HP Elite Dragonfly Review First Impressions

Posted on December 5, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 11 Comments

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.

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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