HP Elite Dragonfly Max First Impressions

HP released its first Elite Dragonfly in December 2019, positioning it as a more colorful, outgoing, and attention-grabbing version of the staid EliteBook x360 1030. I immediately fell for it, thanks to its stunning, unique, and versatile design, its excellent keyboard and touchpad, and its perfect combination of legacy and modern ports. Since then, HP released a mid-stream evolution of the Elite Dragonfly in April 2020 with the same design and some important upgrades, including an optional Sure View Reflect display panel and an internal Tile M.2 module.

Well, now it’s mid-2021 and HP is refreshing the Elite Dragonfly again with a new HP Elite Dragonfly Max that sits at the top of the product family. At a high level, not much has changed: It features the same design as before, but now in a less controversial matte black color, and the same basic feature-set. But as you look closer at this gorgeous convertible PC, some notable differences emerge.

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First up is the display. Yes, it’s still a 13.3-inch panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and its once-impressive 86 percent screen-to-body ratio is, sorry, less impressive today. But the Max ships with the very best Dragonfly display: An anti-glare Full HD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen panel with Gorilla Glass 5 protection and HP Sure View Reflect capabilities that emits an astonishing 1000 nits of brightness.

Internally, there have been some big changes: The Max ships with an 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 or i7-1185G7 processor, both with Intel Iris Xe graphics; the former is Intel Evo compatible while the latter provides the vPro management capabilities that businesses expect. The original Elite Dragonfly models used 8th-generation Intel Core processors, you may recall.

Not surprisingly, connectivity has been modernized to match, with Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 built-in and optional Intel XMM 7360 4G/LTE Advanced (CAT 9) or Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G LTE (CAT 20) cellular connectivity, accessed via a nano-SIM card slot.

And where the original Dragonflies offered a choice of 2-cell (38 Wh) or 4-cell (56.2 Wh) battery options, the Max offers only the latter, slightly impacting the weight, a svelte 2.49 pounds, and improving the battery life.

Virtually everything else about the Elite Dragonfly Max is the same or at least similar to previous configurations. It can be configured with 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM. 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB of PCIe NVMe TLC SSD storage. And the Wacom AES 2.0 Pen is still a $74 option.

The design is, if anything, classic. As a convertible PC, the Elite Dragonfly Max offers the versatility of multiple usage modes while still working just as well as an Ultrabook in the traditional clamshell mode. The premium full-sized keyboard offers soft-touch typing with short and precise key throws, and the medium-sized glass precision touchpad is as excellent as I remember.

But because this isn’t a 14-inch design—which, seriously, it should be given the Max name—this PC lacks the newer HP keyboard with the column of keys on the right, so using things like Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn will require some Fn-key gymnastics. And it lacks the integrated Power and fingerprint reader keys too. Ah well. We’ll have to make do with a fingerprint reader on the right wrist rest instead. (It’s still great.)

Expansion is basically unchanged from a selection/position perspective, but there have been some upgrades. On the left, you will find a full-sized USB-A port (with 5 Gbps transfer speeds), the power button, a lock slot, and the nano-SIM tray.

And on the right, you’ll see an HDMI 2.0 port, two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports (with 40 Gbps transfer speeds and power delivery and DisplayPort capabilities), and a headphone jack.

As with previous Dragonflies and EliteBooks, the position of the USB-C ports, one of which is needed for the standard HP 65-watt power supply, is a bit tough, especially if you’re right-handed and want to use an external mouse.

I’ll be learning more about the Elite Dragonfly Max in a briefing later this week, but I’m as in love with this design as I’ve ever been, and I’m curious about when or whether HP will ever expand this family to include different display sizes. At 14-inch version, for example, would be just about perfect. Heck, for most people, this version already is.

More soon.

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Conversation 3 comments

  • markobrien

    02 June, 2021 - 7:36 pm

    <p>Hi Paul – the Dragonfly Max sounds amazing. </p><p><br></p><p>When it was launched at CES, HP said it would be accompanied by a pair of wireless earbuds for video conferencing. Did you get to test them as well? Or maybe at the briefing you are going to later this week?</p><p><br></p><p>I’m anxious to get a pair of quality buds that work with my laptop. I’ve seen that HP have put the buds App on the Microsoft store, iStore and Playstore.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      03 June, 2021 - 9:28 am

      I’ve not heard anything about earbuds, no.

  • crunchyfrog

    03 June, 2021 - 7:55 am

    <p>I’m sure it’s a fine laptop, however I agree with Paul’s feelings about the screen being smaller than it could be and I personally do not care for the port placements. I suppose if you use a mouse left handed it’s a better option.</p>

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