HP Elite Dragonfly Notebook PC Review
The HP Elite Dragonfly brings a unique combination of refined aesthetic, lightness, durability, and power to the mobile computing experience.
HP Elite Dragonfly Notebook PC Pros and Cons
|Great quiet keyboard that is a pleasure to type on||16:9 aspect ratio display not tall enough for long document work|
|Beautiful light, durable and thin design (and an exquisite blue finish)||Premium features means premium pricing|
|Hello Windows compatible IR camera.||720p webcam|
|Solid performance with higher-end processor choices|
|Outstanding battery life depending on configuration (still good even with highest-level configuration)|
|Best-in class balance between design and functionality|
|Full HDMI and USB 3.1 ports|
HP Elite Dragonfly: Overview
The HP Elite Dragonfly 13-inch premium convertible notebook seriously steps up expectations from a mobile computer. It rides the robes of Intel’s Project Athena to offer a cohesive experience—an experience more about how the notebook services the owner, than the bells and whistles on the spec sheet.
But the Dragonfly isn’t light in the spec area. Our review unit sports a quad-core i7 and 512GB of storage, housed in a package that only weighs only about 2.2lbs (depending on options). It measures a mere 11.98 x 7.78 x 0.63 in.
The HP Elite Dragonfly delivers a best-in-class design that seamlessly melds mobility with the power of a business desktop.
HP Elite Dragonfly Design
Look at the Elite Dragonfly closed and it promises to tick marks in several design categories, including mobility and connectivity. Open it up and security, usability, and overall experience prove hard to deny. The Dragonfly’s blue housing shimmers in the right light, stating unequivocally that this notebook is not just another aluminum copy of someone else’s design. The Dragonfly is in fact, mostly magnesium, when lends to its lightness.
Beyond its looks, the Dragonfly’s magnesium chassis proves as tough as it is good looking, with durability demonstrated through MIL-STD 810G testing. Another design choice, the use of post-consumer recycled-plastic integrated into the speaker box, offers sustainability cred to the device.
HP discovered inspiration from nature to drive beyond the mundane to deliver a redefined a balance of svelt contours and practical features.
HP created a beautiful device in the Dragonfly. When so many notebooks attempt to converge on the aging MacBook aesthetic, HP diverged. They discovered inspiration from nature to drive beyond the mundane to deliver a redefined a balance of svelt contours and practical features.
The 1080p (1920×1080) display is bright and clean and clear behind its Gorilla Glass 5 barrier. I do tend to find 1080p short for working on documents. That is true about any 1080p notebook. I am not a fan of touch screens for notebook computers as I find smudges more annoying than the occasionally useful touch. But many not only appreciate the option to use touch but consider a design deficient if touch isn’t supported.
Complaints from other reviewers about the inadequacy of the basic display for viewing video outside is a bit of red herring. I never watch videos in full sunlight on any device. And I rarely work outside without some sort of cover. Some may. The occurrences of washing out the Dragonfly’s display in the sun will likely prove rather rare.
For those seeking more security or a 4K panel, HP offers those features for a price, which affect both wallet and battery life.
See Options for the specifications of additional display options.
Connectivity and ports
The Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 runs the 802.11ax wireless, including Bluetooth 5. A nano-SIM slot offers support for up to 5G LTE. I did not fly my Dragonfly on a cellular network.
Unlike Apple and some other manufacturers who seem bent on betting everything on USB-C, the Dragonfly comes with a nearly complete set of ports. The right-side sports a full-size HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack and two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, either of which can be used to charge the Dragonfly. The left-side harbors a USB 3.1 port, the power button, a security cable portal, and the nano-SIM slot. The only thing missing is a wired Ethernet port but that would be too retro for this forward-looking notebook.
The number of ports is unusual for a modern notebook of this size and power. Most high-end devices end up with only a couple of ports that require dongles and hubs to increase connectivity and features. While the USB-C port guarantees the future, the other ports ensure smooth connectivity and compatibility for today’s use cases and accessories. Another example of HP’s clearly thoughtful design choices in the Dragonfly.
