HP Elite Dragonfly First Impressions

HP’s Elite Dragonfly is aimed at mobile trailblazers who don’t want to compromise on quality, portability, and performance. Put another way, it’s a beautiful and lightweight successor to the EliteBook 1030, one of the best portable computers I’ve ever used.

Oh, and it’s blue. Or what HP calls Iridescent Dragonfly Blue.

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That will be the first thing you notice about this new 360-degree convertible laptop.

But once you get your hands on it, and pick it up, your mind will start to drift elsewhere because the Dragonfly, as I’ll now call it, is also the lightest and most portable PC in its class. It weighs just 2.18 or 2.5 pounds, depending on whether you opt for a 2-cell (38 Wh) or 4-cell (56.2 Wh) battery. But even the 2-cell variant delivers 16.5 hours of battery, according to HP. The slightly heavier 4-cell hits 24.5 hours.

(Those are allegedly real-world figures; HP says that a 4-cell Dragonfly with its most efficient display option can achieve up to 15 hours in video playback time. Yes, I’ll be testing battery life.)

The other thing you’ll notice, especially if you’re as familiar with the Elite line of products as I am, is that the Dragonfly doesn’t just look different, it feels different. And that’s because it’s made of magnesium, and not aluminum, as with other Elite PCs.

As you probably know, both Microsoft and Lenovo use this material in at least some of their PCs, and its known to be both durable and lightweight. But in HP’s case, the change has led to some almost startling improvements over the EliteBook 1030. The Dragonfly is about 27 percent lighter than its predecessor overall, and individual components, like the keyboard (26 percent lighter) and glass precision touchpad (36 percent lighter), are likewise dramatically improved.

HP is also starting to address one of my key pain points with its laptops: Its previously-massive display bezels are getting smaller—much smaller—as well. The top bezel on the Dragonfly is fully 42 percent thinner than that of its predecessor, thanks largely to a web/IR camera system that is only one-third the size of its own predecessor. And the bottom bezel is 14 percent thinner. Combined with the already-thin side bezels, the Dragonfly offers a great 86 percent screen-to-body ratio.

From a ports perspective, the Dragonfly doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find a full-sized USB 3.1 port and a nano SIM card tray on the left, along with a lighted power button and a lock.

And on the right, you’ll see a full-sized HDMI 1.4 port, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and a headphone/mic port.

As you would expect, you can use either USB-C port for power. But here is a complaint HP hasn’t addressed: Both ports are on the same side of the PC. And because they’re not at the back of the PC, the power cord will be in the way if you’re a righty and using a mouse.

The keyboard and touchpad are largely unchanged from previous versions. That’s a good thing: The keyboard offers a perfect 1.3 mm of key travel and an ideal typing experience. And the glass touchpad is excellent, and not too large.

The Dragonfly offers Windows Hello sign-in capabilities via its webcam and a typically-excellent HP fingerprint reader.

HP offers three display options on the Dragonfly, all of which support multitouch and HP’s line of smartpens. The review unit shipped with the base display, a pleasant 400 nit Full HD (1920 x 1080) panel that draws just 1-watt of power and offers the best battery life. But you can also choose between a 550 nit UHD (3840 x 2160) HDR 400 panel and a 1000 nit HP Sure View Gen3 panel with Full HD and integrated privacy capabilities if you prefer. (I would personally choose the base display, but choice is always good.)

Internally, the Dragonfly can be had with 8th generation Intel Core i5-8265U, i5-8365U, or i7-8665U processors, 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM, and 256 GB or more of SSD storage, with some Intel Optane options as well.

I have a lot more to say about the Dragonfly, but I’ll save it for the review. So let me just leave you with the pricing. The HP Elite Dragonfly starts at about $1550 for a Core i5/8 GB/256/Full HD configuration, and can quickly escalate to $1850 (Core i5/16 GB/256/Full HD Sure View) and even $2080 (Core i7/16 GB/512 with 32 GB of Intel Optane/Full HD) and beyond. This is very much a premium PC.

More soon.

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Conversation 11 comments

  • bluvg

    05 December, 2019 - 5:16 pm

    <p>16:9. So close.</p>

    • simard57

      05 December, 2019 - 5:54 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#495233">In reply to bluvg:</a></em></blockquote><p>I have heard HP claim there is no demand for 3:2 but have they ever offered such a choice? </p><p><br></p>

      • Paul Thurrott

        Premium Member
        05 December, 2019 - 6:54 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#495242">In reply to Simard57:</a></em></blockquote><p>HP uses 3:2 displays on Tablet PC 2-in-1s. </p>

      • bluvg

        07 December, 2019 - 11:27 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#495242">In reply to Simard57:</a></em></blockquote><p>If HP showed customers two laptops, one that looks just like the 16:9 above, and another identical laptop with more of that bottom area taken up by screen than bezel (3:2 or even 16:10), I'm sure those customers would correct them on whether there is demand.</p>

    • Todd Northrop

      06 December, 2019 - 9:26 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#495233">In reply to bluvg:</a></em></blockquote><p>16:9 makes it unusable. Certainly not "Elite".</p>

  • wunderbar

    Premium Member
    05 December, 2019 - 5:50 pm

    <p>for the Thunderbolt 3 being on the same side of the computer, that's a chipset limitation from intel. the thunderbolt controller on that chipset only supports ports that are literally serial in the circuitry, so they have to be on the same side of the computer. You can of course choose to put another USB-C port without thunderbolt support on the other side, which is what Dell does with the XPS 13 line.</p><p><br></p><p>The thunderbolt 3 controller on the 10th gen ice lake platform does support thunderbolt 3 ports on opposite sides of a laptop, and again Dell does implement this on the new XPS 13 2 in 1 that runs ice lake. So hopefully we see that as more laptops support it.</p>

    • SvenJ

      07 December, 2019 - 12:50 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#495241"><em>In reply to wunderbar:</em></a><em> </em>Really? Maybe I'm naïve, but you can't run lands on a circuit board or a ribbon cable to the other side of the laptop? We are just talking about where a connector is. </blockquote><p><br></p>

  • brettscoast

    Premium Member
    05 December, 2019 - 6:18 pm

    <p>Sweet machine Paul, look forward to the review but this is definitely a premium PC.</p>

  • RobertJasiek

    06 December, 2019 - 1:11 am

    <p>A 1W display is impressively efficient. What technology is it? How does it enable such?</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    06 December, 2019 - 4:33 am

    <p>Wow, just looked on Amazon, they only list the Core i5/16GB/256GB version, for a whopping $2,663 (2399€)!</p><p>Shame, it is a lovely looking laptop, but 2.5K for a Core i5? No thanks. :-(</p><p>Edit: At Alternate.de the 8GB i5 version comes in at 2099€, $2330.</p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    06 December, 2019 - 3:15 pm

    <p>Other than the screen, you did not list the configuration you are testing. ?</p>

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