For our announcement and hands-on posts about the upcoming HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, we discussed the specs and we covered a bit about what it is like to actually use this beautiful Chromebook for a little bit of time. While that is all fine and good, what I’ve really wanted to say the entire time is this Dragonfly feels like the first legitimate Pixelbook-esque Chromebook we’ve ever had. Let me explain.
I’ve written a lot about Pixelbooks, why they are special, and why we need another manufacturer to step in if Google has exited the Chromebook market for the time being. To clarify, they never said they won’t ever make another Pixelbook, but it has become clear that it won’t happen until the need arises again. For now, the market is maturing, great devices are being released by partner OEMs, and Google isn’t exactly interested in competing with any of them.
I’m pretty confident that Google is unlikely to return to Pixelbook until it is necessary. Additionally, I feel confident in saying that up until this point, no manufacturer has quite achieved the same high-end attention to detail in a Chromebook the way Pixelbooks have in the past. In the end, it isn’t about big specs; it’s about that last 10% that smooths the rough edges and takes a laptop from great to excellent. The Chromebook Pixels, Pixelbook, and Pixelbook Go did this like no others.
High-end near-miss Chromebooks
While many of us have pined for another Pixelbook in order to have a new Chromebook with the fit and finish that seems to only come from Google’s first-party hardware, the truth is we’ve all just been wanting someone to step up and deliver it. Time and time again, we’ve had Chromebooks announced that are full of promise, packed with specs, and once they arrive there’s just something missing.
The ASUS Chromebook CX9 is a perfect example of this phenomenon. When it was announced, we all thought it would end up being one of the best Chromebooks ever built. When it arrived, it simply couldn’t live up to the spec sheet and ended up delivering a great experience completely devoid of character or fine tuning. It was proof positive that a great Chromebook takes more than throwing the kitchen sink at a laptop.
The same could be said of the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook; a device that felt like the proper Pixelbook successor we’d been waiting for. In only a few minutes at CES 2020, I felt like that device was ready to take up the mantle as the new King of Chromebooks only to be sorely disappointed when it arrived at the office. The battery life was atrocious, it got way too hot, and certain parts of the admittedly-beautiful hardware felt ignored and not completely thought through. Once again, it had all the right parts, but they weren’t put together in a way that felt special.
Finally, a refined high-class non-Google Chromebook
Though our limited time with the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook isn’t enough to make me absolutely certain of this, I do finally think we could have a proper Pixelbook-class Chromebook on our hands this time. It’s impossible to know for sure, but picking up the Dragonfly Pro at CES 2023, navigating it for a few minutes, and simply holding it in my hands, I was immediately taken back to the first time I held the Pixelbook Go.
Sure, it has all the specs you want, the screen is insanely bright, and the speakers sound amazing, but the real proof comes when you hold a Chromebook in your hands. Like we see with the Pixelbooks of old, Microsoft’s Surface lineup and Macbooks, you know quality and attention to detail when you feel it in your hands. This Dragonfly Pro Chromebook has it.
The original HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook from last year wanted to have it, but it just missed the mark. It’s a great Chromebook; don’t get me wrong. But using that Chromebook versus either the original Pixelbook or Pixelbook Go simply isn’t the same. Again, the HP Elite Dragonfly has everything you could want on paper, but it needed that final 10% to achieve the impossible-to-define characteristics we see in the Pixelbook or Pixelbook Go.
From what we can gather, HP learned from that device, worked closely with Google, and has put together something quite special in the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook this time around. While it could show up in the office in the coming weeks and not quite live up to the memory I have of it from CES 2023, my gut tells me that HP has finally pulled it off.
As we’re finally seeing better attention to detail in affordable Chromebooks here in 2023, it feels like the same is true at the high end as well. If it does deliver in the end, the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook will finally attain something that has yet to be done by anyone but Google in this market, and it will be truly amazing to use. Why this has been so elusive up to this point is a bit of a mystery to me, but I’m glad to see we might finally get over the hump. And if we do, I’m hopeful it means we’ll see other manufacturers follow suit. If that means we won’t see another Pixelbook because of it, I’m completely OK with that, too.