I reviewed the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 in October 2022, praising it as a nearly perfect ultralight laptop with an attractive and modern design, the very best typing experience I’d ever encountered, terrific battery life, and other advantages. For 2023, HP has evolved this PC, dropping the Elite moniker, keeping everything that was great about the G3, and adding a few small but meaningful internal improvements, most intriguingly to its power management and hybrid work capabilities.
The Dragonfly G4 is physically identical to the Elite Dragonfly G3, sharing its 3:2 clamshell design and lightweight, durable, and premium magnesium/aluminum body. The whole thing is wonderful, from the feel of the materials to the curved “pillow corners” on the display lid and base outer edges.
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It also shares the magically svelte 2.2-pound starting weight of its predecessor, its Slate Blue and Natural Silver color options, and incredibly rigid construction: in addition to passing MIL-STD 810H tests for shock, vibration, and extreme temperatures, there is no flex in the body at all, no matter how hard I press down on the keyboard. That’s always impressive, but in a device this thin, it seems impossible.
HP’s subtle and professional branding continues forward, too. I have no doubt that Dragonfly owners will be asked about this gorgeous PC whenever they’re out in the world.
As with its predecessor, the Dragonfly G4 offers several display options, all of which are 13.5-inch panels with a tall 3:2 aspect ratio and ultra-wide viewing angles. The review unit shipped with a non-touch BrightView WLED WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280) panel with low blue light capabilities that emits 400 nits of brightness, and I found it to be exactly right for my needs, which amounts to working indoors on standard PC productivity tasks.
There are other choices, some of which include multitouch, anti-glare, and/or HP’s vaunted Sure View Reflect privacy shield (which amps the brightness up to 1000 nits) features. And what I’m sure is a stunning OLED UWVA panel with a 3K2K (3000 x 2000) resolution that emits 400 nits of brightness. But given the screen size, form factor, and probable use cases, I would almost certainly choose the panel that came with the review unit.
The G4’s display lays flat, as before, which is a nice if rarely needed upgrade.
Here, we finally get to the first difference between the Dragonfly G4 and its predecessor, as it of course ships with a choice of more recent 13th Gen Intel Core U-series processors. You can choose between Core i5-1335U, i5-1345U, i7-1355U, and the i7-1365U that came with the review unit, in vPro and non-vPro configurations, and each provides integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics. There are 16 GB and 32 GB LPDDR5 RAM configurations, though the latter is only available paired with a Core i7-1365U vPro processor. And multiple storage choices, ranging from a 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD to a mammoth 2TB PCIe-4×4 NVMe TLC SSD. The review unit includes 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage, which meets my needs exactly.
The upgrade to the latest Intel Core chipsets was not unexpected. But with the Dragonfly G4, HP has worked some of the power management/performance magic that it previously delivered in partnership with AMD in the HP Dragonfly Pro. To be clear, I mean that at a high level, not that this is somehow the same implementation. AMD and Intel use different system architectures, after all.
But the user experience impact is similar: rather than require a person to find or understand the system’s power management settings (most leave it in the default setting), the Dragonfly G4 features an intelligent and adaptable power management system that somehow delivers terrific performance and cool, quiet operation with almost literally no fan noise, all in this ultra-thin package.
It sounds too good to be true. But it works. I spend a good chunk of time each day using laptops while lying down on a bed, and this usage scenario can wreak havoc with power management because the soft surface blocks the exhaust vents, leading to heat and fan noise. But this doesn’t happen with the Dragonfly G4: even after hours on the bed, the system remains both silent, with just the slightest warmth on its bottom, and I’ve repeatedly pressed my ear against the keyboard, straining to hear a fan noise that just isn’t there.
To achieve this, HP has developed a system called Smart Sense that automatically optimizes the PC’s power and thermal performance on the fly and, in a new twist, based on your usage scenario. And in keeping with my observations on the bed, one of those scenarios is “using your PC on a soft surface,” where keeping the system cool takes precedence. This system can also turn down the fan in quiet environments and amp up the power when more performance is needed.
Smart Sense is configured in the HP Power Manager app, where you can override its magic and choose between Cool, Quiet, and Performance modes if desired. I never did that, as I never encountered the need to question its automatic configuration. This is a nice set-it-and-forget-it feature. And I’ve never experienced any performance, fan noise, or heat issues at all.
