Hands on: The HP Elite Dragonfly Folio is perfect for working from home
HP has announced the newest member of its Elite Dragonfly family, the Elite Dragonfly Folio. It’s the third product under the brand’s umbrella, with the regular Elite Dragonfly and the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook being the other two. For the first two generations, the Elite Dragonfly was an ultra-light convertible, but HP seems to changing things up. It’s a clamshell now, and if you want a convertible, that’s where the Folio comes in.
This is also the third ‘Folio’ style product from HP. The first was the Spectre Folio, a leather-bound notebook that had an Intel 8th-gen Y-series processor. The second one was focused on the commercial audience, with the Elite Folio. That made the switch to faux leather, and it also used a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, integrating things like cellular connectivity. With the Elite Dragonfly Folio, it uses 12th-gen Intel processors.
The Dragonfly brand seems to be about trying new things now. It’s not about being an ultra-light convertible anymore. It just seems to be the place where HP goes to do the things it can’t do with the EliteBook 1000 series. Remember, businesses don’t like change, so those EliteBook 1000 series laptops tend to be made out of aluminum and come in silver. If that changed, it would be a big deal.
HP was kind enough to provide a pre-production unit for us to check out. That means that this is essentially a hands-on article. You won’t find any benchmarks or official testing here.
Design: The same faux leather folio, but with some improvements
The Elite Dragonfly Folio is made out of a black leather-like material, just like its predecessor, the Elite Folio. HP actually stopped using real leather after the Spectre Folio for a few reasons. For one thing, it adds a lot of weight to the product. For another thing, you have to use a lot of it, since it has to be stitched on the sides rather than bonded to the metal. Of course, the other benefit is that this faux leather doesn’t come from animals.
As you can see from the image, it does seem to get scuffed up pretty easily. You’ll want to keep up with cleaning maintenance on it.
The folio form factor means that you can pop the display out and prop it up between the touchpad and the keyboard. Indeed, when HP first did this with the Spectre Folio, it was one of the first to use the form factor. Since then, it’s been adopted by Microsoft with the Surface Laptop Studio, and by Acer with its line of powerful ConceptD Ezel laptops.
Personally, I think this is a great view for media consumption, especially since it comes with a stunning OLED display. You can use it with the pen this way too.
You can also fold the display all the way down to use the device as a tablet.
Interestingly, there are some key design changes over the Elite Folio. For one thing, the pen now magnetically attaches to the side of the laptop, wirelessly charging. With the previous generation of the product, it actually fit into the top of the keyboard, so there was no chance of it being knocked off in your bag.
Personally, this feels like a step backward. The only real benefit to the way the pen works now is that it’s a full-size pen, rather then a slim design like Microsoft’s Slim Pen. I’m a big fan of good pen storage, so when such a large pen could be stored internally on the Elite Folio, I really liked it. I’m disappointed that it’s gone.
Now that there’s no pen storage above the keys, there’s now a speaker there. Once again, HP partnered with Bang & Olufsen for the audio, something it’s been doing as long as I’ve been reviewing PCs. Previously, the speakers flanked the keyboard, and in fact, that’s one other benefit of the change. The keyboard is ever-so-slightly larger thanks to the extra space provided on the sides.
The touchpad is much larger, something that I really love about what we’re seeing from laptops over the last year or two. Larger touchpads are just better, plain and simple.
You’ll find both Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left side of the device, which is fine, but another thing that feels like a step backward. On the Elite Folio, there was a USB Type-C port on both sides. Of course, that was a Snapdragon PC, so this is the first one that’s getting Thunderbolt, a port that can handle 40Gbps data transfer speeds, dual 4K monitors on a single port, and more.
You’ll notice that there’s also a slot for a nano-SIM, although that’s a dummy in my pre-production unit.
There’s an 8MP camera now
I recently commented in my Spectre x360 13.5 review that when it comes to webcam quality, HP is absolutely winning. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve seen a boom in working from home, and for the first time, webcam quality actually became important to people. It took a couple of years for these upgrades to really hit the market, but with Intel’s 12th-gen processors and its new Evo standard, it made an FHD webcam a strong recommendation.
But while most companies implemented regular old FHD cameras, which come in at 2.1MP, HP took it a step further and used a 5MP sensor. Rather than just meeting the bar, HP made sure that its camera was actually good. And now, it’s introducing an 8MP webcam with the Elite Dragonfly Folio.
It’s 8MP at 4:3, or 6MP at 16:9. Naturally, you can record 1080p 30fps video, although the Camera app also had an option for 1836p, for some reason. Sadly, there’s still no option for 1080p 60fps, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the next step in webcam evolution, along with 4K video (4K would require a resolution of at least 8.3MP at 16:9). I suspect such advancements would come from HP, as the company seems to be committed to leading the pack when it comes to laptop webcam tech.
Not only is webcam quality great, but it has a 100-degree field of view. That means that when you’re sitting in front of your laptop, you won’t have that view that’s a close-up of your face. You know, it’s the view that screams to everyone else on the call that you’re on a laptop. This is a lot better. The field of view will show your face and your upper torso.
It can zoom though, as HP has features like Auto Frame, which will focus on you as you move around. It also has its own noise cancelation technology. That will block out noises like a dog barking, and other things. We’ve seen these before on other HP laptops, so it’s not specifically new. What is new is the 8MP webcam, which gives the machine a lot more room for zooming and cropping.
There’s now a privacy button for the camera on the keyboard. It disconnects the camera internally, and there’s no indication that the camera is being blocked at all. It’s interesting, because HP debuted this technique with the Spectre x360 a few years ago, and the following year, the company combined it with a physical camera blocker. I always assumed that the firm got feedback that people want some kind of visual indicator that the camera is being blocked.
Still, if you press this button, the camera won’t work, just like Windows Hello facial recognition.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Folio is exciting
I’ve always been a fan of HP’s Folio products, and this is the first one with a full-power Intel processor. That’s a big deal. Add to that the fact that you also get one of the best keyboards on the market. This thing is phenomenal.
I’ll be honest. I’m still figuring out what it means for something to be called an HP Elite Dragonfly. The Folio comes in at just over three pounds, way heavier than anything previously called Dragonfly. That’s not particularly heavy in general; it’s just heavy for the brand. When the third-generation Elite Dragonfly ended up being a clamshell instead of a convertible, no one really knew why. It turned out that it was a compromise to add new features like a larger display, all while staying under a kilogram. I’m really happy to see that the company had another convertible-type product in the pipeline.
This computer is really good. Being a pre-production unit, I haven’t been able to put it through the paces that I’ll be able to when I can actually review it. Then, we’ll get to talk about performance, battery life, and more. I’ll look forward to it.