First Look: HP Elite Dragonfly G3

The Elite Dragonfly G3 is the most exciting of HP’s many CES announcements this past week, and the firm sent me an early engineering sample to test out. To be clear, this isn’t the final PC—the CPU identifies itself as a “Genuine Intel(R) 000” processor, for starters—but given the dramatic updates to the Dragonfly’s form factor, I couldn’t resist. And even though it’s not quite usable as a day-to-day PC in this rendition, I’m already in love.

But let’s get the weird stuff out of the way.

When HP announced this PC earlier this week, it was a bit light on some of the details. We know, for example, that it will utilize 12th-generation Intel Core CPUs, but we don’t know which CPUs. Here’s what I can tell you, aside from that bit above: the CPU in this sample has 10 processor cores and the PC ships with a 110-watt USB-C-based power supply; most PCs like this ship with 65-watt power supplies. So it’s probably some kind of Alder Lake beast.

The other notable bit is that the Dragonfly boots up displaying some weird error messages regarding the system not being fully configured, the BIOS not being for production usage, and the HP EndPoint Security Controller firmware not being for production usage. I examined the firmware and found nothing of interest beyond its fast LPDDR5 RAM, and when I installed and ran Intel’s Processor Identification Utility, it could only tell me that the processor appears to be an engineering sample, and it thus coughed up no details. Ah well.

Anyway, as you may know, I’m a huge fan of the Elite Dragonfly, which HP has basically marketed as a more colorful, outgoing, and attention-grabbing version of its staid, business-class EliteBook x360 1030 product. I reviewed the very first version of the Dragonfly, the mid-season refresh with the Sure View Reflect and Tile capabilities, and then the second-generation Elite Dragonfly Max. They all shared the same crazy light convertible x360 form factor, terrific keyboard and touchpad, decent expansion, and 16:9 display aspect ratios. Mostly wonderful, in short, with a handful of compromises.

For the Gen 3 product, however, HP is making some dramatic changes to the Dragonfly while retaining all that was right about its predecessors. And I can see right away that two of those changes address my long-standing complaints, elevating the Dragonfly even further in my estimation.

The first of those changes is the move to a taller 3:2 aspect ratio for the display. I will never understand how the video-optimized 16:9 aspect ratio took over the industry, but I’ve been dinging any product with such a display for years. Now, the Dragonfly is whole. A 16:10 display would have been fine. But a 3:2 panel (really, a set of options) is even better.

The second is a complaint that I figured fell into a black hole for technical reasons: so many portable PCs come with two USB-C ports, and they are almost always both on the same side of the PC. I’ve argued for one port on each side, and HP has made that change with the new generation Dragonfly. Very nice.

(Speaking of ports, the new Dragonfly also somehow offers a full-sized HDMI port and USB-A port too. Very nice.)

The other major change is something that didn’t really bother me: where previous Dragonflies were x360 PCs, the Elite Dragonfly Gen 3 is a standard laptop, with a lay-flat display. Some will very much prefer this, but I like it either way.

There are many other improvements.

The keys on the keyboard are larger, which should result in an even better typing experience. The touchpad is also larger—much larger—which HP says will result in a “1:1 screen to touchpad experience.”

The power button (a key) and the fingerprint reader have both been moved, and correctly: the power button key is now to the left of the Delete key as God intended, and the fingerprint reader is now implemented as a key instead of being on the right wrist rest. Excellent.

I’ve not tested this yet, but the new Dragonfly also features a 5 MP web camera with auto-framing capabilities that should be a bit of an improvement over the 5 MP unit in the Max from last year. And the dual-edge microphones feature 360-degree voice tracking and dynamic voice leveling.

Connectivity is as modern as it can be, with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 onboard and a 5G-capable SIM card slot.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to use this—I’d love to take it to Mexico City next week if that made sense—but I’ll keep configuring and using it to see what else I can learn first. And tomorrow, I’ll publish a more complete look at the specs.

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Conversation 19 comments

  • harrymyhre

    Premium Member
    06 January, 2022 - 8:58 pm

    <p>why 16:9 aspect ratio dominated for so many years? My opinion is the heaviest users of PC are spreadsheet users and for them, the 16:9 widescreen is great. I’m just guessing, but that’s the way I see it.</p><p><br></p><p>Now that the 3:2 displays are here, I would never want to buy one of those wide screen displays again.</p>

    • bluvg

      07 January, 2022 - 12:16 am

      <p>Because consumers were buying 16:9 TVs like mad, and display manufacturers said that’s what customers "wanted"–not distinguishing between watching video on TVs and doing many other things on laptops. And it didn’t help that software vendors put all the UI at the top and bottom of windows.</p><p><br></p><p>But perhaps more importantly, it’s <em>cheaper</em>. Wider panels have less area.</p>

    • L Gilles

      07 January, 2022 - 1:35 am

      <p>maybe it was just cheaper to buy 16:9 as it was the most produced ?</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      07 January, 2022 - 3:37 am

      <p>As a heavy spreadsheet user, I want to see more rows!</p><p><br></p><p>16:9 was just cheaper to make, because the mass-market for TVs also used 16:9, so the machines for making the panels churned them out on 16:9 format, so it was easy to scale up/down the panel size from laptop to desktop monitor to TV, I would assume.</p><p><br></p><p>Working on 16:10 or 3:2 would mean additional waste, due to the optimization of the manufacturing process.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      07 January, 2022 - 8:56 am

