Hands-On: HP Elite Dragonfly with Sure View Reflect and Tile

Posted on April 30, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 0 Comments

Announced at CES 2020, this mid-stream evolution of the HP Elite Dragonfly is the first laptop with an integrated Tile module. It’s a great update to what was already one of the very best premium business portable PCs I’ve ever used.

But first, and perhaps most important, the core of this product is essentially unchanged, as this is a sort of mid-season refresh and not a completely new generation. It utilizes the same stunning Dragonfly Blue magnesium enclosure and 360-degree hinge.

It’s powered by the same 8th-generation Core processors. It offers the same port selection, the same microphones, and the same four-speaker audio system. The same excellent keyboard and touchpad. The same Full HD and 4K/UHD display options.

And it has the same business-class software loadout. And yes, most of that is nothing but good news.

But what we’re interested in here, of course, is what’s changed.

First up is that Sure View Reflect display. As you might recall, HP originally offered Elite Dragonfly buyers a choice of three displays. The model I reviewed previously shipped with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) panel that provides 400 nits of brightness and draws just 1 watt of power. But HP also offered a 4K/UHD (3840 x 2160) panel with HDR400 capabilities and 550 nits of brightness and a Full HD panel with HP’s Sure View Gen3 privacy filter with an incredible 1000 nits of brightness.

Well, now there’s a fourth option: A Full HD panel with HP Sure View Reflect. It also provides 1000 nits of brightness, and yes, you can really see the difference: At the same relative brightness levels, the new version is significantly brighter and glossy, while the less bright original version looks almost dull and matte by comparison. I’m fine with that for productivity work, but the brighter, crisper display in the new Dragonfly provides a better overall experience, especially for video and other multimedia.

The main event, however, is the Sure View Reflect capabilities. This 3rd-generation Sure View solution darkens the screen with a copper-like tint when viewed at indirect angles, providing privacy from nearby spies in any lighting condition, and with improved battery life over the previous version. It’s activated by the F2 key, which is blank on the original Dragonfly I reviewed.

It’s an interesting effect and is most useful in situations, like an airplane, where people are sitting next to you, in which case the display would be completely unreadable. But someone looking over your shoulder would still be able to read the display from what I can tell.

To the user of the laptop, the effect is a bit odd, sort of like putting on polarized sunglasses. It dims the display considerably, though it will adapt to the ambient lighting conditions if you move around as well. Moving your head can give it a weird gauzy effect, but without making it harder to see. You’ll be happy to have it, but will want to turn it off when it’s not needed.

Battery life impact is minimal, according to HP, and the Sure View Reflect option appears to lower the battery life by about one hour when compared to the 1-watt display option.

As big is the addition of a non-user-accessible internal Tile M.2 module, which provides LoJack-style location services should your Dragonfly be lost or stolen. And it works when the PC is offline or powered down, which is ideal.

But that raises an interesting question: Since the Tile module in the Dragonfly doesn’t have its own battery, does it impact the PC’s battery life? Yes, HP tells me, but by a laughably small amount: About 1.2 seconds. Of course, this also means that the PC must have a bit of charge for the Tile to do its work. But HP says its good for up to 20 days of off/idle time, after which time the PC will enter what it calls Factory Ship Mode and disconnect the power supply until it’s manually turned on again.

To set up Tile, you just launch the preinstalled Tile app and sign-in to (or sign-up) for the service. (And if you’re new to Tile, as I was, you also need to install Tile on your smartphone.) The app will walk you through the activation process, which just involves typing SHIFT + F11 to kick off the Bluetooth pairing process.

Once that’s complete, your Dragonfly will appear in the Tile app, here and on mobile, alongside your smartphone and any other Tiles you may have. (I configured a Tile Slim for use in my wallet.) And it works like any other Tile: You can attempt to Find it from your phone, which will trigger a trilling alarm sound from the laptop. On your phone, you can see the laptop on a map, and as you move closer to it, a circular display will close in to indicate proximity. You can also silence the alarm if that might be annoying or tip off a thief.

Tile is free to use. But if you opt for the Tile Premium service, which costs a reasonable $29.99 per year, you can get smart alerts, in beta, when you leave configured places without specific configured Tiles. This service also provides free battery replacements on a schedule; most Tiles have a three-year battery lifetime. Premium users also get a longer, 30-day location history for each Tile, plus unlimited sharing with family and friends.

All the technology will cost you: The HP Elite Dragonfly is an expensive premium PC in any configuration, but adding a Sure View Reflect privacy display and Tile module can push the cost past $2000. The review configuration, which includes a Core i7-8665U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of SSD storage retails for $2179.

But if I could paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you have the need and the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

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