The Dragonfly G4 ships with dual-band Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, both of which are the most modern options. And you can configure the PC with Near Field Communication (NFC) and broadband wireless (4G/LTE Cat 16 or 5G) if required with both eSIM and nano-SIM choices. This is identical to the choices we got in the G3, and is obviously ideal.
Little has changed from an expansion perspective, as the Dragonfly G4 ships with the same basic collection of modern and legacy ports as its predecessor. And that means that there’s a USB/C port on each side of the PC, too, one of my routine requests with review PCs. Excellent.
On the left side, you’ll find one full-sized HDMI 2.1 port (up from 2.0 last year), a nano-SIM card slot (if configured), and a single Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port with 40 Gbps of data transfer performance, USB Power Delivery, and DisplayPort 1.4 capabilities.
And on the right, there is a 3.5-mm combination headphone/microphone jack, a full-sized USB-A 3.1 charging port with 5 Gbps of data transfer and a drop-jaw, a single Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port with the same capabilities as above, and a nano lock slot.
This is a nice selection of options, especially given how thin and light the PC is.
Those wishing to enjoy multimedia on the Dragonfly G4 will get the same excellent audio experience provided by its predecessor, via the same four Bang & Olufsen-tuned stereo speaker system with top-firing tweeters, bottom-firing woofers, and 4 discrete smart amplifiers. And while the bundled HP Audio app can’t duplicate the immersive power of Dolby Atmos, it does at least provides an “auto” setting that can tune the output according to the content you’re enjoying.
That all works well enough. As do the two edge microphones, the 2-way AI-based noise cancelation (inbound and outbound), and the HP Dynamic Voice Leveling, each of which likewise appeared in the G3.
But don’t skim by this, as some of the biggest advances in the Dragonfly G4 come via new video controls that dramatically improve its hybrid work functionality when compared to the Elite Dragonfly G3. These include multi-camera support, auto camera select, and keystone correction. So let’s dive into all that and see what it means.
Multi-camera support may seem straightforward, but it’s actually much more powerful than that, though perhaps this feature should be called dual-camera support, as it only supports two cameras, one of which must be the webcam built into the G4. (This is excellent, so no worries there.) At its most basic level, this feature lets you choose between your two cameras, obviously, but it also lets you choose a third virtual camera called HP Enhanced Camera which lets you use both cameras at once. You can configure the view as expected, and because this happens at the system level, the virtual camera is available in any app—Teams, Zoom, and so on—that can use a webcam.
This and the other new camera-based features are configured via an app called Video control that is curiously only accessible via the myHP app and not in the Start menu. It will ask you which camera you wish to use, and if you select HP Enhanced Camera, you can then configure either or both physical cameras to a very granular degree. Which features you can configure will vary by camera, but I see Auto frame, backlight adjustment, low light adjustment, natural tone, an appearance filter, backgrounds, and resolution (up to 4K!) on the internal camera.
All that may seem pretty common, but things get interesting when you use two cameras at once. If you select the Mixer button at the top of this app, you’ll see both camera views in the preview with the second camera in a picture-in-picture (PiP) window by default.
From here, you can position or rotate the PiP display or, even better, choose between different layouts that also include a few side-by-side views.
That is obviously extremely useful, whether you’re in a room with other people, demonstrating something nearby (as a YouTuber might with a physical product), or whatever. But you can also use another new feature called auto camera select to move around physically in front of your PC and, as you do, have the system automatically switch cameras so that you’re always in view. Here, I’ve moved out of position for the main camera and into the view of the second camera, so it has auto-selected the latter. (Forgive my unprofessional surroundings.)
In case it’s not obvious, in each of these scenarios—two cameras at once, auto camera select—all of the Video control-based configuration features still work. So if you’ve enabled auto frame on a camera, it will auto frame you when that camera is used.
But there’s more: Video control also features manual and automatic keystone correction functionality that allows you to display a document or whiteboard via one of your cameras to the other parties with whom you’re meeting online. And it automatically crops and flattens the document or whiteboard so that it appears non-skewed to viewers. For example, here’s what a document looks like without this feature enabled.
And here is what it looks like when I enabled automatic keystone. Nice!
This functionality is simply amazing, and for those who need some or all of these additional video features, the Dragonfly G4—and presumably the other HP PCs that do or will soon support this—a no-brainer.
Last year, I described the Elite Dragonfly G3’s keyboard as nearly perfect, with a heavenly key feel, perfect key travel, and no rattles or wobbles. The G4’s keyboard is identical, and just as good, and I’m as struck as ever by the sublime quality of the typing experience.
