By this point, you’ve likely seen our coverage (or someone else’s) of the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook. It’s been in the public eye since early January at CES 2023 and it’s been in my hands for just over a month at this point, so I feel like many of you watching this video know what we’re dealing with, here. This is a Chromebook like no other, and in nearly every way possible, it stands head and shoulders above the rest. I’ve had to stay pretty tight-lipped about it for weeks now, and I’m so glad I can finally share with you all the reasons this laptop is as close to the perfect Chromebook as we’ve ever seen.
When we first heard about the Dragonfly Pro a few weeks before CES 2023 via a pre-CES press event online, we were definitely intrigued. The specs, the look, and the simple approach to the configuration options all made us pretty curious about this Chromebook leading up to our time in Vegas; and a few minutes of hands-on time at CES solidified those intuitions. And not long after that, we headed up to New York for a reviewer’s workshop and learned even more about this unique Chromebook, confirming what I’d hoped about the Dragonfly Pro from the start. This isn’t just another Chromebook. This one is special.
So, for a Chromebook that is this awesome, I don’t want to get lost in regurgitating the specs. They are top-notch and impressive, but the real magic of the Dragonfly Pro lies in how it feels to use it, not in a spec sheet. So, let’s get them out of the way right off the bat. Take your time absorbing them and then let’s move on.
HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook Specs
- 12th-gen Intel Core i5-1235U
- Iris Xe GPU
- 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
- 256GB NVMe storage
- Wi-Fi 6E
- Bluetooth 5.3
- 14-inch 2560×1600 IPS touchscreen
- 1200 nits max brightness with 100% sRGB
- 8MP front-facing camera
- Quad-speaker setup
- Fingerprint scanner
- RGB Keyboard
- Fast charging (50% in 30 minutes)
- 51.3Wh 4-cell battery (11.5 hours of battery life)
- Ceramic White or Sparkling Black
- 12.4 x 8.7 x 0.7 in
- 3.33 lbs.
- Price: $999
- Availability: March 16th
- AUE: June 2030
Like I said: it’s an impressive list. If you’re looking for power, great battery life, a great screen, a great camera and fantastic speakers, you’ve come to the right place. But as we’ve seen time and time again, a killer spec sheet doesn’t always make for a killer Chromebook. There’s more to it than that and we all know it. We all know that feeling of picking up a gadget (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) and feeling – really feeling – the care that was put into crafting it.
It’s in the attention to small details
If you’ve ever picked up a Macbook, Surface laptop, or Pixelbook, you know what I’m talking about. There’s an attention to detail that puts those types of devices into their own category and make them fan favorites across the board. It’s what we like to call the “last 10%” and it’s these small details – not the spec sheet – that really make a $999 Chromebook worth the money through and through.
So, what are those little things, exactly? That’s what I want to spend our time on with this device: the things HP took care to include that make the user experience go from “pretty good” to “wow.” And it starts with a close collaboration with Google.
HP + Google = Magic
You see, Google has – for the time being at least – exited the Chromebook market. As the company that works with all OEMs on all Chromebooks, Google only makes their own devices when necessary to steer the market in one way or another. We’ve talked about it at length here before, but devices like the Pixelbook were built to encourage OEMs to go and do likewise, and they’ve largely worked. And as the market has matured, Google gets to shift to being a deeply invested partner instead of a competitor, and that’s where they want to be.
For the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, this partnership is more evident than ever, and HP and Google both are quick to trumpet the collaborative effort that was necessary to build the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook. While every Chromebook on the market needs Google’s approval, the Dragonfly Pro goes way, way deeper with this partnership. We’re told that HP’s John Groden called Google’s John Maletis with an idea to build the best Chromebook ever made, and thus began a 2 year process of crafting what would become the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook. Between Google’s best software engineers and the best minds at HP, the teamwork clearly paid off and the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is the end result.
What this collaboration actually means
But all of that collaboration talk just sounds nice if the end product doesn’t actually feel different than those that have come before, and trust me on this: the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook feels intentional, considered, and crafted from top to bottom; and it all starts with the build quality. Not only does this device feel sturdy and look great, every piece that makes up the chassis was precision-built to make that a reality.
The lid, for instance, is CNC milled and all by itself is nearly impossible to bend. The crafted aluminum portion that houses the keyboard and trackpad is a similar story with the bottom portion – a magnesium alloy – being used to reduce the weight and help with thermal dispersion. These materials and manufacturing processes weren’t used because they were just there sitting around: they were crafted with purpose to build a laptop that feels strong, cohesive, and firm while remaining functional as well.
The screen is a custom panel, too, not something off the shelf from a prior endeavor. The 100% sRGB is great, but the wildly-bright 1200 nits also gives you the ability to work outside with ease, making this the best road warrior Chromebook you can buy. To get this level of brightness, HP’s engineers had to design a custom LED backlight to work with this display panel and the end result is shocking. 1200 nits isn’t just a marketing term: this display is insanely bright, colorful, and a real treat to look at.
Beneath that staggering screen is the custom keyframe that feels insanely good to type on with great travel, satisfying click, and just enough auditory feedback to keep your rhythm when typing while not annoying those around you. It has an RGB backlight as well that has two great features: it is bright enough to enjoy in all lighting conditions and can auto adapt to your selected background. In line with Google’s Material You design language that is on the way to Chromebooks, you can set your keyboard to light up with a complimentary color based on whatever background you choose. It’s a nice trick.
