HP Updates the Dragonfly: On the Path to the Perfect Laptop

eWEEK PRODUCT ANALYSIS: New-gen design influence gives it a unique color, clean lines and a look that stands out not only against competing offerings but HP’s other products.

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HP just updated and improved what is arguably its best laptop and a showcase for the company. This showcase offering is the Elite Dragonfly, and I’ve been following this product since it was first created. Unlike most products where it seems like finance has more to say about the design than users, the Dragonfly started as an unusually pretty and capable product.

It had, and still has, HP’s best security, its most iconic color and design (kind of a black/blue that I’d love to see on a car), WAN capability (so you don’t have to risk unsecure local WiFi) and one of the best pens I’ve ever used. 

Well, the company recently updated the product and sent me the update, and it’s become much better. However, with the COVID-19 event, I now think it could use some additional enhancements. Let’s talk about that this week. (The version of this laptop I’m talking about is the fully loaded one with 1,000-nit display, Sure Fire Reflect and the Tile Tracking capability.) 

Designed With a Woman in Mind

I didn’t catch this before, but I should have. When HP presented its updated product, it pointed out that it was designed for a female trailblazer. Now, like many, I think the tech industry screwed up by designing primarily for men. Currently, the target market consists of both men and women, and given I’m a guy and really like this product, the design doesn’t make it exclusive to women. But I’ve noticed over the years that often when a product focuses on a woman, it tends to be more design-forward, more balanced in performance versus mobility and significantly more elegant. 

If the designer doesn’t take the product to extremes, from my experience (and I’ve been doing this for decades), this female orientation seems to appeal better to men and women. Take, for example, Jaguar; while it does have a performance edge, the reason I was able to buy our F-Type was that my wife fell in love with it. Had she not, we’d have likely bought something else (to my everlasting regret). 

This design influence gives it that unique color, the clean lines and a look that stands out not only against competing offerings but HP’s other products. The Dragonfly would particularly appeal to those who don’t like to look like everyone else, much more important to women than men typically, but something that men appreciate as well. 

I think if more products were designed with a higher female focus, more products would be more successful. 

Standout Features

There are three features in this notebook that stand out. One of the most important for me is the 1,000-nit display with HP’s Sure View Reflect. Most laptop screens have under 300 nits and wash out severely outdoors. Military spec laptops tend to have 1,000-nit displays, cost a fortune and are great for your arm strength (they tend to be heavy). 1,000-nit displays are what get used outside, and this extremely high brightness, while hard on the battery, means you should be able to use this laptop in the brightest light. And, particularly during this COVID-19 event, being able to work outside could help you keep from bouncing off the walls inside. 

The new integrated privacy screen, called Sure View Reflect, is a fourth-generation product, and it does the best job of keeping prying eyes from seeing your screen in both bright and dim light. It should also help you avoid annoying your spouse while working in bed, or unintentionally educating your kids if you are watching something you don’t want them to see. Something else to help avoid annoying the spouse is its dead quiet keyboard (we do have some different concerns, thanks to COVID-19). 

This laptop will also take a 60% alcohol disinfectant (spray it on the cloth first, not the laptop) safely, where most painted laptops won’t. Besides, it now passes a whopping 19 military specification tests, meaning it should survive a drop if your kids trip you up or you suddenly get bad at balancing the baby and the notebook. 

Finally, women tend to lose things (men do, too; we just aren’t as vocal about it), and this laptop has a built-in Tile system that will help you find it even if the laptop is powered off (you can also remote wipe the laptop if it is stolen). 

Improving on Perfection

This laptop is so close to perfect; however, I can see what is still needed, particularly during this COVID-19 event, to make it even better. First, given the product is named “Dragonfly,” it should have Dragonfly branding and maybe an image. Cars like Firebirds, RoadRunners and even Jaguars get branding that identifies them (and pictures of the animals that define the brand). I think there should be a cool-looking Dragonfly brand on this notebook with a stronger emphasis on the Dragon part of the name. More like what a fly named after a dragon should look like than the real fly does. 

The second shortcoming of all laptops is the damn camera is too low in use because it is limited to the height of the screen. Now my Motorola phone has a retractable camera that might scale up with a higher lift or a magnetic camera that could be removed from the laptop and placed higher with an optional stand. But given we are all living off services like Zoom, we need a camera that is good, and the Dragonfly camera is one of the best I’ve seen but at the proper height. 

Third, I’d like to see a larger screen option to reflect on the change from being highly mobile to working mostly from home. With all its advantages, this laptop was primarily designed for the world we used to live in and, granted, where some of us will again live. But most of us will, according to what I’m hearing from CEOs, be remaining at home for work, and that suggests a laptop that is less portable but more capable, and so a larger screen would be better. 

Wrapping Up

The HP Dragonfly is arguably the best well-rounded laptop in the market, and it appears to have a far greater female influence as well. This blend of design and features makes the Dragonfly the bar to beat both for other HP laptops and competitors. Its only drawback is it was designed before the COVID-19 outbreak, and the only way I can see to beat it is to design a laptop that retains the female influence and also takes into account our changed working conditions. 

And, for some reason, I’d like to see this come out with a flying dragon as part of its iconic image. In any case, HP has created a fantastic product that sets a new bar for laptop design and balance. 

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