“The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is a gorgeous 2-in-1 for the businessperson on the go.”
- Outstanding build quality
- Thin and light
- Excellent keyboard and touchpad
- Effective privacy screen
- A slew of valuable business features
- Underwhelming CPU performance
- Too expensive
The HP Elite Dragonfly has never been your average business laptop. The name alone suggests that this is no ThinkPad clone. A unique design made the original Elite Dragonfly a fantastic 2-in-1 for businesspeople who didn’t want to sacrifice design for business features.
HP updated the machine in 2020 to the G2 and then again in 2021 to the latest 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake CPUs. But now we have a specialized version, the Elite Dragonfly Max, which offers the same basic design and feature set as the G2, but with enhanced videoconferencing capabilities — specifically, an upgraded webcam and an additional world-facing microphone.
I received a review configuration of the Elite Dragonfly Max with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 with vPro, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and HP’s Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) Sure View Reflect privacy screen. The configuration comes in at $2,939, a very premium price that’s aimed — again — at a specific kind of business user. Does the Max offer additional value over the G2?
What stands out most about the Elite Dragonfly Max design is the attention to detail. HP clearly gave a great deal of thought to crafting a laptop that addresses not just the typical needs of business users, but some things that many people might not have thought about. Consider the laptop’s “cleanability.” Not only can you use common household wipes to clean and disinfect the laptop — up to 1,000 cycles — but HP created a simple “HP Easy Clean” utility that shuts off the touchscreen, keyboard, and touchpad so you can clean the machine without extraneous keypresses and touches.
Then there’s HP’s “Context Aware” technologies, of which there are two variants. The first, In Bag/Out of Bag Detection, has been implemented on some other HP laptops — the HP Spectre x360 14, for example — and just like it sounds, it can detect when you put your laptop into a bag or backpack. When that state is detected, the laptop hibernates to ensure that it doesn’t turn on, and then when you remove it and place it on a flat surface, the laptop starts to wake up and is ready to go much more quickly.
The second Context Aware feature is On Lap/On Table Detection, which can sense when you’re using the laptop on a desktop, in which case it cranks up the performance and heat, or your lap, where it tunes things down and lowers the machine’s temperature by 5 degrees Celsius.
The Elite Dragonfly Max is an incredibly well-designed laptop in the ways that matter most.
Never fear, though. HP didn’t spend all its res on unusual features. The Elite Dragonfly Max is also an incredibly well-designed laptop in the ways that matter most. It’s fabricated from magnesium alloy, giving it a solid build that’s compromised by only a tiny bit of flexing in the lid. The keyboard deck and chassis bottom are firm and resist distortion, and the laptop has been tested to military specifications. If the Elite Dragonfly Max isn’t in the same class as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano, the ThinkPad X13 Yoga 2-in-1, or the Dell XPS 13, then it’s pretty darn close. Hold it in hand — and flip it between its four modes of clamshell, tent, media, and tablet — and you get a real sense of solid quality.
The Elite Dragonfly Max is also a thin and light laptop. It comes in at 0.63 inches thick and 2.49 pounds, placing it in between the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 0.67 inches and 1.99 pounds and the XPS 13’s 0.58 inches and 2.8 pounds. The ThinkPad X13 Yoga is the same thickness but weighs a bit more at 2.76 pounds. There aren’t many business-class 13-inch 2-in-1s, and so our direct comparison group is slim.
The Elite Dragonfly Max would benefit from smaller top and bottom bezels, which would make for a smaller chassis and a more modern look. Speaking of the look, the Elite Dragonfly Max is conservatively designed, with clean lines and simple angles but enough accents to avoid being boring. The hinges are the most elaborate design element, and they don’t stick out but rather subtly enhance the laptop’s overall look. The Max version of the laptop comes in a Brilliant Black color instead of the G2’s blue, and it looks great.
Connectivity is also a strength. You get a USB-A 3.1 port, a nano lock slot, and a nano-SIM slot on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side, you’ll find a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support (one of which is used for charging). Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, and either LTE 4G or 5G Wireless WAN (WWAN) support is optional.
Speaking of the latter, my review unit was equipped with 5G and came with an AT&T SIM card. I tested the 5G connectivity at my house, and while both the laptop and AT&T’s coverage map indicated I was getting a 5G connection, my download speed topped out at about 70 megabits per second (Mbps). When I tested the Lenovo Flex 5G with Verizon’s ultra-wideband 5G (the HP is limited to Sub6 5G), I saw close to 500 Mbps. I didn’t get a chance to drive around the city looking for a faster AT&T 5G connection, but I’m sure it’s possible to see faster speeds than I experienced.