The keyboard layout is also identical, with a power button in the top right (and to the left of Delete, where it belongs), a fingerprint reader button to the left of the arrow keys, and dedicated webcam and microphone toggles.
I still have the same quibbles too. It doesn’t have that right column of Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn, and End keys that I love so much, but this is increasingly rare. And the arrow key layout is tough, making for frequent misfires by my large fingers. Nothing critical though.
I will also add one more quibble: thanks to my messy typing, I sometimes tap the user programmable key in the function row by mistake, which launches the myHP app so I can configure it. I don’t want to use this key, but there’s no “Do nothing” option. So myHP keeps launching.
The large glass touchpad is again unchanged, and it was perfectly accurate after I disabled three- and four-finger gestures (as I usually do). No issues here.
The Dragonfly G4 supports Windows Hello facial recognition and fingerprint recognition, which is my preferred configuration. I mostly stick with fingerprint readers, and the unit in the keyboard was fast and reliable.
As with its predecessor, the G4 also comes with Auto Lock and Awake functionality that senses when you approach the PC and wakes it up proactively, allowing facial recognition (when configured) to do its thing as quickly as possible. A similar feature dims the display when you walk away, preserving battery life. This is useful functionality, and these features make for a more seamless experience.
Finally, HP provides its Wolf Security solution for anti-malware, threat containment, and other security-related functionality. This is part of a managed system that HP IT shops will love, but it might be overkill for some individuals.
As with its predecessor, the Dragonfly G4’s external chassis is made with at least 90 percent recycled magnesium, its keycaps contain 50 percent recycled plastic from DVDs, its speaker enclosures contain at least 5 percent ocean-bound plastic, and its outer box and packaging is 100 percent sustainably sourced. Also, the G4’s chassis can be easily opened via four Torx screws, and the SSD is user replaceable (but not the RAM).
But there are some sustainability advances in the G4, too. New to this model, the display contains more than 35 percent iridium, and the display bezels incorporate bio-circular resins partially derived from bio-waste material like used cooking oil to help lower CO2 emissions.
With its 2.2-pound starting weight and small 11.7 x 8.67 x 0.64-inch dimensions, identical to those of its predecessor, the Dragonfly G4 is every bit as portable, and it easily disappeared into my HP Renew backpack for the flight to Mexico and into my wife’s smaller backpack one day when we were heading out into the city.
The G4 also just about matched its predecessor’s stellar battery life performance, delivering an average of 8 hours and 15 minutes on a charge. You can manage and monitor the battery’s performance and health in the HP Power Manager app, but I let HP manage those things automatically and it is clearly doing a great job.
The Dragonfly ships with a 6-cell 68-watt-hour battery and a standard HP 65-watt USB-C power adapter. A 100-watt charger is optional.
The HP Dragonfly G4 is configured with Windows 11 Pro, as one should expect, and comes with 11 HP-branded utilities and 4 Intel utilities, one of which, Unison, pairs with both Android phones and iPhones and offers file transfer, phone call, messaging, and notification capabilities similar to Microsoft’s Phone Link. Seems redundant.
I have inexplicably lost the screenshots I always take to document crapware, but Energy Star was in there and I believe that Adobe Offers was there originally too. (Sorry.) Tile, alas, is not on the review PC and it’s not clear if that tracking functionality is on offer with the G4. (I don’t see it in the configurator.)
The HP Dragonfly is a premium PC and thus has a price tag to match, starting at about $2560. But as I write this, HP is having an incredible sale, with a base unit (Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, and the excellent base display in the review unit) starting at just over $1300. Folks, that is a steal.
The price goes up as you tack on features, of course. The review unit configuration—Core i7, 16 GB, 512 GB, base display, 5G—normally costs about $3390 (yikes), but can be had right now for $1763.
What can I say? The HP Dragonfly G4 is the nearly perfect ultralight laptop. It somehow magically blends excellent performance and battery life into a thin and light chassis that remains inexplicably cool and quiet no matter the use case. The improvements over its predecessor seem minor, but they’re all useful and appreciated, from the Smart Sense power and thermal performance optimizations to the terrific hybrid work enhancements. The typing experience is the best I’ve ever had, the connectivity and expansion options are top-notch, and it’s even more sustainable than previous models. I can’t identify any major faults, leaving only its deservedly high asking price in the “cons” column.
The HP Dragonfly G4 is highly recommended. If you can get one on sale as of the time of this writing, be sure to do so.