The HP Dragonfly Pro is a great laptop with some weird extra tricks
Since I know what computers are, HP has been known for its labyrinthine customer service. At the computer store where I worked over a decade ago, new employees were forced to call HP as a hazing ritual. Nonetheless, the company — perhaps as a result of plummeting PC sales in recent months — has shifted heavily to software and services this year. Its 2023 roadmap is to position itself as, as President of Personal Systems Alex Cho recently told me, a “solution provider.”
The HP Dragonfly Pro ($1,399 for our test unit with 16GB RAM / 512GB storage) is a first look at what it will look like from the consumer side. It comes with additional customer support features and services which, although optional, have been mentioned in HP presentations, workshops and promotional materials about as often as performance and lifespan. drums. Taglines like “simplify” and “don’t worry about anything” are all over its website; “24/7 support” is front and center. HP wants you to buy this laptop, and it Really wants to fix it for you.
It really is a nice device. But as a symbol of HP’s “solutions” driven roadmap, I’m not sold.
i love laptop
I have very few complaints about the Dragonfly Pro itself. The 5MP camera offers a fine and detailed image for video calls. The speakers aren’t quite MacBook quality but sound pretty good. The touchscreen (1920 x 1200) is nice and bright enough, hitting 412 nits in testing. The keyboard is comfortable enough, sporting HP’s signature column of hotkeys on the right side – HP had to press down on the backspace key a bit to make room, but I imagine that’s something to you get used to it. The (haptic) trackpad is also very good. The build quality is quite good, with sleek styling quite similar to previous members of the premium Dragonfly line.
Alright, so there’s one small thing I can do: the port selection consists of only three USB-Cs, two of which are USB-4 and one of which is 3.2. That’s right – no headphone jack. Boo. So go.
It was the first AMD Ryzen 7000 laptop I got to test this year (it has the Ryzen 7 7736U), and its performance didn’t disappoint. In our benchmarks, it beat Apple’s MacBook Pro M2 on multi-core Cinebench tests and came pretty close in single-core tests. It was pretty close to gaming performance too, averaging only two frames per second slower on Shadow of the Tomb Raiderthe highest settings. I use the M2 Air and M2 Pro quite often, and I don’t see any noticeable performance difference on the Dragonfly in my daily office work. The Dragonfly is noticeably slower in Adobe Premiere Pro, however, a particular AMD weakness.
Battery life was a sigh of relief
Battery life was a sigh of relief. I used an average of 12 hours and 46 minutes of continuous work. I can’t tell you how nice it is to see a day’s battery life on a Windows machine after spending most of the last year testing legions of four-hour Intel machines. No more of that!
This AMD processor truly feels like a dream come true. Sadly, I said this about a number of AMD machines last year only to see them become unbuyable pretty quickly after release. So hopefully that doesn’t happen here, I guess.
But I don’t like the services
HP describes the Dragonfly Pro’s target demographic as “freelancers” – freelance, mobile, and extremely online professionals. These freelancers, according to HP in its documentation, “need their PCs to run consistently because they depend on them for their livelihood. Technical headaches and getting support are frustrating, and downtime is costing them.
With the apparent aim of serving this demographic, the Dragonfly comes (optionally) with what HP calls “24/7 Pro Live Support”. The first year is included, then it’s $10.99 per month. A specific button on the keyboard, engraved with two small bubbles, directly opens the service. (Busy freelancers, as you surely know, don’t want to waste time dragging the app out of their taskbar.) It’s no small function key; it is a large, highly visible dedicated key.
I was told during the initial launch that you couldn’t remap this key, a fact I complained about endlessly in my how-to video. Since then, HP seems to have changed its mind and is now telling me that you can remap this button. Great! I still don’t see an option to remap it in the myHP app on my review unit, but HP tells me it’s coming soon after launch.
I just have to say up front that I don’t buy this sales pitch. I know a lot of busy, mobile, and extremely online freelancers. I was one at certain times in my life. These are people who know how to search for things on Google. They can solve the problems by themselves. And above all, these are people who buy laptops hoping that they work, not that they will break down all the time and require frequent calls to customer service. If my computer crashes often enough that I need a giant tech support button on my keyboard, it is possible that I made a purchase error. I’m sure the true target demographic for this package is like my grandparents who need help figuring out how to re-enable themselves in Teams.
I know I don’t have access to the market research that HP does, but I just had to get rid of it. Thank you for your attention.
But I digress. HP sells this service as such a huge, all-encompassing benefit that I thought I’d give it a try. My experience was mixed. First, the big support hotkey isn’t particularly responsive. I had to hit it an average of four times for the app to open. There were occasions when it just didn’t open at all. In almost all cases, just opening the app from the taskbar would have saved me some time.
When I finally opened the app it was also frustratingly unresponsive. I had to click various buttons multiple times and look at various spinning wheels. I submitted my question via a form. (My speakers were a little cracky, and I asked how to fix this – it’s normally something I’d just google, but wanted to see how live chat worked.) I was put in a queue for several minutes before a (very kind) person walked me, slowly and carefully, through each step of updating my audio drivers, which involved downloading stuff and giving it the remote control of my device.
It wasn’t terrible customer service, but it wasn’t so outstanding that I’d recommend paying $130 a year for occasional use, and it didn’t seem well suited to the busy, tech-savvy freelancer.
Ultimately, I think this Dragonfly is great hardware. The lack of a headphone jack is a bummer, but the combination of performance and battery life it offers is better than I’ve seen from a Windows PC in some time.
It’s a shame that HP, both in its marketing and in the literal design of its keyboard, is trying to leverage such a great device to peddle subscription services that aren’t great and they don’t have any just not needed. Maybe you need a subscription service like this if you’re buying a $500 lodge that’s going to smash left and right. If you’re paying $1,300 for a high-end PC, you really shouldn’t.