HP Elite Dragonfly review: The corporate laptop that's too good for your boss

It's thin, light, and beautiful, with a battery that won't quit.

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HP Elite Dragonfly CPU Performance

The Elite Dragonfly's performance reflects the priorities of corporate laptops, which put security and reliability over raw speed. You can see that odd dynamic right here: The 8th-gen Core i7-8665U in the Elite Dragonfly has a higher clock speed than the common consumer Core i7-8565U CPU. But one look below and you won’t see it.

Maxon’s 3D rendering Cinebench R15 benchmark, which measures a CPU’s multi-threaded performance, shows the Elite Dragonfly under-performing against laptops with slower CPUs. 

hp elite dragonfly cinebench r15 nt IDG

Like most business-class laptops, the Elite Dragonfly doesn’t set any performance records.

When we task Cinebench with using a single CPU core, the situation doesn’t change much: The Dragonfly is still a little slower than most other laptops. The good news is that in single-threaded tasks—which is the bulk of what’s done on small, thin laptops—it’s not a big deal at all.

hp elite dragonfly cinebench r15 1t IDG

In single-threaded tasks, the Dragonfly again underperforms against other technically slower CPUs, but not by much.

Our harshest test of a CPU uses the free HandBrake utility to encode a 30GB 1080p file. The task typically takes an hour on thin-and-light laptops, and it stresses the cooling capabilities of any laptop. We again see the Elite Dragonfly underperform other laptops.

If you’re starting to wonder just why the CPU has a higher boost clock on paper, but is actually slower, the reason is that it’s a business laptop. Yes, we know, you’re wondering why not just buy a slower CPU? The problem is your boss still wants the best.

hp elite dragonfly handbrake IDG

The Dragonfly also comes in well behind other technically slower CPUs in our Handbrake stress test too.

That’s not to say the Core i7-8665U is actually slower than a consumer Core i7-8565U—it’s just that to make it that fast, HP would have to add in, say, two fans instead of one, and beefier heat pipes. That adds weight, increases fan noise, and removes space for, say, more battery capacity.

The truth is, none of this matters in a corporate environment. The next test is PCMark 8 using various simulated Corporate Drone tasks of word processing, browsing, video conferencing and spreadsheeting.

As you can see, that back-of-the-pack performance of the Elite Dragonfly suddenly looks pretty good. The truth is the Elite Dragonfly is just fine for what 95 percent of Corporate Drone work requires. Just remember to tell your boss, “it’s 200MHz faster!”

hp elite dragonfly pcmark 8 work conventional IDG

PC Mark 8 tells us it's all good for the majority of work you'd do on a thin-and-light laptop.

Our last pure performance test uses 3DMark to measure the graphics capabilities of the Elite Dragonfly. No surprise, it’s basically no better and no worse than most laptops using Intel UHD or HD graphics. We’d recommend that any gaming or graphics be kept to the bare minimum. If your boss's idea of “gaming” means solitaire or Flash-based games, you'll be OK.

hp elite dragonfly 3dmark sky diver overall IDG

Graphics performance is in line with that of all other UHD laptops, and fine for your boss to play Flash-based games.

HP Elite Dragonfly battery performance

Perhaps the most important test for a laptop this portable is battery life. To test that, we loop a 4K video using Microsoft’s Movies & TV app. We set the display at a relatively bright 250 to 260 nits, switch off Wi-Fi, and connect a pair of earbuds for sound.

With its “1 watt panel” and large battery, it’s no surprise the Elite Dragonfly knocks it out of the park in battery life. And yes, that’s about 18 hours of video playback.

Remember: Video playback is mostly on cruise control today. Fire up Office and sit in a spreadsheet all day scrolling around, and you’ll likely whack off a third of the run time. Fire up Chrome and fill it with 25 tabs, all looping and downloading continual Flash-based ads, and you can probably expect to cut the run time in half, which is still about nine hours. Fire up any application that grinds on the CPU or GPU for the whole time, and you probably shouldn’t expect more than two to three hours at best.

hp elite dragonfly video runtime IDG

The HP Elite Dragonfly’s battery life doesn’t disappoint in our offline video run down test.

Conclusion

We’ll admit, we’re impressed by the HP Elite Dragonfly. It transcends our expectations for corporate laptops. Instead of boring, black, and basic, the Elite Dragonfly is beautiful, impressively light, and surprisingly well-equipped.

For consumers looking for a little more rated durability and versatility in a laptop, the Dragonfly is worth a hard look—if you can stomach the price. As a corporate laptop with manageability features such as vPro and the “faster” Core i7-8665U CPU, it’ll set you back $2,000 to $2,200. And that’s without the optional $76 HP Active Tilt Pen. You could skip the pricier corporate features and still get a lot of laptop. 

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At a Glance
  • The HP Elite Dragonfly is a corporate laptop offering a solid configuration with some premium options; good performance, amazing battery life; and a truly classy design. It's made for your boss, but whether it's deserved is another matter entirely.

    Pros

    • Lightweight
    • Long battery life
    • Enhanced security features

    Cons

    • CPU performance lags behind others
    • Charging ports only on the right side of laptop, which can hinder mouse use
    • Some key functions force use of separate function key
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