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Here's how HP's Elite Dragonfly business ultrabook is designed for the next-gen mobile workforce

By Vijay Anand - 28 Sep 2019

HP Elite Dragonfly: The face of the next-gen business ultrabook

Note: This article was first published on 19 September 2019.

Making a stand: A new baseline for enterprise notebooks

2019 has been a big year of advancements for laptops as a whole - dual display notebooks, powerful desktop-like performance on a notebook, ultra-thin and ultraportable notebooks finally striking the right balance of power and battery life for the much-needed mobility without compromise and Intel's Project Athena certification to lend a further helping hand in identifying key experience indicators that users expect these days. As a consumer, it's never been a better time to upgrade and experience the full benefits of a modern notebook.

But what about the corporate world? While big computing brands have made significant strides in trickling down consumer-facing design and expectations to business series notebooks, like HP's recent refresh for HP ZBooks and HP Elitebooks, they've not yet completely done away with certain limitations - be it aesthetics, form, functionality, portability or security.


Unleashing the shackles

HP didn't want to make incremental changes and wanted to offer breakthrough power and mobility by truly removing all bottlenecks. The result is a new Elitebook variant, the HP Elite Dragonfly that launched yesterday.

Meet the new HP Elite Dragonfly - a corporate class ultrabook beast for the new age.


But why "Dragonfly"?

While the Elite Dragonfly is a worldwide collaboration, like most other HP products these days, the Elite Dragonfly had more Asian touch points put into consideration. For example, much of the population in Asian countries are centred around cities and mega-cities - dense urban environments where the rising cost of living and space makes owning a car difficult and expensive. That means lightweight, ruggedness and being compact are essential considerations for a companion product towed.

Millennials are also fast becoming the leading workforce group in these countries, and they've grown up in a different era with their own set of expectations. Corporations and business owners need to think about employee retention and adapt to the new working landscape beyond the office with flexibility and personality at the heart of it all. This means modern-looking devices that are capable, powerful and adapt to various usage needs - be it for work or entertainment after work hours. This tweet sums up it up:-

To lead the way to a new era of business computing with all these factors in mind, HP aligned it up with the humble dragonfly, which is lightweight, agile and beautiful. It is also one of the earliest winged insects and bodes well at HP's attempt to push boundaries, as well as set a new level of expectations in the enterprise environment.


New look and feel

While the HP Elite Dragonfly has the fundamental DNA of most other HP Elitebooks, they are not painted with the same brush. Remember that dragonflies come in interesting colours? Well, HP's Elite Dragonfly would be the first business-class notebook to stray away from the classic silver and black with a new Iridescent Dragonfly Blue colour. It does remind us of another series of laptops, but those are not meant for business/corporate integration needs, unlike the HP Elite Dragonfly. For a start, the Elite Dragonfly will only be available in this new colourway.

To meet the design team's challenge to pack every conceivable need from a business exec's point of view and yet make it as light as a kilogram, HP ditched their traditional choice of cassis material - aluminium alloy. The Elite Dragonfly is carved out of a single block of magnesium alloy (CNC milled) to achieve its strength and lightweight. In fact, it managed to get it down to just under 1kg! At 999 grams, HP claims that the Elite Dragonfly is now the world's lightest business convertible notebook (not counting the non-commercial options for consumers).

It's not often that you come across a well-built notebook pushing the boundaries of being lightweight and yet feel solid and reliable. Usually, you would have the trade build quality for lightweight such as the LG gram - not that it's a bad build, but there are certain compromises as opposed to getting a Dell XPS or HP Spectre class notebooks that are a bit heavier but have a more robust build. And so I was expecting a certain amount of flex in either the chassis, keyboard, wrist rest area or the lid for the Elite Dragonfly, but believe me, there was none.

Sturdy hinges that give the Elite Dragonfly all the plus points of having a convertible notebook, but without the added weight and handling concerns.

It was put together really well, and the CNC machined magnesium alloy chassis (lid and base) lived up its expectations. Even the x360 hinges were carefully crafted out of the same materials as we were told.

All this enables the HP Elite Dragonfly to offer a quality build for a convertible but without the associated weight and handling issues. It wasn't too long ago that you had to choose between having a convertible notebook for versatility or a standard clamshell notebook for a lighter and sleeker design. The HP Elite Dragonfly is about no compromises and in our opinion, you can finally get the best of both worlds. No more choosing.

To keep it looking good and for easy maintenance, HP is emphasizing its attention to details when it shared that the notebook has an Oleophobic coating (similar to what many phones use on their screens) to repel against any smudges, stains and fingerprints. That's not to say you won't get any of that on this notebook, but thanks to the properties of this coating, it makes it easy to wipe them off — no wasted time and effort. Even the interior of the notebook gets this treatment.

Gagan Singh, global head of innovation for premium notebooks and commercial PCs at HP, candidly updating the journalists on what the Elite Dragon's design to details mean to their consumers.


Looks light and great, but is it rugged?

Handle it any way you like. The Elite Dragonfly is tested for everyday handling.

