You don’t get the chance to unbox every day which could end up being the best Chromebook of the year. While we had the chance to play with a early, pre-production model of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook way back in January, it was clear that things were definitely not ready for prime time then. Fast forward to June and things are very different with the arrival of the store-ready model of the Dragonfly that we now have in the office.
Why the Dragonfly deserves its ‘Elite’ title
Once we get into the bland, but planet-friendly box, it doesn’t take long to remember why this Chromebook is so good. Starting with the exterior, the Dragonfly is a striking dark navy color with HP’s new 4-line logo on the lid. With an all-aluminium/magnesium alloy body, thin frame, understated fan ports, and weighing less than 3 pounds, this Chromebook feels great in the hands right away. There is no creaking or bending in the body and the overall feeling is that of portability: until you break the lid open.
Inside is where things get really interesting because HP uses the same screen size as Acer’s Spin 713 and Spin 513, giving this portable Chromebook a larger canvas than you’d expect from the outside. Specifically, we’re dealing with a 13.5-inch QHD 2256×1504 display that gets up to 400 nits of brightness and looks colorful, vibrant and sharp. With reasonable top and bottom edges and very small side panels, the look is modern and clean with a 5MP camera on top; manual privacy shade in tow. I’ll be testing the camera a little more closely on this one, but I can see right away that HP has put a real effort into making this one of the best Chromebook cameras yet. The overall colors and lighting are WAY better than what we’ve come to expect from webcams on Chromebooks.
Below the screen is a very satisfying backlit keyboard and a few extra function keys. The add-ons include a dedicated microphone switch, a single on/off key for the keyboard backlight, and the return of the play/pause key. So far, this keyboard is as good as HP makes, and that’s saying something. HP’s keyframes have been top notch for years and this is the best version of those already great keyboards.
Below that keyboard is a world first in the fully haptic trackpad. That’s right: nothing on this trackpad actually moves, but it feels like it does. There are currently only a few settings and they generally dictate how hard you have to press to register a click sensation. I prefer the light setting because it feels like a responsive, easy-to-use trackpad. The feedback under my fingers is wonderful and I don’t have to worry about people buying this Chromebook getting an ill-fitting version. Click anywhere on the surface and you’ll get the exact same satisfying click every time. It’s fantastic.
To the right of that trackpad is the fingerprint scanner and the magnetic area for the included wireless charging USI pen. The fingerprint scanner is (in my opinion) in the right place and works just as flawlessly as others we’ve tried on previous Chromebooks. The pen magnet next to the door is sturdy and keeps the USI pen charged and ready to use when needed.
On the top and bottom of the keyboard deck are 4 speakers, two on top and two on the bottom; and they pump out the sound. While not quite as rich and deep as the Pixelbook Go’s great looks, this four-speaker setup sounds very good in my limited testing. I’ll try some more intense content for the review, but the initial trials show a solid sound setup for general use.
Inside, our review unit has the 12th generation Intel Core i5 with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB internal storage. We’re not sure which configurations will eventually become available for general consumer purchases, but I’m really hoping a few options will become available over time. The base model looks set to come later with a 12th-gen Intel Core i3, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, but which will reportedly start at $1149. Sure, you’ll still get all of the above benefits with that, but those specs will make it a hard sell for most buyers. With devices like the excellent Acer Chromebook Spin 513 with some of the same benefits as this awesome Dragonfly Chromebook at half the cost, it’ll be interesting to see what things look like once it starts arriving in stores. For now, it’s time for the review to begin and find out if all the perks in the Dragonfly are worth the asking price.