Then there’s the front-facing 8MP camera that looks great in all sorts of lighting conditions and can adapt the exposure to make sure you look great in calls or with screen recordings. While it’s still not a phone-level camera, the calls I’ve been in look great, keeping my skin tones natural and avoiding blown-out shots even with my tricky setup by the window. It’s really a relief to have a solid, reliable camera right there on your Chromebook every time you need it.
There’s also the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner that is as fast as you could possibly hope for, making sign-in quick, easy and flawless every time. While I’ve become accustomed to quickly inputting my PIN for most Chromebooks, I still love a good fingerprint scanner, and this one is superb.
But it doesn’t stop there. To the left and right of the keyboard lie the best speakers I’ve ever heard on a Chromebook – or any laptop for that matter. They are loud as hell and full, too. My wife and I actually binged the last 4 episodes of Netflix’s Dead to Me in bed on an anniversary getaway, and the experience was wildly immersive. With this screen and that audio, watching content on this device isn’t just a passable experience: it is actually preferable. It is freaking awesome.
I’ve spent a few years at this point lauding the quality and volume of the Pixelbook Go speakers, but in a side-by-side comparison, the new king of Chromebook speakers is quite clear. With more depth, more high end and FAR more volume, these speakers set a new bar that won’t likely be beat anytime soon. I’m frequently blown away by them on a daily basis, and for content and meetings both, this is the most delightful Chromebook audio I’ve had the pleasure of using. They’re amazing.
And last but not least in the hardware department, we have the return of the haptic trackpad. This time around, HP has really nailed the feel and I’ve basically forgotten the fact that this trackpad surface doesn’t actually move. With the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, I liked the haptics; with this one, I love them. The click is firm and reassuring no matter where you press on the trackpad surface and with this setup, you’ll never have to worry about getting a faulty trackpad on your device.
Additionally, the trackpad gives you some haptic feedback when using Virtual Desks, giving you a small bump when you move between desks or when you’ve reached the beginning or end of your desk layout. There’s also a little buzz when you drag a window to either side for split-screen layouts, and though these physical cues aren’t by any means required, they are a nice touch for sure.
HP is going the extra mile
And that’s really what this Chromebook is all about. Each of these hardware additions adds to the experience and they aren’t just bolted on for no good reason. HP clearly listened to their users and built a device that has a bunch of cool tech, but also uses that tech to make your experience memorable each time you pick it up to use it.
With all we’ve already covered, this Chromebook is an easy recommend, but HP is going even further, making waves in the Chromebook space by offering users a 24/7 dedicated help line, diagnostic tool, and accidental damage protection. The HP Support Assistant is a PWA built right into the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook that gives you access to help via phone or chat whenever you need it. And the people on the other end are trained for this Chromebook, so you don’t have to worry about getting in a support chat with someone who only understands Windows issues. This is white glove service for Chromebook users specifically, and it’s a breath of fresh air.
Buying this device gets you a year’s worth of that support for free, and then it is $10.99/month after that for an additional 3 years if you want it. That $10.99/month also gets you accidental damage protection for up to 3 years and/or 3 full replacement devices: whichever comes first. It’s a comprehensive help and protection plan like we’ve never had for a Chromebook, and I think I speak for many people when I say it’s about freaking time.
For $999, you shouldn’t buy a Chromebook and have to hope it doesn’t get damaged. You shouldn’t have to hope that something doesn’t fail on the 366th day of ownership. And you shouldn’t be left alone on an island when you can’t figure out simple or complex problems with the hardware or with ChromeOS. For $999, you should have support, and HP is offering it up in a way that is viable for tons of users. A monthly fee that can be cancelled at any time keeps the sticker shock away at the time of purchase and can make you feel far more confident moving forward with buying an expensive Chromebook if you choose to pick up one of these.
Yes, you should buy one if it is in your budget
And, to be perfectly candid, you should really consider it. While there are small nags for certain users like the lack of a convertible form factor and missing USI pen support, those things are more like preferential differences than problems. If you want a Chromebook – not a tablet, convertible or detachable – there’s almost nothing to knock on this device. It’s wild to say, but it’s just true. This is as close to the “perfect Chromebook” that I’ve ever reviewed.
So the $999 asking price, framed in that sort of light, feels right. There aren’t a bunch of odd configurations or options, either. There’s a ceramic white and sparkling black color choice, and that is all. If you decide to buy the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, you’re getting the entire experience, and that’s a breath of fresh air in a world where many Chromebooks come in so many different configurations that you never know what you are getting.
HP has crafted something truly special with this one, and I have zero hesitation in telling you to snag one if a premium piece of hardware matters to you. This is the Pixelbook experience I’ve been asking for and many of you have been hoping for from Google: it’s just not branded as a Pixelbook. Make no mistake – Google’s fingerprints are all over this one, and it is superb in all the ways you would want if you’ve been waiting for that next Google-made Chromebook. For the crowd that is sold on ChromeOS and looking for the best possible hardware to run it on, you’ve found your Chromebook. The HP Dragonfly Chromebook Pro is without doubt the new king of the Chromebook mountain, and it 100% deserves to be there.