HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

588355 hp elitebook dragonfly 01 - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

The HP Elite Dragonfly isn’t a cutting-edge 2-in-1 convertible laptop. It doesn’t have the ultra-thin screen borders of the consumer-focused Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, nor does it have that machine’s Intel “Ice Lake” 10th Generation computing components. But the 13.3-inch-screen Elite Dragonfly (starts at $1,549; $2,169 as tested) is still a superb business laptop, combining a deep feature set and solid build quality in a way we’ve rarely seen before from an HP machine. This model earns our Editors’ Choice for today’s best business 2-in-1 convertible.

Laptop, Tablet, and Easel

There’s no consensus on whether or not a premium business laptop needs a 360-degree hinge that lets it convert into a tablet or easel. Traveling, presenting salespeople might clamor for one, but many executives and successful small-business owners who will buy the Elite Dragonfly will probably use it as a conventional laptop most of the time. With a starting weight of just 2.2 pounds, however, there’s really no downside to having a 360-degree hinge, in case you need it. The added complexity and weight of such a hinge usually pushes a 13-inch or 14-inch laptop above 3 pounds, but that’s not the case here.

677297 easel mode - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

It is the case for the current iteration of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, which is the laptop most IT departments will likely consider to be the Elite Dragonfly’s closest alternative. The X1 Yoga has a 14-inch screen, measures 0.59 by 12 by 8.5 inches (HWD), and weighs 3.7 pounds. By giving up less than an inch of screen real estate, the Elite Dragonfly is roughly the same size (0.63 by 12 by 7.8 inches) but much lighter. In fact, IT departments should really consider the 2.4-pound, non-convertible Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 as the Elite Dragonfly’s main competitor in the market for premium business laptops.

Our Elite Dragonfly review unit has a four-cell, 56-watt-hour battery. The additional layer of cells pushes the weight to 2.5 pounds, slightly heavier than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The entry-level Elite Dragonfly’s smaller, lighter battery won’t last as long away from a power outlet, so I think the extra weight is worth the reduced battery anxiety. Other key specs on our review unit include an Intel Core i7 with vPro remote-management support, a 512GB SSD bolstered by a built-in Intel Optane H10 memory module, and 16GB of main system memory.

Display Options

HP offers three different screen options for the Elite Dragonfly. All measure 13.3 inches diagonally and have support for touch input. I tested the full-HD version, which comes with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels and 500 nits of rated brightness. It’s the screen to which most buyers will likely gravitate, and it’s fine for basic use. The glossy finish does reflect considerable glare, and there’s little in the way of professional features like wide-color-gamut support, but it displays crisp text.

You can also configure an Elite Dragonfly with HP’s SureView integrated privacy filter, which automatically reduces the viewing angles at the touch of a button to thwart physical snooping. It might come in handy for employees dealing with sensitive information in busy or close-quarters places such as airplane cabins or coffee shops, but the tradeoffs (reduced quality and increased power consumption) aren’t worth it for most people. HP also offers a configuration with a 4K display, whose far greater pixel density I typically prefer on a 2-in-1 laptop, since I find it makes touch interaction and doodling with a stylus more fun. For a business-focused laptop, a 4K display is overkill for most users, though.

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Whichever screen you choose, rest assured that interacting with Windows 10 via touch is more satisfying than it is on most 2-in-1 hybrid and conventional laptops, thanks to the Elite Dragonfly’s sturdy hinge. There is some minor bouncing when you tap or draw, but I found it far less distracting than the reflections of ambient light in my brightly lit office, which is the opposite of my usual experience with touch-screen laptops.

All three panels use in-plane switching (IPS) technology to broaden off-axis viewing angles, and are coated in Corning Gorilla Glass 5.

Click or Type With Ease

With Microsoft continually improving the Windows 10 touch experience, you might find yourself using the touchpad less and less. On many previous HP laptops, which suffered from clumsy pads with confusing customization settings, that’s a good thing. On the Elite Dragonfly, however, I find that the touchpad is the best I’ve used on an HP laptop from the past few years. The click action is crisp, there’s no give when there shouldn’t be (i.e. when you’re tapping but not clicking), and, best of all, the sensitivity is perfectly calibrated out of the box.