The Dragonfly includes a variety of inputs, from keyboards and trackpads, to biometric fingerprint and facial recognition to an option pen for drawing, commenting and annotating.
The Dragonfly keyboard was built for writers and others who spend their days typing. Solid key travel combines with a good layout. Function keys get squeezed, but well they should. Some reviewers complain about the arrow keys but I find them useful when needed, and not in the way when they are not.
The keyboard also features good backlighting. The bad backlight can be a distraction more than a help. The Dragonfly keyboard lights up productivity in low light conditions.
For those who will collaborate from the Dragonfly, HP included is collaboration keys for answering calls, bringing up a calendar and managing displays.
The Dragonfly’s glass trackpad integrates well with the keyboard. Controlling the responsive trackpad doesn’t take fingers out of position or require any awkward convolutions.
Trackpads, however, always require training. Not the trackpad software, but the trackpad user. They all have their quirks and secret gestures. In fact, the gestures are not secret, they are all listed in the trackpad settings, which is where one should go to first understand defaults. I tend not to take this advice, but rather jump-in. When I found that right-clicking didn’t work I expected, decided I should look at the settings. I quickly learned that right-clicking wasn’t a position or a duration issue, it was a two-finger tap.
Once gestures get adjusted, either them to you or you to them, the trackpad fits into the typing flow.
I do, however, still like a mouse better than the trackpad on any device running in notebook mode. I find my Bluetooth Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse complements the Dragonfly’s looks and styling. At least for me, it makes the experience more aligned with my preferences.
The review unit included the optional HP Rechargeable Active Pen G3.
If the pen gets too far away from the Dragonfly, it lets you know. Some reviews suggest that notebook needs a dedicated repository for the pen. That would create mostly unused space should the pen not fit the work.
I attach the pen magnetically to the top of the case when not using it, or just leave it behind. A quick look at the iPad Pro hints at a feature the next generation of Dragonfly may want to adopt: wireless charging. Rather than a dedicated slot, an external magnetic attachment area the keeps the pen charged would be welcomed.
If you do wander off without your pen, the Dragonfly pushes an alert notifying you of the wayward Active Pen.
This review version also included a slipcover with a pen pocket.
As for functionality, the Active Pen works best in tablet mode where it can serve as the primary input device, far outstripping fingers for precision. The pen supports a variety of inputs from handwriting recognition, to on-screen drawing and annotation and cursor control. The Active Pen really shines in an application like Microsoft OneNote that was built with a pen in mind.
The 720p front-facing camera is OK. It sits centered above the screen, embedded at the apex of the 10m bezel. A slide privacy shutter allows owners to pull the curtain on their camera. The shutter does occasional slip into place when carrying the Dragonfly around. So if Windows Hello fails, check the shutter. It mostly likely closed. Opening it will eliminate video authentication challenge problems. A full HD camera would be preferable given the virus-driven increase in online meetings at the beginning of 2020.
While only OK for video conferencing, the Dragonfly does a great job of biometric detection. It leverages Microsoft Windows Hello interface to recognize mapped faces. Those who rely on Windows Hello facial recognition as the primary means for Windows login, and employ an external monitor for more screen real estate, need to keep their Dragonfly open, at least at boot time, to identify users. Any reboot requires opening the notebook’s lid for another peek at the user’s face.
The Dragonfly also includes fingerprint identification, which offers alternatives to facial recognition, as well as a backup means to access the computer. We commend setting up all forms of authentication, including a personal PIN.
A microphone array picks up sound with noise cancelation to help make clearer calls and video conferences, not to mention unambiguous appeals to Cortana for assistance. The Intel Smart Sound Technology (SST) does a good job and should service most conferencing situations that don’t leverage higher-end video or audio conferencing hardware.