Security and privacy
HP carried over the various security and privacy features that we liked so much in the original Elite Dragonfly. It has vPro support as an option, meaning large organizations can integrate the laptop into their management systems. It also features HP Sure Start, which provides a security controller built directly into the motherboard and provides a layer of isolated and encrypted physical protection of the BIOS and boot-up process. As we said about the original model, the Elite Dragonfly Max exceeds most other business-class laptops in terms of the sheer number of business-oriented features, including Lenovo’s ThinkPad line.
You’ll also find two ways to log in without a password — facial recognition via infrared cameras and a fingerprint reader located on the upper right-hand side of the palm rest. Both work quickly and reliably. There’s a physical webcam cover for enhanced privacy that displays an overlay to make it obvious when it’s engaged, and a keyboard button shuts off the microphone.
Finally, the Elite Dragonfly Max (and note that the G2 version has all of these features as well) has Tile support built-in. The new models differ from the original, where the Tile module plugged into the same M.2 port as the WWAN, and so it was either Tile or always-on connectivity, and not both. Tile is now built into the motherboard, so you can now use the Tile system to locate your laptop if you happen to leave it behind or if it’s stolen and still enjoy 4G LTE or 5G support.
The Elite Dragonfly Max I reviewed is equipped with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU with vPro support. That makes it an excellent choice for large organizations that use the vPro capability for remote management and support. Although the laptop was equipped with a slightly faster version of the Tiger Lake Core i7, I suspected that the thin chassis might limit performance given the need to more carefully control thermals.
I was right. The Elite Dragonfly Max didn’t perform terribly, but it was a bit underwhelming compared to the competition.
The Elite Dragonfly Max felt plenty quick doing typical productivity tasks.
In Geekbench 5, for example, the Elite Dragonfly Max came in last place among our comparison group. The difference wasn’t pronounced compared to the other Intel Tiger Lake laptops — the AMD Ryzen 7 5800U-based Asus ZenBook 13 OLED dominated all the CPU-intensive benchmarks — but it was disappointing to see the HP fall so low. In our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, the Elite Dragonfly Max again came in the last place, and the difference was greater against all but the HP Spectre x360 14 (which was much faster in its performance mode). The same held true in Cinebench R23, where the two HP laptops were close together and behind the rest of the pack (although again, the Spectre x360 14 was much faster in performance mode).
I also tested the Elite Dragonfly Max using PCMark 10, where it scored — you guessed it — in line with the Spectre x360 14 and slower than the rest of the field. The delta was less in this test, though, except for the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED. Looking at the individual components of the PCMark 10 test, the Elite Dragonfly Max did well in the Essentials portion (web browsing, videoconference, and such), but fell behind in productivity and content creation.
In actual use, the Elite Dragonfly Max felt plenty quick doing typical productivity tasks. And in fact, it’s not a slow laptop by any means. It’s just not up to par against its similarly configured competition.
|Geekbench (single/multi)||Handbrake (seconds)||Cinebench R23 (single/multi)||PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|HP Elite Dragonfly Max
|Asus ZenBook 13 OLED
(AMD Ryzen 7 5800U)
|1423 / 6758||124||1171 / 7824||6034||1342|
|Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1185G7)||1549 / 5431||204||1399 / 4585||n/a||1380|
|HP Spectre x360 14 (Core i7-1165G7)||1214 / 4117||236||1389 / 3941||4728||1457|
|Razer Book 13 (Core i7-1165G7)||1548 / 5374||210||1508 / 4519||4878||1776|
|Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 (Core i7-1185G7)||1532 / 5415||207||1435 / 4409||4800||1648|
It also isn’t much of a gaming laptop. It did OK in the 3DMark Time Spy test, beating out a few of the machines in the comparison group.
But in Fortnite, it again fell behind, scoring just 22 frames per second (fps) in 1080p and high graphics, which is a few fps behind the typical Tiger Lake laptop with the same Intel Iris Xe graphics. It dropped to 18 fps in Epic settings, again, several fps behind the Tiger Lake average.
Display and audio
The Elite Dragonfly Max comes with one display option, HP’s Sure View Reflect privacy screen at a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution and an old-school 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s compared to the G2 version, which offers standard IPS Full HD and 4K options. This is an unusual display that has two distinct personalities.