HP's premium notebooks and systems undergo a comprehensive set of physical tests to emulate real-life usage in their lab's accelerated testing methods. This is HP's assurance to its users to ensure their notebooks meet the demands and challenges of the varying operating environments that their laptops are subjected to across the world by real customers. The Elite Dragon, in particular, joins the top tiers of test criterion and is subjected to 19 MIL-STD-810G tests as part of HP's Total Test Process. Tested to drop from handheld heights and desk heights on all edges and corners, as well as pressure-tested to simulate the stresses a device will undergo in a backpack, purse, or work-bag, there's a whole lot else that the testing encompasses that it's the equivalent of 120,000 hours of testing! Here's why it's crucial that commercial class notebooks undergo such tests:-

To be clear, this is what the production design of a particular series is subjected to and not every single laptop - otherwise, your notebook would have already undergone years of usage! HP has also detailed the parameters for each test here (though it's not updated with the Elite Dragonfly as it's brand new), and there's another video that walks through many more of the key tests that we think you would appreciate.

So yes, the HP Elite Dragon is ultra-light, well built and is rugged enough for the daily rigours of work.

While we're at materials and design aspects, it's also interesting to note that HP says it's the first notebook that's keeping the environment in mind by using ocean-bound plastic materials (using water-based pigments that are easier to breakdown when discarded after its useful lifespan) for its speaker enclosure components. Although they've declared only 5% of the enclosure is made from this ocean-bound plastic, it's a start.


Built for all-day usage

A big part of excellent mobility not only involves great design, build and being lightweight but also having enough battery life to power you through the day - wherever you are. The HP Elite Dragonfly will come in two battery configurations to choose from at the factory - one that will last you up to 16.5 hours (with a 38Wh battery) to keep the notebook really light (999 grams), and another that is specced to net you more than one day of battery life at up to 24.5 hours! The latter version uses a 56.2Wh battery and would bring the notebook's weight up to 1,098 grams, but that's still very light in its class.

Now you might say those figures are hogwash marketing figures tested with some obscure method of testing. However, HP's notes state that these figures are based on the Core i5 variant of the machine running Bapco's MobileMark 2014. We've run benchmarks from it in the past, so HP's claims have some credibility towards what you can expect in real-world usage. Still, we won't settle for anything but our own evaluation to check these claims and we'll be sure to share how the Elite Dragonfly fares when it's available in November 2019.

Also, what good is a great battery life without fast charging? The Elite Dragonfly has HP's Fast Charge technology that claims to give you 50% battery life for in 30 minutes of charging. This is assuming you're charging the notebook from flat as the charging rates usually differ and drag on to trickle charging when it's closer to reaching full battery life. Nevertheless, it sounds impressive and handy.


A display built with anti-visual hacking features

Sportig ultra-thin bezels, the Elite Dragonfly offers a very pleasing modern-looking 13.3-inch screen that can challenge some clamshell notebooks boasting thin screen bezels, even though it is a covertible notebook.

In line with keeping with the progressive design and needs of the intended user, HP has also engineered the Elite Dragonfly to incorporate the world's highest screen-to-body ratio for a business-class convertible notebook at 86%. This is an impressive feat considering that most convertibles usually have a thick lower bezel below the screen. However, that's not the case with the Elite Dragonfly sporting ultra-thin bezels all-around just the way we like it. Not convinced? Maybe these close-up shots will:-

A closer look at the bottom bezel of the display.

Now the top. Note the it has managed to squeeze in a webcam at the top of the screen and more so it's integrated with HP's Privacy Camera feature.

But what good is a sweet looking display when confidential documents are in plain open view from a passerby or others who are in proximity of your working space which could vary from your open office layout, all the way to shared co-working spaces, cafes, lounges, on the plane and just about anywhere else this laptop is enabling your productivity needs. Like some of HP's Elitebook series, the Elite Dragonfly champions two key anti visual hacking features: HP Privacy Camera and HP Sure View.

The HP Privacy Camera is a physical shutter placed right in front of the webcam (referring to the photo above, it's activated by the mini slider just above the camera) to block it from any unintended or accidental usage. No more unsightly sticky tapes or not having immediate options to block the camera.

Meanwhile, HP Sure View technology allows you to work in peace without worrying about side-view snooping from others around you. It's the equivalent of having a privacy filter on your screen, but this is an electronic version whereby you can activate Sure View when required. When enabled, the display is slightly more opaque than usual, but you still have good visibility to do your work while the side views are completely washed out. By applying the right amount of electric current, HP Sure View can control the display's liquid crystals' (where do you think LCD gets its name?) alignment, which then determines the display's output properties such as display brightness and viewing angles. This is how HP's Sure View does its magic. Now into Gen.3 of HP Sure View, what it enables over its predecessors is far better display control to help you get a more vibrant screen while still putting off side-view snoopers.

One of the most significant power drawing components of any notebook is its screen, and so the Elite Dragonfly comes with several screen configurations to better suit the exact needs of the intended customer. Options start from:-

  • FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution) IPS eDP + PSR BrightView WLED-backlit ultraslim direct bonded touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 400 nits brightness, 72% NTSC colour space accuracy.
  • FHD IPS  (1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution) eDP + PSR BrightView WLED-backlit ultraslim direct bonded touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 and HP Sure View Integrated Privacy Screen, 1,000 nits brightness, 72% NTSC colour space accuracy.
  • UHD 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels resolution) IPS eDP + PSR BrightView WLED-backlit ultraslim direct bonded touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 550 nits brightness, 95% sRGB colour space accuracy.

We reckon the amazing battery life attributes were achieved with the first low-power panel, so your mileage may vary depending on your preferred configuration.

Regardless of the screen type chosen, all versions are touchscreen editions and offer inking capabilities through an optional HP Rechargeable Active Pen G3 since the Elite Dragonfly is a convertible notebook at heart.

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