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HP Elite Dragonfly hands-on: A really light business notebook

It weighs less than a kilogram (2.2 pounds).
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HP is chasing superlatives again. Last year, the company launched the Spectre Folio -- the first laptop made out of leather. It also trotted out the first 15-inch laptop with an AMOLED screen at CES this year, and battled rival Dell to be the first to deliver a gaming notebook with a 240hz display. It's continuing its mission to collect a bunch of "firsts" with the new Elite Dragonfly. With that name, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's the latest Avenger, but no. HP is claiming it is the "world's lightest 13-inch business convertible." That's right, it's the lightest laptop with a bunch of caveats attached!

Gallery: HP Elite Dragonfly hands-on | 11 Photos

Skepticism aside, the Elite Dragonfly does weigh in at an impressive sub-1kg mark, and I certainly found it attractive. It felt as light as the Galaxy Book S, although Samsung's laptop felt more expensive thanks to its metallic finish. However, the Elite Dragonfly packs far more powerful guts than the Galaxy Book S, including an eighth-generation Intel Core vPro processor, up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. It's a business laptop, after all, and isn't meant to compete with the Samsung system, which is more for consumers who want a travel-friendly notebook.

It's all the more impressive that the Dragonfly is so light given all the features it offers. HP promises up to 16.5 hours of battery life, although the company is also offering a longer-lasting model (up to 24.5 hours) that's slightly heavier. Your runtime will likely vary depending on the type of display you opt for. There's a full HD low-power panel that runs at 400 nits, a UHD screen with HDR400 that gets as bright as 550 nits and a version of the full HD display with HP's Sure View privacy shield built in. That last one goes up to 1,000 nits.

Whichever of these you pick, it'll be flanked by bezels as thin as 4.75mm on the sides, while the top bezel is 10.25mm. That gives it a screen-to-body ratio of 86 percent, if you care about those numbers. Hidden in the top bezel is a Windows Hello-capable webcam, which is something even the Dell XPS 15 (2019) doesn't offer. Most other PCs do too, though they don't have similarly thin bezels. I like that the Dragonfly has a mechanical shutter built in so you can slide it over the webcam for privacy.

HP Elite Dragonfly hands-on

It's also nice to see a generous array of ports in a device this thin. The Dragonfly manages to squeeze in two USB C with Thunderbolt 3, a full-sized HDMI, one USB-A and a headphone jack while maintaining a 0.63-inch profile.

But back to this one-kilogram number for a bit. HP was able to reduce the laptop's weight so much because it uses a magnesium frame instead of the heavier aluminum. The company shaved grams wherever it could, too, not only adopting a lighter keyboard and keyboard frame than the one on the EliteBook x360 1030 G3, but also switching out something that seems as inconsequential (weight-wise) as the trackpad. But that's not all it's done with the keys -- HP used rubber domes that it claims are two times quieter than the 1030 G3. I couldn't compare the decibel difference at the noisy demo area, but it doesn't seem like the new keys hurt the typing experience much.

If you or your coworkers are bothered by loud typing on your meetings, you'll also appreciate HP's noise-canceling feature that's designed specifically to reduce sounds from the keyboard during conference calls. Again, this wasn't something I could test during my hands-on, but in theory it should be pretty useful.

HP Elite Dragonfly hands-on

HP isn't done with the superlative (attached to very specific qualifiers) game yet. The Elite Dragonfly also holds the following titles, according to the company:

  • "World's first business convertible with 4X4 LTE antennas"
  • "World's highest screen to body ratio in a 13-inch business convertible"
  • "World's longest battery life in a 13-inch business convertible"
  • "World's first business convertible with preinstalled personal wellbeing software"

That last title stands out to me, despite it triggering a bunch of "bloatware!" warnings. As someone who's been trying to achieve better work-life balance and pay attention to her mental health, I was pleased to hear about HP's personal wellbeing software. It's system-level programming that will offer personalized recommendations for taking breaks or getting up and moving around. HP hasn't shared too many specifics beyond that, so it's hard to tell how useful this will actually be, but I'm glad the company is at least making a show of caring about its customers' wellbeing.

The Elite Dragonfly will be available on October 25th starting at $1,549, which seems expensive for an organization to order for its employees. But it does offer a lot for the money and is perhaps the best-looking business notebook I've seen. Even if you might not be able to buy this for yourself right now, it's very likely that some of the new features and design elements (like the lighter body) will trickle out to HP's consumer products soon.

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