Power arrives at the Dragonfly via one of the two USB-C ports on the notebook’s right-side. The box includes an HP Smart 65 W USB Type-C adapter. The Dragonfly prefers HP power solutions, but it will charge off other power supplies. Interestingly, I own an older HP 65W USB-C power supply that the Dragonfly refused to recognize as one of its own.
The Bang & Olufsen audio subsystem cranks up the tunes or the flicks, or just the sound of colleagues talking from their bunkers. Speaker separation is good, with plenty of speaker grill framing the keyboard on the left and right to allow for unmuffled sound. The four top-firing speakers and four discrete amps create a nice personal sound bubble. The Bang & Olufsen control app tempers incoming background noise from conference calls, as well as local background noise from the microphone array. It also offers audio fine-tuning.
The review unit huddles around the 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8665U, the highest end of the Dragonfly configurations. New G2 models will come with 10th generation CPUs. The quad-core CPU launched in Q2 of 2019 worked without hesitation on everything I threw at it. It’s not a VR machine, and the built-in UHD Graphics would struggle with high-end games, but as a mobile platform aimed at work-grade desktop equivalents, there were no complaints.
The 16GB of DDR4-2400 memory ate up and spit out presentations, business graphics, drawing, notetaking, and mind mapping. It calculated spreadsheets and vectors in images. It displayed video and managed collaboration sessions along with audio conferences. And at most times, all the above simultaneously. I don’t have to benchmark a CPU/GPU to stress test a computer. I would rather see if it holds up to my workloads than buy on specs alone.
The Dragonfly smoothly renders its video when connected to a 3440×1440 LG display, as should be expected. I experienced no lag, no artifacts, and no connectivity issues. The Intel® UHD Graphics 620 isn’t known for its high-end graphic prowess, so don’t expect the Dragonfly to become a gaming machine for anything that requires a superior GPU, or as a primary video editing host. But do keep in mind, that not all video editing aims at professional production. The Dragonfly will handle basic video editing, albeit a bit slower than more powerful desktops.
Notebook mode. The majority of this review describes the components of user experience in notebook mode. As is clear from the detailed review, the Dragonfly is an outstanding notebook computer that balances looks, performance and features well.
Tablet mode. As a tablet, the HP Dragonfly makes a good notebook. Anyone who owns an iPad Pro will find it difficult to see the Dragonfly as a viable alternative. It’s a bit too thick, and a bit too heavy. The base configuration comes in at around 2.2 pounds. Apple’s iPad Pro 12.9, their heaviest device, weighs only 1.29 pounds. The Dragonfly does work as a tablet. I have used it with OneNote on multiple occasions to scribble ideas or markup a PDF. I probably not choose the Dragonfly for long-term content viewing or content creation. At least not in tablet mode.
As a convertible: The selling point for convertibles is the “tablet when you need it” value proposition. That value proposition holds up very well for business meetings. A single device can be used to present, take handwritten notes and manage e-mail with keyboard shortcuts. All within a few fleeting moments of each other. It’s not the power of any one mode being superior to an equivalent dedicated device in that mode but in the ability to support different use cases quickly. The Dragonfly is a superior notebook computer and an OK tablet. That it can be both is a good thing.
Well-being mode: The Dragonfly also includes HP’s WorkWell software. This isn’t a mode as much as a state of mind. WorkWell provides alerts to move, much like various smartwatches. It collects data and analyzes work patterns against ideals. Unlike SmartWatches, WorkWell makes recommendations to help moderate risks discovered during analysis. This feature will work best with the Dragonfly as the primary work device.
HP Elite Dragonfly: The Bottomline
The only real problem with the HP Elite Dragonfly is it makes almost every other device on the market seem crude and unrefined, including its cousins from other HP lines.
