HP Elite Dragonfly Laptop Sets a High Bar for Quality

eWEEK NEW-PRODUCT ANALYSIS: Rather than the HP Dragonfly tagline being “Lighter Than Air,” which it isn’t, it should be “Impressive Laptop,” which it is.


It has been a while since any PC OEM has created what I think is full-on halo product in the business space. A halo product is one that sets a high bar and is a showcase of what a company can do. These products tend to be technological powerhouses, and few of us mortals ever get to use them, but those of us that know about them dream about owning one.

Fortunately for us, often in the technology space (as opposed to exotic cars) more of us can afford them, but these are still considered aspirational offerings.

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The HP Elite Dragonfly doesn’t just have a cool name; it is a showcase of what can be done with a laptop, and it has only two areas that are compromised. It lacks a discrete GPU system, and it doesn’t support 5G wide-area wireless. But right now the systems with GPUs still trade off battery life significantly and are less portable, and 5G hasn’t really rolled out yet (and it isn’t available in any laptop anywhere yet that I know of, not even the Qualcomm-based laptops).

Andy Rhodes Laptop

Often when a new executive joins a new company, he or she fails to make a mark, and I’ve always thought that was a mistake. People should know you are there and by creating a unique product, particularly if it is well done, you establish yourself with the rank and file as a “subject matter expert,” building trust and loyalty.

I think the Dragonfly fills that need for Andy Rhodes, who left Dell and joined HP to drive the company’s commercial PC lines. Much like I think the Macs were what Steve Jobs wanted to carry, the HP Dragonfly is what Rhodes wanted to carry. Rhodes has a lot in common with other executives in that I’m sure he, and they, want to make something to be proud of, something that isn’t compromised and something his peers in other firms would envy.

I think HP solidly hit the mark with Dragonfly.


This product starts with a unique finish that almost feels alien to the touch, and it has a depth of color not often seen outside of custom cars (in fact I’d like to see a car in this color). It looks black, but it has a blue influence, making it unusually attractive for a black offering.

Intel and HP tagged this “lighter than air,” and while it isn’t, in its base form, it weighs 1KG or 2.2 lbs, which is exceedingly light for a full-featured product in the 13-inch class. So, in its base form it is a nice, light laptop. But you can option the hell out of this thing, and fully optioned out it is incredibly impressive. You can get a 1,000 Nit display, and extended battery, 4G support and with that higher-end display comes the latest electronic privacy screen. Oh, and you can get an extended battery with up to 24 hours of battery life. While battery life scores tend to be optimistic, you should get well more than a full day, and with fast charging you get 50% power in 30 minutes. I wish my electric car charged as quickly.

Anything over 500 Nits in a display is considered outdoor viewable and military specification (Mil-Spec) laptops, designed to run outside, generally, have 800 Nits or better. At 1,000 nits, given the privacy screen does reduce screen output, you not only get uncompromised privacy you clearly can work outside if you want. I love working outside. I used to have a huge indoor office when I was at IBM, but it lacked windows, and I felt like I was in prison. So ever since, having something that would allow me to work in a park without fighting a washed-out screen has largely been an unmet desire unless I was using a hardened military market product. (It is also better for your sleep if you can work outside from time to time).

Speaking of Mil-Spec, this laptop has completed several tests typically surrounding Mil-Spec offerings, suggesting it is one of the most robust offerings in the segment.

Wrapping Up

I’m a big fan of halo products and, when I get the choice, they are what I carry. They tend to be cutting edge in terms of technology and enviable in terms of status. For me, this one hits my major needs of long battery life, attractive appearance, outdoor viewability, privacy (because I don’t like folks looking at my stuff on planes), lightweight, and small size. With the small exceptions noted at the start this is as close to a no-compromise solution as you will likely get in market.

I think this last is due to it not being designed for a “persona” as the most product are using an approach that the book “Technically Wrong” largely debunks, but instead is designed for Andy Rhodes, who is a real person and a legend in the PC industry.

Rather than the tagline being “Lighter Than Air” which it isn’t, it should be “Impressive Laptop,” which it is. Rhodes has been at HP for about a year now and the guy, and his new team, continues to impress.

Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.