HP continues to liven up the business-class section of your nearest plane. It seems the copper and black Spectre laptops weren't enough, as the new HP Elite Dragonfly (starting at $1,664, and tested at $2,298) shocks the system with its elegant blue-magnesium chassis that's much lighter than it looks. But the Dragonfly's beauty is far from just skin deep, thanks to a beautiful display, thin bezels and surprisingly long battery life for a machine of this size.
If only the laptop weren't out of most consumers' reach with its high pricing, I'd be recommending this to everyone I know as the PC to buy. The HP Elite Dragonfly is such a good 2-in-1 laptop, though, that it's more than worth its investment; it's going to make other laptop makers take notice of HP as a leader in premium laptops — and, yes, even MacBook fans will take notice. That's why it's one of the best Windows laptops you can buy, and one of the best laptops on the market.
HP Elite Dragonfly pricing and availability
The Elite Dragonfly's got a new version coming, as its Gen 2 model was announced at CES 2021.
With an entry-level cost of $1,664 (currently on sale a $2,561 starting price), the Dragonfly is priced to be out of reach of most consumers, intended more for execs on the go. A similarly spec'd Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga costs a lower (but still pricey) $1,327, while the Intel-based MacBook Air we compared it against in the original version of this review now starts at a significantly less expensive $999 — and has the new Apple M1 processor to boot.
We tested a $2,298 (MSRP: $3,536) configuration of HP's machine stocked with an Intel Core i7-8665U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD and a 32GB Intel Optane Memory H10 SSD. Oh, and because this machine is meant for those flying in style, it's upgraded to a larger, four-cell battery, plus the optional pen and sleeve. That larger battery comes standard on the entry-level Dragonfly, but you can save $22 if you want to get the two-cell battery (which shaves 0.2 pounds off the Dragonfly's weight).
I'd recommend you bump up to the $1,811, midrange model, which features a Core i5-8365U CPU, 256GB SSD, 16GB of RAM, Intel vPro security, a 1920 x 1080-pixel and 1,000-nit panel, and HP's Sure View privacy-screen technology.
|CPU||8th-Gen Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7|
|RAM||8GB / 16GB / 32GB|
|Display||13.3-inch touch-screen display, 1920 x 1200 or 3840 x 2160|
|Storage||128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD|
|Ports||USB-C Thunderbolt 3 (x2), USB 3.1, HDMI 1.4, headphone jack|
|Battery life||24.5 hours (rated for four-cell battery); 12:25 (tested, web surfing)|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.0|
|Dimensions||12 x 7.8 x 0.6 in.|
HP Elite Dragonfly design: A stunner in blue
The HP Dragonfly, named after the shade of blue that HP painted the machine, is a 2-in-1 laptop so beautiful that it could influence the generation of notebooks that follows it. From its striking hue to its slight silver accent touches and a very grippable texture, this is a laptop whose appearance I can't crack a joke about (and I love to make fun of any gaps in designs).
At a surprisingly light 2.5 pounds and at 0.6 inches in thickness, the Elite Dragonfly makes the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2.9 pounds, 0.5 inches), Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3 pounds, 0.6 inches) and Apple MacBook Air (2.8 pounds, 0.6 inches) seem hefty by comparison.
What's amazing about this laptop's lightweight design, though, is that the machine doesn't feel flimsy for it. I've tested other magnesium-shell machines in the past, but unlike them, the Dragonfly doesn't buckle or bend when you grip or apply pressure, thanks to internal reinforcements. Also, HP's provided an oleophobic coating to the Dragonfly's machined metal shell, making it easy to wipe away any smudges.
One thing you won't notice with your eye but that will make you tip your cap to HP is that the Dragonfly is the first laptop with ocean-bound plastics (recycled materials that would typically be headed to the ocean) inside of its shell (Dell's used the material in its packaging before). That material is used in the speaker box of the Dragonfly, and HP marks this as only part of the beginning of the company's efforts to use recycled materials.
HP Elite Dragonfly ports
The HP Dragonfly also offers a great port selection, with dual Thunderbolt 3 USB-Cs, HDMI-out, a USB 3.1 port and a headphone jack. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga packs all that, plus a second USB 3.1 port and an extension port for Ethernet and docking. The MacBook Air sadly offers only a pair of Thunderbolt 3s and a headphone jack.
HP Elite Dragonfly security and durability
With business laptops, there are basics and there are cool perks in ruggedization and security features that help convince companies they're making a solid investment. Thankfully, the HP Elite Dragonfly doesn't settle for the bare minimum.
First off, the Dragonfly packs processors with Intel's vPro technology, a table-stakes-level feature that's there for IT pros to offer remote management help. HP's also bestowed its self-healing BIOS technology, so your computer can fight low-level attacks. On top of that, there's a fingerprint reader below the bottom right corner of the keyboard.
Without those, we'd be docking points. But the Dragonfly also goes above and beyond with its physical webcam guard, which is an elegantly small switch that signifies your privacy by covering that hole with a two-tone circle of diagonal lines. It's not the first webcam shutter ever, but it's the first I've seen that actually looks neat.
The Dragonfly, like all of HP's Elite-model business laptops, has passed 19 MIL-STD-810 tests, ensuring that it's not going to bend or break under pressure. Those tests checked the machine's ability to survive drops, extreme temperatures (both high and low), blasts of sand and other accidental damage.
HP Elite Dragonfly display: As pretty as its shell
The Dragonfly's 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel screen proved to be a great panel for watching the Bond flick No Time to Die's trailer, as I could see each small smudge on Daniel Craig's face, enjoy the icy blues of his eyes and catch the verdant trees in a landscape behind a bridge that 007 was rappelling off of.