With the privacy mode turned off, the display is incredibly bright at a rated 1,000 nits. My review unit “only” put out 417 nits, which is great, but I should see around 758 nits according to HP’s testing of a second unit they sent due to the discrepancy. There seems to be something about the display technology that makes our usual colorimeter testing more difficult, and try as I might, I couldn’t get up to such lofty brightness. The contrast was excellent at 1,380:1 (anything over 1,000:1 is very good), and black text popped on a white background. Combined with the outstanding keyboard, this is a great writer’s laptop. Also, the display compares well to the Dell XPS 13 Full HD display with its 458 nits of brightness and 1350:1 contrast, and it was brighter than the Spectre x360 14’s OLED display that came in at 374 nits but couldn’t compare with the Spectre’s 374,200:1 aspect ratio (that’s OLED for you).
It’s fine for use by an individual but isn’t a great screen for sharing.
Colors were average for premium productivity laptops, meaning they were good but not to the level that creative types look for. AdobeRGB coverage was at 74% and sRGB coverage was at 97%, which are fine scores, but again, not as wide as creative types will want. Colors were reasonably accurate with a Delta E of 2.49 (1.0 or less is considered excellent). The XPS 13 had 75% AdobeRGB and 98% sRGB coverage and an accuracy of 1.36, while the Spectre x360 14 had very wide colors at 96% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, with color accuracy of 0.69.
Overall, in standard mode, the display is excellent for productivity and media consumption. The only negative is that viewing angles are a bit narrow. Look from any angle other than straight on and the display starts to dim and lose fidelity. It’s fine for use by an individual but isn’t a great screen for sharing.
Turn on privacy mode and everything changes. Brightness diminishes greatly — my colorimeter wasn’t able to accurately measure the display in privacy mode — and while it’s still usable, it’s not going to overcome bright overhead lights. Colors remain decent,accuracy seems good, and contrast doesn’t seem to drop off much. It’s still a good productivity display, but that’s not its calling card. More importantly, it functions perfectly well as a privacy screen, graying out completely as you move away from a straight-on view. If you’re sitting in the middle seat on a plane, for example, your screen will be completely illegible to those on your left and right.
I’m working to resolve the brightness question in standard mode, but it’s not a huge thing. This is a great display for both standard productivity work in any environment and for getting your work done in relative privacy.
The audio quality is excellent thanks to four Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers, two upward-firing on each side of the keyboard and two downward-firing on the bottom of the case. Its own dedicated smart amplifier drives each speaker. HP touts the laptop’s bass, which is a valid boast — not only was the volume very loud and undistorted, with mids and highs that were clear and lucid, but there was a noticeable touch of bass as well.
These are outstanding speakers for such a small laptop, and while they can’t match up with the MacBook Pro’s excellent audio, they’re better than those on most Windows 10 laptops. You can use them for most of your listening, including bingeing Netflix and listening to music. Headphones are optional.
Where the Max version stands out from the G2 version is in its videoconferencing capabilities. This starts with the webcam, which isn’t your typical 720p low-quality laptop webcam that’s nothing to write home about. This one is a 5-megapixel webcam with a larger sensor, auto-exposure for faces, and careful tuning for maximum performance. My house is under renovation, so I don’t have an attractive background to show off the camera’s quality. Still, it’s noticeably improved over the previous model’s and the other laptops I have lying around. HP tested the webcam against several competitors, and across the board, it enjoyed higher texture quality, better color accuracy, and more uniform colors across an image.
It may not be 1080p like some of the recent ThinkPads, but it’s certainly an improvement over the previous generation.
The Max version also ups the G2’s three microphones to four, with two forward-facing and two world-facing. Artificial intelligence-based noise cancellation is used to suppress background noises and enhance the overall sound quality.
Simply put, the Elite Dragonfly Max is a videoconferencer’s dream laptop, offering better sights and sounds for more effective communication. If you work remotely and need the best videoconferencing performance, then this laptop should be on your short list.
Keyboard and touchpad
HP makes great keyboards. The Spectre line, for instance, has had my favorite keyboard on Windows 10 laptops for some time now. The Elite line has followed closely behind, and now the Elite Dragonfly Max and G2 have a new and even better version.
To begin with, the keyboard is solid; that is, it’s consistent across every key. That’s unusual, and it makes the typing experience more efficient and less fatiguing because your fingers aren’t experiencing a different feel as they fly around the keyboard. The switches are firm but not too firm, providing just the right amount of feedback, with a springy bottoming action that makes each key very precise. Although the laptop is small, I found key spacing to be plentiful and the keycaps are nicely sized. I find myself typing faster and more accurately on this keyboard than any other I’ve used — except for Apple’s Magic Keyboard on its latest MacBooks. And I’d say that the Elite Dragonfly Max keyboard is right there with Apple’s excellent version.