The HP Elite Dragonfly brings perhaps the best set of features in a notebook aimed at executives and frequent travelers. The usability, ruggedness, ease of access to ports proves that modern notebooks need not compromise on necessities to favor ideology. Nothing feels cluttered or stuck on. And yet there everything that could be included, from convertibility to touch screen to legacy ports found a home. Enhanced security and 5G LTE further expand the optional use cases. And yes, there is a price to pay for elegance and style, but there always is. The only real problem with the HP Elite Dragonfly is it makes almost every other device on the market seem crude and unrefined, including its cousins from other HP lines.
The review unit arrived with the standard 13.3-inch FHD ISP touchscreen. HP also offers a 4K, HDR 400 touchscreen. For those interested in privacy in proximity, the SureView FHD touchscreen brings a one-touch privacy filter. My HP EliteBook 830 G5 computer includes the privacy screen, and it works well, but I don’t have much use for it. Spies, CFOs and CTOs (and yes, almost anyone who works in finance or aerospace) will likely find justification for the SureView option.
Depending on the configuration, the Dragonfly comes with either a 38Whr battery or a 56.2Whr battery. More battery extends work and playtime longer, especially when including higher-end video components and more power-intensive CPUs.
The Dragonfly also comes with an optional embedded Tile so it can be more easily located when lost or stolen.
As with many configure-to-buy computers, the Dragonfly comes with a range of CPUs, local storage and displays. The options aim at getting the most performance out of various budgets. For longevity of investment, we always recommend the most computer you can afford at the time. If you buy a 16GB quadcore i7-based device with 512GB or more of local storage, it will last much longer than a lesser unit as software and media requirements evolve. A high-end model will also save time over its useful life through speed and a reduced need to manage local and cloud storage.
Major options for the HP Elite Dragonfly include the following:
- Intel® Core™ i7-8565U with Intel® UHD Graphics 620 (1.8 GHz base frequency, up to 4.6 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 8 MB L3 cache, 4 cores)
- Intel® Core™ i7 8665U processor with Intel® UHD Graphics 620 (1.8 GHz base frequency, up to 4.8 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 8 MB L3 cache, 4 cores), supports
- Intel® vPro™ Technology
- Intel® Core™ i5-8265U with Intel® UHD Graphics 620 (1.6 GHz base frequency, up to 3.9 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 6 MB L3 cache, 4 cores)
- Intel® Core™ i5 8365U processor with Intel® UHD Graphics 620 Graphics (1.6 GHz base frequency, up to 4.1 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 6 MB L3 cache, 4 cores), supports Intel® vProTM Technology
- Intel® Core™ i3-8145U with Intel® UHD Graphics 620 (2.1 GHz base frequency, up to 3.9 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 4 MB L3 cache, 2 cores)
- 512 GB Intel® PCIe® NVMeTM QLC M.2 SSD with 32 GB Intel® OptaneTM memory H107,8,38
- 256 GB Intel® PCIe® NVMeTM QLC M.2 SSD with 16 GB Intel® OptaneTM memory H107,8,38 256 GB up to 2 TB PCIe® Gen3x4 NVMeTM M.2 SSD TLC7
- 512 GB M.2 SATA FIPS 140-2 SSD TLC7
- 512 GB PCIe® Gen3x4 NVMeTM M.2 SED SSD TLC7 256 GB up to 512 GB PCIe® M.2 Value SSD7
- 256 GB M.2 SATA SED SSD TLC7
- 128 GB M.2 SATA-3 SSD TLC7,9
- 13.3″ diagonal FHD IPS eDP + PSR BrightView WLED-backlit ultraslim direct bonded touch screen with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5, 400 nits, 72% NTSC (1920 x 1080)
- 13.3″ diagonal FHD IPS eDP + PSR BrightView WLED-backlit ultraslim direct bonded touch screen with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5 and HP Sure View Integrated Privacy Screen, 1000 nits, 72% NTSC (1920 x 1080)
- 13.3″ diagonal 4K IPS eDP + PSR BrightView WLED-backlit ultraslim direct bonded touch screen with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5, 550 nits, 95% sRGB (3840 x 2160)
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Review unit provided by HP. Images courtesy of HP.