April 17, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Living with an HP Elite Dragonfly

With the Elite Dragonfly, HP
has created an executive 2-in-1 laptop that is small and easy to take on the
road, with a number of special features, including the best integrated privacy
screen I’ve seen and a built-in Tile module for tracking the laptop if it gets

The Dragonfly is the highest end in HP’s EliteBook series
(it says EliteBook on the laptop itself, with the Dragonfly name only used on
part of the packaging). In an era where most of the premium 2-in-1 machines
have moved to 14-inch displays, including the competing Dell
Latitude 7400
and Lenovo ThinkPad
X1 Yoga
, HP is sticking with a 13.3-inch display, and moving to smaller
bezels. The result is a very compact machine, measuring 0.63 by 12 by 7.8
inches (HWD), making it about three-quarters of an inch smaller in both length
and width than the others. At 2 pounds, 8 ounces for the system I tested (3
pounds, 2.7 ounces with the charger and an included pen), it’s also notably
lighter than the direct competitors, and as a result, it’s simply easier to
carry.  (Admittedly, during the current
situation, I’m not doing any travelling, but if I was, I would notice the
difference.) Some people will prefer a larger display, but for others, the
lighter weight will be more important.

It also stands out because of its blue magnesium color—the
only color available, and as you would expect, it just feels very dense and
well made.

The Dragonfly launched at the end of last year, but has just
come out with a new version that includes a SureView Reflect display, the
fourth generation of HP’s privacy screen technology, and an option to include

There are now four different screens available for the
machine. The base display is a one-watt, 400-nit FHD (1,920-by-1,080 pixel)
display; HP also makes available a UHD (3,840-by-2,160 pixel) display with 550
nits and HDR spec, and two versions of the privacy display, both FHD and rated
at 1,000 nits (with the privacy off). The original one is known as SureView Gen
3 (introduced on last year’s EliteBook x360 1040 G6) and the new one is a
slightly more expensive version called SureView Reflect.  HP says this version is brighter when viewed
full on and offers minimal impact to battery life.

The unit I tested had the new display, and I was impressed. When
the privacy feature is toggled on, the display seemed much brighter than
previous privacy displays I’ve seen, while off-axis viewing was pretty much
impossible. With privacy off, it just appears to be a very bright display
(although an ambient light sensor can control the brightness).  Not only is the Elite Dragonfly one of very
few notebooks to offer both touch and privacy screens, it’s simply the best
privacy screen I’ve seen yet.

During this quarantine period, I’ve made a lot of use of the
webcam, which seemed a bit brighter and a bit wider than on competing machines.
The unit includes a small physical shutter for the webcam. It has two
front-facing microphones, top-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard,
and two bottom firing speakers.  I was
quite happy with both the audio and video performance using applications like
Zoom, WebEx, and Teams. HP also claims the keyboard is quieter than the
competition, but I couldn’t hear a real difference in actual use.

As a convertible, you can adjust the hinge to any angle. I’m
no artist, but the optional rechargeable pen seemed to work well.

The Elite series has a number of unusual features, many
focused on security, most controlled by a Client Security Manager for setup. A
feature called Sure Start protects the BIOS from attack and now theoretically
supports blocking certain Thunderbolt attacks. Sure Run works with a separate
endpoint security controller to let you access the hardware if the operating
system is compromised. Sure Sense is another anti-malware service that runs by
default. It has one of the better fingerprint reading options I’ve tried.

It also comes with Sure Click (originally from Bromium,
which HP acquired), which isolates each tab in your browser into a separate
virtual container, so that malware would have no ability to get data from any
other tab or from the computer, and would go away when the browser is closed.
This comes as both a browser add-on (which when installed didn’t seem to do
much for me) as well as a separate secure browser, which worked fine but did
not seem to be as fast as current browsers.

Until the end of September, HP is offering anyone its Sure Click
Pro, a utility that also lets users open Word or Excel documents in a virtual
container that supports full editing capabilities. It’s a good idea for
situations when security is paramount.

From a performance standpoint, the Elite Dragonfly has the
same Intel 8th-gen Core i7-8665U processor and 16 GB of memory as the Latitude
7400 and X1 Yoga I recently tested, but in most tests, the Dragonfly came in
slightly slower. I’m not completely sure whether this is because of the
preloaded software or the hardware design. In the most extreme case, a MATLAB
portfolio simulation took 72 minutes compared with 66 minutes on the Latitude
and 53 minutes on the Yoga. But in most of the applications you’d likely use a
machine like this in the real world—e-mail, Office, and web browsing tasks—you
would be hard pressed to notice a difference. No machine in the category is
very good at playing high-end games or professional video editing.

On the other hand, my test unit (which had a four-cell, 56.2
watt-hour battery) lasted just over 12 hours in my tests, which while not
matching the Latitude with a six-cell, 78 watt-hour battery, was quite strong.

The other big innovation with this version of the Dragonfly
is the inclusion of a Tile option. Tile recently announced a partnership with
Intel which will bring this to more laptops; the Dragonfly is the
first laptop with this feature
. Like the individual Tile “tiles”
that have been out for several years, the idea is to let you track down a
missing laptop easily. In this implementation, it takes up the M.2 slot that
might otherwise be used by an LTE modem (or eventually a 5G modem). It still
uses Bluetooth, but it works even if the laptop is powered down, and uses
minimal battery life. As a $25 option, it’s a pretty neat idea.

HP has also made a big deal of the amount of recycled
material that go into the Dragonfly, saying that the mechanical parts are made
of over 80 percent recycled materials, the chassis is made of 90 percent
recycled magnesium, and that the speaker box is half recycled plastic,
including small amount of ocean- bound plastics.

Executive notebooks are not inexpensive, and the Elite
Dragonfly is no exception. Models start at $1,549, but the one I tested with an
Intel Core i7-8665U processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, larger battery, Tile,
and Sure View Reflect screen, has a list price of $2,179.

In summary, the HP Elite Dragonfly is a compelling executive
notebook—well built, with an excellent 13.3-inch display with the best privacy
screen I’ve seen, an excellent webcam and speakers for video conferencing, and
a few other intriguing options. The various security features look good, but
performance is just a bit worse than on other machines with a similar
processor. Most importantly, it is a 2-in-1 design that’s a bit smaller and
easier to carry than the competition, albeit with a smaller display, and it
puts HP back in the top rank of notebook suppliers.

Here’s PCMag’s review of
the earlier version.

Further Reading

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