      <p>Microsoft pushed Windows and PCs to 16:9 because it was adding media features like Windows Media Center to Windows in the early 2000s. PC makers adopted it, display makers standardized on it. Then we figured out it was non-optimal. I spoke to PC makers several years ago who wanted that to change. It’s finally happening.</p>

      • darkgrayknight

        Premium Member
        07 January, 2022 - 12:03 pm

        <p>The combination of Microsoft’s push for Media PCs and the "screen" industry move to a standard 16:9 made it easier to make displays with this ratio for everything. I can remember I had a 27" CRT that had higher resolution than the standard 1080p, but flat screens that took up less space and required less power took over. It is interesting that 16:9 lasted so amazingly long. We are finally seeing many different screen sizes in monitors now, as well as phones, tablets, etc. It would be great if laptops could be purchased with a variety of screen aspect ratios.</p>

  • Username

    06 January, 2022 - 11:48 pm

    <p><em>&gt; <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">I will never understand how the video-optimized 16:9 aspect ratio took over the industry …</span></em></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">easy… Two side-by-side windows are 8:9 – near square.</span></p>

    • Username

      06 January, 2022 - 11:54 pm

      <p>… with <em>“near square”</em> being the best compromise between menu width and content length.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      09 January, 2022 - 1:56 am

      <p>Side-by-side, they are 32:9, not 8:9. Stacked over each other, they would be 8:9. ;-)</p>

      • Username

        09 January, 2022 - 3:53 pm

        <p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">&gt; Side-by-side, they are 32:9, not 8:9</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">that may be true in a different universe, but in this, splitting (eg.) 1920×1080 screen into two (horizontal) side-by-side windows, gets two 960×1080 windows – each 8:9.</span></p>

  • bluvg

    07 January, 2022 - 12:20 am

    <p>"…I’ve been dinging any product with such a display for years"</p><p>"…the firm sent me an early engineering sample to test out"</p><p><br></p><p>It’s almost like they’re listening to <em>you</em>. ? Keep it up, Paul, we all benefit from your voice! (Next up, webcam optics/sensor quality!)</p>

  • RobertJasiek

    07 January, 2022 - 1:48 am

    <p>3:2 is barely acceptable (4:3 would be even much better.) As a German user, I wonder whether there will also be a German keyboard layout. I understand that the small form factor cannot have a NUM block of mechanical keys.</p><p><br></p><p>However, the small arrow keys are totally unacceptable (and good layout could have avoided them).</p><p><br></p><p>The central other question of this keyboard design is how badly or well one can cope with presumably the Home / End / Page up / down and NUM keys being in the touchpad. No reviewer could answer this question for me; I would need to test it for weeks to find out the answer for myself. This is too great a risk for my taste so I would rather buy a device with a larger form factor or else a tablet.</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    07 January, 2022 - 3:40 am

    <p>I agree with your comments for the most part, and agree, this looks like a great step forward.</p><p><br></p><p>But why would you <em>ever</em> put the power switch in the middle of the keyboard? It should be separate, so you can’t accidentally hit it when typing.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      07 January, 2022 - 8:57 am

      <p>It doesn’t matter if you hit it when typing, it doesn’t just power down. You can hit it all day long.</p><p><br></p><p>The issue with the previous placement is that everyone’s muscle memory tells you that’s the Delete key.</p>

  • jchampeau

    Premium Member
    07 January, 2022 - 7:34 am

    <p>After having used a Surface Laptop 3 for a while and now an HP Spectre X360 (both with 3:2 displays) and an XPS 13 with a 16:10 display, I can say confidently that 16:10 is the sweet spot for me and probably for many others coming from 16:9 displays. Snapping two apps side by side doesn’t work well with 3:2, and I have one web app that was designed with 16:9 in mind and even if the browser is maximized, I still have to either scroll or zoom out 10% to see everything. I freaking love everything about this HP Spectre X360 14 except the 3:2 display which, to me, is an overcorrection from 16:9.</p>

  • wpcoe

    Premium Member
    07 January, 2022 - 7:41 am

    <p>Why the preference for USB-C ports on opposite sides? I think things look more tidy if all cables &amp; dongles are all on one side. With them on both sides, it’s like an octopus.</p><p><br></p><p>For my desktop (the piece of furniture) setup, I prefer the older Dragonfly with 360°. I use the laptop as a supplementary display, and putting the laptop in "tent mode" next to the monitor takes less desktop real estate. When would you ever use a laptop in<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);"> 180°</span> lay-flat mode?</p><p><br></p><p>Other than those two quibbles, the G3 looks pretty good. Waiting to see the prices.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      07 January, 2022 - 8:01 am

      <p>They are often both on the right hand side, which means power, dock, whatever, is plugged into the right hand side and can quickly get tangled with a mouse, when working at the desk.</p><p><br></p><p>It simply offers more flexibility. My ThinkPad actually has them on the left, but the ThinkPad sits on the right side of my desk and having a USB-C/Thunderbolt on the left would make the cabling less messy, as it encroaches on the rest of the desk, instead of being able to run straight off the side of the desk.</p>

  • dougkinzinger

    Premium Member
    07 January, 2022 - 8:56 am

    <p>Looks like a solid unit. Nice!</p>

  • omen_20

    10 January, 2022 - 12:57 pm

    <p>Don’t like the power button hiding in with the keyboard. It should be on the side of the laptop with a fingerprint reader built in. That way you never accidentally press it, and you can easily wake the laptop up if it is closed, used on a desk with a dock. It also works better for convertibles.</p>


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