According to our colorimeter, the Dragonfly produces 117% of the sRGB spectrum, which approaches the 122% premium laptop average and competes closely with the 113% score from the XPS 13 2-in-1. That score narrowly beats the 106% rating from the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the 100% from the MacBook Air.
The Dragonfly's screen gets pretty bright, too, emitting up to 373 nits. That outshines the 362-nit category average and the 342 nits from the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga gets even brighter, hitting a maximum of 402 nits, as did the 516-nit Dell XPS 13. On this Dragonfly panel, you get an excellent range of viewing angles, as colors stay strong at up to 60 degrees to the left and right.
As I tapped, pinched, pulled and swiped on the Dragonfly's touch screen, I saw excellent responsiveness with fast reaction times befitting such a luxury laptop. Scrolling through news articles on the internet also proved smooth.
HP Dragonfly keyboard and touchpad
The best keyboards let you hit the ground running, and the HP Dragonfly has one of my favorites. On my first run through of the 10FastFingers typing test, I hit 79 words per minute, a point off my 80-wpm average.
My fingers flew similarly well on the Dragonfly's 2.5 x 4.3-inch glass touchpad, which offers buttery-smooth scrolling. Two-finger zoom in and out gestures, as well as Windows 10's four-finger window-navigation commands, also functioned as well as could be expected.
HP Dragonfly audio: The weakest link
As I listened to Girl Talk's "Bounce That" on the Dragonfly, I noticed that the machine got plenty loud, more than filling one of our small conference rooms. The laptop produces so much sound, in fact, that I felt the need to play tunes at around 60% volume, because audio bled out of said room and reached my nearby colleagues, who started laughing at how loud it got. One even called it "an awesome little speaker."
The Dragonfly's got a little room to improve, however, in audio quality. While I started the Girl Talk song with my head bobbing to the beat, I quickly noticed Bun B's sampled vocals coming through a bit muddied, an issue I also noticed when listening to The National's "Looking for Astronauts," as Matt Berninger's lyrics didn't hit as hard.
I tried to ameliorate the audio issues using the included Bang & Olufsen Audio Control app. Its sound options weren't enough, though, as I'd already set sound to Music. The two other options, Voice and Movie, only introduced other issues, messing with the instrumentals on Sum 41's "Fat Lip" and St. Vincent's "Regret."
HP Elite Dragonfly performance: Solid but not the fastest
The high-end HP Dragonfly we tested sports an 8th Gen. Intel Core i7-8665U processor and 16GB of RAM, providing speedy performance. I saw zero slowdown when I split my screen with the 4K remaster of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" video on YouTube and a dozen Chrome tabs (including Giphy and the Google doc for this review).
The Dragonfly's 14,071 score on the Geekbench 4.3 general-performance benchmark is a bit below the 16,357 premium laptop average and the 15,113 from the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Intel Core i5-8265U, 8GB of RAM). Still, the Dragonfly's score blows the 7,880 from the MacBook Air (Intel Core i5-8210Y with 8GB of RAM) out of the water. The XPS 13 2-in-1 (Intel Core i7-106G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM) did even better, with a 19,225 showing.
The 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD (with 32GB Intel Optane 3D XPoint SSD) in the Dragonfly copied 4.7GB of files in 12 seconds, for a speed of 424.1 MBps. That ties the rate from the 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Opal 2 SSD in the ThinkPad X1 Yoga but falls behind the 513.65 category average.
On our HandBrake test, which times a laptop's conversion of a 4K movie to 1080p resolution, the Dragonfly posted 22:23, which could be better. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga finished in 19:07, while the premium laptop average falls in the middle, at 20:48.
The Intel UHD 620 GPU in the Dragonfly won't enable peak gaming, but this laptop sneaks a modest amount of prowess out of its integrated graphics. The Dragonfly ran the Dirt 3 racing game at 31 frames per second. That might fall below the 59-fps premium laptop average, but it's the same rate we saw in the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (which also packs the Intel UHD 620).
HP Elite Dragonfly battery life: Soars for hours
The Dragonfly's small, lightweight chassis packs way more endurance than it has any right to. Our battery test (web surfing at 150 nits) drained the blue beauty of a full charge in 12 hours and 25 minutes, clobbering the 8:43 premium laptop average, the 8:51 time from the MacBook Air, the 10:18 from the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the 10:57 time from the XPS 13 2-in-1.
Of course, this time comes from a Dragonfly with the four-cell battery, and you can downgrade from that version if you want to save $22 and shave 0.2 pounds off the weight. Personally, I'd keep the four-cell battery.
HP Elite Dragonfly heat: Cool up top, warm down below
The Dragonfly can get a little warm. After we streamed 15 minutes of full-HD video on the laptop, our heat gun clocked the laptop's underside at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad (82 degrees) and keyboard (93 degrees) didn't breach the limit. When I tested the Dragonfly, I spent some time typing with it in my lap, and while I felt a little heat, it didn't become a problem.
The HP Dragonfly's crisp, beautiful display; lightweight design; and robust security features combine to give you a laptop that's as nice to look at as it is to use. If only it didn't cost so much that I winced when I saw our testing unit's price. You could save $300 by opting for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, but you'd be dropping over 2 hours in battery life in exchange. That said, the HP Elite Dragonfly truly earns the Elite branding, as this laptop's elegance and endurance add up to utter excellence.