When HP announced its Dragonfly Pro notebook at the beginning of the year at CES 2023, I was glad to see the company bring many of the great qualities of its premium business-class notebook to the consumer productivity space. I have been a fan of Dragonfly devices since the product line’s inception, and in this piece I want to share my impressions after using the HP Dragonfly Pro for four weeks—and explain why it has already become one of my favorite devices.
HP took a unique approach by developing the Dragonfly Pro in close partnership with AMD, optimizing the device for better battery life and performance per watt (PPW). After talking with HP's leadership, I could confidently state in my initial write-up, which you can read here, that this new notebook could be a worrisome challenge for Apple.
HP Dragonfly Pro’s place in the market
Why would this be worrisome for Apple? Because it brings comparable performance to a much wider audience. The core market for Apple's notebooks includes serious multimedia creators like professional video editors and graphic designers. The HP Dragonfly Pro, on the other hand, covers a broader audience of professional content creators and productivity users. Despite these differences, PPW is a huge metric for both audiences, and Apple's silicon delivers unmatched PPW. Everything from chips to desktop applications is done in-house for Apple, meaning that it can optimize battery life and PPW arguably better than its competitors.
However, this close partnership between HP and AMD has enabled better optimization for the Dragonfly Pro so that it can now rival Apple's PPW. While this review is about more than just the raw performance of the Dragonfly Pro, I do believe that the device utilizes its PPW for its target audience better than an Apple notebook, especially when it is used with Windows 11 version 22H2, a touch display and myHP for HP support.
Having used every Dragonfly device since HP started making them, I can assert that each generation has been better than the last. If you are curious, you can visit the Moor Insights & Strategy blog to read my reviews of the Dragonfly Folio G3, Dragonfly G3, Dragonfly G2, and the original Dragonfly. During my time using the new Dragonfly Pro, I have noticed some design cues and features that have carried over from its roots as a business notebook. Although subtle and intentional, these elements give the HP Dragonfly Pro a particular character and enable it to serve as a single device for all the needs of work, creation and play.
HP Dragonfly Pro design features
The backlit keyboard of the Dragonfly Pro has great key travel, with a satisfying click to the keys, and delivers a great typing experience overall. The key travel is slightly more than on the keyboard of a Surface Laptop 5 or Surface Laptop Studio. HP has also placed the fingerprint sensor and the power button right next to each other. Although I prefer to use Windows Hello through the infrared camera, the fingerprint sensor is reliable and fast.
Likewise, the haptic touchpad is large and very responsive, with the intensity of the tactile feedback adjustable in the settings. I much prefer the haptic touchpad over the classic “diving board” touchpad design.
The quad speakers on the device, tuned by Bang and Olufsen, sound great and can really fill a room. I have sometimes heard a little bit of vibration from the chassis when listening to a video at higher volumes, but this has been very minor, and I attribute it to my device being a pre-production model. Audio acoustics can be difficult to get right, especially in devices with smaller form factors, but I believe HP has done a great job optimizing the sound quality of the Dragonfly Pro. The myHP app includes a built-in equalizer for both the built-in input and output audio as well as connected devices. I really appreciate this level of control, as well as the presets that HP offers for users who don't know how to use an equalizer but still want the best sound for different settings.
The Dragonfly Pro has a crisp 5-megapixel camera that is also configurable in the myHP app. I had a similarly great experience with the webcam as when I tested the Dragonfly G3. HP has very thoughtfully included features such as background effects, lighting enhancements and auto-framing. Webcams are a critical tool in today's era of hybrid work, and I believe HP has nailed it with the Dragonfly Pro's camera. There is also a privacy button to the left of the fingerprint reader for easy access. In the future, I would like for HP to consider enabling the background settings to travel with you to leading UC platforms like Webex, Teams, or Zoom, but I wish they did. Also, I wish that I could lock the framing in addition to auto-framing,
The chassis of the Dragonfly Pro is made of premium recycled aluminum that resembles the premium feel of other Dragonfly notebooks. It has a resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels (162 pixels per inch, or PPI) at 60 hertz and is capable of 400 nits of brightness. Although 162 PPI is fairly low for a premium device, the display still looks crisp. I think HP decided to go with a lower resolution and low refresh rate to save battery life.
Besides a few expected hiccups I have experienced on my pre-production review device, one design feature on the Dragonfly Pro I must get used to over time, HP has decided to squeeze in four hotkey buttons on the right-hand edge of the device, meaning they had to shorten the Backspace, Enter and Shift keys. My concern is that some people will do as I have done and accidentally press the hotkeys instead of the intended Backspace, Enter or Shift keys, which would be larger on most standard keyboards. I am all for easy access to the functionality of these hotkeys, but the design placement does makes for some frustrating typing experiences. That said, the hotkeys are a minor concern for me, considering that everyone will have a different experience. I do get that if you want to make certain features like myHP on top and most accessible, it needs its own pronounced button.
Performance and battery life
I do not think I would be doing the HP Dragonfly Pro justice by running it through every performance benchmark and comparing it to all the latest notebooks. The performance optimization from HP and AMD is based on how much power, noise and heat should be generated on a given task. This load management approach is driven by AMD's adaptive performance management framework, which optimizes the system's profile based on the given task to deliver the best experience.
On my review device, I loaded Microsoft 365 (i.e., Office), OneNote, Signal, WhatsApp and Zoom, synced all of my apps and ran the device through my daily workflow on the road and in remote environments. I thought it was impressive that I did not notice much lag or many performance hiccups during the setup, syncing and loading of these applications. There were times when the fans kicked on, but in each case it was only for a moment and not obtrusive.
I could work for four hours at a time with breaks in between and get a total of twelve hours without having to charge the device. This was while engaged in heavy productivity with apps like OneNote, Microsoft Edge, Outlook, Microsoft Teams and Zoom all running at the same time. I was always confident in the Dragonfly Pro's ability to keep up with my workflow, even when simultaneously running video streams and 40+ tabs on Edge.
The Dragonfly Pro also charged up very quickly. I was able to get to a 50% charge in about 35 minutes, and that charge could last me for six or seven hours. Although the included charger is fairly large compared to other 96-watt chargers, it is USB-C compatible and feels like a premium component.
Although the Dragonfly Pro is not a gaming device, I was able to download Steam and test out some games. The Dragonfly Pro's gaming compatibility is another testimony to its versatility and usability. It is capable of playing more games than the MacBook Pro while performing at a similar PPW for productivity tasks, especially while running the newest version of Windows 11 Moment 2. (You can read my thoughts on the new Windows 11 release here.)
After testing the HP Dragonfly Pro for the past four weeks, taking it to Spain for Mobile World Congress and using it for most of my remote work, it has become one of my favorite devices for productivity and everyday use. I think I have finally gotten used to the hotkeys on the right side, and in some cases they have even saved me during a video call by quickly changing audio and video settings.
At the same time, I am getting great battery life and performance for a notebook, and it handles my countless tabs and open apps without skipping a beat. I believe HP and AMD's partnership has really paid off with this device. Paired with Windows 11's new update, I believe the HP Dragonfly Pro is one of the best productivity and professional notebooks available.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.