Hands on with HP’s redesigned Elite Dragonfly G3 laptop
At CES this year, HP announced the third generation of its Elite Dragonfly business laptop. This time around, there’s actually a lot that’s different. It’s not a convertible anymore, for one thing, and you can get it in a Natural Silver color. In fact, it’s a lot more like a more traditional EliteBook 1000 series laptop now.
Since CES was all but canceled, HP was kind enough to send over an Elite Dragonfly G3 pre-production unit. To be clear, this isn’t a review unit. I was asked not to run benchmarks on it, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to. Even the camera doesn’t work on it.
The goal here is just to get a feel for the product, similar to the hands-on type of thing we’d publish after spending some time with it at CES.
The first big change you’re going to see is the design. It comes in two colors, neither of which are the Dragonfly Blue that we saw on the original Elite Dragonfly, or the Sparkling Black that we saw on the Elite Dragonfly Max. Instead, it comes in Natural Silver and Slate Blue.
As you can see in the image above, the pre-production unit that HP sent me is Natural Silver. I really have to say that I’m torn in how I feel about this, because when the Elite Dragonfly is a regular old silver color, it just seems like an EliteBook 1000 series laptop, which is still one of the best business laptops around.
On the other hand, silver is the most popular color in laptops for a reason, and it’s in popular demand in businesses. For consumers, there are still the beautiful and sexy Spectre laptops.
It’s still made out of magnesium and aluminum, although it feels very much like an aluminum laptop. But thanks to the alloy, it still weighs in at under a kilogram.
And yes, the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 is no longer a convertible. I’m really not sure why this change was made. HP also announced an Elite Dragonfly Chromebook at CES, and that is a convertible. But there are some disparities between the two products, this being one of them.
But if we’re talking about disparities between the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 and the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, we can talk about input next. Once again, this laptop has a best-in-class keyboard, something that you’ll find on any premium Elite laptop.
You can also see that it has a massive touchpad, which is phenomenal. Not only is there more space on the deck thanks to the larger display, but it also takes up just about all of that space. And unlike what we’ve seen from larger touchpads on laptops like the Dell XPS 15, this one doesn’t seem to feel as wobbly. Strangely, the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook actually has a haptic touchpad, which this one has a traditional touchpad.
The Elite Dragonfly G3 has a 13.5-inch 3:2 display, replacing the 16:9 screens that we’ve seen on previous generations. The one that HP sent me is 1,920×1,280, the equivalent of FHD, but there’s also a 3,000×2,000 OLED model, which should be pretty sweet.
The new aspect ratio means that you get a much bigger display, compared to 13.3 inches at 16:9. Being that screens are measured diagonally, the surface area gets larger as the aspect ratio gets closer to square. That essentially means it’s taller but narrower.
This aspect ratio is more common for tablets and convertibles though. Companies use it for something that can be used as a tablet because it feels more natural in both landscape and portrait orientation. Again, it feels strange for HP to add the 3:2 display, while taking away the convertible hinge.
Despite general performance and stability issues that come from using an early pre-production model, this unit is totally specced out with the bells and whistles that turn a great laptop into something truly special. For example, it has cellular connectivity, and it even has HP’s Sure View Reflect privacy display. As you can see from the image, viewing it from an angle blocks out the screen, so someone looking over your shoulder won’t be able to see what you’re working on.
Sure View Reflect isn’t new for this model, but it’s a key factor in this still being one of the best business laptops around. It’s already got one of the best keyboards around, the screen has options for Sure View or OLED, it’s 3:2, and it weighs under a kilogram.
But wait, there’s still more. The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 has a 5MP webcam now, something that was previously exclusive to the Dragonfly Max. Not only does it record proper 1080p video for high-resolution calls, but it can also focus on you, moving the field of view around based on where you are. While the webcam on my pre-production unit wasn’t functional, I can tell you that the one on the Elite Dragonfly Max was excellent.
I have to admit, there’s a part of my brain that wants to be skeptical. The HP Elite Dragonfly is legitimately one of my favorite laptops on the market. Not only is it super-light, but it never really made any compromises to get there. HP uses machined magnesium alloy instead of molding it so it feels more premium, rather than the plasticky feel that you get from some other magnesium laptops. And then, it has those beautiful colors like Dragonfly Blue and Sparkling Black. All of that came in a convertible form factor. It didn’t have the traditional ‘x360’ nomenclature that HP gives the rest of its convertibles. It didn’t need it; it was a given.
At the very least, the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 is still an amazing business laptop. It’s no longer a convertible, and the color is now Slate Blue instead of Dragonfly Blue, with Natural Silver as an additional option. As always, I’ll be looking forward to formally reviewing it.
The new Elite Dragonfly should be available this spring, after Intel details its new P- and U-series processors.