If you’re in a creative field, you definitely need a machine that has both power and performance, with maybe a little style for good measure.

CNET has tested these four models, which stand out for their performance, design and features for drawing, painting, designing, rendering, photo and video editing and other creative tasks.

Apple iPad Pro (2018)

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: Starting at $799 at apple.com

The good: The 2018 iPad Pro sports a gorgeous new all-screen design, facial ID and scary-fast performance. The new Pencil is a huge step forward in terms of design and charging.

The bad: The Keyboard Folio Case ($100) and Pencil ($129) are necessary accessories that jack up the already-high total price. None of your old iPad accessories will work, including the original Pencil. The headphone jack is gone, and its single USB-C port won’t pay real dividends until more compatible accessories arrive.

The bottom line: The new iPad Pro is in many ways the pinnacle of tablet hardware design, but its nosebleed price and software limitations narrow its appeal to creatives willing to bend to its current compromises.

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2018)

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: Starting at $2,399 at apple.com

The good: The latest 15-inch MacBook Pro offers major internal upgrades to the CPU, RAM, storage and display. The Core i9 version delivers a worthwhile speed boost on processor-intensive tasks.


The bad: The basic design hasn’t been updated, keeping the same advantages and flaws. Adding the new high-end options drives the cost way up.

The bottom line: The 2018 MacBook Pro 15-inch laptop delivers the serious computing muscle that power users and creative pros crave — but everyone else should wait for the rest of the line to be updated.

HP ZBook x2 G4

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: $2,271 at store.hp.com

The good: The HP ZBook x2 G4’s Adobe RGB-accurate DreamColor matte screen is far more usable than the typical glossy panel, and combined with Wacom EMR’s 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity provides brushes that feel more natural than most to work with. It’s also powerful for its size, relatively full-featured and the detachable Bluetooth keyboard is comfortable for typing.

The bad: You’re limited to the one, single-button stylus, it’s relatively heavy and, while the battery life is good for its components, it won’t get you through the day.

The bottom line: As long as you aren’t constrained by the stylus and are comfortable with the cost, the HP ZBook x2 G4 DreamColor delivers accurate color and smooth sketching with workstation credibility.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: Starting at $899 at microsoft.com

The good: The Surface Pro 6’s jump to new quad-core processors pays off in big performance gains. The new black color option looks cool. Still the best kickstand and keyboard for Windows tablets.


The bad: Be ready to shell out extra for the keyboard cover and stylus. CPU and color aside, it’s a very minimal upgrade over the previous version.

The bottom line: The latest Surface Pro tablet doesn’t make any radical design changes, but the performance jump makes it viable as a mainstream performance laptop replacement.