The Hewlett-Packard Elite Dragonfly is one of those rare products that is actually better than advertised and gets better as you use it.
Why it still works for me after six months:
—Really (really) light (about 2.2 pounds): Shaving half a pound off a standard 2.8 pound 13-inch laptop without sacrificing anything is the equivalent of an auto manufacturer reducing the weight of an SUV by 500 pounds without giving up cargo space or convenience.
This is reinforced every time I pick it up, put in my backpack, take it out of my backpack or just carry it around the house.
(By comparison, the 2020 MacBook Air is 2.8 pounds. And the mid-2019 13-inch MacBook Pro is 3 pounds.)
—Battery life doesn’t suffer: good battery life and an ultra-light chassis are usually mutually exclusive in a laptop. Not in this case. I typically get all-day+ battery life.
—Performance doesn’t take a hit: this is where Apple has failed** in the past with light MacBooks, particularly with its 2 pound 12-inch MacBook (I owned several). I’ve been using the Dragonfly for the last six months and I experience no slowdowns/lag with the Core i7-8665U (Geekbench 5) coupled with 16GB RAM and an Intel 512 GB Optane 3D Xpoint SSD. My productivity workloads are typically pretty heavy (heavy enough to bring a late-2018 MacBook Air to its knees).
—Doesn’t get hot: this is another failing of many recent MacBooks I’ve owned (MacBook Air and low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro). As soon as you open up a bunch of tabs in Chrome and start doing a lot multitasking, the MacBook Air and low-end MacBook Pros heat up. I ditched my late-2018 MacBook Air because of this. Not the case with Elite Dragonfly: I’ve never heard an audible whir from the fan and the chassis doesn’t get hot.
—Speakers deliver: HP proves that an ultralight laptop can have good speakers, delivering decent base and mid-range. And the speakers fire upward — the sound doesn’t go sideways or get muffled underneath the laptop. Necessary for good sound.
—Keyboard: Apple take note: you don’t need to design special Butterfly keys to make a keyboard work in an ultra-light design.
—4G/LTE is also available: if you’re a road warrior (like me) this can make all of the difference in a laptop making the cut.
—Here’s the catch: it’s expensive: starting at around $1,779 direct from HP. By MacBook Pro standards that’s not an outrageous price but it’s certainly not accessible to your average consumer like, for instance, the $999 MacBook Air.
But if you’re a road warrior and looking for a laptop that will last years, it’s worth it.
Footnote about the magnesium chassis: Magnesium is not aluminum. So, the chassis has a different kind of rigidity compared to aluminum. Not necessarily a downside but something I’ve noticed.
- Processor: Intel Core i7-8665U (8th Gen processor)
- Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
- Memory: 16 GB LPDDR3 2133 SDRAM
- Display: 13.3-inch BrightView LED FHD (1,920-by-1,080) 360-degree touchscreen w/Corning Gorilla Glass 5, HP Sure View (for privacy), 1,000 nit brightness
- Storage: 512 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe with 32 GB Intel Optane 3D Xpoint SSD
- Wireless: Intel XMM 7560 LTE-Advanced Pro Cat 16; Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 (2×2) and Bluetooth 5 Combo
- Biometrics: both face and fingerprint ID.
- Ports: 2 Thunderbolt USB Type-C connectors (on one side*), 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (charging), 1 HDMI 1.4; 1 external Nano SIM slot for 4G/LTE SIM card.
- Price: the above higher-end config direct from HP is over $2,500.The Microsoft Store, however, has been selling a Core i5/16 GB/512GB model for $2,219.
Ultra-light is hard
Apple tried it. In April 2015 Apple announced the 12-inch MacBook. It was only 2 pounds. But it ultimately failed. It was killed in 2019 and replaced with the 2.8-pound redesigned Retina MacBook Air.
Why did the 12-inch MacBook fail? Though it had tablet-light portability, it was slow and didn’t have great battery life. I know. I owned a series of 12-inch MacBooks and sold every one after a few months. I always held out hope that the next update would finally deliver a usable design with new Intel silicon. But it never did.
Dell’s newest XPS 13 9300 is a great laptop with almost no shortcomings and it’s light at 2.65 pounds. But that’s still a long way from 2.2 pounds. In the laptop world, 0.45 pounds is the equivalent of hundreds of pounds in car.
The Elite Dragonfly is a laptop that will last. I could see owning this for at least 3 years, the life of the warranty. That’s where a premium laptop can pay off. More money up front but long life.
*I test lots of laptops and am currently testing a stable of about a dozen new 2020 laptops.
**Apple is switching to its own A Series processors for future MacBooks because of claimed performance per watt issues with Intel. But I wonder if it’s partially an Apple failing. It’s funny that Hewlett-Packard and Dell (e.g., XPS 13 9300) are able to get good performance + good battery life from Intel processors. And are able to achieve the performance in ultra-thin designs without generating lots of heat and whirring fans.