677299 click and type - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

The keyboard is equally satisfying. Its keys are supremely stable—I couldn’t get them to wobble even by striking them off center. The keys are also remarkably quiet, with presses resulting in a thud rather than a high-pitched clack. The Elite Dragonfly’s microphone has the ability to filter out even these soft thuds from the keyboard during conference calls, as well as reducing ambient noise by up to 20 decibels. The keystrokes were still clearly audible by a colleague on the other end of a Slack voice call in my testing, however. Only certain conferencing apps work currently with the noise-cancellation feature, including Zoom and Google Hangouts, though HP says it is working on expanding compatibility.

Blue Magnesium or Nothing

The Elite Dragonfly is only available with a blue magnesium finish, likely a result of HP’s effort to distinguish this new flagship laptop from the multiple other silver and gray EliteBooks that it has offered in the past. There’s a CNC milling process for the alloy, which means that it feels tough and durable, instead of taking on a soft-touch feel like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon does. HP also applies an oleophobic coating to the exterior, which could help reduce the amount of skin oil that accumulates on it and keep it from looking smudgy. Over two days of constant use, my review unit nevertheless did pick up some faint fingerprints on the display lid.

677305 easily accessible components - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

The dark-blue magnesium finish doesn’t look bad, but it will certainly stand out in a conference room full of black Lenovo ThinkPads and gray Apple MacBooks. It’s possible that HP will offer the Elite Dragonfly with other color options in the future, as it has added more color options to several of its high-end consumer laptops.

With a screen-to-body ratio of 86 percent, the Elite Dragonfly’s screen bezels are quite thin on the sides. The top border is a bit thicker, though, because it accommodates a 720p webcam that not only offers a physical sliding door to thwart hackers, but also features IR sensors to let you log in to your Windows 10 account with face recognition.

Full-Size Ports and Wi-Fi 6

A Windows laptop destined for corporate boardrooms and salespeoples’ briefcases needs ports, and the Elite Dragonfly does not disappoint, despite its diminutive stature. The right edge features two USB Type-C ports that each supports Thunderbolt 3 speeds, as well as a headphone jack and a full-size HDMI output. The opposite edge hosts a USB Type-A port, a power button, and a receptacle for a physical security lock. An SD card reader is unfortunately absent, though most business users won’t miss it.

There’s also a nano-SIM-card tray on the left edge, for use with the gigabit LTE modem. Other wireless connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.0. The two WLAN antennas are located on the top of the display lid, but they’re well-integrated and not visible from the outside.

677300 usb type a - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

Small businesses may appreciate that HP includes a standard three-year warranty with all Elite Dragonfly configurations, even the base model. Large corporations typically negotiate their own service contracts, but it’s nice to see that lower-volume buyers can take advantage of a much longer warranty than the one year typically included with consumer laptops. On the other hand, the cost of the warranty is obviously built in, which helps contribute to the Elite Dragonfly’s rather high $1,549 starting price.

For that sum, you get a 38-watt-hour battery, an Intel Core i5-8265U CPU without vPro support, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Our $2,169 review unit adds an Intel Core i7-8365U with vPro support, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD with a 32GB Intel Optane memory module. HP also includes a leather sleeve, a stylus (the Rechargeable Active Pen), and the upgraded battery with our unit. These are the only configurations available for sale initially, although several other configurations are planned, including one with a paltry 128GB of storage.

Many of these components are easily accessible for service and replacement. Officially, only authorized service providers can access internal components without voiding the warranty, but the process isn’t difficult. Five easily accessible screws hold the bottom cover down; remove it, and you’ve got access to remove and replace the SSD, the battery, the speaker assembly, and even the keyboard. This ease of access is to be expected on a business laptop, and it’s a key reason why IT departments might choose the Dragonfly over a consumer ultraportable such as the HP Spectre x360 13, whose components are more difficult to service or replace. The only non-accessible components in the Elite Dragonfly are the memory and CPU, which are soldered to the system board.

