HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook Review: A Premium Choice
Spacious, high-res, and brilliantly bright display
High-res 8-megapixel webcam
Comfortable keyboard with playful RGB lighting
Outstanding haptic touchpad
Impressive quad speakers
Relatively high price for a Chromebook
Utilizes previous-gen Intel silicon
Pen not included
Several companies have ventured into the realm of pricey Chromebooks with premium builds and dazzling screens.
HP's Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is the latest entrant, and while it's undoubtedly a solid machine, some issues related to battery life, weight, and connectivity prevent it from being an unequivocal top pick.
Design and Build Quality
The HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, while undoubtedly a high-end device, doesn't scream "premium" at first glance. The understated matte black exterior of our review unit doesn't demand attention, and it's not the slimmest or lightest option available.
However, the chassis is robust, showing no signs of flex whether typing at a desk or lounging on the couch. The hinge is equally impressive, offering just the right amount of resistance to stay in place, even when moving the laptop, yet it remains easily operable with one hand.
HP bills the Dragonfly Pro as a freelancer's machine, designed for those who work from home, on the go, or virtually anywhere. However, there's a somewhat paradoxical aspect to its hardware.
While the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook offers a range of ports, the Pro version comes equipped with just four USB-C ports. Although this might be seen as versatile when combined with dongles and adapters, it can often feel more limiting than liberating.
Another puzzling choice is the absence of a privacy switch for the webcam, a feature that has become standard on HP Chromebooks in recent years. There's neither a physical cover nor an electronic switch for added privacy.
Inside the Dragonfly Pro, top-facing speakers are a welcome sight. However, our unit exhibited some quirks with these speakers.
Volume adjustment was notably uneven, with even 10% volume being excessively loud for a quiet office or living room. As you approach 70% volume, it reaches its peak, making it difficult to fine-tune audio settings.
Performance and Display
HP offers only one model of the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, priced at $1,000. It boasts an Intel Core i5-1235U processor, a generous 16GB of RAM (uncommon for a Chromebook), and a spacious 256GB SSD.
While the Core i5-1235U is from Intel's previous 12th-gen chip series, its two performance cores and eight efficiency cores make it a member of the energy-efficient U-series.
The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook excelled in ChromeOS benchmarks, outperforming other premium Chromebooks based on Core i3 or Core i5 processors in the 3DMark test. It fell behind only the gaming-oriented Acer Chromebook 516 GE in Google Octane 2.
Premium Design and Display
One of its standout features is its premium design, with the same magnesium-and-aluminum construction as its Windows counterpart, the HP Dragonfly Pro. It boasts a beautiful matte-black finish on the lid, keyboard deck, and bottom panel, creating a minimalist yet aesthetically pleasing appearance.
The laptop feels exceptionally sturdy, far more rigid than the average Chromebook, and features a display hinge that's both strong and smoothly functional.
The 14-inch display, with its 16:10 aspect ratio and 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution, offers a crisp and spacious viewing experience. Text appears razor-sharp, and images are exceptionally detailed, with accurate colors.
Bright and Sun-Friendly Display
The display is remarkably bright, with HP claiming a dazzling 1,200 nits of brightness. This is three to four times brighter than most Chromebooks or laptops, making it comfortably visible even in direct sunlight.
Additionally, the touchscreen's glossy coating minimizes reflections, making outdoor usage viable. However, it's worth noting that the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook doesn't come bundled with a pen, despite its touch display supporting pen input.
Keyboard and Trackpad Excellence
The keyboard is a highlight, offering flat keys with a firm yet comfortable response and pleasingly shallow travel. It's notably quiet during use, a far cry from the clunky keyboards often found on Chromebooks. The rigidity of the chassis ensures there's no flex, even for heavy typists.
While it lacks per-key or multiple-zone RGB lighting, the single-zone RGB backlighting allows for some customization. You can synchronize the RGB lighting with your chosen wallpaper, adding a personalized touch to the otherwise monochromatic matte black Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.
The touchpad is another standout feature. It's the same haptic touchpad first introduced with the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, and it's truly impressive. The haptic feedback provides a consistently precise click response, regardless of where you press on the touchpad.
Convenient Fingerprint Sensor
Similar to its counterpart, the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook includes a fingerprint sensor.
However, HP has placed it next to the power button, an intriguing choice compared to brands that integrate it directly into the power key. Nevertheless, the sensor functions exceptionally well.
Under the hood, the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook houses a 12th-Gen Intel Core i5 chip (i5-1235U up to 4.4GHz), complemented by 16GB of RAM and a speedy 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. In practical terms, it translates to remarkable performance.
While the i5 may not be the most potent chip available, it's more than capable of handling ChromeOS, effortlessly managing a dozen tabs, a web-based photo editing app, Slack, and more without breaking a sweat.
Battery life has been fairly dependable, with endurance dependent on usage conditions. Higher display settings can lead to quicker battery depletion.
Therefore, working outdoors on a sunny day with the panel set to 80% or higher may result in a battery drain in just a few hours.
Accessibility and Pricing
HP deserves credit for ensuring the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is readily accessible. Unlike the Elite Dragonfly, which offered similar features but at a steeper price point, the Dragonfly Pro is more reasonably priced at $999.
It's available in a single configuration, with HP hinting at a future model featuring 5G connectivity. Currently, it comes in a choice of black or white.
Is It Worth It?
While a $1,000 price tag might seem steep for a Chromebook, the Dragonfly Pro justifies its cost with an exceptional combination of design, performance, and features. If ChromeOS is your preferred platform, this laptop sets a new standard for premium Chromebooks.
A $1,000 Chromebook may not align with the traditional view of Chromebooks as budget-friendly devices.
However, if your work revolves around Gmail and Google Drive within the Chrome browser, the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook offers a luxurious alternative to the typical Chromebook experience.
Its splendid display, outstanding keyboard and touchpad, top-tier webcam, robust performance, and reasonable battery life make it a worthwhile investment. Yes, it's pricey, but it delivers exceptional value for every penny spent.