the chips fall.

Cory Choy, a founding member of Silver Sound, and has been a working audio post pro since 2003. Choy is not afraid to adopt tools that are slightly off the beaten path — he was an early adopter of Sony Vegas and the DAW Reaper from Cockos, and has been a proponent of Zaxcom Nomad. He is constantly searching for and thinking about new and better ways to record, edit, create and mix sound. Follow Silver Sound on Twitter @silversoundnyc.

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