Basic Productivity, Extensive IT Manageability

The Elite Dragonfly is intended to perform basic productivity tasks while offering IT departments extensive manageability and security features. That’s partly why the laptop uses Intel’s 8th Generation CPUs. Even though the latest chips are from the 10th Generation (under the code names “Comet Lake” and “Ice Lake”), vPro is only available on 8th Generation models or earlier.

As a result, don’t expect the latest and greatest computing performance. The Elite Dragonfly is in good company, however, with most of its key competitors also using 8th Generation CPUs and integrated graphics processing. In the chart below, you can check out some competitors’ specs, as well as those of the HP EliteBook x360 1030 for which the Elite Dragonfly is the obvious replacement.

678787 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

All of these systems perform with aplomb when it comes to basic tasks such as web browsing and spreadsheet editing. I never once experienced sluggishness while installing apps or using the Elite Dragonfly to browse the internet with multiple tabs open. Even Windows Timeline animations were silky smooth, something that frequently trips up other equally capable machines. The only downside I noticed in my two days of testing is that the Elite Dragonfly’s cooling fan frequently spools up even when performing basic tasks that aren’t terribly CPU-intensive. It’s not annoying in a busy office, but if you’re in a very quiet room, it’s clearly audible.

Evidence of the Elite Dragonfly’s proficient everyday performance comes from our PCMark 10 and PCMark 8 tests. We use them to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 10 provides a comprehensive look at a laptop’s aptitude for these tasks, while the PCMark 8 Storage test pays closer attention to how the laptop’s storage drive affects performance.

678789 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

Since they all have similar specs, every system in our competitive set above performed roughly equally (barring the Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch, which can’t run PCMark).

There were also no surprises on our 3DMark and Superposition graphics simulations. (3DMark and Superposition measure relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics.) The Elite Dragonfly is not a gaming laptop, and its single-digit frame rates on the Superposition test prove that you should stick to simple Minecraft- or Candy Crush-type games when you need a break from work.

678793 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

678794 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

Unlike our gaming and general productivity tests, our multimedia benchmark results show significant variation. The Elite Dragonfly is competitive with its Dell and Lenovo rivals on our Handbrake video-encoding test, and much better-performing than the EliteBook 1030.

678790 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

It’s also very competitive on our Photoshop benchmark, which involves applying a series of filters and effects to an image and adding up the time required to complete each one.

678792 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

But the Elite Dragonfly is slower than both the MacBook Pro and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon when it comes to rendering a detailed 3D image in Cinebench.

678791 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

Just like with gaming, you shouldn’t plan to use the Elite Dragonfly for extensive multimedia content creation, and its results (as well as those of its competitors on the Cinebench, Handbrake, and Photoshop tests) are lower than what you’d expect from a powerhouse like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme or 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro.

Thanks partly to the upgraded battery in our Elite Dragonfly review unit and partly to the laptop’s power-sipping 1-watt display, it lasted for 13 hours and 35 minutes on our battery rundown test.

678788 hp elite dragonfly performance chart - HP Elite Dragonfly Review & Rating

The test loops a locally stored 720p video file with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out. It’s an excellent result, though not nearly as good as the 21 hours that the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 recorded.

A Consummate Corporate Laptop

Despite its unorthodox blue color, the Elite Dragonfly is a no-nonesense business laptop that gets the basics right. There’s nothing particularly innovative about its feature set, but the fact that it manages to include all of its features in such a compact, lightweight, and well-built package is what makes it a standout.

A business laptop should be easy for IT departments to manage and equally easy for users to cart around, as well as offer proficient performance on everyday computing tasks. With a 2.2-pound starting weight, available Intel vPro support, and other similar features, the Elite Dragonfly exceeds all of these requirements. It’s our new top pick for business-focused 2-in-1 convertible laptops.

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