The touchpad is as large as it can be given the bezel size and 16:9 aspect ratio display (taller displays have had larger touchpads lately thanks to the extra vertical space), and it’s extremely comfortable to use. The clicks are subtle and quiet, with a quality feel to them. Of course, this is a Microsoft Precision touchpad, so multitouch gestures are sure and precise. Outside of its size, this touchpad rivals those on the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 14, which are excellent.
The display is touch-enabled, of course, and it’s responsive as usual. It supports HP’s Wacom AES 2.0 active pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support, and USB-C charging. One wasn’t bundled with my review unit — it’s a $74 option — and so I couldn’t test it, unfortunately.
The Elite Dragonfly Max ships with a 56 watt-hour battery and a Full HD display (albeit with two modes, which I’ll discuss shortly). I was expecting battery life to be a strength as it was with the original version.
As it turns out, battery life was not quite up to the same standards. Where the first-gen Elite Dragonfly hit 10.5 hours in our web-browsing test, the Max made it to 9.75 hours. Now, anything close to 10 hours in this test should be considered a good score, but more laptops have recently been hitting this number and beyond. The Elite Dragonfly Max score is now closer to average than standing out, and while it promises a full working day of battery life, some other recent laptops are stronger. The HP Envy 14, for example, made it to over 12.5 hours, while the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED managed a very strong 15.75 hours. The Dell XPS 13 Full HD wasn’t as competitive at just 8.5 hours, while the HP Spectre x360 14, with its power-hungry OLED display, managed just 6.95 hours.
In our video test that loops a 1080p movie trailer, the Elite Dragonfly Max hit 13.5 hours, which again is a decent result but not much better than average. The Envy 14 went for almost an hour longer, and the ZenBook 13 OLED hit 15.5 hours, while the XPS 13 was behind at 12 hours and the Spectre x360 14 came in last in this group at just over 10 hours.
I ran the PCMark 10 Gaming test to see how the laptop performed when the CPU and GPU were under load, and it went for 4.9 hours, which is close to the longest we’ve seen. Only the LG Gram 16 managed to last longer, and that was by just seven minutes. Of course, this likely shows that the Elite Dragonfly Max isn’t really pushing itself extremely hard when running on battery — something to keep in mind when you’re working away from a plug. Finally, I ran the PCMark 10 Applications test, which is the best indication of productivity battery life, and the Elite Dragonfly Max managed just over 11 hours. That’s a strong result in the upper echelon of the limited number of laptops we’ve tested.
Interestingly, the battery life with the privacy mode turn on is better than with it turned off. With the privacy screen enabled, the Elite Dragonfly Max made it to 11.5 hours in our web-browsing test, 14.25 hours in our video test, and 14 hours in the PCMark 10 Applications test. Using the privacy mode not only won’t hurt your battery life, but it will significantly increase it.
Overall, I’d rate battery life as good but not great. Again, you’ll get a full day’s work out of the laptop without plugging in, but it falls behind some of the competition. That’s more a matter of laptop battery life continuing to improve than an indictment of the Elite Dragonfly Max.
If you’re a businessperson who does tons of videoconferencing and has a corporate budget, you’ll no doubt find the Elite Dragonfly Max to be an enticing option. It’s incredibly well-built, offers several real value-add features, and provides some of the best security and privacy functionality you’ll find on a laptop.
It’s also expensive, offers middling performance and battery life, and you may not care about some of the features it offers. That’s what makes this a great laptop, but primarily for a specific audience.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Yoga is another business-class 2-in-1 that you can consider. It’s not as expensive but doesn’t offer the same feature set. If your needs aren’t so particular, then this is a good option to consider.
If you don’t care at all about the business features, then the HP Spectre x360 14 is a superior 2-in-1 in many ways, with better performance, a better display, and a much lower price tag. It, too, would serve as a viable alternative.
Finally, if you don’t care about either 2-in-1 functionality or business-class features, then the old standby is available for your consideration: The Dell XPS 13. It remains one of the best laptops you can buy, and you’ll get better performance and a smaller chassis for less money.
How long will it last?
The Elite Dragonfly Max is so well-built that you’ll be using it for many years. You’ll probably find that the 16:9 aspect ratio display will appear increasingly outdated, but that’s the only component that’s not currently state-of-the-art. However, you will certainly appreciate the three-year warranty, which we’d love to see available for all laptops.
Should you buy it?
Yes. You have to be a special breed to want the Elite Dragonfly Max, but if that’s you, then you’ll really want it.